Marvel’s ‘Agents of SHIELD’ Series Premiere Review

Published 2 years ago by

agents shield tv show joss whedon Marvels Agents of SHIELD Series Premiere Review

Marketing was an after-thought when Marvel made the simple announcement that the studio’s Avengers universe would be coming to television in the form of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. under writer/director Joss Whedon’s guidance. With a billion-dollar team-up in the bag and a host of ‘Phase Two’ films in production, the TV series would turn its gaze upon the men and women of S.H.I.E.L.D. with newly-resurrected Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) in the leading role.

Creating an ABC series based on Marvel’s movie universe was never going to be flawless, even with creators Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, and Maurissa Tancharoen at the helm, but Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. certainly looks to be heading somewhere worthwhile.

It was no surprise when a TV series became part of Whedon’s appointment as head of the Marvel movie universe, trading cancelled shows like Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse for a heavily-marketed tie-in to The Avengers fiction. But for fans hoping to see some of Whedon’s risk-taking, or the darker themes set to appear in Marvel’s ‘Phase Two’ films, neither will be found here.

Agents of SHIELD Premiere Date Marvels Agents of SHIELD Series Premiere Review

What audiences will get is a look at S.H.I.E.L.D. in the wake of the Battle of New York, working to track down unidentified superhumans, and cleaning up the fallout from the feature films. A still very-much-alive Agent Coulson joins forces with Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) to welcome the chip-on-his-shoulder Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) onto the agency’s upper echelon. Rounding out the team is Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) along with tech experts Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Jenna Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) known collectively as ‘Fitzsimmons.’

The team’s investigations bring them face to face with a world now aware of their existence, embodied in the internet sleuth/blogger/activist Skye (Chloe Bennet). Fighting to prove that human beings can still matter in a world populated with god-like heroes and super-soldiers, the team work to keep super-humans on the side of good – or stop before they can do any harm. At least, that’s the pitch; the first episode has enough on its plate without having to show how an alien invasion would actually affect people, avoiding the issue for now.

Although the show’s filming style is almost indiscernible from any of ABC’s higher-budget programming, and many of the characters fall cleanly into generic stereotypes to begin with, the actors bring enough to their roles to get by. There are some exceptions that might pull fans out of the story – Cobie Smulders seems more at home as Nick Fury’s second-in-command than an administrator – but with the plot driving events for the most part, more development is needed to see how the pieces fit together.

Agents of SHIELD Coulson Ward Marvels Agents of SHIELD Series Premiere Review

In hindsight, bringing viewers into the inner working of S.H.I.E.L.D. through the eyes of a new recruit could have allowed Coulson to retain his usual position in the story, but with Ward far too generic a caricature to pull off that responsibility (thus far), no character truly sets themselves apart as the ‘lead.’ Fan sentiment would imply Coulson will step up, but it seems the cast will be righting themselves on one massive see-saw in the show’s first episodes.

The core issue that diehard fans of Marvel’s Avengers universe will be unable to overlook is the fact that, to this point, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been depicted as the most secretive, most elite (and potentially morally ambiguous) government organization around. As Coulson explains in the first episode, even the Avengers aren’t granted access to ‘Level 7′ information; a clever means of removing them from the show, but implying that the no-nonsense team will be dealing with threats too explosive for outside assistance.

Yet in the first episode, that isn’t what audiences get. Instead of stone-faced, elite secret agents whom viewers would trust to do the Avengers’ legwork, the cast is filled with quirky, quippy, and shockingly youthful agents. The cast still proves their value in their respective fields – with Ming Na and Brett Dalton’s characters promising seriousness in future proceedings – but the overall tone (and the show’s closing moments in particular) oscillates as much as any Marvel film so far.

Agents of SHIELD Fitzsimmons Marvels Agents of SHIELD Series Premiere Review

It’s not hard to understand that decision, since the chuckle-per-scene humor and levity is a clear move to target Disney and Marvel’s family audience. The downside is that the lighter tone makes the brief instances of violence – one of which comes early in the episode – may be jarring to younger viewers, with widespread humor diminishing the singular humor that made Agent Coulson a hit in the first place.

