Is it possible to put together a team of very diverse government agents without any complications as a result? Can that story be top on the small screen instead of the big screen? That’s part of the premise and the challenge behind “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” which attempted to pick where “The Avengers” left off as a weekly television series. The idea could have some promise, but the premiere’s set-up managed to instead showcase that the show needed some work in order to make it to a second season.
“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” followed Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) who managed to survive after appearing to have been killed in “The Avengers” and was now tasked with heading up a new team of agents to investigate any case that comes their way. Those cases often included new potential heroes who had no idea how to understand their powers, but they weren’t prepared for the unseen forces plotting to use them for their own nefarious purposes. Unfortunately, he had to work very hard to convince his unique team members to join him because they were uncomfortable with the idea for various reasons. To help protect the team, Coulson recruited Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) who was a pilot and a martial arts expert that chose a desk job for reasons known only to her and those with a certain clearance level. Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) was a genius when it came to combat field work, but he had no people skills and preferred to work alone. He was even terrified of the idea of working with others that included a mysterious hacker named Skye (Chloe Bennet) who was able to hack into S.H.I.E.L.D. without too much of an effort. Skye’s background was a complete mystery that made her both an asset and a liability to S.H.I.E.L.D. To round out the team, an engineer and a bio-chemist were chosen to help analyze the material. Agent Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Agent Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) often worked so closely together many agents thought they were the same person. Can Coulson’s new team work together to uncover different mysteries inside their agency, as well as outside of it?
In terms of questions, the show posed way too many that weren’t answered due to the fact that it took too long to set up the premiere and how Coulson’s team got together. There was about twenty minutes in the series premiere that spent too much time dancing around each cast member’s history. It was nice to see Colbie Smulders’ Agent Hill make an appearance in the episode, but her scenes were far too brief. Hopefully, she will return to the series once “How I Met Your Mother” wraps up its final season if this show is still around next fall. She provided her few scenes with a sense of bravado, humor and mystery as to what her character knows about Coulson’s somewhat unclear return from the dead. The show’s pacing could also use some room for improvement to better blend the weekly action story with the character development of the cast members. The premiere would’ve been better if it was longer to accommodate explaining who each agent was, or at the very least simply providing the reason why they joined the team before providing their background in later episodes. The episode also seemed to be explaining events that happened in past Marvel films to help catch-up viewers that were unfamiliar with everything, which was a mistake because only Marvel fans would likely be watching the show anyways. The premiere’s best storyline was Bennet’s Skye slowly becoming a part of the team because she represented how a regular person can even be part of something greater than she ever expected. Sure, the character was still an enigma, but future episodes should reveal a little more about her each week. In order for the show to have staying power, the writers need to find a way to balance having decent stories to go with the highly expensive looking special effects. Only time will tell if that’s the case.
As for breakout performances, Gregg and Bennet led the pack because they helped to provide different insights into the mysterious S.H.I.E.L.D. organization that the movies only touched upon. Gregg’s Coulson was a seasoned veteran who went through a major trauma during “The Avengers.” Even though it seemed manipulative to bring the character back, Gregg provided the credibility straining plot with a sense of realism and humor as he tried to make light of what happened to him when he didn’t have all of the facts. He embodied Coulson with a sense of moral clarity, childlike awe for the cases, and a sense of humor that allowed him to push other agents’ buttons when he felt the need to do so. Gregg’s most memorable scenes involved his return to the fold and when he was able to talk a new hero out of doing something he would regret. Coulson’s return scene provided the right amount of surprise and laughs when he made Dalton’s Ward jump a little bit because he didn’t expect Coulson to return, or still be alive for that matter. For the latter scene, Gregg was able to convince a troubled hero not to throw his life away by making known that his recovery wasn’t as smooth as everyone though that it was. Let’s hope that Coulson’s true recovery storyline will be explored sooner rather than later because it was definitely a mystery worth exploring. Bennet, on the other hand, had the challenging task of trying to provide depth to what could’ve been a disposable supporting character. Sure, Bennet’s Chloe could afford to be a little less chatty on certain occasions, but it was a trademark on many of Joss Whedon’s shows and films to have a talkative supporting character to keep things lively. She provided Skye with the perfect balance of sarcasm and whimsy as she started to embrace the opportunity to work with the agency after keeping a close eye on them for so long. Fingers crossed that the show will continue to use Bennet’s Chloe as a foil/inside man to keep things interesting and not entirely tension free to keep viewers on their toes; otherwise they won’t tune out too soon.
“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” premiered on September 24th and airs Tuesdays at 8:00 pm on ABC
Verdict: The premiere offered some promise to Marvel fans, but the premiere spent too much time setting things up for viewers that the story got lost a little bit along the way.
TV Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)