‘The Marvel Cinematic Universe’ operates very much like a well oiled machine. Multiple characters – in multiple filmic franchises- intwine together to form something that works both efficiently and well. Branching the universe into television, ‘Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has the awkward task of standing alone, while also emulating the films in which it is set. A balancing act that is produced in a way that works, the studio manages to combine the two with the focus being directed towards a fan favourite character and his team of experts. ABC studios manages to work the second median into the first, in such a way that both seemingly benefit the other. Introducing the roster of characters which this new series will follow, ‘the Pilot’ episode follows on from the conclusion of ‘Avengers Assemble’ and as such follows the same the storyline arcs that are explored within the ‘Phase 2’ films that Marvel is producing, except on a smaller level.
A companion piece to the film’s, ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’ makes multiple references to the ongoings of the franchise, and reacts accordingly to them. This means characters return, and are referenced within the context of the television series – a factor that really makes ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’ feel very much apart of the universe Marvel has created.
The Pilot episode revolves around Phil Coulson – a character that was made especially for the film series, and instantly became a fan favourite due to his brilliant portrayal by actor Clark Gregg. Following the events of ‘Iron Man 3’ – the first film in Phase 2 – Mike Peterson (J.August Richards) is out with his son, Ace. When a nearby buildings top floor explodes. The father climbs the edge by punching hand holes into the outside wall and inside he rescues a trapped woman. He however also makes himself known as a super powered individual, to both S.H.I.E.L.D and Rising Tide hacker Skye (Chloe Bennet). Fleeing the scene, Mike Peterson tries in vane to remain unknown.
Bringing together a team of experts that comprises Agent Ward (Brett Dalton) – a specialist – and Melinda Mei (Ming-Na Wen) – a legend within the organisation – Agent Coulson utilises S.H.I.E.L.D’s vast resources to track down the powered individual, but struggles to lock down his location. Instead he captures Skye and uses her knowledge of Peterson, to find out where he has fled. While searching, the cause of the explosion is made aware to Coulson and his team – through the combined research of the science experts he has recruited (Leo Fitz portrayed by Iain De Caestecker and Jemma Simmons portrayed by Elizabeth Henstridge). Through this research they realise Peterson may well explode himself. Using his teams combined skills, Coulson manages to find Peterson and defuse the formula boiling over inside. Learning about the strange experiments, that are codenamed Centipede, Coulson learns of the threat to the world independent scientists could bring. Seeing her potential, he recruits Skye into the organisation.
In terms of casting, Clark Gregg portrays Coulson in very much the same manner as his filmic version. This obviously helps ‘The Pilot’ establish itself within the Marvel Cinematic Universe – as it gives the program continuity. The rest of the team do not fare as well, with their introductions not outlining the full scope of their characters. This is a typical pilot issue, but hopefully over the rest of the season they will be explored to a much further depth. Instantly intriguing, the characters variety makes for interesting chemistry between each other. They are adequate in their portrayals and do make ‘The Pilot’ fun to watch. To also help with continuity, the inclusion of Cobie Smulders brings the episode back to the filmic universe.
‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’ works well in emulating the movie franchise in which it is set. However, it does in places seem lower standard – for obvious reasons – than the films. Plastered with branding to the fictional organisation throughout, ‘The Pilot’ episode seems very much targeted towards reminding audiences that this is a S.H.I.E.L.D based program – with the branding seeming way over the top with its constant inclusion. The program does well with setting its own characters into motion, and does enough to make the rest of the season seem warranted to watch- even if it suffers the same issues that all pilot episodes seem to have difficulty with.