Well, it’s finally here. (Possibly) The single most hyped premiere of the fall television season has finally arrived.
So what did I think of it? Read on…
Let’s start with a confession. I respect and like Joss Whedon’s work in theory more than in practice. I never really got into Buffy, Angel, or Firefly (though I did love Dollhouse). And it would make sense that he (and Marvel and Disney) would turn to him to find a way to bring the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to television. So, when Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was announced, it was greeted by hosannas throughout all of geekdom, especially when the central mystery of the very dead Agent Coulson was very much alive.
So how was the pilot?
It was a typical Whedon pilot, for good and for ill.
Let’s start with the good: Clark Gregg as the newly resurrected Agent Coulson is the perfect choice to anchor the series. Granted, he’s been serving as the audience’s in into the MCU for a while, so he’s got the character down pat and servers as a key bridge into the show. And I appreciate that the show (run by Dollhouse lead writers Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen) is not afraid to make it explicitly tied into The Avengers (hello Maria Hill) and not afraid to stretch the mystery of Coulson’s resurrection. And while the rest of the cast is pretty if bland (more on that in a moment), the fantastic Ming-Na Wen commands the screen as the world- and combat-weary ass-kicking Melinda May; a nice contrast to Coulon’s slight fanboy-ism. And we can not talk about this show without talking about the breakout star; Lola, the flying car (which made all the old-school comic book fans clap their hands in glee).
Now let’s talk about the not-so-good. As I said the rest of the cast is pretty if bland at the moment (and I say at the moment because if given time, and given the precedent set by Whedon’s other shows, they will be revealed to have more depth and kookiness – see Victor and Sierra in Dollhouse or Cordelia in Buffy). And while I appreciate the nerdiness of Fitz and Simmons, they felt a little too precious by half and again not as fully fleshed out or as fun as some of the great Whedon geeks (see Xander or Topher in particular). Also, the Rising Tide subplot seemed a little flat, and kind of an amateurish antagonist to S.H.I.E.L.D, when there are so many better choices for an antagonist organization (paging HYDRA or better yet A.I.M.). And the big twist with the plot would be tricky if the viewer hadn’t seen Iron Man 3 or read Warren Ellis’s run on the Iron Man book, making it hard for a new or casual viewer to get it.. But that twist, and the use of the term “gifted” for everyone having powers, is just a lame way to dodge the “No Mutants” rule.
All in all, there is a lot of potential to not only expand the MCU in a very real way but also seed characters back into the films (like these two – but that may break the “No Mutants” rule, given their father). It will be interesting to see where the series goes from here. If given time, and space, and manages to keep itself accessible to new viewers, it could be the best thing to happen to the MCU