Thursday, September 26, 2013

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 1.01 Review: You Don't Have to be Super to be a Hero

Let’s get this warning out of the way first. For anyone new to my reviews, and for all those that have forgotten (although I don’t know how you could), this is the point where I suggest that any of you that have yet to watch Tuesday night’s series premiere of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. that now would be the point to turn away. As with all my reviews, there is a chance that there are spoilers below. THIS BLOG MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS! You’ve been warned.
Can I just start by saying how awesome that opening was? The series introduces us first to this down-on-his luck guy with a son that’s fascinated with the superheroes that were introduced to the world in completeness in The Avengers. And then there’s an explosion, and we learn he’s more than meets the eye; he’s actually a superhero himself, of some sort. I’m incredibly happy to be introduced to this world on TV with a Whedon alum. The first thing I did was yell Gunn when I saw the promo to this series. I know he won’t be sticking around, but I hope the guy can pop in every now and again.
From watching the entire episode, I’m a little anxious about whether or not they can keep this show up, cost wise. This was a pilot, and those are notorious for having more money spent on them, in order to sell the show to a network, so I’m not sure if future episodes will be able to keep the same kind of quality that we saw in this one. There was a definite sort of extravagance to this pilot, though not everything in the episode was amazing quality. Was I the only one whose sound quality was a little high, and clarity a little low? If I was, it could’ve just been my DVR recording, but I’m not sure. Maybe to level costs, some things had to be lowered. I don’t know.
The way this world was introduced, I do think there will be a lot of mayhem and excitement to contend with. There was a lot that had to be established in this pilot, and I certainly think it was done quite well. The episode was very grand, but well put together. It wasn’t all over the place, and filled with chaos. There was a nice balance, where there easily could’ve been too much going on, but that never seemed to happen. The only parts I couldn’t quite understand were the interactions with Fitz and Simmons, and I believe that was intentional and unnecessary for them to be understood. Whedon has yet to let me down with a series – though I never could get into Firefly, I loved his other three series – I’m always able to trust things that have his name’s stamp of approval. I know he won’t be as constantly involved in this series like he was with Buffy, Angel, and Dollhouse, due to his commitment to The Avengers sequel, but that there is a crew on this series that he trust, including members of his family, it makes me trust that this show will retain a good quality not always true of shows.
Now to review the characters and the actors that portray them. Being that he was apart of the film series, I’ll start with Phil Coulson and his portrayer Clark Gregg. While I greatly enjoyed his humour in this episode, something that is always so fluent in a Whedon series, I do think the character appeared more full of himself than he did in the films. Maybe it’s because he was a supporting role and had less screen time in the Marvel films, whereas in this he’s more of a lead character, and has almost taken on a Nick Fury kind of role for the agents he brings onto his team. Or maybe it’s that the actor has gained more fame from this role, something I’m almost leaning towards after watching his interview with the rest of the cast over on TVLine. I’m desperately hoping that it’s either my imagination, or that Gregg or the showrunners get it in check, because if it grows it could become greatly distracting.
A large part of this pilot follows Skye, played by Chloe Bennet. I have to say, I wasn’t that excited to hear she had gotten the role, after watching her over on Nashville last year, but I was happily surprise after watching this pilot. It just goes to show you can’t judge an actor based on one role, it appears I only didn’t like that character she played, not the actress herself. She did quite well in this pilot. The character was played with a lot of pizzazz (yes, I like that word and use it a lot, that’s three reviews now, I believe), and wasn’t done over-the-top. I think she was definitely the right choice, which shows I need to trust Whedon a bit more, casting wise, why did I think he wouldn’t pick the right cast? I can easily see her carrying a series of her own, and she the perfect pick for this ensemble cast. I’m looking forward to learning more about her as the series progresses, especially what she meant by having erased an identity before.
Now I’ll swing around to Grant Ward, portrayed by Brett Dalton. There’s an obvious chemistry between him and Skye, and I think the actor plays the characters loner-ness and almost cockiness very well. I don’t believe the pilot perfectly strengthened this character, I do think some flaws will need to be brought to attention, to make him more human. He’s definitely more of the straight-man type character, but I’d like to see more diversity in him than the stereotypical lone wolf he seems to be. This was only the pilot, so I really hope they go more detailed into these characters’ lives and their pasts.
Then there’s Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons, commonly known to their team as Fitzsimmons. They’re played by Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstride, respectively. They seem to be supporting type characters in the team, at this point, and the ones that will provide a fair amount of comic relief, as well as the go to gadgets. They’re obviously smart character, and the quirkiness they appear to have does lighten up the series, although it wasn’t all that dark to begin with. I would like to learn more about their backgrounds, and how they came to work together. I also hope they don’t end up romantically involved, because that would be a fair bit cliché. They also need a bit of depth to them, that I hope develops over the course of the series, at this point they’re not very three-dimensional.
And lastly, to round out the team, there’s Melinda May, portrayed by Ming-Na Wen. As someone who has never quite been into comics, I’d like to know more about this character. It’s implied in the episode that she’s well known, and for some reason ended up at a desk when she’s obviously trained for combat. I hope that the audience members that weren’t comic book readers get to learn who she is, and why all of this is where it is. It shouldn’t be necessary to understand a separate type of medium in order to be able to be enveloped by this series, so I’ll trust that we’ll come to know the answers about her. I do like the actress they chose for the role, she’s got a certain amount of attitude thrown into the character that I’m interested in seeing more of. I’ll just have to trust we’ll get to know all these people more as the series progresses.
Now, not a member of the team, I do hope Cobie Smulders, and her character Agent Hill, is able to pop up every now and again, despite being committed to the last season of How I Met Your Mother and the other Marvel films. Possibly even becoming a recurring character, at least if this series gets a second season – and at this point I don’t see why it wouldn’t but it is a little early – after her sitcom wraps. I also hope some of the film characters could pop in once or twice as this series continues, just to give a nice little nod, or Easter egg.
While this series isn’t exactly a mystery series, there are nonetheless questions that do need answering. The one specific question that comes to mind is what Hill meant by Coulson never being able to find out where he actually was. If he wasn’t in Tahiti, where was he? Perhaps he did die, and this Coulson is actually a clone. But that’s an unlikely theory of mine. I do hope we learn the answer to this question eventually. Knowing Whedon’s series, continuity is more than often answered, at least the big questions tend to be.
My rating: 4 out of 5.

Best Lines:
“You haven’t been near his arms.” – Agent Hill referring to the question of whether Thor is actually a god.
“Sorry. That corner was really dark, and I couldn’t help myself.” – Coulson, revealing he is in fact alive and kicking.
“With great power comes… a ton of weird crap that you are not prepared to deal with.” – Skye, giving a nod to a well known Spiderman line, with a bit of a twist.
“And by luck, I mean unappreciated genius.” – Fitz mumbles, about a complicated task he is about to perform.

That’s all for now. Really sorry for lying about publishing this yesterday, but I was all reviewed out after writing six reviews. Next week I’m going to try to do more of my Monday reviews after I get home from work, the only problem is that it’s my fourth day in a row, and I tend to get tired and have little brain function. Anyways, stay tuned for my review of Revolution, and possibly of Nashville, though I might just watch that episode tonight, and review it tomorrow. But I will be back with Revolution at the very least.

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