Review: Pilot

This week, on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Coulson assembles a team; factory worker Michael Peterson finds himself with powers.

The Story/Plot

Diego: As with all pilots, the story is pretty much a thin one. The focus is more on establishing the team, and the series. The pilot is heavy on exposition, having not only to reference the previous Marvel films but also introduce new elements within this world: the centipede, the Rising Tide, whatever group is providing superpowers to people in need, etc.

Matt: The plot was almost secondary – we needed to know who these characters were, why they were there, and what they were like in 42 minutes. They did do the frequent name dropping I mentioned in my previous post, and I hope that keeps up. It made it feel like it was in the same world. To me it felt like Torchwood and CSI with “Muscular Thor” jokes.

Laura: The plot as a whole moved rather slowly, even for a pilot. It was both nice and a little bit odd. Sure, there was a bunch of exposition that needed to happen involving the team getting together, Coulson being alive, convincing Skye they weren’t the bad guys, and so on, but it just never felt like it was building to a climax necessarily. It’s a pilot though, so having pacing problems isn’t a big deal in episode one.

Matt (reply): I do hope Laura is right about the pacing, I mean the pilot was from Joss Whedon, episodes 2 forward won’t be. So if Joss can’t get the pacing right…who can?

Diego (reply): I agree, the pacing was a bit odd. The climax got everyone together, but the middle part of the episode was too scattered. I’m guessing having several point of view characters (Ward, Skye, and Mike played that role at some point) didn’t help much either.

Agent Ward - Pilot

The Characters

Diego: Coulson rocks. I mean, we knew this before, but still. It’s no surprise that Agent Coulson is the best developed character, given that he has a head start. But having Clark Gregg’s dry delivery of Whedon words is a gift. I was pleasantly surprised by Agent Ward, who was portrayed in the promos as a standard hunky agent. But he’s charming, and capable of humor (even if he doesn’t intend it, like in the truth serum scene). I found Fitz and Simmons charming, but I can see how others can find them annoying. And, c’mon, I can’t dislike anyone who mentions Hermione in a british accent.

Agent May is cool and bad-ass, which is expected, given that she’s played by Ming-Na Wen. But the surprise is Skye. She’s a hacker, which, let’s be honest, isn’t an archetype well served by popular culture. Luckily, she is a character in her own right and she’s not defined by this single trait. She’s both smart and excitable. She knows what she wants and how to get it.

All in all, it’s a well rounded group of characters. I will note, though, how bluntly they teased their backstories, especially with Agent Ward (“Given your family history, I’m surprised it’s not worse.” <dramatic music> ).

Matt: The Characters are exactly who I thought they would be. The beloved leader. The misunderstood bad ass. The cool nerds. The outsider and the mysterious one with a dark past. With that being said, Lola was my absolute favorite character. If cars could date, I just found Doc Brown’s DeLorean a wife.

For me, the only thing I cared about is what actually happened to Coulson. Agent Hill knows. The SHIELD Doctor (Ron Glass…whaaaaaaat) knows…..but he doesn’t know and neither does the audience. 42 minutes wasn’t enough for me to care about the others. I am slightly intrigued with Agent May’s past, but thats about it. I don’t dislike the other characters; quite the contrary. I am sure I will grow to care for them as much as I do for Agent Coulson,

Laura: I’ll say this again and again: I LOVE AGENT COULSON. He’s really just a blessing in this kind of universe, and will easily be the stronghold of the show. I was surprised by how real Skye felt though. In her first scene with Michael, I felt she was a little too much, but then once Coulson’s team found her, I couldn’t help but love her. Suddenly everything she’d wanted – access to the truth and answers, the ability to do some real good – was at her fingertips, and she was waaaaaaay over her head for a few seconds. She’s the only original character I felt I had a good grasp on.

I don’t really have much else to say on anyone else yet, because really, they were just there. Fitz and Simmons are adorable and awesome, yes, but honestly, so far their personalities are also very similar to every other science/tech/what-have-you geek on almost any other show. Doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy them, I just don’t know who they are yet beyond loving what they do and being super good friends with each other. Agent Ward, at least to me, is an attempt to fill the slots Clint Barton and Natasha Romanov would’ve filled, hence the marksman and espionage skills, but with much less personality. Sure, he was funny during the whole truth serum part, but otherwise he was fairly stiff. That’s not a problem though, since he’s only just met all of these people, and like he said, he works alone. Here’s to hoping these people pull some personality out of him by putting him outside of his comfort zone. I like Melinda May, especially how mad she is at Coulson for being put back in the action when she doesn’t want to be, but we haven’t gotten to see much of her yet. So we’ll see.

Matt (reply): It seems we are all pretty much on the same page, except for my undying love for Lola. Also, I was the only one to mention Ron Glass! Shame on the both of you! (I really hope he is recurring).

Diego (reply): Haha, yeah, missed Ron Glass. Hope he recurs as well. You both touch on points on the characters being little more than archetypes so far, which is sad but a bit understandable in a pilot.

