, arguably the most anticipated show of the new fall season, premiered on ABC this week with a cloud of secrecy matched only by the incredible promotion regarding the superhero drama.
It is rare for a pilot episode to be hyped so much while so little is revealed, which just goes to show how confident the network is in its success. Very few clips and photos were circulated among the media and entertainment-type organizations, with the most footage being saved until Comic-Con, and you had to be pretty high up on the VIP totem pole to even be considered for a screener.
So normally, when I do a review or recap, I watch the show, write and then go to bed. This is almost inevitably followed by a full night of dreaming about whatever it is I just watched. Now, I'm not sure if it was my own excitement over a TV show in a genre I've loved for roughly a quarter-century, but I spent all of my sleep Monday night dreaming about the X-Men and Spider-Man and a slew of other comic book heroes.
I woke up Tuesday feeling like I'd already watched the pilot and was extremely pleased with how it turned out in my subconscious. But then I saw the actual premiere, and it's literally better than I dreamed.
But probably not in the way you expected it to be.
The Worst Kept Secret in Marvel History
So first up, we have to address the poached elephant in the room. Agents of SHIELD takes place in a post-Avengers world, and everyone who saw the film also saw Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) get stabbed through the chest with a large knife on that awesome hover-carrier. But SURPRISE! He's very much alive, and it's quite clear that he's still the glue that holds this ragtag bunch together.
So what gives? Are we getting some Lost World-esque hogwash like when Michael Crichton wrote the second Jurassic Park novel based on the first movie and NOT his first book? I guess once Spielberg starts pressuring you for a sequel, you give in and resurrect dead characters just because they survived the first film and the audience likes Jeff Goldblum.
But anyway, because that type of crap wouldn't fly with Joss Whedon, the topic is briefly addressed -- a few seconds of seeing white light followed by a "recovery trip to Tahiti" and a Nick Fury cover-up that was hidden from the Avengers themselves -- with the promise of a necessary greater reveal in the future. Can't wait for that, especially after Agent Maria Hill (I had to Google Cobie Smulders to find out the character name, and the first five results are disturbingly about her feet) over-dramatically tells me we "can never know."
What, you were expecting Iron Man and the Hulk? This is probably what most people didn't see coming, as it would appear this is not so much a show about superheroes, and it's certainly not a show about superheroes you recognize. You're probably not going to see the Wolverine anytime soon.
Instead, it's a show about the highly-trained specialists with high-tech gadgets, cool modes of transportation and a budget limited only by the actual television budget who locate and protect those with superpowers/protect us regular Joes from those who don't know how to handle said superpowers.
Still, the comical banter flows in very Whedon-esque ways, and the chemistry is there even if the early character development isn't quite yet. But that's to be expected when you need so much exposition to keep everyone from The Big Bang Theory to Batteries Not Included informed as to what's going on. And Gregg/Coulson keeps everything moving along smoothly.
And I have to admit I laughed out loud at the "little poop with knives sticking out of it" comment, as well as "With great power comes a ton of weird crap that you are not prepared to deal with."
The story is pretty standard stuff for a pilot. Coulson recruits a fight-first, ask-questions-later loner (Agent Grant Ward, played by Brett Dalton) to his mutant-hunting-with-a-purpose team, then tracks and recruits the Rising Tide hacker who is causing problems (Skye, played by Chloe Bennett).
Then they all team up to save some unemployed dude name Mike, who let a mad scientist try to make him superhuman so he could be a good dad, but instead turned him into a ticking time bomb. And outside of the fact that we probably all would've understood and been fine with Ward shooting him in the head to prevent a blocks-wide explosion (especially since we're all still reeling from the Battle of New York), he's instead shot with some sort of antidote created by British scientists Fitz and Simmons (stage name Fitzsimmons, for real).
So it all ends well, even if we don't need it to. And then it's on to the next case!
I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), who flies stuff like a fighter pilot and basically just kicks ass even though she's supposedly out of the field. So that's more backstory for the future.
Anyone who was expecting The Avengers movie is probably disappointed in this pilot. Sure, the films will be connected, and not just because there were ads for the new Thor and Iron Man 3 now on Blu-ray. It's a masterful strategy to keep all these comic book mediums intertwined because they all bring a track record of success.
But still, you can't hope for what you see on the big screen. I mean, the final scene where Coulson and Skye fly away in Lola looks eerily similar to the final scene of Back to the Future, and that came out back in 1985.
And it would appear, at least early on, that we're looking at standalone episodes with a singular objective rather than a continuing and escalating season-long setup. Unless the goal is to chase this doctor who's injecting humans with a mishmash of superpower-causers like she's Carmen Sandiego. But I think that's unlikely, though I do expect we'll see this villain again.
In the end, it needs time to develop, but Agents of SHIELD is off to a solid start. I still think the pilot of a show like Heroes hit with a much stronger impact regarding a similar theme, and that was a show I literally sat on the edge of my seat watching throughout the first season.
Here's hoping Agents of SHIELD is a lot closer to that and a lot further away from the way a show like V turned out.
What did you think of the premiere? Did it meet your expectations? Or were you left hoping for more? And if so, do you think the show can deliver as we move through the first season?