Making a TV pilot is like throwing sand into a colander and sifting it out until you discover a few gems buried within. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. threw a lot of things in that colander - and a lot of characters, to boot. Right now it looks like only one or two of them (maybe three) are going to shine, but that's okay: great TV shows have been made from less.
Don't want to kill off or write off characters like Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) or Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge)? Fine. Have them take a cue from Q in James Bond and give them a little cameo scene every now and again to present new gadgets (and limited banter) to our agents. Meanwhile, Agent May is intriguing - let's spend more time focused on her!