As we’ve reiterated, the first episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had more foundation to lay than most feature films, so it’s not surprising that the overall product is somewhat uneven. Still, Joss Whedon’s talent for constructing ensemble casts out of distinct personalities is here in full force, promising a worthwhile story in each character’s future. At the end of the day, there’s enough comic book mythology to pique Marvel fans’ curiosity; enough of Coulson’s humor to keep his (and Firefly) fans happy; enough scientific quirk and minutia to give elements of Dollhouse a second life, and an overall Disney feeling that will send the show to the top of any family’s weekly viewing.

Tell us what you think of the pilot, which parts seemed most promising, and what direction you hope to see the series head in the comments.

For an in-depth discussion of the show by the Screen Rant editors check out our Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode of the SR Underground podcast and read our list of 10 theories on how Agent Coulson lives..

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Catch Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. every Tuesday @8pm on ABC.

Follow Andrew Dyce on Twitter @andrew_dyce
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  1. Kill off the weak links by mid-season, focus on the coolest characters, introduce some upgraded replacements (of more diverse actors), and get more espionage-serious in tone.

    BOOM! the SR community just fixed your show, Marvel.

  2. It wasn’t all ‘whiz bang’ like I had hoped for it to be – and the first show didn’t even deal with a ‘natural’ super.

    I (and the people watching with me) thought it was hilarious when Ming Na and Skye showed up in a vehicle CLEARLY marked S.H.I.E.L.D. on it.

    I always give new shows 3 viewings … we’ll see how the other two go.

    • You might want to extend that probation period. Dollhouse really got off the ground around the 5th or 6th episode and then it was great ’til its unfortunate cancellation. Even Buffy took a couple seasons to become less silly and more interesting.

      • perhaps Whedon needs to start series faster

        if he had got into the better episodes with Dollhouse quicker perhaps it would have kept viewers and wouldn’t have been cancelled in the first place.

        this was a solid start to a series, and I think the Marvel name will keep people around for a little while longer, but I am hoping for a compelling season long arc based story rather than relying on the ‘monster of the week’ format for the first series before adding more in later.

        • Perhaps. Or perhaps the audience needs to stop wanting everything too fast, too soon and re-learn to go with the flow. My personal viewpoint on this series is that the “case of the week” (to paraphrase your words) structure of the first episodes, though seemingly heading nowhere, helped to install a needed sense of repetitiveness of the Dollhouse’s mandate and life between its walls before delving deeper into the meat of the matter.

  3. I was definitely expecting more from this show. If it wasn’t a Joss Whedon show and a Marvel show I would have switched it off. Very slow and plodding. The mysteries were not set up very well. Too much time introducing the “hacker” and not enough time with the other characters. The “villain” /victim was not very interesting (and I like J. August Richards). They should have started out with straight villain. The two scientist could be funny but they need to slow down with those thick accents. A lot of list jokes. Even the few references to the general Marvel Universe seemed tossed in there. That being said this is a comic book Marvel show so I will give it more viewings. I think there is enough there to improve on.

    • *Lost jokes

  4. coulson died in avengers and thats a fact…. think about it, who is this man with his crazy Tahiti story, think about it….

    he is not the L A N I G I R O *wink wink* and thats a fact….

    • Please stop calling facts what is merely wishful thinking. Did you see Coulson’s corpse? Nope. Did you see Coulson’s funeral? Nope. All you saw was him getting injured then passing out, and THAT’s a fact. The rest is speculation.

      • Just like when people thought Johnny Gat died in Saints Row The Third but I kept arguing that we didn’t see a body and no one believed me, then in August they release Saints Row IV and Gat explains that he was abducted by aliens just before the plane went down.

