ABC and Marvel have teamed up to bring weekly superhero action to your living room. The build-up to the premier of “Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” has been immense, with fans asking themselves whether it would live up to the legacy of the recent box office successes Marvel has been creating.
The series is based around a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. government agents who regulate the various superheroes and supervillains that now roam the world.
As a pilot episode, it’s understandable that there is much to be explained and introduced. This episode takes place in New York City as it goes through the aftermath of the events of “The Avengers.” Having seen aliens fly into the world from a portal in the sky and witness superhumans (and a Nordic god) fight back, the world is understandably in a state of disbelief and confusion. International agency S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) moves quickly to keep the public in the dark about the recent outburst in superhuman and extraterrestrial activity by forming a team headed by Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders).
The main protagonists are introduced right away. Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) is first seen in Paris when a heist mission goes wrong. He’s the typical black-ops, weapons specialist character and is the first to be approached by Agents Coulson and Hill to be recruited for the team they are creating. Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) is also recruited from her desk job, while revealing that she’s legendary within the government for her resourcefulness and is an old friend of Coulson’s. Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) serve as comic relief, playing two odd scientists who design the technology for the team and serve all scientific needs for S.H.I.E.L.D..
The elephant in the room for Marvel fans was that Agent Coulson was assumed dead in “The Avengers” after being stabbed by Loki. In the episode, Agent Coulson casually explains that his death was merely faked by Nick Fury to motivate The Avengers to work as a team. Viewers learn this isn’t the whole story, however, as Maria Hill hints that not even Coulson knows “the truth.”
The plot gets rolling when we are introduced to Mike (J. August Richards), a man who has been exposed to both the 1940s Super Soldier Serum (“Captain America: The First Avenger”) and the Extremis Formula (“Iron Man 3”) in an experiment known as “Project Centipede.” Mike starts out with good intentions, using his newfound agility and super strength to save a woman from a building fire. In a side scene, it is revealed that the lady Mike had saved in the fire is actually part of the agency that had headed Project Centipede. She angrily tells Mike not to expose the agency to anyone with rash decisions. He chooses to heed the advice and remain anonymous. He goes back to searching for a new job and caring for his son while attempting to ignore his powers. A superpower fangirl and talented hacker named Skye (Chloe Bennet) tracks down Mike and confronts him in a café , warning him that S.H.I.E.L.D. agents would come for him and that they are not to be trusted. Skye’s background is still mysterious, with viewers not yet knowing how she got into the business of hunting superhumans.
The Agents abduct Skye, and Agent Ward interrogates her while at the same time attempting to show her that they are not the villains and that Mike needs to be helped. The formulas Mike has been injected with cause instability, both physically (victims literally explode when angered) and mentally. The unstable mentality begins to show, as Mike consistently gives into violence to get his way, all the while insisting he’s a hero. Skye soon realizes this change in Mike and reluctantly gives up his location to S.H.I.E.L.D.
The action climaxes at a train station. Mike finds himself cornered, and his son is taken by the Agents. Agent Coulson talks calmly to Mike in a rather poignant scene, trying to keep him from giving into the desperation that has gripped him and away from turning into a human bomb and killing the innocent who surrounded them. Just as Mike finally begins to see reason, Agent Ward tranquilizes him. Mike is carted off to stay in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s prison. The episode ends with Agent Coulson inviting Skye to join his team, to which she agrees, as they zoom off in Coulson’s flying car.
With a balance of humor, action and heartfelt drama, “Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” seems to have set its tone for the series. The episode was simple, but made it clear that there is much potential for depth in future episodes.
“Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.LD.” airs Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. on ABC.