Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D Review: “Pilot”

Agent Coulson returns (but was he really in Tahiti?) to lead a team of experts against superhuman and alien threats in the Marvel Cinema-verse.

Title: “Pilot”

Cast and Crew

Directed by Joss Whedon
Written by Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, and Maurissa Tancharoen

Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson
Ming-Na Wen as Melinda May
Brett Dalton as Grant Ward
Chloe Bennet as Skye
Iain De Caestecker as Leo Fitz
Elizabeth Henstridge as Jemma Simmons
J. August Richards as Mike Peterson
Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill
Shannon Lucio as Debbie
Ron Glass as Dr. Streiten

Full cast and crew information may be found here.


S.H.I.E.L.D. invetigates a hacktavist and a superhuman in the wake of the Avengers’ Battle of New York.

High Point

The show creates a sense of a stumbling but developing group dynamic and heroes fighting in the shadows of superheroes.

Low Point

The solution to the Peterson problem seemed too easy and too pat, especially as it came at the end of a fairly predictable tale.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 Although adapted from comics, it features original characters, and , while we’ve never seen the espionage/action genre on television many times before, it has never taken place in this kind of universe.

A flying car? Sure, but did they have to make the reveal exactly like Back to the Future? A copy does not instantly constitute a tribute.

Effects: 6/6 This show boasts one of the highest budgets in television. Of course, the effects pale beside what we see on the big screen, but that should not keep viewers from seeing the visuals have been effectively handled.

Story: 4/6 The first episode features a very linear story with few twists. They were more interested in establishing their characters and world for the pilot. A world this complex can be established gradually. How much did the original Trek or Buffy tell us from the start? In particular, I wish the co-opting of Skye had taken place over the first two or three episodes. And a less happy ending might have made for a more dramatic start—but I understand why they chose this particular resolution.

The story kept my interest, but a world already established in multiple movies could take a few more risks in its first episode.

Acting: 5/6 The episode features strong acting, overall, and the usual Whedonesque quips and Easter Eggs. The token nerds seemed a tad too annoying and eccentric, but they may work out. Gregg remains in fine form as the lynchpin of Marvel’s mass media-verse.

Emotional Response: 5/6

Production: 6/6.

Overall: 5/6 I award this score keeping in mind that pilots can be rough. The show ties in nicely with its established universe while remaining its own entity.

In total, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Pilot” receives 34/42

Lingering Questions

  • What really happened to Coulson in The Avengers, and immediately after?
  • Can we hope for one or two guest-stars? Murmurs have been heard of a Nick Fury cameo. Jeremy Renner likely remains within price-range, and I suppose Iron Man could do a fly-by, but it wouldn’t be the same without Downey’s voice.
  • Can S.H.I.E.L.D. trust Skye? Can she trust S.H.I.E.L.D.?

17 replies on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D Review: “Pilot””

  1. High Point: “It tells me that someone really wanted our acronym to spell SHIELD.”

    All told I though there were more funny/cute moments than dramatic moments. Agreed that Skye was brought on way too fast. She started out hating SHIELD a LOT. To get sucked in so fast seems wrong. Although showing more of her “interrogation” could have been used to make that more believable.

    • I took the haste of her integration to be one of the following:

      * She was trying to get in, and Coulson let her in to let her in, knowing she may be a double agent of sorts. She was allowed to interrogate the guy, but he was new there himself and didn’t really know much that she may not have already had her hands on. If she really isn’t fully on the “good” side, they could use for not only for her skills but to feed information back to Rising Tide to flush them out.
      * They really need/want her on the team, Coulson knows more about her than they let on, and they have a habit of approaching assets for integration as they present themselves (see Iron Man, for one example). Given that they usually have to court recruits a bit, having an eager participant may be a nice change of pace for Coulon
      * Coulson is a robot of some sort and can read her well enough to know her true intentions better than she does.

      Or probably something else I haven’t thought of there, too, but it though it did stand out, it didn’t strike me as overly negative.

  2. I’m hooked. We decided let let our 9-year-old watch it with us, and we all loved it. The high points that stick in my head are almost all Coulson-related (the dark corner with the light out, the truth serum injection, Lola, the suspicious door dodge.)

