With “The Avengers” being such a huge hit, taking well over a billion dollars worldwide, as well as similarly blockbusting success with the individual films for Iron Man, Thor, Hulk and Captain America, it’s nonetheless a bit of a surprise that the Marvel universe has also spun off a TV series. Based on the exploits of S.H.I.E.L.D. it focuses more on the agency that assembled the Avengers in the first place.
It also sidesteps the superhero aspect, and aims to give a viewpoint of humans adapting to the post-superhero world after the events in “The Avengers”. It seems a little indecisive about how much it wants to align itself with the movies, wary that it might alienate it from a wider audience. Understandable as it is, I’m not sure how many people would want to watch this that hadn’t already invested in the movie universe.
A diverse bunch of team members are brought together with head-spinning speed in the pilot episode: Reluctant veteran Melinda May, cocky lone wolf Grant Ward, and difficult-to-understand double-act Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons. Seriously what was with their accents? English and Scottish shouldn’t be too hard for me, but I didn’t understand a word! They were all brought together by *gasp* Agent Coulson, the sole link to the “Avengers” cast. But didn’t he die? Apparently not, but as a cameoing Cobie Smulders (ridiculous name) clumsily alludes to, he might not have simply recovered. Neon signs saying “FUTURE PLOT REVEAL” descends just in case the nerds weren’t already putting together theories.
The pilot episode focuses on the team’s hunt for what appears to be a new superhero, who gets attention with a heroic rescue in a building fire, but then goes off the rails a bit when his life hits rock bottom. A bit of a 2D character but fortunately not a regular fixture by the look of it. He’s also pursued by sassy, beautiful hacker (yes, sure they exist) Skye, who eventually joins the team after realising their good intentions.
Plenty of action, make no mistake, but maybe its adjacency to the movie universe made it feel a bit limited. The younger cast are mostly low-profile signings, and lead to a bit of a hammy feel to the acting. Ming Na as one of the older cast members was by far the most intriguing character despite her minimal spotlight, and the most impressive CV including a long stint in E.R.
Pilot episodes aren’t always great, and it was a diverting enough 45 minutes to warrant further research. I just wonder how they are going to avoid a “super of the week” set of plotlines. But if anyone’s going to make good of this franchise, it’s Joss Whedon.