Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Premiere – “With Great Power Comes…A Ton of Weird Crap”
From Guest Blogger: Chad Gingrich
There is no one that was as excited for the premiere of Marvel’s foray into live-action TV as much as me (well maybe except for the 11.9 million other viewers who tuned in). I’m an avid fan of Marvel films, comics, cartoon properties, video games, action figures, and anything else they might decide to churn out. I’m also a huge supporter of Joss Whedon, who not only directed one of the greatest action movies of the last 10 years (The Avengers), but is also producing the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television show. Having said that, I entered this pilot with a modicum of trepidation because, let’s be honest, there’s no way this could possibly live up to my hopes.
The Bigger Picture: Bringing the Marvel Universe to the “Real World”
The premiere picks up right where Marvel’s The Avengers left off. We’re in a different world, one full of super heroes where the attack on New York is now part of the public lexicon and the effects are felt in the way of a black market for the salvaged alien technology left behind by the Chitauri. It’s this particular angle where I think Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D really shines. It progresses the Marvel universe forward, giving us a context and reason for what’s going on outside of the big tentpole franchises. The show could have easily been a safe cash-grab with no connection to the larger universe, but I’m glad Marvel decided to use it as another platform to move the story forward.
We also get a glimpse at the idolization of our favorite superheroes in the form of action figures in store front windows, which is a much more refreshing take on the superheroes-in-the-real-world trope we’ve seen murdered to death the past few years. This is not your typical superhero story! The pilot brings up a lot of interesting questions and perspectives from the other side of comic books, such as what the average citizen thinks about all of this superhero activity and how people view S.H.I.E.L.D. as a shady government organization. There were also some pretty profound statements about what it actually means to be a hero and how just possessing power alone does not necessarily make a superhero.
The Whedon Factor
It’s clear that this pilot has Whedon’s hands all over it. There are some great lines of dialogue that felt very Whedonesque like, “Sorry that corner was really dark and I couldn’t help myself,” and “no red tape…this is where they actually make the red tape isn’t it? Always wondered.” We even get to see the genius at work playing with cultural references like, “With great power comes…a ton of weird crap,” and a great shout out to Back to the Future to close out the episode. It’s this type of comedic banter and self-aware filmmaking that really transformed The Avengers into more than just an action blockbuster. The action shouldn’t be ignored either, with great hand-to-hand combat that feels right out of a Bourne movie.
Not-So-Super Character Development
Unfortunately, not everything from the pilot was a homerun. Characters have little to no development and are essentially thrust into the story all too conveniently. I hope over the course of the series we get to see more behind what makes these seemingly weak characters tick. Two of the weaker players in particular, the show’s two scientist characters, felt way too out of place for me. For Whedon, who usually boasts strong, multi-dimensional characters, I was a little surprised by this and I hope it was simply an attempt to make for a more digestible pilot. Some other minor gripes would be the special effects which in some instances felt very network TV, but this is ABC so, naturally, it’s more forgiving.
Movie Tie-Ins as Plot Points: Driven Harder Than the Hammer of an Angry Thor
While I did appreciate a lot of the attempts to tie this to the larger universe, it seemed a little overt and in your face at times with a main storyline revolving around the Super Soldier serum from Captain America, Gamma Radiation from Hulk, and Extremis from Iron Man 3. I’m a fan of Easter eggs as much as the next geek but after the first couple “odd coincidences” it got a little tired. Let’s save something for the rest of the season! They did manage to hold onto some mystery and intrigue with hints that Coulson is secretly a Life Model Decoy (possibly Vision?) and inklings of a larger organization at work behind the scenes.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Despite its flaws, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a great commentary on the human condition and why superheroes have become such a force in our pop culture. The ending exchange between Agent Coulson and Mike Peterson was a brilliant personification of the middle class stating that simply doing what you’re told and working hard isn’t quite enough anymore and everyone is striving to be more. Unfortunately, I think the only thing holding back this show from transcending into the upper echelon of TV entertainment is its place on ABC. I can’t imagine what a production from AMC or HBO would have looked like but for obvious reasons, Disney isn’t going to go that far out on a limb—they are a business after all. I’m excited to see what’s to come and how they manage to weave in and out of Marvel’s Phase Two movies and at the very least, I have something new to replace the void that Breaking Bad is about to leave.
About the Author: Chad Gingrich writes for Dish Systems, a source for satellite television packages, DishNet high speed internet, and other specials and promotions.