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Agents Of SHIELD: Pilot

Agents Of SHIELD Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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#1 DWF

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Posted 24 September 2013 - 07:02 PM

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Following the battle in New York SHIELD agent Coulson puts a team together to investigate a group called Rising Tide.

Edited by DWF, 25 September 2013 - 04:37 AM.

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#2 kcsue

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Posted 24 September 2013 - 08:12 PM

I think I'm going to like this. :smile2:
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#3 Christopher

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Posted 24 September 2013 - 08:32 PM

Not bad. A lot of fun lines, though I need more time for the characters to grow on me. I'm still not sold on the actors other than Gregg and Wen, and Bennet's delivery annoys me when she's being smug or sarcastic, but I like them better than I did from the clips alone. (Although it feels like I've already seen half of this in previews.)

Mainly I'm struck by how upbeat this all is, and what a generally nice, well-meaning bunch of people these are. It's quite a reversal from the overall arc of Whedon's career, in which each of his shows has gotten progressively further from conventional ideas of good and evil, with a tendency to feature protagonists who were criminals or monsters or otherwise questionable people. My concern is that the premise may be a little too bland to really bring out the best writing in Whedon and his team.

Although there are clearly some secrets in the characters' pasts, notably Coulson's. His explanation of his resurrection is just what I've always thought it would be, but evidently it's not the whole truth, or not the truth at all, judging from the exchange between Maria Hill and Shepherd Book (or whatever he's calling himself these days). I really, really hope he's not a Life Model Decoy. This needs to be the genuine Phil Coulson. I mean, the whole show is a star vehicle for him. How can it not even be him? Besides, they did "lead character finds out he's a robot" on Power Rangers Operation Overdrive, which was not one of their best seasons.

There were a lot of Marvel Universe nods, including one that puzzled me -- did they say the guy Ward took the Chitauri tech from in Paris was called Longshot? Isn't that the X-Men member from Mojoworld? But some of the nods were not very well-handled. Like when Coulson saw the reconstruction of the guy blowing up, he just said "Extremis, it's new" and that was the only explanation we got. The script just assumed that we'd seen Iron Man 3 and thus didn't bother to provide exposition on its own. That's sloppy writing; a story should always be understandable on its own even if it does draw on ideas from other stories.

But the use of Extremis does suggest that A.I.M. is behind the mystery. That could be cool. And it would make sense to use them as villains for this show, since they're not superpowered, they're just evil scientists. Well, except for MODOK, but who knows if they'd dare try to bring him to live action?
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#4 BklnScott

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Posted 24 September 2013 - 09:01 PM

It was an OK pilot, but not more than that, IMO.  It did what it had to do.  The MCU concept translates very well to TV.  The same strength of vision that fueled the Avengers is on display.  I'm not wild about some of the casting, but I liked the bickering pair and Ming Na, and maybe the others will grow on me.  (Probably not.) There was a lot of Firefly in the way the cast dynamics are set up and obviously in the "ship" sets.  Interesting that Hill says Coulson "can never know" the truth about his death - suggesting he would lose his faith if he found out.  So Coulson is repositioned here as a very Mal-like character, but before the fall.  (Which is obviously coming.)

The connection to Iron Man 3 was welcome.  How is it connected to the next features, I wonder - Captain America 2, especially.  Will the show be used to actively lay the groundwork for the SHIELD-centric plot of the movie?

Edited by BklnScott, 24 September 2013 - 09:22 PM.

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#5 BklnScott

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Posted 24 September 2013 - 09:21 PM

Re: AIM being behind the mystery.  I do think they will explore nefarious counterpart groups like AIM and HYDRA but I thought it might be another division of SHIELD itself - which is the hacker's contention.  Coulson disabuses her of that notion, but he believes in SHIELD.  Nothing ever positively established that a third party was involved at the end - that was his assumption.  Maybe the left hand didn't tell the right hand what it was doing.

The idea of SHIELD as a compromised, messy, political organization that on the balance does a lot more good than bad (hopefully) didn't get a lot of emphasis in the pilot but it's in there (the hacker, the aside between Hill and Doctor Book) and it was emphasized in the movie.  Loki says they're all "liars and killers in the service of liars and killers."  I think the show will explore that, too, and that might be what they're getting at with Caterpillar.  It would be the same MO as the Phase II subplot in the movie taken to a darker place.  If Cap2 is exploring the darker side of SHIELD as well, it would make sense for the show to develop the theme toward that end.

