Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “Pilot Episode” Recap

Agents of SHIELD cast photo

The highly anticipated Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series premiered to super impressive ratings. But is it must watch “event” television or an one-time fluke?

Continue Reading for a spoiler free review of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Episode 1.

Clark Gregg returns as Agent Phil Coulson, the leader of an elite team of espionage and law enforcement S.H.I.E.L.D. agents tasked to deal with strange and superhuman threats from across the globe. The initial hour is a fast-paced, crowd pleasing action drama. While it doesn’t reach the emotional depths and high-octane thrills of J.J. Abram’s Alias pilot, it’s incredibly fun, entertaining and shows potential to be a solid series. S.H.I.E.L.D doesn’t break new ground in the genre but it’s good-natured accessibility appeals to a wide audience.

Directed and co-written by Joss Whedon (Avengers, Serenity), the pilot has his trademark sense of humor with characters often undercutting a serious moment with a playful witty remark. There aren’t any scenes that match the intensity and spectacle of the airplane wreckage from Lost’s pilot but the action sequences are competently and cleanly directed. A strong consistent element of the script is taking scenes in an unexpected direction which keeps the story engaging.

The easy to follow plot functions to introduce the main characters as Agent Coulson assembles his team and tracks down a “Hooded Hero” seen in an online viral video. At his core, the hooded hero (J. August Richards) is a relatable, everyday working class father trying to get by. He represents what the show is essentially about; that ordinary people who are often overlooked do matter and it’s what they do that counts, not the super powers.

The cast of non-super powered S.H.I.E.L.D. agents looks promising. Agent Coulson is a capable, take charge leader. He’s a little unorthodox, charismatic and by the way … don’t touch his car Lola. Agent Coulson’s “miraculous resurrection” is not as it seems which adds a mysterious layer to a fan favorite character.

Ming-Na Wen (Street Fighter, E.R.) plays kick-ass Melinda Mays. More intricate fight choreography in future episodes will help her authentically portray a martial arts expert. We first meet her as a S.H.I.E.L.D. office worker so it’ll be intriguing to find out how a renowned fighter ended up there.

A common device with pilot episodes is bringing in an outsider into the fold. Computer whiz, superhero fan girl and bubbly new recruit Skye (Chloe Bennet) is an amusing addition to the team. Skye is a proxy for the audience as she’s introduced into the world of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Brett Dalton as Agent Grant Ward is another POV character in the pilot. He’s a highly proficient super spy but not much of a team player. “Fitz-Simmons” (Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge) are the tech and life science geeks of the squad. They’re likable but don’t really stand out at this point other than their accents. Overall, there is good chemistry between the cast although Mays, Fitz, & Simmons didn’t get as much screen time as the others.


All of these characters are new to the Marvel Universe, with the exception of Agent Coulson who was originally introduced in 2008’s Iron Man. The writers have the creative freedom to explore and develop these characters without concerns about continuity or annoying comic book purists.

A strong component of CW’s Arrow, another comic related show, is generating excitement by using established characters & villains. How much Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will take from the comics remains to be seen but it is a cohesive part of the cinematic universe.

The events of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s takes place after Avenger’s Battle of New York and draws upon elements from other Marvel movies such as “extremis”. The pilot does a good job of quickly explaining this information so that viewers who haven’t watched any of the Marvel movies can enjoy the show on its own merits.

A flaw that is common with many sci-fiction fantasy shows is the overuse of super powers or inexplicable “science & tech” to resolve the primary conflict. This becomes a minor factor in this episode which can be a little troublesome for some viewers. But for those who can suspend their disbelief and embrace the implausible, the ending does pack some dramatic weight.

So how will Marvel’s cinematic universe look on a television budget and shooting schedule? Based on the pilot, the special effects hold up very well although some of the shots in the opening scene are noticeably green screened and filmed on a studio back lot.

Like the pilot which is partially set in Paris, each episode takes place in a different part of the world so the show will need more than an establishing shot to make the location believable. That said, the cinematography of the climactic confrontation in the pilot does a great job of showing off a visually impressive filming location.

