Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Pilot (1×01)
Synopsis: Marvel’s first foray into a live action TV show begins with the revelation that Agent Phil Coulson is alive and introducing the ragtag team that will be solving the super powered mysteries that the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D. is not equipped to handle.
Well, the day has finally come. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has finally forayed into television with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with TV master Joss Whedon at the helm. How does the first episode hold up?
Not too shabby, if you ask me! Which I assume you are if you’re reading this.
Opening with a brief monologue about how the world has changed with brief flashes to The Avengers, we start to see Mike Peterson (played by Whedon alum J. August Richards) out with his son Ace, who longingly looks on at some Avengers toys. While his recently unemployed Dad starts to assure him that he’ll get a toy for his birthday, a nearby building explodes and Mike runs to the building. Then comes the first big reveal of the episode: Mike has super powers. Using his super strength, he scales the building to the nearest open window, jumps in, and jumps back out with a woman in his arms. With video taken by computer hacker Skye (Chloe Bennet), Mike becomes known as The Hooded Hero and the internet becomes obsessed with knowing who he is.
Well, that and S.H.I.E.L.D.
We then cut to S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) in the field in Paris. S.H.I.E.L.D. has ordered his extraction since hacker organization The Rising Tide has revealed the coordinates of an object he is searching for. Quickly, he manages to retrieve the object and get into a fight before being extracted. In Maria Hill’s field office, the object is revealed to be a Chitauri artifact that S.H.I.E.L.D. had not managed to maintain after the Battle of New York. Hill tells Ward that he’s been brought in for a mission headed by Agent Coulson, which prompts Ward to inform her that he knows Coulson died before the Battle of New York.
Bring in big reveal #2: Coulson is alive, and there is much fandom rejoicing.
Turns out that while our beloved Coulson was dead for about eight seconds (40 on his account) after being shanked by Loki, he managed to be resuscitated and Fury sent him off to Tahiti for recovery. Until now, and that Coulson’s putting a team together to deal with the newly found superpower beings in the world. Starting with the Hooded Hero. This is where Grant is being a stereotypical action movie hero: he works alone and isn’t a team player. Coulson responds that he knows because Hill drew a little poop with knives sticking out. Hill tells him that it’s a porcupine, but the point is made that Grant is abrasive. Coulson insists that Grant is needed on his ragtag group, even if Dr. Streiten (Ron Glass) and Hill think that they’re not ideal and that Coulson needs more recovery time. Coulson implies that while Tahiti was wonderful, he missed being in the field.
As he walks away, reveal #3 comes from Streiten and Hill: Everything is not what it seems with the miraculous recovery of Agent Phil Coulson. I figure that this will be a season long thing, but that mystery alone is enough to sink me in for the rest of the season. Is he a clone? A Life Model Decoy? Or is something more sinister about? S.H.I.E.L.D: Where the secrets have secrets.
After that bout of mystery, we’re quickly introduced to the rest of the team. There’s Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), a former field agent with quite a reputation that precedes her. Coulson insists that she’s just the driver of the mobile command unit, but also seems to have a background with her as well as a greater need for her skills. There’s also Agents Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons (Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Hendstridge), who are the team’s science and tech division. I’m just going to say right now that they’re my favorites. Adorable, enthusiastic, a little neurotic, and Scottish and British respectively. They pretty much won me over as soon as they introduced themselves and Fitz destroyed Ward’s tech with a hammer in order to get the chip he needed.
The team flies off to LA where they find the Rising Tide, which is just Skye in a van she lives in in an alley not too far from the blast. Coulson and Ward take her in for questioning while May, Fitz, and Simmons investigate the blast. In their findings, they find some alien technology that they believe may be the source of a bomb and the security camera from the building.
During Skye’s interrogation, she reveals that she’s not just some computer hacker looking to cause some trouble. She actually knows about things that S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t know about. Mainly that being Project Centipede and her encryptions are too hard for S.H.I.E.L.D. to break. Coulson revels in the fact that Skye isn’t easy to figure out and decides to up the interrogation process by bringing in truth serum. At first it seems that he’s going to give it to her, but he quickly puts it into Ward and has Skye interrogate him to assess her as a new recruit for his team. This part cracked me up more than any other part of the episode, especially with the way Ward’s tough exterior broke when Skye asked about his grandmother.
