TV Review: Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Season 1 Episodes 1 – 5 (USA, 2013)

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There’s an enormous amount of pressure riding on Joss Whedon’s new TV series ‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ not only is the series tied to the ever popular Marvel franchise but there’s an entire legion of comic fans who have high expectations of not only Whedon’s work but retaining the integrity of the Mavel Comic Universe. Whilst the show takes a little breather we recap the first 5 episodes to see how it’s tracking.

The pilot introduces us to our ensemble cast lead by Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) with Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), the adorable geek pairing of engineering technician Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and biochemist Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) they then end up recruiting Skye (Chloe Bennett) a member of a hacker group called Rising Tide that have been creating some trouble for S.H.I.E.L.D. It at first seems a little counterproductive to bring in somebody of the opposing side but Coulson is convinced that utilising her skills can benefit the team and the organisation. There are quite a few characters to keep up with, which can be a tricky thing to manage but so far the series is handling this by giving each one a fairly distinct personality trait.

Coulson is the leader, but there’s something a little bit off with him and we’re left wondering more about the mystery of his resurrection since the last time we saw him he’d been stabbed (by Loki in The Avengers) and killed. May is the strong silent type with a lethal set of fighting skills. Ward is the broody overthinking agent who isn’t the best team player. Fitz and Simmons are basically a dynamic duo, finishing each other’s sentences and spurting almost endless fountains of near incomprehensible science jargon. Skye is the unofficial newbie to the team, brought on as a “consultant” to basically think outside the S.H.I.E.L.D. box, and most of the narratives revolve around seeing things from her view.

Whedon has been known to utilise his TV leading ladies with a feminist push, but with this series it’s definitely less prevalent and most likely due to the ensemble cast and the nature of being tied to the Marvel universe. Personally I’m finding Skye to be the least interesting of the characters, even though we’re supposed to be relating to her the most as the outsider being let in. So far her inability to form a strong allegiance either to her Rising Tide group or to S.H.I.E.L.D. is actually more of an irritation and is nowhere near as unsettling as the undercurrent of the “how did Coulson survive?” mystery which is repeatedly alluded to. I’m also convinced that Ming-Na Wen is a goddess and quite possibly one of my favourite female badasses to ever grace a screen mainly due to her perfect execution of a silent “bitchface”.

Clark Gregg’s Coulson is also his usual intriguing and charming self, and hopefully this series will allow us to see more of his character grow since it was the Marvel One-Shots (that were Easter Eggs on some of the Marvel film DVD’s) that really opened up the possibility of his own story-line. As with a series tied to a comic franchise, there’s a lot of action, stunt sequences and explosions and I’m pretty sure that this has an enormous budget for a TV series considering that the team’s main mode of transport is an mammoth carrier plane that’s been refurbished and these are all masterfully captured by David Boyd’s cinematography.

The stories tend to focus on the super-human or alien weaponry and the consequences of their existence in today’s world including the shadowy organisations that are potentially creating them or at the very least wanting to exploit them, for what murky purpose remains to be fully seen or understood. This of course opens up possibilities for wild and crazy things to happen. As with all science-fiction action shows you need to allow yourself to be open minded to the minutiae but also the overall scope. It’s really difficult to determine where the series is heading since we’re only 5 episodes into a 22 episode season, so that leaves a big arc that’s yet to be determined, but there are a lot of little things (particularly for fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe) that are like clues to the larger puzzle which also will tie in with future cinema releases such as Captain America: Winter Soldier.

For this collective bunch of episodes I rate this THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will return to Channel 7 on Wednesday 6 November at 8:30pm