TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Well, it was with huge anticipation and a little trepidation that I settled in to watch the new Marvel spin-off, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I’m a massive geek when it boils down to it and boil it down even further, I’m a massive superhero fan. I love Marvel films, and wasn’t sure what to expect when it comes to adapting it to TV.
Channel 4 seem to have lucked out by grabbing the next biggest series to come out of the US – especially since it’s Joss Whedon at the helm. Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer started a hardcore fanbase, and his superhero foray on to the big screen with Avengers Assemble brought his brand of brilliance to an even bigger audience. I have a lot of love for Joss Whedon – ever since Buffy and Angel. And his smart take on the Avengers was a touch of genius – the jewel in the Marvel movies crown (so far). So what can we expect from this TV adaptation?
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – episode 1 – We Could Be Heroes
*mild spoilers alert*
Before we even begin – we should note that anyone tuning in expecting Avengers Assemble part two may be disappointed. You will not see Chris Hemsworth as Thor (though his arms get a mention), and there will be no great battle scenes like the destruction of New York (though the action scenes are not to be sniffed at for a TV show).
Instead, expect a slick TV show with Whedon-esque wisecracks aplenty. The pilot can always be a bit shaky because it has an awful lot of work to do to set things up, and this one was no different – think clunky moments between Fitz and Simmons (the two mad-hatter scientists who should be a comedy act but are more at risk of falling in to tropes) counterpointed by every single fantastic scene between Agent Coulson and bland newbie Grant Ward.
S.H.I.E.L.D, or Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division, are “the line between the world and the much weirder world” and were set up to investigate the presence of superheroes. By the way, don’t gripe about the absence of S.H.I.E.L.D boss Nick Fury (played by Samuel L Jackson in the films), because let’s face it he was never going to appear, and actually he’s never really missed.
Instead, take the programme as it is – a sleek secret agent series with the smell of a monster-a-week format and something of the Heroes quality about it.
It was a quick introduction to the characters – a hurried gathering of our S.H.I.E.L.D team and Mike Peterson (played by Angel‘s J August Richards), whose superpowers come from an eerie centipede-like contraption on his arm.
Coulson, who should be dead, if you remember, makes the perfect comeback – stepping from a dark corner because he “couldn’t resist”, and proclaiming Tahiti (where he was ALLEGEDLY sent for recovery) is a “magical place” at all opportunities. There’s something bigger going on here, because there are already strong hints that Coulson’s return from the dead is not all what it seems (Agent Hill, played by How I Met Your Mother‘s Colbie Smulders, mysteriously proclaims “He can never know”) and I suspect this will be something to run through the series.
Meanwhile, a suspicious explosion in LA causes laid-off factory worker Mike Peterson to use his super-strength to rescue a woman from the burning building, and in the process get caught on camera by Skye, our smartass hacker and superhero-groupie (played by Chloe Bennet – and one of the stand-out performances of the episode). When S.H.I.E.L.D track her down to help, things ramp up REALLY FAST. We quickly discover that Peterson’s powers come from a formula that’s injected from a centipede-like device on his arm (with extremis, gamma and serum all making an appearance in rapid succession, there is a moment where non-Marvelites might get lost), and that this formula (not from this world?) is really unstable. Sort of nuclear unstable.
Which means Skye and the S.H.I.E.L.D team have a race against time to find Peterson before his superpowers turn against him and turn him in to a giant walking bomb. The action is fast-paced and punchy, with suitable winding-up of tension and snappy dialogue (of course, it’s a Whedon show). There’s plenty to go with in this pilot, and lots of fodder for a series. We’ve got a whole plane-full (no exaggeration) of gadgets, and plenty of references to other-worldly objects that will provide enough intrigue for a whole raft of ongoing episodes.
Overall, if you can skim over the slightly awkward bits, this is a sharp-shooting, witty and clever Joss Whedon TV show that looks set to build on the Marvel franchise and be (at the very least) an entertaining series.
Did you watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D? What do you think?
Meet the cast:
Agent Coulson is played by Clark Gregg
Melinda May is played by Ming-Na Wen
Grant Ward is played by Brett Dalton
Skye is played by Chloe Bennet
Leo Fitz is played by Iain De Caestecker
Jemma Simmons is played by Elizabeth Henstridge
Mike Peterson is played by J August Richards