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#6 Virgil Vox

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Posted 24 September 2013 - 10:05 PM

This was an enjoyable pilot. I liked pretty much all of it. They set up the characters decently, the flying base, and what the team is going to get up to on a weekly basis.

They name-dropped quite a bit of stuff from the movies, didn't they? Extremis, the Chitauri, all of the Avengers and their various exploits, Dr. Erskine and the super-soldier serum, gamma radiation, the helicarrier, and of course the Maria Hill cameo. I also loved that Lola is a flying car. Glad to see the show embrace its comic book roots instead of trying to distance itself from them.

Not sure what to make of the characters. None of them were really established, owing to the fact that they all have mysterious pasts. Ward and Skye were probably the most fleshed out and they're likeable characters. I'm a big fan of Ming-Na so it's nice to see her in anything. Not sure what to think of Fitz-Simmons. They seem like the stereotypical tech geeks and I'm afraid they could get real annoying real fast. Coulson is Coulson. It's great seeing him again. I do wonder exactly what happened to him after Loki stabbed him.

The action was really well done for a TV show. I guess they wanted to make sure that fans of the movies know that the show will be delivering some great action scenes, even if none of the characters have super-powers.

I couldn't help but think of recent political events when SHIELD went after Skye and Rising Tide for trying to post the truth about what's really going on. I do wonder, like Scott, if we'll see the darker side of SHIELD. This was an organization, after all, that was going to nuke a major American city. The SHIELD council doesn't seem to have any oversight. This group working with Coulson seem like genuinely nice people wanting to help, but not everyone in SHIELD is like them. Maybe that's why Coulson brought them all together.

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Besides, they did "lead character finds out he's a robot" on Power Rangers Operation Overdrive, which was not one of their best seasons.

Maybe not, but the Mack is a robot storyline was executed suprisingly well. But yeah, I don't want Coulson to be a LMD.
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#7 Lord of the Sword

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Posted 24 September 2013 - 10:31 PM

While I liked having Coulson back, the way they just "resurrected" him cheapens the death in the Avengers, IMO.

And while I cracked up when he used the super truth serum on his own agent, then let "spy" or whatever her name was interrogate him...I was surprised that agent still stayed. I mean if you can't trust your boss, why even stay? It won't work out well for you. At the very least he should've decked Coulson in the face for that stunt.

Also, this feels like it's going to be the "freak of the week" type of show, and from what they've shown in the pilot...it looks to be a very expensive show, each and every episode. I don't see it lasting long.
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#8 Bad Wolf

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 02:10 AM

Disappointing.  Not awful but maybe a C+  Cannot STAND the computer chick.  She is like nails on chalkboard to me.  Everything about her is annoying.  It was also seriously lacking in the cast chemistry department which is really surprising given that cast chemistry is something Whedon excels at.   It seemed very disjointed.  I liked Coulson and May.  Couldn't stand the inanely one dimensional engineer (and gewd gawd, SCOTTISH?  Really?  We couldn't think of something NEW? ) and the chemist but that was more about the characters than the acting.  Liked the action guy well enough but on a show like this the team needs to work.

It's Joss AND S.H.I.E.L.D. so I'll give it some time but this was really a let down.
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#9 Niko

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 07:53 AM

^Agreed on the "C+".  My reaction from the promos was that the core four younger folks in the cast seemed pretty bland, and nothing in the pilot changed that.  If J August Richards is hanging around as recurring, at least, I might bump the grade up a bit, but the way the team seems laid out right now, I'm underwhelmed.
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#10 BklnScott

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 08:28 AM

View PostBad Wolf, on 25 September 2013 - 02:10 AM, said:

Disappointing.  Not awful but maybe a C+  Cannot STAND the computer chick.  She is like nails on chalkboard to me.  

She's an Eliza Dushku type.  She annoyed me but I might warm to her over time.  Brett Dalton - who has his MFA from the Yale acting program - was the one who came off really flat to me, and not sardonic, which is what they were going for.  

I'm hoping they both gel with time.  

Repositioning Coulson as a leader figure was a bit jarring to me, and the script acknowledges that by introducing him emerging from a "dark corner."  He's different now - both because he is the lead and also (obviously) because he died.  His faith in SHIELD seems to have been dialed up.  He was the quiet one before, but now he's in a position where he's evangelizing SHIELD and its mission.  I suspect his arc for the first season will be to develop his group into a team (read: family) just in time for them to catch him when he learns the truth and loses faith.  Which sounds like fun to me.

