Before we start this Agents of SHIELD recap, I have a confession to make…I’m sort of a Joss Whedon/Avengers virgin, guys. I mean, I have a soft spot for Buffy, and I’m well aware of Whedon’s oeuvre – Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog – but I’ve yet to set one foot into the world of the Avengers. In my head, the whole Avengers universe is all Thor and Captain America and Black Widow…saving the world, engaging in dazzling action sequences, and rattling off pithy dialogue. Does that sound about right?
My point is, I’m watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D with completely fresh eyes, and I’m counting on savvy readers to point out any awesome references/backstory I might miss. So let’s get to it…
The basic premise here is that Agent Phil Coulson (risen from the dead, apparently, or at least risen from a respite in Tahiti – more on that later) is pulling together a crack team of agents to investigate bizzaro and potentially threatening super-humans and events. Kind of like the X Files, only the special effects budget is way higher. Their job is to find these extraordinary individuals and secure them before very bad things go down. Each episode looks like it will tackle a new threat to humanity; plus, there’s a rival group of possibly nefarious hacker upstarts, dubbed the Rising Tide, to contend with.
Our Agents of SHIELD team includes: Agent May, pulled out of retirement to “drive the bus” AND able to wear black leather pretty flawlessly; Agent Grant, who is more used to kicking ass/defusing bombs and is not thrilled about his new position; Fitz and Simmons, aka “Fitz-Simmons,” a dynamic duo that handles all the tech-y and science-y stuff, and Skye, a super-hero fangirl who also happens to be kind of a hacker genius and ends up joining the agents despite herself by the episode’s end. Oh, and there’s Maria Hill (what’s up, Robin from HIMYM) as a senior level operative, but I think she’ll only be around occasionally.
Super Hero Star:
The very first super-human we meet is Mike Peterson (played by Whedon vet J. August Richards aka Gunn of Angel), a dad who has lost his factory job and is struggling to make ends meet for himself and his young son. He also has crazy super-human strength and an increasingly short fuse. Like, the kind of strength that allows him to punch hand-holds into a multi-storied brick building and scale his way up, all to rescue a woman from a ginormous explosion. Initially, he seems like a decent dude – modest and caring. As the episode ticks along, though, a new and decidedly rage-y side emerges, like when he goes to his old workplace and tries to get his job back. When the foreman says there is nothing he can do, Mike starts whipping equipment around and savagely assaults him.
This increasing rage also sparks an epiphany for Mike; all the people in power, the people that took away his job and stepped all over him, are bad guys, and he needs to be the hero. Initially there seemed to be a strong focus on this idea, the way we can all feel powerless within our own lives. Later, though, this metaphor seemed to be more referring to literal gods and giants and not so much a dirge for the working class/disenfranchised, so maybe I’m reaching here. Either way, I liked the added bit of dimension.
I was really curious to see how Mike acquired his power; turns out, after he was injured on the job, he found a sinister doctor who juiced him right up. Or, rather, centipeded him right up, via an implant in his arm. The doctor who bestowed this power? None other than the woman Mike rescued from that burning building. Which was burning because it was actually a secret lab, and the last patient treated there, also with a centipede implant, EXPLODED. Doc is clearly up to no good; she cautions Mike to disappear, because her superiors are not happy with the potential exposure. And Mike obliges in a figurative sense – the good, moral man he was is being subsumed by the implant. He’s pretty much a literal walking bomb now.
As Mike’s story unfolds, Agent Coulson is getting the band back together. We learn that after he almost died, he was happily recuperating in Tahiti, but apparently that is not the case and what really happened was a dark secret that HE CAN NEVER FIND OUT ABOUT.
And even as Mike’s case is on the whole team’s radar, so is Skye’s – she is broadcasting from her mobile van, being all “viva la revolution!” and reminding me of Hard Talk Harry from Pump Up the Volume. Skye doesn’t realize that the agents of SHIELD are the good guys here; she thinks they are shadowy government henchmen desperate to cover everything up. Coulson and Grant abduct her; she doesn’t want to talk at first, but thanks to Coulson’s unorthodox methods (including stabbing Grant with truth serum and letting Skye have at him) she comes to understand who they are and what they are doing, and she agrees to help.
The rest of the puzzle falls into place. Fitz-Simmons investigate the burned-out secret lab with wild tiny drones that look like dragonflies, darting about and gathering information. They are able to pull up security footage in a dazzling holograph type thing, where they see the previous patient and his scary implant. If they don’t get to Mike soon, things are gonna go BOOM. Fitz-Simmons point out that they will likely have to kill Mike to stop the situation, but Coulson tells them to find another way.
Agent May and Skye go back to Skye’s van to pull audio (or something, I was a teensy bit lost at this point), but Mike is waiting for them. He flings May aside, throws his son in the car, and tells Skye to drive to the train station.
A frenetic action scene follows: Skye gets away from Mike by picking a fight with some gangstas at the station, Mike’s son is safely spirited away, and Mike squares off with Coulson. Even as all of that is going on, the doctor and her gun-wielding henchman are tracking Mike, too, but Agent May whups him good and takes care of it. Ward is waiting up above, ready to take Mike down as a last resort. Mike thinks Coulson is the bad guy, but once again, Coulson is able to make him see reason. Mike is safely tranquilized and nobody explodes, so win-win all around.
As we conclude, Mike and his son are safe. Coulson is trying to convince Skye to fully join the team, but duh, she’s obviously just playing hard to get. The cherry on top? Um, the fact that Coulson’s cherry-red vintage car can FLY. With job perks like that, who could say no?
Perhaps not the most dazzling pilot ever, (Agent Ward is not exactly wowing me at this point) but this seems like the kind of show that might need a little time to settle into a groove. There were flashes of hilarity – Fitz-Simmons are particularly enjoyable – and a lot could be done with each case file/super-hero. Will Whedon turn up his patented magic on this series? Only one way to find out, folks – see you back here next week.
Readers: What was your favorite moment from the Agents of SHIELD pilot? Are you also deeply covetous of Lola, the flying car? And what Avengers mythos did I miss – school me, please!
all photos: via ABC/Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Amity writes and teaches in Central PA. Her obsessions include: Rodarte (she can’t afford any Rodarte, mind you, but a girl can dream), espresso, books, vintage/thrift fashion and fountain pens. She thinks you should dress like a weirdo once in a while, just to shake things up.