Hopes and Fears for Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD


The premiere of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD was last night, now called that because apparently people didn’t think SHIELD or even Agents of SHIELD was descriptive enough. I’m surprised they didn’t go with “Marvel, Who Brought You Thor, Captain America, Iron Man and The Avengers, Presents Agents of SHIELD” for those who really needed a reminder as to why they should tune in.

It’s far and away been one of the most anticipated new shows of the fall for two reasons. First, it’s a Marvel licensed TV show where normally all we get are DC properties on the CW. Secondly, it’s from Joss Whedon, at least in some capacity as he acts as a producer/creator and will probably be “guiding” the show in some capacity from afar as his brother Jed and other friends take on the day to day responsibilities.

But outside of the obvious awesome components, how would SHIELD actually work as a show? How do you have a show set in the Marvel Universe without the ability to show any of the A-list stars who play all the A-list heroes?

The pilot gives us some clue as to how that’s going to work, and the result is something like Fringe meets Heroes, though we’ll see which it steers closer to over time.


The show is greatly bolstered by the presence of Clark Gregg, back from the dead after Agent Coulson’s untimely end at the hands of Loki in The Avengers. He says Nick Fury (who didn’t stop by for the pilot) faked his death to better motivate the Avengers, and he’s been recuperating in Tahiti. A knowing glance between Maria Hill and his doctor (Shepard Book!) implies that may not be what happened at all. Is he a clone? A cyborg? Time will tell, but Gregg is a huge get for the show, particularly if he’s going to remain a regular.

The rest of the group are relatively unfamiliar faces who hopefully will grow to be as beloved as the rest of Whedon’s ensembles over time. There’s the presumed lead, Agent Ward (Brett Dalton) as a spec ops agent who we soon learn will probably be second fiddle to recruited hacker Sky (the shockingly gorgeous Chloe Bennet). Also on board are engineering and biomedical gurus Fitz and Simmons (Ian De Casetecker and Elizabeth Hestridge) who appear to be two halves of the same person, finishing each others…sandwiches, and so forth. The team is rounded out by the mysterious former field agent Melinda May who we learn can kick ass, but also has a dark past that will assuredly be revealed in time. Probably lots of time, or never, knowing Whedon.

The pilot focused on the appearance of a new man with superpowers (J. August Richards), but SHIELD discovers he’s the lab rat of a new project called “Centipede.” A device strapped to his arm made of super serum, alien metal and soaked in gamma radiation gives him power, but also degrades him mentally and physically, turning him into a walking time bomb (season one of Heroes condensed into one episode here). He goes from saving people from burning buildings to wrecking havoc in the city, and the new SHIELD squad is dispatched to subdue him.


One thing I can’t figure out is how procedural the show is going to be. As it’s on a broadcast network, chances are the answer is pretty highly procedural. Not to say this is necessarily bad. Plenty of good sci-fi shows have had procedural formats to them like The X-Files and Fringe. Unfortunately for me, I don’t like The X-Files and Fringe all that much (blasphemy, I know), as more often than not, even a good procedural just isn’t my taste. It seems like this may turn into a “case of the week” type experience, but more pressingly, I still question how SHIELD works within the larger Marvel universe.

I feel like it’s going to be hard to truly get much “Marvel” out of this. They’re going to have to tread so carefully within the existing Disney-Marvel movie universe that I’m afraid they’re going to be picking through scraps when it comes to comic characters and lore, as the best pieces are going to be saved for the movies. And sure, maybe they can snag one or two of the main heroes for brief cameos from time to time, but it is going to be a bit weird to have them almost never around. So far really only passing references are made to this being in the Marvel universe, mostly in little dialog quips or the general setting of life in New York after the big alien invasion.

I will say the writing of the pilot was top notch. It flowed incredibly well and was hilarious in parts. None of this is surprising given the Whedons’ ability to script, but I wonder if that quality will be maintained if Joss isn’t as hands on as he was in the pilot. Yes, this definitely felt like a Whedon show, which is great, but will it continue to feel that way if he’s not as involved in the future?

This is a good start, and I really like the cast. It’s the concept that worries me, but it’s too soon to judge it after only one episode. Needless to say I’ll be tuning in next week, and I expect we’ll see at least a few seasons of this show, unlike many of Joss’s other ventures. Nobody f***s with Joss Whedon now, and the world of both TV and film will benefit because of that.

