Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Pilot – Coulson, Spies, & Extremis… Oh My!

The “Marvel Movie Universe” has finally come to a television near you (or Hulu) for the 2nd chapter in “The Avengers Initiate Phase Two.”

MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. continues every geek’s wet-dream by weaving the same universe, not just across multiple big-screen superhero franchises, but now in a weekly TV format, shedding more light on S.H.I.E.L.D and Agent Coulson, the essential, behind the scenes backbone of the Avengers. Though the show still lost in the ratings to what continues to be TV’s most popular show, NCIS, it was the third best premiere of a drama… ever… with 12.1 million viewers.

The gang's all here!
The gang’s all here!

I think I just jizzed in my pants.

No… wait…

I really did just jizz in my pants.

I also had to change my Captain America underwear when the lovely MARVEL logo, pages flapping about, hit my TV screen (which was technically my laptop, playing Hulu, connected via HDMI to  to the archaic device called a television) followed by the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo.

A new era has begun in comic book films. Or a “new new” era considering tying IRON MAN 1 & 2, THE INCREDIBLE HULK, THOR, and CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER into one movie universe was the coolest move toward comic book movies that mirrored their paper counterparts where one Marvel character was expected to cross over into another’s book.

While AGENTS is not as monumental a step forward, it is still fucking cool to watch!

Obviously, you have the references to the ‘Battle of New York’ and the ‘East Coast Heroes’ as a window display in a toy shop reads. Obviously, the show explains why Phil Coulson is back; Nick Fury faked his death to unite the Avengers.

I had said theory on my mind before Coulson was reintroduced in the trailer for AGENTS, when watching MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS. “They called it,” said Nick Fury in reference to Coulson being skewered by Loki’s sceptre, but we never saw a body. And If Fury was willing to put blood on Coulson’s Captain America Trading Cards, why wouldn’t he also fake the death of a common ally to cause the Avengers to unite? Plus, how often in the comics does a character actually die? All Captain America fans know that the ‘long dead’ Bucky Barnes will be back for CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER next April.

Maria Hill is also in the house!
Maria Hill is also in the house!

So it is, that Coulson wasn’t breathing for 40 seconds… or 8 seconds depending who you talk to, only to be revived and given time off to recover. Or was he just recovering? The pilot made it clear that not even Coulson knows the whole story of his resurrection. Another I had after THE AVENGERS was that Coulson would become ‘The Vision’ a robot with the mind of a human: Coulson’s mind. We will eventually find out the answer to Coulson’s mysterious resurrection to which he is not even aware (must be “Level 8” shit), mentioned in passing. That and many other questions still need to be answered, seeing as how a TV show needs to thread more stories and questions across a season that is longer than the Marvel movies that preceded it combined.

While only time will tell on that end, it does amaze me how good the pilot is, considering I can’t watch any other Network TV (by which I mean ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and THE CW)  without vomiting in my mouth. (I do make exceptions for some of the NBC comedies that are barely hanging on like PARKS & REC and COMMUNITY). If you were to tell me, before AGENTS, that I’d ever enjoy a ABC show since I was a child watching T.G.I.F., I would have spat in your face.

More Extremis At WorkBut AGENTS elevates network TV; not to amazing FX or AMC heights, but closer to the quality of USA. It still has it’s cliches; Coulson’s special unit is just as much a forensic team, mirroring NCIS or CSI, as a group of spies, simply with a fresh paint of Marvel red. Likewise, the show mostly avoids the major pitfalls of ‘big event television,’ that is, TV quality special effects that look fake due to a budget well below that of a feature film. While a man jumping from a burning building looks more like TV effects, the same man climbing a brick building and fighting regular folk in at a train station looks superb and worthy of the Marvel Movie Universe.

Who would have thought back in 2008 that the Agent annoying Tony Stark in the very first IRON MAN, a character that never existed in the comics, would become the backbone of the whole franchise, making the TV jump that Samuel L. Jackson aka Nick Fury was too expensive to make? Clark Gregg as Coulson is the perfect character, not above TV like Jackson, Robert Downey Jr., and Scarlett Johansson, to weave everything into the same continuity.

And what fun continuity it is. As I said previously, the Battle of New York, Stark Tower, and alien technology that fell into the wrong hands after the finale of THE AVENGERS are big reference points here. There is an add for Stark Industries on a bus. One character even admits to being a fangirl like at Comic-Con, only gathering with other superhero groupies around Stark Tower in New York. You even get a funny reference to “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”… though the last part of that phrase may have been confused a little.

Ward and Coulson InterragateSo comes the fun. Like THE AVENGERS, Marvel Movie’s mastermind Joss Whedon (who wrote and directed the pilot) is light hearted with intense scifi themes and action sequences. Jokes about the very name S.H.I.E.L.D. coming from a want to make a catchy acronym rather than make perfect sense; Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division is, after all, a little forced. The characters are fun, from Coulson to Ward, to Fitz and Simmons (not to be confused with Fitzsimmons); the latter two are basically your quirky lab techs that you get in every CBS crime show, only with futuristic Stark/S.H.I.E.L.D. tech.

Still, it works!  With those few Network TV pratfalls and cliches, comes a show that has great power, and is a great responsibility for ABC, Marvel, Disney, and Whedon to keep firing above Network cylinders.

Extremis is back from IRON MAN 3. But I don't think it's A.I.M. this time.
Extremis is back from IRON MAN 3. But I don’t think it’s A.I.M. this time.

I was most impressed with Extremis, straight from this summer’s IRON MAN 3, being at the forefront of the mysterious villainous group’s (The Centipede?) dastardly attempt to make heroes (or villains) of their own using a device that mixes CAPT.’s Super Soldier Serum, Gamma Radiation, and Extremis into one potent, but unstable “superhero” cocktail. Are the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D eventually going to run into super “super heroes.” A man with the power of Captain America, the incredible Hulk, and Extremis is a scary, yet-geek worthy, concept.

Agent Coulson and Micheal hash it out.
Agent Coulson and Micheal hash it out.

In coming weeks, I’m sure we’ll learn more about the doctor rescued by Michael who also equipped him with unstable Centipede cocktail that made him both powerful and nearly a supervillain. Hopefully we get to see more Maria Hill (Cobie Smulder), more superhumans with the ability to throw a man across a train station, and more great S.H.I.E.L.D. tech including ‘Lola.’

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