While all of this is happening, we start to know more about super powered Mike. A factory worker that was laid off after hurting his back, he signed up with some program that gave him a piece of tech gives him superpowers. After meeting with Skye, he starts to ask the doctor who gave him the tech if they can go public with it. The doctor refuses, and Mike goes back to the factory to ask for his job back. It’s here that we see whatever was given to him is starting to make him unhinged. He goes on about being the hero and his boss being the bad guy before he attacks him. Uh oh. To make matters worse, Mike goes to see the woman he rescued in the hospital when we get the next big reveal: she’s actually the doctor who gave him the treatment. She’s not happy that she’s been exposed and neither are the people who are backing her work. Mike goes on about this being his origin story and jumps out the window.
Back at the mobile command unit, the puzzle pieces are slowly starting to come together. Skye gives up what she knows about Mike and agrees to help them put together what is happening with him. May takes Skye back to her van to retrieve the audio from the building to go with the security camera footage. Skye manages to send it to the team before May is knocked out by Mike and he kidnaps Skye with his kid in tow.
Before the team realizes this is all happening, they finally manage to put it all together about Mike. The alien tech at the blast site was part of the Centipede given to him to give him super powers and it’s a mix of alien tech, gamma radiation and super soldier serum based on Dr. Erskine’s research. Can I just say that I love the way Phil says, “Super soldiers” in that part? Like he’s on the verge of a Captain America fanboy attack. However, that fanboy attack has to wait because further review of the footage reveals that the other man given the Centipede didn’t bring a bomb with him to blow up the building. He WAS the bomb that blew up the building.
Anyone who saw Iron Man 3 now knows exactly what’s going on: The Centipede also includes Extremis, and it’s about to make Mike go boom.
Since the team doesn’t have Tony Stark’s stabilization formula that he came up with while hungover in Switzerland, they rush to come up with an option that doesn’t include isolating Mike and making him blow or shooting him in the head to stop the metabolic process. When Fitz and Simmons insist that it can’t be done, Coulson yells that there’s got to be a way to do it. While they try to crack the code, Skye hacks the S.H.I.E.L.D. system to tell them where Mike has taken her. It’s a train station, and he’s in a rush to get out of town.
Coulson, Ward, and May meet at the station to rescue Skye and Mike, but Mike flips out and starts to run for it, dragging Skye and his son with him. Mike’s mysterious doctor arrives on the scene with a gunman who goes in to kill Mike before S.H.I.E.L.D. can reach him. Coulson manages to get a hold of Ace and hands him over to the police to keep him safe. This upsets Mike, who Ward quickly tries to subdue to no avail. Mike escapes to the top level with Skye, but is pursued and shot by the gunman. It doesn’t kill him, but knocks him down to the bottom level. The gunman then tries to kill Skye, but he’s quickly taken out by May in a scene that reminds me of Natasha’s climatic fight scene in Iron Man 2. Skye and May then share an eye contact moment which reminds me of my secret super power of being able to find the lesbian ship in anything.
Mike recovers and gets up to see Coulson, who puts his handgun on the ground as he approaches. Ward is waiting in the wings to take out Mike with a sniper rifle if needed, but Coulson ignores him like he ignored Barton in Thor. It’s here that we’re reminded that Mike isn’t a bad guy. He’s just a guy who’s been given some bad breaks. Coulson assures him that everything will be okay and gives this great speech about heroes…
…Before Mike is shot in the head. Thanks Ward!
But after the initial shock, we see that Mike isn’t dead! In fact, Fitz figured out that the “Night Night Gun” that him and Simmons were arguing about in the beginning of the episode could stabilize the Extremis reaction long enough to knock him out without exploding. Way to effectively use Chekov’s Gun, Team Whedon!
The episode concludes with a report to Hill, and Skye and Coulson going to tell Ace that his dad will be coming home soon after his rehabilitation. Coulson offers Skye a place on the team, but she seems rather unsure. Just then, Coulson gets a call about an 0-8-4 and he tells Skye she has ten minutes to figure out if she wants to know what that is. Skye tries to insist that they can’t get into the airfield that quickly when Coulson’s beloved car Lola turns into a hover car that was probably invented by Howard Stark and they rush off towards the credits.
The pilot for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is actually a pretty solid start to the series. Was it campy in certain places? Yes, but I like a little camp with my comic book based media. We’re given the right amount of character and mystery introduction to keep us coming back for a first season. Plus, it was classic Whedon quippy and just a lot of fun to watch. I can’t wait to see how it plays a bigger picture in the MCU, especially with others outside of AIM now having access to Extremis. Is AIM funding the Centipede project or is it someone else? Will The Avengers find out that Coulson is alive? Will we see the team in future movies? And what of this Agent Carter series that Marvel wants to develop?
Well, I guess we’ll have to keep watching. Which is totally fine by me.