Entertainment Television

'Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' review: Super-sized expectations, potential

"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." premieres with a heavy burden on its shoulders: ABC needs it to be a hit, while the geekdom expects to be blown away.

Spun off from one of the biggest films of all time, director Joss Whedon's 2012 "The Avengers," "S.H.I.E.L.D." (7 p.m. CT Sept 24, ABC; 3.5 out of 4 stars) already has a fan base to count on. Actually, two—the Whedonverse can't wait for another series from the man who brought them "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Firefly" and "Dollhouse."

Cool your jetpacks, people. "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is good, but not quite great—at least not in its first hour. That doesn't mean it's not an entertaining ride with incredible potential. (I'm giving it the 3.5 stars based on that potential.)

Directed by Whedon and written by showrunners Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, the pilot has that Whedon-esque wit and exciting action. But it feels maybe a bit restrained, like the high stakes meant too many cooks were in the kitchen. (I can just picture ABC and Marvel execs picking away at scenes and making "suggestions.")

Still, I thought the pilot did a good job of setting up the series for the handful of people who haven't seen "The Avengers," but then again, I saw the film—twice. I've already got the background in my head.

Agent Phil Coulson—movie spoiler coming!—is alive, even though he was killed in "The Avengers." This miracle isn't explained just yet, but the writers insert a deliciously intriguing mystery as to how Coulson survived—and whether he even knows why. "He can't know," a character from the movie says in a nice TV cameo. (At least I think that's what is said; ABC limited the pilot's availability for a rewatch.)

Resurrecting Coulson was a great move because Clark Gregg, the actor who plays him, is perfect for a Whedon series full of smart one-liners and dry humor. With his everyman appearance, Gregg plays Coulson as a man who has seen it all and still can flash a wry smile.

In the wake of the Battle for New York (again, from "The Avengers"), Coulson assembles a team of non-superheroes to investigate all forms of wrongdoing. Black ops specialist Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) isn't a team player. Pilot and fighter Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) has a troubled past. The sure-to-be fan favorite duo Fitzsimmons—Leo Fitz (Iain de Caestecker) and Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge)—are the science geeks.

Chicago native Chloe Bennet has a lot of fun as smart-ass hacker Skye, who is recruited by Coulson despite her mistrust of the government and agencies with so many damn initials. (S.H.I.E.L.D., by the way, stands for Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.)

Even though the team's first assignment—involving an ordinary guy with strange new powers (J. August Richards)—is kind of average as adventures go, the actors seem to have found a snappy groove already.

Hopefully everything that's good about the pilot will gel into something marvelous and more relaxed (and fan-adored). It would be a shame if super-sized expectations killed "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."

Want more? Discuss this article and others on Show Patrol's Facebook page

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Clark Gregg on 'Marvels Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'
    Clark Gregg on 'Marvels Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'

    Clark Gregg talks about playing Agent Phil Coulson in "Marvels Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." premiering Sept. 24 on ABC. The video was shot at San Diego Comic-Con in July in Show Patrol's shaky-cam. Sorry.

  • Fall TV 2013 preview: 26 new network shows
    Fall TV 2013 preview: 26 new network shows

    With dozens of new TV shows set to debut this fall, you might have a hard time finding what show is right for you. Actually, you will have a hard time because there are more losers than winners in this fall's crop of new series. Here are my quick takes, listed in order of their debut dates, on...

  • TV filled with Chicago talent
    TV filled with Chicago talent

    By Curt Wagner RedEye's Show Patrol Chicago-born, bred or trained actors always are popping up on TV. I'll continue to update this list of actors who were either born in or around Chicago or spent a significant amount of time here. I stuck with actors from scripted series that have aired within...

  • Rain on Sunday and relatively cool week ahead
    Rain on Sunday and relatively cool week ahead

    With low pressure moving through the Chicago area from the west, Sunday looks to be a cloudy, windy, cool day and the prelude to a cool week ahead. Highs on Sunday will struggle to rise out of the 50s with a strong east to southeast wind holding lakefront readings closer to the 50-degree mark....

  • 1 killed, 4 wounded in city shootings
    1 killed, 4 wounded in city shootings

    One man was killed, and at least four others were wounded in shootings across the city since Saturday afternoon.

  • Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators: Game 2 in Hawks players statistics
    Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators: Game 2 in Hawks players statistics

    Well that escalated quickly. The Predators got off to an early lead against the Hawks and kept that momentum throughout the game, exploding in the third period for a 6-2 win against the Hawks. Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp were the only two Hawks to score in Friday's game. Here's a breakdown of...

  • Baconfest Chicago 2015
    Baconfest Chicago 2015

    Sweet, salty, savory and satisfying. That just about sums up Baconfest 2015 in all its glory. With all three sessions of Baconfest sold out, event planners expected 4,500 guests to indulge in about 8,000 pounds of bacon. More than 170 restaurants served up deliciously creative bacon-inspired dishes...

  • Popping the question: Which GOP candidates would go to a gay wedding?
    Popping the question: Which GOP candidates would go to a gay wedding?

     When it comes to attending a gay wedding, not all presidential aspirants say “I do.”