        • I was kinda upset they didn’t mention zombie gat from the dlc in saints row 3! Zombie Coulson ‘aaaarrrhggg ssuuupperr herrrro braiinnss gaaaarghg’

  5. Overall Thoughts…(SPOILERS)

    1. Didn’t think it was great but didn’t think it was bad. I think it will get a lot better.
    2. The show is definately a mix of X-Files and CSI (Which I love both!)
    3. I personally don’t think the cast is that bad. (Except the Asian girl. She didn’t seem great)
    4. I think Coulson still might be a LMD! Hill says that he doesn’t know the truth (Or something like that) Maybe he doesn’t realize he died and was cloned!
    5. Coulson says he was in Tahiti with a physical therapist who’s language he couldn’t understand. Then he says it was “magical” there. Was his therapist Scarlet Witch? She’s foreign, “magical”, and she can heal/cause people to think they are healed.
    6. The black main character is probably Luke Cage. He says he’s going to start over with a new name. In comics, Cage is experimented on to enhance his body. ALso Cage had a criminal past. Same with the main protagonist of the show!

    • Plus maybe Coulson couldn’t understand the language of his “therapist” cause she was casting spells!

    • WTF? NOT CAGE, and not going to be Cage. The Asian girl as you put it is 50 years old in real life and she and Clark Gregg are the only members of the team that did not totally suck!

      • Hmmm…well you say its not Cage like you know something.

        I was simply stating a theory. And everything about my theory adds up.

        1. Cage was tested on by a formula that enhanced his attributes.
        2. Cage has a long history of criminal records
        3. Cage decided to change his name to leave his past behind.

        That fits the profile of the character from the show. Now, does that mean it IS him? No. But it is my theory so don’t get bent out of shape about it eustace.

      • BTW, are you really going to nit pick me about calling Ming Na ” Asian girl…” by telling me that she “The Asian girl as you put it is 50 years old in real life…”

        Obviously I did not literally mean she was a child. She is, however, still of the female gender which I was simply referring to. My statement was not intended to be derogatory. I think most people that read my comment would have understood that.

        Could I have said “Asian woman” or actually used her name “Ming Na?” Yes, but I did not know her name and was typing quickly.

        If you want me to nit pick u I will say that she is actually 49 years old. Not 50 as you stated.

    • Yeah, Ming Na… she’s the only thing stopping me watching this.

      I’ve hated her in EVERYTHING I’ve seen her in and she downright ruined SGU for me.

      So til she dies (on TV or real life, I don’t really care) I’ll not be watching this.

      • Only saw her in ER so far and she was pretty interesting, with a real depth of character behind her mask of coldness.

  6. The new recruit was too much of a jerk for me to really feel involved, in addition to being cliche fodder. And I also felt they opened up their highest level of security a little too easily to some hacker living in a van (down by the river).

    I’m optimistic to see the cameo appearances, though, if there will be any.

  7. What if Coulson is a LMD who is secretly under the control of a higher secret evil organization. He then steals secrets from SHIELD and Avengers and then betrays them leading to creation of Ultron as well as almost destruction of Avengers.

    How crazy would it be to have the 1 man that brought them together in Avengers become the one man that almost undid them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. marvel’s s.h.i.e.l.d rip of back to the future

    • Actually Lola the flying car is a direct callback to Nick Fury’s flying car in the Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD comic which was published in the 60s.

      • Also a nod to CA:TFA? When Howard stark is presenting the flying car.

        • Not at all. It had nothing to do with CA, the Fury reference was 100% correct.

          • Here goes eustace again…acting like he knows everything…

            I would agree that it IS a nod to CA.

            Someone obviously doesn’t remember shows, movies very well.

            • I wouldn’t presume to know who’s right on this one, but a direct connection to the MCU sounds somewhat more likely than a nod to a second-tier (in terms of popularity) comic book published half a century ago. Also, I don’t know who builds SHIELD tech in the comics but in the Iron Man CG series, Howard Stark did build the Helicarrier’s engines and weaponry.

  9. Git rid ‘o the d!ck humour, that don’t wash!

  10. I found Ward and Skye to be so generic as to be boring and I don’t see much hope for improvement. Serious casting flaws, IMO.

    Other than that I loved the pilot and will stick around.