The Verdict

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is off to a good start. The overall tone is fun, playful and energetic. And the cast looks promising. The pilot is a good template for future episodes. It’s going to be a solid hit for years to come.

Do you plan on watching S.H.I.E.L.D.? What is your favorite moment from the “Pilot”? Which parts of the show needs development?

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About Sidekick Reviews

Movies, TV shows, comics, and video game news & review.

Posted on September 26, 2013, in Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., Television and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. My husband is really keen on this. Seems like it might be worth watching with him.

  2. I just finished my post on this when I saw this. I agree that it’s off to a good start. I like the playful tone too, there’s no real sense of danger, at least not yet. I posted my thoughts on my favorite parts of the show, let’s compare notes 🙂

    • Great point about no real sense of danger yet. As we start to care more about the characters hopefully the show will incorporate those elements. Yeah, I look forward to reading your fave parts of the show in your post! 🙂

  3. Good recap! I enjoyed the pilot and loved Coulson. If they didn’t have him on I don’t think the show would be as enjoyable. Would like to see more of Fitz – Simmons on their own since they’ve clearly been established as “one unit”. Agree that some of the special effects were a bit obvious. Hopefully there won’t be too many of those. Looking forward to what’s to come.

    • Yeah people describe Coulson as the heart and soul of the show. It’s hard to imagine the show without him. I’m glad they brought him back! I agree, Fitz-Simmons feels like one unit at this point. I sometimes get pulled out of the story when I notice the “special effects” so hopefully they can work on it. I’m definitely interested in checking out the next episode which is exactly what a pilot should accomplish. Great discussing this new show with you!

  4. Little rushed but there’s plenty there 😀

    Good for a pilot.

  5. Hey man, great analysis of the pilot episode, seems like we’re on the same page about a good few things. Like you, I believe the show is off to a good start and I liked Joss Whedon’s trademark style and tone spread out over the episode. A lot of people have complained about the show saying that its shit without realizing that its only the first episode, sure that’s the one that makes the initial impression, but don’t know too many TV show’s to have an absurdly great first episode.

    I think we just need to give the show time, Who knows, it might be like Firefly and evolve into something incredible in just one season. Let’s just see where we are when episode 4 or 5 comes out.

    • Hey Hypersonic55! Like you said, many shows don’t have a great first episode and this pilot wasn’t excellent but what it did right is to be fun and inviting. I went into the pilot cautiously optimistic without high expectations. This type of show appeals to me so maybe that’s why I can see the silver lining or potential but I also did point out several areas of the pilot that were lacking.

      Yeah first impressions are important. I also think it’s a little premature for some viewers to expect all the characters to be likable and interesting after one episode. I don’t know if you watch Vampire Diaries, but everyone hated Caroline in the beginning, now she’s a fan favorite.

      It does have Joss Whedon’s style and tone which his fans know will evolve into something more dark and complex. Firefly is a great example of a show that became much stronger after only several episodes. I agree, let’s give SHIELD a chance to grow and see where it goes after some more episodes.

      Great discussing with you as always!

  6. “Agent Coulson’s “miraculous resurrection” is not as it seems which adds a mysterious layer to a fan favorite character.”
    So my first thought was he’s an LMD especially after how he dodged the van’s door but I’m hoping that it is truly him, just that the means of his resurrection are pretty mind-blowing.

    “Skye (Chloe Bennet) is an amusing addition to the team.”
    Behind Coulson, she is my favourite character on the show so far.

    “Brett Dalton as Agent Grant Ward is another POV character in the pilot. He’s a highly proficient super spy but not much of a team player.”
    And he’s my least favourite. It is only the first episode but that was my gut reaction…

    ““Fitz-Simmons” (Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge) are the tech and life science geeks of the squad. They’re likable but don’t really stand out at this point other than their accents.”
    Their chemistry is great and are worthy of having their names combined! At times, I had a really hard time understanding them though…

    “A strong component of CW’s Arrow, another comic related show, is generating excitement by using established characters & villains. How much Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will take from the comics remains to be seen but it is a cohesive part of the cinematic universe.”
    So, so true. Hopefully later on there is a nice sprinkling of B,C, and D-List villains coming down the pipeline once we are through with the generic “freak-of-the-week” opening phase. More connection with the comicverse is a must!

