Oh Wanderers, when I saw the request for a review of Marvels’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ping into our inbox, I couldn’t help the little burst of excitement which zipped through me. Arguably created for the fans of The Avengers, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is another Joss Whedon creation which graces our screens with sass, sex, and sly references to his other monumental creations.
Featuring a cast of both established and up-and-coming actors, including Clark Gregg (Agent Phil Coulson), Ming Na Wen (Agent Melinda May), Brett Dalton (Agent Grant Ward), Chloe Bennet (Skye), Iain De Caestecker (Leo Fitz) and Elizabeth Henstridge (Jemma Simmonds), the series continues the story memorialised in Joss Whedon’s hit 2012 film, The Avengers. If you’re among the millions who helped make that film one of the highest-grossing movies of all time, you know that Agent Phil Coulson, a member of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, died in the Battle of New York. Well, that was then and this is TV: Only a few minutes into the show’s pilot episode, Coulson ambles out from a corner and suggests the reason no one could see him is that a lightbulb must need replacing. Coulson didn’t die, but has been having a long vacation in Tahiti, or so he says. Indeed, in its very simplest terms, the show involves Coulson putting together a small team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to handle strange new cases. Each case tests the team in terms of both cooperation and ingenuity as they try to work together in trying to save the world from threatening, supernatural events on Earth, but Wanderers, oh Wanderers, there is so much more to it than that.
ABC introduced the show to the press during summer 2013 with cloak-and-dagger theatrics that even agent Coulson would have admired. Marvel, now under the aegis of Disney, means business with its first TV series. Secrets must be kept because everything, including the fate of the Marvel Universe, seems to be riding on this.
Maybe everything is although for the moment, there’s nothing to worry about. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. boasts a must-watch pilot that will forcibly remind viewers of what network TV can still do, if budget is a secondary concern. As with The Avengers, Whedon’s ear and sensibilities match the material perfectly – that high-velocity back-and-forth snark which illustrates character and motive, even when you don’t always know exactly what someone just said.
Although it’s a clever trick, it may also hint at a broader concern for the average viewer. Just how deeply will this dive into the Marvel Universe, a bewildering place, even for experts? The pilot, which can be a thicket in places, indicates dumbing down will not be an option. And if you didn’t like The Avengers, or don’t know who the Fantastic Four are (none of whom appear here), or superheroes put you in a deep snooze, then move along: S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t for you. But if the success of the Iron Man and Avengers movie franchises is any indication, it should be for plenty of others. Despite this, the Whedonverse remains the welcoming place it has always been, and even its most knowing citizens can laugh at themselves.
There aren’t enough words for me to fully explore precisely why Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is so captivating, and in truth, I daren’t try. But if I were to ask you to watch it, Wanderers, why would that be? Because its fast-paced action is enough to get the adrenaline pumping in even the least Marvel-oriented viewer. Because science is explored without fear and without negative connotations. And because, by the time you’ve been watching for more than a few minutes, you’re so occupied with the Whedonverse version of Marvel’s characters, you forget all about the real world and its troubles…and begin to wonder what it would be like if the very biggest threats to our world were supernatural in nature…
I would give this reincarnation of the Avengers franchise a 4/5, simply because the devoted attention paid to the depths of the Marvel universe may be off-putting for some viewers.
Hannah Carter (can’t wait to see what the rest of the season will bring)