  11. 50/50 for me. Didn’t hate it, wasn’t blown away either. It will hopefully get more interesting than the bland #1 episode.

  12. The time slot is a big problem. Starting a prime time line up with a one hour sci-fi drama followed by 30 minute sitcoms just seems backwards. Plus we’ll never see them advance characters or plot lines beyond “family safe, Disney-fied” as some are suggesting in the comments unless it airs at the end of the night.

  13. so does this mean we get firefly back
    if shield is a hit?

  14. ‘Person of Interest’,’Arrow’ and ‘Sleepy Hollow’ are all better than ‘Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.’on even its best night,this show was kinda of a let down,considering how well Josh Wheddon did on The Avengers movie,that being said I do believe in second chances,so I will give the show one more veiwing for its second week,before I decide to give up on it.

  15. Was I the only one who noticed a lack of “fallout” from the events of the Avengers?

  16. It’s… OK, I guess. Didn’t hook me yet, but I’m still hoping the future episodes will be better. That Hermione joke did it for me, as I started seeing Emma Watson instead of Elizabeth Henstridge. Ming Na Wen is looking better than ever (she’s even more gorgeous than when she was Chun Li), I’m hoping to see more story from Agent Melinda May. As for Coulson, I’m still not convinced this is the same Coulson that returned. That conversation between Hill and the scientist (doctor?) is suspicious, and the dude looked really out of character. Usually he’s cool and calm, but here he speaks too much. Granted, Coulson isn’t some brooding character before, but he looks too happy for me. High hopes for this series from me. Let’s see how it fares.

  17. It’s not bad, but i already see this show many times in the past with different names. I know this show wants to create his own mythology, but I want SHIELD’S mythology, what’s wrong eith that?

    I love the SHIELD’S comics and they have many good stories that could easily put in here. I want to see HYDRA, AIM, or at least a crappy villain of the comics, something that tells me that i am watching a show based around a comic more than just the title.

    By the way. Coulson is goping to be the big bad in the end, it’s pretty obvious if you think about it.

  18. I am surprised by all the comments that say it was disappointing. What were you expecting? Avengers quality? It is a TV show, and it is only the first episode. I personally enjoyed it. It had enough subtle references to movies and humor was great. The characters are mixed bag, but as I said before, it is only the first episode, we still know nothing about them, except for Coulson, but even he is an enigma since he died in Avengers and now he is back. Oh, and that Mike’s speech about men and gods, I thought that was pretty darn good acting.

    • If I was expecting Avengers quality then my expectations would be severely low since that movie sucked.

      • If you think that THE film that was basically a comic book brought to life sucked, then what are you doing watching comic book movies/series?

  19. Easiest way of summing up how I felt about the premiere: liked it, didn’t love it.

  20. I enjoyed it. Still, lots of pale skinned people with dark hair in black clothing in dark rooms. Maybe for an Asian audience? Or a vampire look?
    Nice change at the end when they found the sun (and rural somewhere ?)

    • It’s good that you added “in my opinion” because Whedon’s works are nothing bland, lifeless or boring. They’re the exact opposite actually. Granted, he does use clichés – rather archetypes – but it’s to make his characters relatable to most people.

  21. I enjoyed most of the show but was horrified when the black male character was shot in the head. I thought it was in very poor taste and unnecessary

    • I was at first as well until I realized they had shot him with a gun made by Fitz (who was told to find a third option) and that he was glowing blue (cooling down) and everyone was extra happy (the hacker and coulson would have been upset if he was dead). I personally hope the super joins the agents as it would be nice to have something more than a team of normals.

    • What horrifies me is that you feel the need to mention that the character shot was “the black male.” This is backwards racism. Mankind will be free of racism when skin color won’t matter to anyone either way.

      • Also, what Doug said.

  22. The second show was a HUGE disappointment. It felt like an A-Team retread. I was hoping it would be modeled more on shows like NCIS rather than Dukes of Hazard.

  23. The actor who play the character Ward is such a terrible actor. Please get him off the show.