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It was also seriously lacking in the cast chemistry department which is really surprising given that cast chemistry is something Whedon excels at.


Network casting strikes again, I assume.  My guess is that all agreed on Ming Na (who could oppose her!?), that he got his way with Henstridge and De Caestecker, and that the others were compromises.  But who knows?  This is the guy who made Sarah Michelle Gellar and especially David Boreanaz palatable, so with time, I might come around...

All in all, it feels less like a new Whedon show than like corporate Whedon product, if that makes sense.  I hope and trust that the show will rise above that going forward.

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#11 enTranced

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 08:36 AM

Sheesh. Tough crowd.

I was in love at "Hey, this is where they MAKE the red tape isn't it?".

Basically I love you if you have Ming-Na on your show and I love you if you have Joss Whedon writing your show. This had both so that is where I am right now*. :wub:

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Joss+Plus Super Hot Ming Na + His name is PHIL! = Ummmcarry the sexy Hacker Pixie and Hermonie Ref gives us...uhhhhhh ASUPERDOUBLE ++++!
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#12 BklnScott

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 08:49 AM

View PostVirgil Vox, on 24 September 2013 - 10:05 PM, said:

I don't want Coulson to be a LMD.

That is what they seem to be suggesting in the pilot, though - that he's different now, that if he became aware of just what was done, bad things would result.  Maybe he's not a Life Model Decoy but he is essentially a different person now just by virtue of his changed circumstances.  That character point in a science fictional context could (and arguably should) be made literal.  

On that front, the (terrific) Agent Carter one-shot (that leaked on the net a few weeks back and will be on the Iron Man 3 blu-ray) has her recovering the Zodiac Key, which in the comics was most famously used to resurrect a dead baddie for placement in a LMD body.

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#13 innocentone

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 09:44 AM

This was interesting.  I think I too am going to like this.  Interesting. I guess time will tell.

#14 Christopher

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 09:51 AM

View PostVirgil Vox, on 24 September 2013 - 10:05 PM, said:

I do wonder, like Scott, if we'll see the darker side of SHIELD. This was an organization, after all, that was going to nuke a major American city.

No, it wasn't SHIELD that made that decision, it was the World Council that SHIELD answers to.

Anyway, it wouldn't be the first time in fiction, and possibly in reality, that a government has contemplated destroying a city with a nuclear weapon in order to protect the rest of the world from an outbreak of something. See movies like Fail Safe and The Andromeda Strain. Sure, nominally, nuking New York seems like an evil act, but what if you sincerely believed that the choice was between nuking New York and seeing the entire planet conquered or destroyed? It wasn't an evil decision, it was a pragmatic decision rooted in desperation, and in the belief that the Avengers would not be able to stop the invasion. And really, one can't blame the Council for being unconvinced that a half-dozen weirdos who'd been bickering like children a few hours earlier, and only half of whom had any real superpowers, would be enough to stem the tide against an invading interdimensional horde. The Avengers were the longest of long shots, and from a cold, strategic point of view, nuking Manhattan was the safer choice as far as the fate of the world was concerned.


View PostBklnScott, on 25 September 2013 - 08:28 AM, said:

She's an Eliza Dushku type.  She annoyed me but I might warm to her over time.

Yeah, they do have a similar delivery, but Dushku does it better.


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Brett Dalton - who has his MFA from the Yale acting program - was the one who came off really flat to me, and not sardonic, which is what they were going for.  
I found him underwhelming in the previews, but he seemed a little better in the full episode. I liked "Gramsy?"


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Repositioning Coulson as a leader figure was a bit jarring to me, and the script acknowledges that by introducing him emerging from a "dark corner."  He's different now - both because he is the lead and also (obviously) because he died.  His faith in SHIELD seems to have been dialed up.  He was the quiet one before, but now he's in a position where he's evangelizing SHIELD and its mission.

I don't see it as that much of a change. He was always the guy who served as the friendly face of SHIELD, the one who sold other characters on their agenda or reasoned them into cooperating, whether Pepper or Tony or Jane or Cap. And he's been a team leader before; he was the head of the SHIELD team in Iron Man when he first appeared onscreen, and he was the head of the SHIELD team that investigated Mjolnir in Thor. In The Avengers, he answered to Fury but was evidently senior to Natasha, since he assigned her to go after Banner. So it's been clear from the start that he's in a senior position, subordinate to Fury but in command of many. The only change is that we haven't seen him as the lead of a long-form story before (though he's been the lead in a couple of short films).


