Marvel’s ‘Agents of SHIELD’ Series Premiere Review

Published 12 months 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.

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  1. This show will fail…. i have seen it in the flames.

    • In the flames of your Mom’s cooch.

    • Lay off the drugs, this show is awesome best new show.

    • …for the night is dark and full of terrors…

  2. Doc Brown called he wants his Flux Capacitor back

    • ?

      • the flying Corvette…reminds me of another car

        • Ahhhh. Well, the flux capacitor was what made time travel possible, not hovering. *adjusts glasses on bridge of nose* *places pen back into pocket protector*

        • I took it as an easter egg to Howard Stark’s goal of flying cars which failed in it’s little cameo in CA:TFA.

          • *his. Howard Stark is not an inanimate object. Also, should it be the case, it would’ve been spelled its, not it’s.

    • +1 hahaha

      my first thought was “Roads? Where were going we dont need roads.”

  3. Coulson made the show. I’ll watch it because of him. Otherwise, it just felt a little mediocre.

    • It was also nice to see Ron Glass, from Whedon’s Firefly, in the show. Looks like he will be a regular cast member, albeit in a small role.

  4. Liked the Pilot a lot. Show has a lot of potential.

  5. This definitely isn’t a show I think can withstand 18-24 episodes a season, but more like 8-12 each year around a marvel movie premiere. I do think it has potential though.

  6. After watching the premiere, I’d say that it is not off to that great of a start. Coulson seemed wooden, and everyone else was generic and uninteresting. Everyone, except May, that is. Sleepy Hollow, another new show, is way better that this. Arrow is better than this. The show needs more work for it to be successful, and unfortunately the casting isn’t the best.

    • Have not watched premiere of Shield yet, but will on website. In the meantime, I will agree Arrow and Sleepy Hollow are worth watching.

    • Arrow got off to a similar rocky start. Its hard to judge from the first couple of episodes.

    • Coulson always seems wooden.

  7. I enjoyed it. Thought it was a little cheesy at times. hopefully they will have some more serious episodes. I wonder if Joss plans on directing any more episodes? im guessing not this season since he is probably starting preproduction on The Avengers 2 soon and production starts early next year.

    • Usually Whedon tries to direct at least the opening and closing episodes of each season and writes a couple more. He occasionally has also directed a few mid-season episodes when they were game changers or held significant importance for the characters’ evolution.

      With the notable exception of the Buffy episode “The Body,” which brilliantly dealt with her mother’s death and the emotional aftermath and was very personal to Joss, almost autobiographical, the style of his shows is quite lighthearted and witty, even to some extent when the events depicted are very serious. Avengers was like that too.

  8. The show highlights the worst aspects of the Marvel Shared Universe; PG-13 sensibilities with anything remotely challenging to the audience removed and replaced with puns and character “quirks”. Honestly, the show came off as a cross between Bones and X-Files with all the danger and edge of Captain Kangaroo. There was no depth, no tension, an over-reliance on special effects and techno-babble that only seems to ever work for Star Trek. As charming as Whedon can be as a TV writer, this is way too formulaic. It’s been over a decade since Buffy and Firefly; Why would a half reworked version of the same characters and interactions be more successful? The Marvel tie in is all this show has right now.

    • Techno Babble didn’t work in Trek either, it ruined it.

      B

    • +1. Well said.

      They should of cast some real actors with actual talent instead of pretty young models too.

      • Thank u

      • You should “of” studied grammar more seriously.

  9. I wonder why with all the numerous theories as to J August Richards identity, the only one they saw fit to deny was Luke Cage?

    • There’s been more?! The only legitimate one I ever see people debate has been Luke Cage.

      • Yeah some people thought he was Rage, some people thought he was Patriot. Definitely not expecting some minor character who in the comics didn’t even have any powers.

  10. It was okay, nothing special. Sadly, Whedon fanboys will eat it up.

    • what do you care? if the show lasts 5-6 seasons, but you don’t like it, simply don’t watch it. who care if whedon fans “eat it up”?

    • It was okay, nothing special. Sadly, Whedon bashers will put it down.

  11. I watched the first ten minutes and that’s all I could get through. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but it was just really cheesy and sort of boring. It just didn’t work for me.

    • Dang. It got better as it went on, I thought.

  12. Reminds me of Alphas set in the Marvel Universe.

  13. Seeing Ron Glass…. I nearly died.

    • Good to see him. Jeeze, I even remember him from Barney Miller, way before Firefly.

    • I know right?! I was like “BISHOP!!”

  14. Where can I find it online?

    • check abc.com or something.

      • Nope… only previews, but I think I found it… “elsewhere”.

        T!

    • ABC.com will have it in a day or so.

      • That’s where and when I will watch this. Excited for it. Had to work while pilot show was on, so will have to fall back on website.

  15. I missed it. On ABC I saw there was a movie & some other tv show, not Shield. Was gonna set my DVR for it but couldn’t find the channel.

  16. Liked it very much.

  17. Wasn’t great, wasn’t that bad, either. There is a back story to Agent Coulson’s resurrection that they hinted at, and that kind of piqued my curiosity. It’s watchable, and I’ll hang in there to see if it gets better.

