Following events after the Battle of New York (the final act from last summer’s The Avengers), Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. puts together an elite team to investigate and deal with new threats as the pop-up. The Pilot episode reintroduces us to team leader Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) who is apparently still breathing after being killed by Loki, and Maria Hill (guest-star Cobie Smulders reprising her role from The Avengers), as well as introducing a new group of characters to fill-out the squad.
The team is made up of two members who don’t want to be involved: the assassin/super-spy Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) and pilot and weapons expert Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) who isn’t all that keen on returning to field work. Also along for the ride are the team’s techs Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) and a computer hacker named Skye (Chloe Bennet) who works against the shadowy government agency in the first episode to protect a a single father with augmented strength (Whedon favorite J. August Richards) whose own story is far more complicated than it initially appears.
Despite having a budget far less than the Marvel feature films, the look and feel of the show fits well into its own niche in the already well-crafted Marvel Movie Universe. I’m happy to see Gregg return even if it opens big questions about his “death” (which the Pilot strongly hints there’s more to that story to explore at a later date), and I’m also happy Smulders’ schedule allowed her to make an appearance. I enjoyed the tone of the show, especially the care to make sure to infuse it with a necessary sense of humor. Gregg’s Coulson, as expected, is terrific at this, but I was also impressed by Bennet who steals more than her fair share of moments in the Pilot as the smart-mouthed hacker.
Like most pilot episodes, the first episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t without some problems. Although the casting choices seem to work well (with the possible exception of the wooden Dalton and pseudo-nerdy De Caestecker), given the number of model-esque appearance of nearly every actor not named Clark Gregg in the main roles I’m a little surprised this isn’t a CW show. I also felt the show bent over backwards to unnecessarily throw in as many references as possible to the movie franchise when more basic storytelling would have sufficed. Did the evil scientist’s (Shannon Lucio) enhancements to our bad guy have to come from a combination of EVERY aspect of the Marvel Movie Universe that has been mentioned so far (Gamma Radiation, Extremis, Chitauri tech, etc.)?