Laura (reply): Well, none of us talked about badass Robin er, Maria Hill either! I definitely hope she can find some time in between filming scenes for “How I Met Your Mother”‘s final season to come stop by, because she’s just great. Another thought about Skye: while she was erasing Mike’s past and he asked her how she knew it would work, she basically heavily implied that she’d done this to herself. Didn’t Coulson or Ward question if Skye was even her real name during their “interrogation?” If I were a gambler, I’d definitely bet that Skye has some super big backstory that led to her being this untrustworthy of the government and yet this interested in it at the same time. And why did she have to essentially make herself disappear?

Skye - Pilot

The Mythology and The Theories

Diego: Not sure what you guys are going to mention here, but the humorous mentions of The Avengers, while fun, didn’t do much to me. I’m more interested in who the hell is big enough to even try and mess with S.H.I.E.L.D., dealing Extremis to people as experiments and trying to kill both Michael and Skye in the middle of an operation. My (unbased) guess? S.W.O.R.D., an organization created as an reactionary agency instead of a preventive one like S.H.I.E.L.D. Who introduced S.W.O.R.D. to the comic universe? Joss Whedon.

Also, I tweeted actress Chloe Bennet (Skye in the show) the question “What’s the deal with the sugar packets?”, from her conversation with Mike, and she answered: “nice eye! You’re the first one to tweet me about that! You will have to wait and see…” Hmm…

Matt: My biggest fear was that it would feel disconnected. Shows like Joey and Frasier made it point to “make their own identity” from the parent show. Frasier worked, Joey didn’t. This felt right. It felt like we were back in the MCU from a different point of view. They weren’t afraid to name drop, and mention things from the 7 movies in order not to alienate people. It worked. I think having a grand overseer like Joss Whedon is a big reason for that.

Laura: I have one nitpick with the mentioning of The Avengers. You say they don’t know about Coulson being alive because they’re not Level 7? Sure, except didn’t some of the fancy, special edition Blu-Ray extras include some S.H.I.E.L.D. files on Clint and Natasha saying that they were Level 7? You can’t just retcon that away for convenience when it only came out a few months ago, probably while they were making this pilot. For now, I’m choosing to believe that those two probably know about him being alive, but won’t spill to the rest of the team. They’re spies for a living after all.

Matt (reply): Ok, first, the sugar packets. I noticed, but didn’t think it was anything. I just thought it was nervous habit type thing, and not important. After Diego’s Twitter conversation, I think differently. While I see the point Laura was making, I am not sure on the canon of the special features, especially ones that are collectible physical things, and not features on the blu-ray disc itself. Clint and Natasha could very well be Level 7. But since they were in the “eye of the storm” maybe they don’t know. Or maybe they aren’t Level 7. It seemed to me that Agent Hill and Coulson were kind of in charge of them. Or maybe its not all Level 7’s, but for anyone to know, Level 7 is a requirement. We have to remember that Nick Fury is pulling the strings here, and he is a very manipulative person. So who he deems worthy to know, knows. Coulson’s team just know hes alive. As far as we know only Agent Hill and SHIELDS Doctor know the full story; after all, Coulson himself doesn’t even know the full story.

Laura (reply): Your logic makes sense Matt, but until the show/movies prove otherwise, it’s definitely still my head canon, if only to make me happier. In the moment the sugar packets intrigued me, but then I moved on. Other thing I noticed and then forgot about: when Skye and May were getting ready to go back to the super plane (it needs a name), she kind of secretly grabbed an SD card, hid it in her bra or something? can’t remember exactly, and then was all “let’s go!” cheerily as if she hadn’t done anything. My assumption was that maybe this card had a virus of some sort, or something that could help her hack S.H.I.E.L.D.’s systems from the inside, if she were to get access. Of course, then events went down that at the moment she seems to be on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s side, but can’t blame the girl for trying while she’s suspicious.

Diego (reply): I also choose to believe, like Laura, that at least Hawkeye and Black Widow know about Coulson. Matt raises a good point, though, maybe you need to be Level 7 to know but it doesn’t mean every Level 7 does. This whole thing, I think, was a bit bothering. The biggest mystery was explained away quickly and then shrugged off. I’m guessing they are still trying to sell this as stand-alone, but it’s a shame. If it doesn’t become a bigger deal soon… I don’t know. And yeah, for now, the references and name drops make sense and do not annoy me.


Parting Thoughts

Diego: A really solid pilot. Fun, funny, with some cool actions shots. I fall more into the “like” portion of the spectrum, but I can see it turning into “love” once we see more. This was a better pilot than the ones Buffy and Angel had, and we know how great those shows turned out to be. After the long process of casting, producing, and releasing a pilot, I’m eager to see what they can bring week-to-week. Because really, this episode dripped (and not in a “Fun!” way) of too many people poring over every detail.

Matt: It was what I expected. As my friend Sandi said, it’s Smallville, not Superman. I will definitely keep watching. As Diego and I discussed on Twitter (follow us @Iceman525, @Dreyesbo and @leleana) the big test will come in November, when Thor: The Dark World premieres. If they tie the show into that movie right after it happened, we’re good to go. If they don’t, and only briefly mention it way after the fact, it won’t feel the way it should.

Laura: I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t flawless, but I’ve learned over the last few years never to judge what a show is going to be based on the pilot – or even the second episode. The pilot is meant to convince a network that a show deserves to exist, while the second episode is usually an attempt to figure out what the show will be going forward. It’s the third episode, and every episode after, where the show really earns it’s reputation. And I’m definitely looking forward to that, good or bad.


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