At the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con, there was a debate as to what would be the most anticipated panel. A lot of people said Game of Thrones, the Marvel panel or the Catching Fire panels would be the most sought after panels. However, judging from the fanbase in Ballroom 20, on Friday at 1:45pm, you would think that the Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. panel was going to be the best one out there. The question was whether we were going to get an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot. We heard that word clips and small snipets were going to be used but executive producer Jeph Loeb made tons of fans happy by announcing we were getting a pilot. Now they had our attention. Does it satisfy Joss Whedon fans? Of course. Will it appeal to a consistent mainstream audience? Well, we’ll answer that question later. I will say that the pilot was an absolute Whedon-fest of family, snappy dialogue and quick pacing that made the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot all the more enjoyable despite the limitations of being on the small screen.
I’m going to try to keep this as spoiler free as possible but obviously I have to explain what’s going on. The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot picks up after the Battle of New York, and the repercussions of that (much like Iron Man 3). It’s a brave new world out there, and we are introduced to Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) as he James Bond’s his way through stealing, sneaking, beating and all that fun espionage stuff. The opening sequence was fast, funny and strikingly violent, revealing Ward to be the muscle and badass, loner character we all need to create future conflict. I love Whedon’s direction in this sequence because it reminded me of the opening to Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol. Whedon knows how to direct action and keep bits of humor throughout and create depth and get more out of the character on the pages.
We soon get our introduction to a new unit in S.H.I.E.L.D. with Agent Hill (Cobie Smulders, returning for a possible recurring then permanent gig after HIMYM ends) putting together a team to help investigate and assess the phenomenons in the world today. From this point, we finally get to see all the hype that #CoulsonLives has been building up to as Clark Gregg makes his triumphant return to the Marvel Universe. He’s eager and ready to go and we get a tiny resolution as to why he’s still up and kicking. Of course, we get a Firefly cameo from Shepard (Ron Glass) that will get the fanboys and fangirls squealing, explaining that there’s more to the #CoulsonLives scenario that everyone realizes.
The first mission introduces us to a bunch of characters that work extremely well together as they hunt down a super-powered hooded ‘hero’ (J. August Richards) that just jumped on the radar. A hacker named Skye (Chloe Bennet) has been tracking him and Coulson sees an opportunity with her to help each other out. Other people on the team include scientists Fitz and Simmons (Iain de Caesstecker and Elizabeth Henstridge, respectively) and stoic ‘pilot’ Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen). All these characters has mysteries and enigmas the series will explore but putting them all together, they have great chemistry and play off each other well.
Bennet has a fangirl type of curiosity and charisma she brings to the table and almost acts as the audience as she delves further into this world of espionage. Dalton and Ming-Na play the badass well with Dalton getting into a great sequence with Skye in an interrogation room. The “twins”, Fitz and Simmons, could be my new favorite duo as they finish each others sentences and work so well with each other, I would watch a pilot of them alone as they navigate and conquer their niche of science in this world. Of course, Clark Gregg is the biggest draw as he serves as a direct connection to the cinematic universe. He obviously plays Coulson brilliantly as the hilariously dry leader of this team. They also don’t try to make him the centerpiece, just as the glue to this ensemble that he ties together effortlessly.
The action in the pilot is quick and well shot by Whedon, who clearly still carries a deft eye for television. However, the production works effectively with a TV budget and creates a great spy and superhero world to explore in the future. The dialogue and story carries a lot of heart and humor that Whedon typifies in his work and carries the major theme of family, which is familiar ground. Although sustainability will remain the big question, because for all the Marvel references, whether we see heroes or major players in the MCU, it depends on the TV audience. These heroes will have to establish themselves quickly as people the audience will dedicate one day a week to watch.
Overall, I loved the pilot. The pacing was great. The action was crisp and believable. The production was terrific. The cast works brilliantly together. Whether that’s a testament to Joss Whedon directing or the writing remains to be seen but when you watch the pilot, you feel the same magic you got from watching Buffy and Firefly and other brilliant shows. This one is definitely one to watch and on September 24th, 2013, you can enjoy it as much as the rest of Ballroom 20.