  18. Anyone who thought it was going to be much different that this IS THE PROBLEM. Not with the show but their ability to see what the tv show would be like. You create the expectations in your mind, now stop bitching about how reality doesn’t match up with what you made up in you brain.

  19. My “Short” review: SO as far as Pilots go this one had me glued to the TV but was full of the dreaded commercials virus we all know and hate more than the Plenties in a box of Good and Plenty. A seemingly mysterious organization experimenting with Extremis, Gamma Radiation, and super solider serum(Fellow comic book reads have a good few suggestions on this organization tho so not really THAT mysterious but they can always be a new one) The cast did a great job with Chloe Bennet’s Skye, and the great Phil Coulson making the best of the Whedon-y lines provided. Mind-Na Wen takes 3rd place with my characters and i didnt hate Ward nearly as muc as i though I would(that truth serum bit was so great) All and all ‘ll give the show a 8.9 just because i think you need to be a bit of a comic book guy or gal to fully love the feel of the show and i can see that as a bit of an undersite as sadly we are not all comic book lovers. i can really feel a Astonishing Xmen vibe here in the pilot. If you are a comic book nerd like me the show ranks at least a 9.2. All and all great show, room for improvement but then again ai am one of those Whedon fanboys…. :P

    • No way, you are?! We couldn’t tell..

      • You couldnt but i was kinda obvious…….Ohhhhhhh its one of those sarcasmy things ive heard so much about neat neat really fun all in good fun. Not like I gave it a perfect score tho it had sine Velveeta-y-ish filled moments that were a form of comicbook ness never really diplayed in the movies, not inherently bad just different

        • I’d side with you on plenty of those points. I think a lot of people who write it off entirely aren’t exactly the ones likely to go out and read Marvel comics, since a little cheese in kind of par for the course.

    • Omg, yeah. I totally felt that xmen thing too!

  20. I liked it. I thought the plot seemed very legit and the characters all fit in. I didn’t expect it to go the way it did and the ending really surprised me .:) I feel like by the end of the season Skye and Ward are gonna be dating or something.

    #CoulsonLives <3 :)

  21. The male lead was boring and cheesy at best, while everyone else was mediocre. Needs to get better if it’s going to survive. Not a huge fan of the casting.

  22. All of the criticisms in this article are exactly what I’ve been fearing. I hope the show is good (going to watch the pilot tomorrow) but the marketing just hasn’t interested me very much (surprisingly). It looked more like another generic sci fi show with young pretty actors, just with SHIELD in the title (and a forced Agent Coulson. I love the character, but I thought he had a good departure in The Avengers. I didn’t see a real need to bring the character back to life OTHER than the fact that fans really like him and were upset when he died).

    Like I said, I’m glad it’s not bad like I feared it would be, but I still just don’t see this show living up to the quality up the movies (which is sad considering that there are several shows on right now that are far superior than most of the big movies this year).

  23. So who let the DC guy do a MARVEL review? ;)

    • Haha awesome. Blame everyone.

  24. frankly, I’m enjoying the fact that I’ll be able to watch this with my kids.

    Maybe I sound prudish, but I have little girls who totally want to enjoy some comic book movie action, especially with some girls involved. (I have 4 little girls) but x-men is out of the question right now due to sexual content. Pretty excited for them to keep it more family than the harsher comic shows.

    • MARVEL is much more kid/family friendly… no doubts there.

    • I agree. For some reason, people assume that just because something is family friendly, it should be dropped down a notch. I never agreed with this as i’ve found a lot of animated movies to be way better than their live action counterparts. I watched the pilot with my little bro and he was pretty excited with it.

      • I’m waiting for it to load into my VUDU account, it’s driving me nuts how long their taking to post episodes of both this and the new season of Korra. (also an excellent daddy/daughter bonding show)

        • You cant think of anything else to bond with your daughter over instead of TV?

    • X-Men is packed with violence and death yet you won’t watch it with your girls DUE TO SEXUAL CONTENT?! Typical self-contradiction of the american culture.

  25. thought it was pretty good. Just happy to see Coulson back on screen =p

    • I do understand where everyone’s coming it’s just that this feels like it’s more his shows then marvel…

  26. i like how michael said it was an origin story for him. also the line about sweaty cosply girls hanging around stark tower

  27. It was good. I’ll tune in next week. I figured the hardcore Marvel fanboys probably wouldn’t like it because it’s more CSI than Sci-Fi.

  28. I’m a hude comic geek sci fi nerd and all around whedon fanboy. That being said…This is a generic show. I do hope it gets better but to be honest there are better options out there for an adult. sleepy hollow is one yes. I think the cast is what really did it in for me to be honest though. There are plenty of “pretty” actors out there who aremore than believable but these people are …generic at best. I dont know if I can keep watching it. Arrow is better.I’m not just sayinf that, I dont preffer one thing or the other. When one comic property wins it inevitably opens doors for others so all in all the fans are the ones who win. No real prefferance just the way it is. darkknight made billions and so did iron man..

  29. Show was pretty solid. They crammed a lot of info and action in 45 minutes. Hope the series can keep up the pace and the $$ for special effects. It’s got a bunch of Joss Whedon’ vets like Gun from Angel, dude from Firefly, and May from Lost. Coulsan definitely carries the show.

    • Uh, Lost isn’t Whedon, it’s JJ Abrams…

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