    Given how pilot episodes tend to run, it seems like it can only get better especially with the support it has so far.

    “Rising Tide” felt a little too much like “The Pattern” from Fringe at first, but we’ll see how that goes. I think they’ve built a better mystery around Coulson himself than the whole shadowy organization.

    It seems to be a monster/hero of the week style, but I’m fine with that. I’m sure we’ll get some long arcs going as it progresses.

    • A bit preachy tonally but Whedon has never been good at pilots. Hopefully it has the freedom to find its footing and we get some serious awesome before the year season is done.

  3. Actually what happened to Coulson is no mystery to long time Marvel comic readers, and it’s also why “He must not ever know”.

    Coulson is one of those classic S.H.E.I.L.D creations, a Life Model Decoy, or LMD which has been a staple of Nick Fury and SHIELD for decades. Presumably Fury has the appropriate records needed to have an LMD created of any staff person he considers too valuable to lose. Originally in the comics series the LMDs have limited programming like the stock version of Star Trek’s Emergency Medical Holograms. In “Nick Fury vs. Shield”, the main antagonist was an maintennce LMD which had upgraded itself by programming every LMD tape in the SHIELD library, obtaining a meglomanical ambition.

    • Especially with that door dodging back bend, the Book/Robin Sparkles moment, and someone calling him ‘The T-1000’, I have no doubt they’re leading us to thinking he’s an LMD. (Stark even makes a joke about them just before Coulson shows up in Avengers, so we know they’re in the universe.)

      That said, they’re also really good at making you think one thing and then injecting the guy next to you instead, so, I get to remain pleasantly skeptical until it’s revealed properly.

      • I think the LMD idea is, appropriately, a decoy. It’s too obvious.

        My preferred explanation at the moment is Extremis, a tech they showed was there even in the Pilot, but if that were the case I’m not sure why they’d have to hide it from him.

    • I don’t know if we can assume they *actually* exist in this universe. Stark jokes and it pretty far-fetched tech, even for a comic-book universe. I think large part of audience would not accept that as explanation. We will see, tho.

    • I actually liked the explanation of “stopped breathing for 40 seconds. That gets longer every time he tells it”. I didn’t think they needed to fore-shadow something deeper with the “He must not know”. Making him a LMD would be too far a stretch at this point. Same as him being a clone its just too comic book cliche.

      I really like the portrayal of Agent Hill both in the Avengers and this. I hope she becomes a regular in the next season now that HIMYM has completed – Kind of like General Hammond in Stargate. There monitoring the team but not directly in the field.

  4. I liked all the Iron Man movies, loved Captain America and The Avengers. But whatever network goof decided to run this against NCIS needs to be dropped into the Hulks food dish. I will DVR, but we all know only half of what you DVR gets watched. After 11 years, nothing will change my Tuesday night until NCIS goes off air.

      • I know, they aren’t tech accurate, but it is not a tech show, it’s a crime drama, so I forgive a little. And they aren’t CSI:whatever bad, not yet.

        I did watch AOS on Thursdays repeat, Seemed kind of forced, especially Skye and and the solution to the Peterson problem, but I’ll keep DVR’ng for now.

  5. I’m also thinking the LMD is probably the answer, especially with “Nick Fury vs. S.H.I.E.L.D.” getting a new printing this week. It may seem obvious to fans of the comics, but not to the general public. They’ve already got some extreme tech, and they’d probably need to set it up in advance. (i.e. show imperfect older models before revealing that Coulson is a new prototype or some such.)

    As for the car reveal, Lola is directly out of the classic “Strange Tales” run. I don’t think they were going for “Back to the Future,” I think they were going for the moment when Tony Stark recruited Nick Fury to run S.H.I.E.L.D. Great splash page.

    • It’s not the fact of the car (long a staple of SF) but the pacing, dialogue, effects (some limited options there, of course), and reveal, that seemed very reminiscent of BtotheF. However, it’s a small point. I’m looking forward to seeing how the show develops– and to the different perspective to our reviews in a couple of weeks.

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