That’s what you wanted to hear, right?
Derisive italics aside, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t entirely bad. After an extremely busy week of various business, I finally sat down to watch the pilot episode. For those not “in the know,” the series is meant to be an ongoing serial set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a universe containing Thor, the Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, and several other superheroes no one cares about.
Within the pilot episode alone, Whedon and his underlings have already managed to reference every film in their canon, as well as sprinkle plenty of other references to their decades-long history of comics. As this is Whedon, those references where often so self-referential as to be extremely clunky (such as the line, “With great power comes… a ton of weird crap.”) I’m actually not that familiar with Joss Whedon’s work, having never really watched his other shows, but his dialogue always comes across as terribly smug to me, and Whedon seems totally convinced he’s the bastard love-spawn of Tarantino and Shakespeare. This show is no exception.
My misgivings towards the creator might be unfair, as I stated I’m not overly familiar with him, and there’s plenty to like about the show. What I like most about the Marvel films is carried over here; that being the creative way they have connected all of their films to one another using bits of dialogue, shared backstories, and certain visual cues as well. S.H.I.E.L.D. picks up shortly after the events in The Avengers, which as you may recall featured a devastating alien invasion that laid waste to New York City. The regular folks are still reeling from this, but it’s S.H.I.E.L.D.’s job to clean it up. The branch of the organization the show features is led by Agent Phil Coulson, who was featured in several of the films before being murdered to death by Loki in The Avengers. Now, as befits a character in a comic-book inspired universe, he’s back. How? He thinks that he was saved by doctors and sent to physical therapy in Tahiti, but the actual reason? As Cobie Smulders informs us in a cameo: “He can never know.” I sense he will eventually know; I hope by that point I will care.
Coulson is the only reason this show might work: as played by Clark Gregg, he functions as the straight man to all the egotistical, neurotic superheroes around him, not being intimidated by them (other than Captain America, on whom he has a fanboy man-crush). On the show, the same qualities he used to hassle Iron Man will serve him well as boss and mentor to a new team of agents. I believe the show is intended to be an X-Files type of supernatural procedural, and I hope the cast rotates somewhat because I do not give a tuppeny shit about anyone on it right now. Other than Coulson, of course, and I’ve only seen the pilot, so more time may be needed.
The plot of the first episode features a man (J. August Richards) who has been experimented on (the Extremis Formula from Iron Man 3 appears) and develops super-strength. He attempts to use it for good, but things don’t go so well for him. Honestly this part of the plot didn’t really hold my interest. It seems a bit formulaic, reminding me of better shows (like the aforementioned X-Files) and featuring a cast of actors who are mostly too non-charismatic to elevate this above basic Saturday afternoon fare.
Still, it’s only the pilot, and I’ll watch a few more episodes in the hopes that they bring in some more references to their larger Marvel Universe. At the moment, however, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. seems bloated, expensive and pretentious. Oh, well.