‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ proves welcome addition to Marvel universePosted on September 24, 2013 | by Olivia Ellis
From its first scene, the pilot episode of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” doesn’t let the audience forget its affiliation with the wildly successful “The Avengers” film. The first faces glimpsed are those of that movie’s superheroes — recycled snippets from the film show Iron Man and Thor zipping around Manhattan in pursuit of Loki’s alien army. Yet despite this opening, creators Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen stay true to the show’s premise of focusing on the agents behind the heroes.
For those unfamiliar with the Marvel Universe, the show’s structure is laid out well enough for the average viewer to follow. The opening action kicks off the show and sets the tone for a dynamic and exciting season, setting it apart from many primetime contenders that rely on tried-and-true formulaic stories. Characters like Agent Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Agent Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) provide witty charm offset by Agent Ward’s (Brett Dalton) brooding beauty, and generate an appealing sense of humor and conflict within the group.
Rather than stand-alone episodes, the series focuses on a more serialized plot, as the agents unravel the origins of the mysterious gamma radiation and alien hardware they discover. “S.H.I.E.L.D.” also, at times, borrows from the show’s blockbuster cousins — fans of “Iron Man 3” will recognize the man-as-ticking-time-bomb conundrum that the agents struggle to solve. But again, the show maintains an identity of its own, deviating enough from the events of “Iron Man 3” to feel original.
Despite its serialized format, the titular agents are reminiscent of a “CSI”-type crime-fighting team, with tropes like the Fearless Leader, Sassy Newcomer, Tech Expert — there are two of them — and Comic Relief, of which there are also two. Character development is understandably lacking at this early stage. Hopefully, the show will spend its next few episodes connecting audiences with these characters, who are not in any way irradiated, super-suited, divine or otherwise heroically endowed. It will be interesting to see how the creators develop distinct and rich characters who are fairly average when compared to the traditionally powerful superheroes we’ve become acquainted with in this universe.
“S.H.I.E.L.D.” is worth the watch for its potential, particularly for those holding out for inclusion of their favorite Marvel Universe heroes and villains not slated to appear in upcoming movies. Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson has a great sense of charisma and affability that offsets the show’s overly serious exchanges, and the action sequences are well-made for a TV show.
Whedon’s involvement in the show is promising, as other shows he’s helmed have met with either mainstream success or devoted cult followings. The show has a definite place in the Marvel Universe, but not so much that outsiders will be put off — there is a clear avoidance of too many over-the-head references, though the writers are fully aware of the events in Marvel films. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is a refreshing addition to a landscape of procedurals and sitcoms — if the writers can properly attend to plot and character development, the show could establish itself as an exciting escape for all viewers.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 24 print edition. Olivia Ellis is a contributing writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.