Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Published on September 20th, 2013

The world has changed. There are science heroes, super soldiers, monsters and even gods who not only battle in the streets, SHIELD_EWbut hold the very fate of the Earth in their hands. How do we respond to this new world? This is the question and premise of this fall’s eagerly anticipated new show, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. Now, anyone who reads my weekly Comics ‘n Coffee column knows full well that I am an unapologetic Marvel “zombie” with a love for that universe which cannot be rebuked. With that said, I refer to this show as “eagerly anticipated” not for my own excitement, but for those who have already seen the pilot. IGN gives it a score of 8.5 (out of 10), saying “Joss Whedon and Marvel were obviously a perfect match in The Avengers and that inspired collaboration continues here in a highly entertaining way that should keep fans coming back for more.” This past June, it was awarded (yes, already) “Critics’ Choice Television Award for Most Exciting New Series”. Entertainment Weekly gives it high marks and the uninspired critiques by The New York Times and Variety were tempered with raving fan reactions at San Diego Comic-Con International. Yet, the buzz only continues to grow for this television spin-off of the Marvel Entertainment movie, which has been collectively dubbed the “Marvel Cinematic Universe”.

From all indications of details released to John Q. Public, the premier episode will be a basic “getting the band together” story, the classic formula of introducing a newly-formed team gathered to face a new threat. We will see the story unfold from several different perspectives, including the renegade hacker who distrusts the government, the rebellious super-agent who doesn’t work well with others and, of course, the reborn fan favorite Agent Phil Coulson. We are told how he survived Loki’s impalement during Marvel’s The Avengers (at least, to a degree where Marvel can say they answered the question), and then it’s off to assemble a team of non-powered misfits to investigate the strange new world humanity now inhabits. We’ve been told that this isn’t a show about super-heroes, but “the peripheral people … the people on the edges of the grand adventures”. We will see super-powered good guys and bad guys, and perhaps other strangeness like technology gone awry, mystical dangers and alien threats, but it’ll all be through the experiences of humans. Joss Whedon will try his darndest to keep the world of super-heroes “down to Earth” as SHIELD investigates “the new, the strange and the unknown around the globe, protecting the ordinary from the extraordinary”. As the creative genius behind Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Marvel’s The Avengers, he is banking on this one-hour action-drama to cash in like its silver screen counterparts.

I think this all makes for some highly compelling television. Not only do we get the return of Agent Coulson, one of my favorite movie characters in the last decade, but the potential for some incredible stories. The premier episode features a man of super strength, although it’s not Luke Cage, but they promise to keep the variety fresh and exciting. The team’s job is to find this super-powered mystery man before he ends up meeting the wrong people, such as a mysterious group named “The Rising Tide”. We are told by the producers and writers that it’s not going to be a show inundated with super heroes and the agents who hunt them down. Our cast of characters is an interesting bunch, ranging from a veteran SHIELD agent with a past full of secrets, to a pair of science experts who work together better than a well-oiled machine, to Agent Coulson himself, who undoubtedly comes to the team with his own battle scars – inside and out. When Coulson reveals himself in the trailer, he dramatically greets his new team member by saying “Welcome to Level 7”. If there are seven levels, then what are the other six up to? Might there be a Level 8? Or 9? I’m anxious to find out, although I’m fearful of the network’s influence on the stories, since ABC is best known for Grey’s Anatomy and Dancing With The Stars. The trailers/commercials for the show display a myriad assortment of moods, ranging from light banter and corny humor to desperation and resolute determination, and Whedon is well known for blending these tenors quite skillfully.

While I salivate any time the opportunity arises to get Marvel characters on the big screen or my DVR, I can understand their hesitancy to throw in every B-list character from the Marvel U. Sure, we might see the Hulk’s cousin, Jennifer Walters, as a pre-powered attorney. Perhaps the agents will take in a meeting with Daniel Rand in his corporate office. Or, maybe a visiting dignitary from the Nation of Wakanda will provide some aid to the team during a crisis. However, a good television show needs to have broad appeal to every audience member, not just fans of the comics and movies. One misstep can be the difference between the next Buffy or a single-season missed opportunity, á la Firefly. I predict that any serious inclusion of recognizable faces from the comics will be restricted to season finales or premiers (or mid-season finales, so keep your eyes on that November 19th episode). What definitely excites me, by that same token, is the desire by the creators of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD to use the television show to compliment the films and vice-versa. While in comic books, an event can often be somewhat confusing if you’re not reading some of the tie-ins (i.e. Infinity), their plan is to allow the movies and TV show to stand on their own merits, independent from one another, yet add value to each other for those who pay attention. And for those of you who DO pay attention, you will be rewarded with a wide range of fun comic-book nods (spoilers withheld) and mentions of familiar characters. Knowing me, I will be hooked within the first few minutes of the show and grotesquely giddy during the entire series. Fare Thee Well!


Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD will premiere it’s first episode, named “Pilot”, on Tuesday, September 24, 2013 during the 8:00pm-9:01pm EST time slot on ABC (scheduled to show on September 27, 2013 on Channel 4 in the U.K.). It is slated for 13 episodes as an ABC Studies, Marvel Television and Mutant Enemy production. It stars Brett Dalton as Grant Ward, Chloe Bennet as Skye, Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson, Elizabeth Henstridge as Jemma Simmons, Iain De Caestecker as Leo Fitz and Ming-Na Wen as Melinda May. Guest starring are J. August Richards as Mike, Shannon Lucio as Debbie, Ron Glass as Dr. Streiten and Bob Stephenson as Gary, with special guest star Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill. It is written and produced by the team of Jed Whedon, Jeffrey Bell, Jeph Loeb, Joss Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen and Paul Zbyszewski.

Rick “Smash” Hansen