My first impression of Agents of SHIELD is a solid meh. Not bad, not great, but still entertaining (or at least diverting.) I was expecting this though. Not only because of the reports from SDCC, but also because it’s a show set in a wider universe of seven (soon to be eight) movies. The pilot was always going to be exposition heavy to establish the characters and where it stood within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It also had to cover enough for the viewers who hadn’t seen any of the movies (they have to exist!) to not be confused.
One downside of this is that it’s hard to like the characters that aren’t Coulson. We get to see enough of them that we get a feel of what they’re like, but not enough to for them to be brilliant, unique stars that we can fawn over. And for me, this drives home why I love Coulson as a character. In Iron Man, his only purpose was to be the bland, generic man in black who got to say the pithy SHIELD line. There really wasn’t much more to him until he shows up in Iron Man 2. I cheered when he came on the screen, because it was great that they brought this bit part back, and he had an awesome line that gave us a little insight into his character. We were slowly introduced to Coulson, so that the one recurring character that wasn’t from the comics in some form was able to become a bearable character rather than one we had to put up with. Agent’s of SHIELD’s new characters, however, have to compete with Coulson to establish themselves quickly, and that causes an imbalance, one I hope will begin to be righted over the next couple of episodes (aka don’t be Teen Wolf where I still don’t have a feel on Cora after twelve episodes because she’s just there!)
I’m not going to go into more about Coulson, this episode was more of what we loved while hinting at secrets and Tahiti brainwashing. For the new characters, it’s time to describe them in the only acceptable way- in terms of Buffy characters!
Ward = Riley/Xander
Agent Grant Ward appears to be the wonderboy, with the exception of no people skills. Now we could just call him Riley Finn minus the farmboy charm, but the interrogation scene gives us a glimpse of the Xander awkwardness love. Seriously, I was willing to give Ward a chance after we learned he calls his grandmother Gramzy. But after that, Ward’s just background or a prop in the episode. What was probably supposed to be a moment of him accepting his place on the team came off more as “he’s there, he can do it” and doesn’t really provide any character growth.
Skye = Buffy/Superwitch!Willow
Skye is definitely a mix of Buffy’s wit and lack of respect for authority with Willow’s confidence and skills we get in the later seasons of Buffy (just replace magic with better hacking.) From how the episode ends, she appears to be the one Coulson is grooming to be his right hand (with Ward being his project.) So far … I don’t hate her, she has too much Buffy and Willow to make me hate right off, but I don’t like her. Her character arc for the whole episode revolved more on her being recruited than who she was. Hopefully they’ll round her out more soon.
Melinda May = Giles/Angel
Okay, Melinda is more Angel than Giles (at least before we learned of Ripper.) She certainly is broody with a mysterious past, but she is also the older experienced one and appears to prefer doing the paperwork (for now.) I can’t help, but love her. I enjoy watching Ming-Na Wen. I also think that they made the most of what time she was on screen to develop her. Yes, I think Mike got the drop on her too easily, but they show her being disgusted with herself over it, which I think was part of Coulson’s plan to bring her back out of her shell. I sort of hope that part of her story arc revolves around her resisting going back into the field.
FitzSimmons = Xander/Willow/Andrew?
Fitz and Simmons … disappointed me. I thought these would be characters I’d love, but so far they annoy me. They are the naive, awkwardness of early Xander and Willow combine with Andrew’s anxiousness, and I don’t find that a good combination. They were really just props in this episode.
As for the plot … it’s rather thin as pilot episodes tend to be. The conflict is actually the B story, because the A story is bringing the team together. I feel the need to rewatch the first episode of Buffy to see if I have the same opinion on it (because it is kind of the same situation, with the movie established character meeting the TV characters.) I liked J. August Richards’ Mike, though. I think he established what he was capable of, what kind of person he was, and what the threat was very well. (Though I do feel as if there was a mandated Iron Man 3 reference in it, since the movie was released on Bluray/DVD on the same day.) The script did a decent job of making you feel for the character and want him to live (even if it’s because his son is adorable.) But as I said, the main story was meet the characters.
- Glad to see Hill, but her line about Thor’s arms was more appropriate for Robin
- The girlfriend/mistress was completely unfazed by Ward and ensuing events. Perhaps she was the buyer (aka be a minion of shadowy conspiracy, please.)
- Tahiti mentions: 3; Magical place: 2
- Pop culture references: Harry Potter, Terminator, and Snow White
Verdict: B-, some moments make the episode better than average
(Also, both thrilled and unsurprised that Lola can fly! )