    “The pilot is a good template for future episodes. It’s going to be a solid hit for years to come.”
    Here’s hoping!

    “What is your favorite moment from the “Pilot”?”
    Basically every time Coulson was on. That and actually having Maria Hill guest star in the first episode. Hopefully once HIMYM ends this years she’ll join the show full-time.

    Great review. Hope to read more as the season progresses!

    • I’m going to have to rewatch the scene were Coulson dodges the door because I totally missed that. Nice catch. I think the show will sprinkle hints over the season as to what happened to Coulson. My initial guess was also LMD but the writers might have something else in mind?

      I immediately liked Skye too and the actor has a knack for comedy. I also knew some viewers would not take a liking to her. 🙂

      A lot people are not connecting with Ward so far. It was interesting to me how they built him up in the first act as a badass spy then in the truth serum scene made him whimper for his Grandma. To switch from drama into goofy comedy within a sentence is hard for a lot of actors to pull off which is one reason why that joke fell flat for me.

      I’ve been watching a few British shows of late but I still miss out on some dialogue here and there due to the accents.

      Yes, taking from the comic verse is a must. It can be done in a way that is accessible to all viewers. I also expect events from the movies will interweave with the show somehow.

      Yeah, I also hope Maria Hill joins the cast once her other show is over. How about a cameo from Sam L. Jackson too? 😉

      Thanks so much for taking the time to discuss SHIELD! I’m excited for this show!

  7. I have read this in Ruth’s blog…nice to read to perspectives. It sounds fun and I might watch it (hoping it’ll stay good and doesn’t turn bad luke Heroes). I will try to watch it after all my BBC Shows have finished airing.

    • Cool! It’s the kind of show where you’ll be smiling the entire time watching it. So far, it’s not too deep or complex. I need to catch up on some more BBC shows, I’m on Sherlock series 2 at the moment. 🙂

      • Ooooo I love that show and can’t wait for series 3 to be released. They also said that series 4 has got approval and both Benny and Martin have said yes (I hope it’s not just a rumour)

  8. Really good review. Clearly, you found a lot to enjoy in the pilot. Although I have to disagree on almost every point. This was barely watchable for me. Terrible in almost every respect. I’m still debating whether or not to continue to hate-watch it.

  9. I’m in! 🙂 I think the show has a lot of promise, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they develop the concept. My favorite part of the show so far is Agent Coulson.

    • Yeah, there are a lot of different types of stories they can tell like a spy thriller or Indiana jones type adventures or freak of the week procedural. Lots of options! Agents Coulson is great, glad you are liking what you see so far. 🙂

  10. I’ve always enjoyed your reviews, even for shows I haven’t seen yet, and most of the time I don’t mind spoilers also because by the time I actually watch the show, I’ve already forgotten what the spoilers are, haha. But recently I’ve had the pleasure of catching the first episode of this show, and it makes rereading your review all the more fascinating, capturing things I didn’t notice before. So now though I’m 5 weeks late I look forward to follow this series, and follow that up with a visit here. Thanks for such interesting reviews!

    • Thanks so much for checking out the reviews! It’s nice to know people are reading them haha. I’ve also been catching up on a lot of shows. Sometimes knowing a little bit of spoilers helps to pique my curiosity and take a chance on a new show. The more recent episodes of SHIELD are slowly getting better and hopefully will continue to improve. I’d be very interested in hearing what you think of the other episodes if you get the chance. By the way, I always look forward to reading your blog. Nice to hear from you!

      • That’s great to know that the show gets better over time so far as it’s an interesting show for sure. Thank you so much for reading my blog too, I’m flattered! I look forward to read more of yours as well. Cheers!

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