As unique selling points go, it doesn’t get much more appealing than Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, which kicks off in the UK at 8pm on Friday 27 September on Channel 4. Picking up from where last year’s cash-guzzling hit Avengers Assemble left off, the new show won’t match the spectacle of those cinematic efforts (what could?), but at first blush SHIELD has an excellent mix of well-staged action and playful dialogue that’s a lot of fun to watch.
What’s it about? In the aftermath of the battle of New York, Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) is tasked with putting together a team that will investigate superhuman events worldwide. Those who are handpicked include highly trained agents Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) and Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), skilled engineer Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), and bio-chemist Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge). For their first mission, the team sets out to find the ‘hooded hero’ Mike Peterson (J. August Richards), whose superhuman abilities were caught on camera when he saved a civilian from a fire. Peterson’s acts have also put him on the radar of Skye (Chloe Bennet), a computer hacker who is suspicious of SHIELD.
Verdict: It’s a fun, smart, and action-packed first hour, with many scenes not playing out how you’d expect them to. Then again, with Joss Whedon at the helm, this is almost to be expected; the writer-director has been responsible for some of TV’s best shows (Firefly, anyone?) and the witty, self-aware script has his signature all over it.
The majority of those zingers come from Gregg’s Coulson, who is just as likeable here as he was in the various Marvel films. The same can be said for the entire ensemble, with Henstridge and De Caestecker in particular working well together. With Coulson’s reappearance yet to be fully explained, in addition to Melinda’s history and other plot points which I won’t reveal, there is plenty of intrigue here too, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out over the coming episodes.
The show also rewards those who have watched the Marvel films, with both subtle and obvious references to the various Avengers. Iron Man 3 would need to be watched to understand the deeper connotations of one particular plot point here, but even for those unfamiliar with Marvel’s comic or cinematic universes, SHIELD will make for enjoyable television.
That’s not to say that there won’t be any heroic cameos from the Avengers themselves – both Whedon and Robert Downey Jr have expressed interest in this – but much like the Avengers, this new team comprises people with different skill sets that have the potential to gel into something special.
Final Words: No metal men, no green rage monsters, no lightning-wielding gods, but still terrifically entertaining. Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is off to a great start!