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All in all, it feels less like a new Whedon show than like corporate Whedon product, if that makes sense.  I hope and trust that the show will rise above that going forward.

Yeah -- it does feel like a major step backward in the creative career of a man who's gotten more and more daring and experimental with each show. Whedon's going to have to answer to Marvel and Disney and that will limit the chances he's allowed to take. We'll probably have to wait for more small indie films and web productions and comics to see the real, unfettered Whedon, while this will be more tame and crowd-pleasing. Although on the other hand, Marvel has put a lot of trust in its creators and let them take chances and do interesting things in the movies, so hopefull this won't be too tame.
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#15 Bad Wolf

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 10:00 AM

View PostBklnScott, on 25 September 2013 - 08:28 AM, said:



All in all, it feels less like a new Whedon show than like corporate Whedon product, if that makes sense.

TOTALLY.  Some seriously recognizable "Whedon trademarks" but with a whole lot less going on in the soul department.
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#16 Dex

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 10:26 AM

It was just a pilot.  Introductions to the characters.  Nothing more.
It was ok.  I loved lola, except her last trick at the end.
Next week will be the critical test.

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#17 BklnScott

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 10:39 AM

To be clear, I didn't hate it, or think it lacked heart/soul, and I wouldn't criticize Whedon just because Agents of SHIELD is not the next Firefly from him.  This is an extension of his work for Marvel, and as such it's not in the same league as (for example) the luminous Midsummer Night's Dream Much Ado adaption he put out last summer... and it's not MEANT to be.  He's playing with a lot of the same ideas he's explored in the past - especially with regard to Firefly - and some of them are fairly subversive (e.g., how an organization can be both good and bad and how we should calculate the morality, or lack thereof, of such an organization) but the point of this show is not for him to break new ground creatively, or stretch himself as a storyteller and artist, et al.  The point is to translate the strength of vision he brought to The Avengers into long-form TV series storytelling, and that is accomplished more or less effortlessly.  At least, he makes it seem effortless.

This is a Marvel show with Joss's name on rather than the newest creation of Joss Whedon - if that makes sense - but the potential for it to BECOME a substantial piece of work within those parameters does exist, and I'm looking forward to seeing it develop that kind of depth over time.

I know I'm a broken record on 9/11 allegories in contemporary genre work, but when I talk about the strength of vision displayed here, I'm talking about how the pilot hinges on ordinary people living in the long shadow of an apocalyptic event perpetrated by (and defended against by) this new class of gods and monsters, leaving regular folks to ask themselves, "Am I still relevant in this new age?  How do I go on?  What do I teach my kids?  How can I contribute to this new world where it's not enough to just be a good man - you have to be a good SUPERman?"  This is essentially the same existential question America is still grappling with 10 years after 9/11 (and perhaps just starting to come to terms with).  The two J Richards speeches that bookend the pilot - which he absolutely killed (way to go, dude!) - highlight what will surely be the central theme of the whole series.  

(Note also that Coulson says to him: "How will bringing down this building on top of us help that?" - which is exactly what one would ask a 9/11 terrorist.)

Oh, and since we've been focusing a lot on the question of how these genre apocalypses are handled cinematically, particularly their aftermath/consequences, did anyone else catch Skye saying that SHIELD "cleaned up up New York like overnight."  In context, that's clearly meant to inform the worry about the proliferation of alien artifacts/tech, but it does qualify as the first hint of how post-battle midtown fares.

Edited by BklnScott, 25 September 2013 - 11:54 AM.

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#18 Dex

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 10:44 AM

The post-battle midtown, there must have been a lot of tech/weapons left behind.  
Good start for a few plots

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#19 Bad Wolf

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 10:44 AM

I really hope they end up making J. August Richards a regular.  He was my favorite thing.
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#20 BklnScott

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 11:04 AM

BTW, it did huge numbers in the fast nationals.  Biggest drama premiere in 4 years - that's for all of TV, not just ABC - and a huge 4.7 in the demo.  Should be interesting to see how far it drops before stabilizing, but with DVR viewing, international sales, and DVD/Blu-Ray, it looks like SHIELD may well be the global hit Marvel/Disney/ABC needed it to be.  They have officially colonized TV.  Will a spin-off join it as soon as next fall?  (It's a shame AKA Jessica Jones is on the back burner - done correctly, that would be a perfect 9PM lead-out for SHIELD.)

http://www.hollywood...ield-top-635797

Edited by BklnScott, 25 September 2013 - 11:09 AM.

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