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  1. I liked the first episode, and as a hater of procedurals myself, I am hoping this has staying power. There were plenty of nods to the greater marvel universe, and if they build a season arc leading up to a big confrontation with A.I.M or Hydra it could be amazing. They could maybe even have one of the bigger names show up for that in some capacity.

    I’m also wondering how long it’ll be before I hit bingo on the “actors from other Joss shows” card. (Note to self, should make actual card….)

  2. I liked the show quite a bit too, and I rarely (if ever) watch network TV (I think Hannibal is the only network show I watch).

    I think it’s got a lot of promise. Although it didn’t grab me by the collars like Firefly did, I agree that the dialogue was first rate, and the FX were surprisingly good. It *felt* like part of the cinematic Marvel-verse, and that’s good enough for me. (I also like the callback to Iron Man 3 with extremis being the macguffin of the week). It will be interesting to learn more about the mysterious forces behind project centipede…I’m hoping it will be something canon like Hydra or AIM.

    One final comment…is it just me, or does the design of the flying command centre call to mind the layout of Serenity? The “cargo deck”, complete with balcony and stairwell…that just can’t be a coincidence! 🙂

    – Tim

  3. I too fear it will become a villain of the week type show which I hate. No I for one felt that the references to avengers were far too forced. They did so much name dropping it was ridiculous. I get they are making ties to the rest of the universe, but to me it just felt they were saying names just because they owned the rights and they could.

    And yes, fringe meets heroes is exactly what I thought as well. I will continue to watch, for now at least, but I was not impressed at all

  4. I also loved the pilot and look forward to future episodes. The name dropping and references to the movies was of no surprise. I see it as a way to help the audiences remember that it’s part of a larger universe and maybe pique their interest enough to watch the movies if they haven’t. I find it a bit irritating because I already know they are related, but my wife on the other hand had no clue and now she’s interested in watching Iron Man, so I’ll take that.

    I also think it is likely that the first few episodes, maybe first half of the season, are going to be ‘villain of the week’ before they start building a story arc. It just seams like the typical pattern with sci-fi shows. I’m kind of expecting A.I.M. to be the first group that SHIELD starts fighting considering Iron Man 3. Given the size of groups like SHIELD, AIM, and HYDRA you have to imagine that there would be plenty of conflicts involving the grunts from both sides without the A-list heroes getting involved. We’ll see if they can pull a cameo at some point.

  5. I really dug Fringe, but this show doesn’t even come close to me. Not even to Fringe’s pilot. Has it been confirmed that Joss Whedon actually wrote anything on this episode? It felt more like somebody doing a thin impersonation of his voice, to me. By which I essentially mean that there were way too many quips. It was like Non-Sequitur: The Movie.

    Looks like Hannibal is even more of an anomaly these days than I thought.

  6. I wanted to really love it being that it was Whedon and Marvel, but it just felt off to me. But, after watching the premere, I only give it a “meh.”

    The dialogue seemed like it was trying too hard to be witty and hip. It was like they were trying to go “hey, our writing is just like Buffy and Firefly!” But, it felt very shoehorned in. I am hoping that once they find thier stride, it will relax a bit and do its own thing.And, I hope the character can get past thier very cliche starts. I love Whedon but, hischaracter teams are a bit formula at this point.

    At this point this I what I see: (Just a few, given enough time I could do everyone, but these are the ones that stand out.)

    Wiseman Role: Coulson = Giles, Wesley, Boyd
    Nerd/Genius Role: Fitz & Simmins = Fred, Topher, Willow, Kaylee
    Muscle role: Grant = Ballard, Cobb, Gunn

  7. Im a big fan of Marvel Universe, and not from the kind that just jumped into the wagon with the movies´ hype, and to be honest the pilot was kind of plain and bored to me… I was really looking forward to this show, and I know that nono of the main characters were from the comics, but yet I did not expect to dont like them… The 2 scientists were unbearable, ward an skye were kind dick themselves, Melinda May was just a furniture in the background, and I never have fell the hype from coulson… I really hope the show get better, because Im looking forward to it

  8. A bit too much cheese for me.

    I had high hopes but in the end I thought the actor playing skye was miscast badly.

    She hacked shield with a laptop she won in a bet? sigh..

    The lame jokes..

    I never once laughed at the show.. Not sure which part was suppose to be amusing.

    I liked that Ming na is it in it and the only reason I watched the pilot was because of Clark Gregg.

    Oh well.

    Pass for me.

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