The ever-surprising Joss Whedon delivered again by bringing the pilot episode of Agents of SHIELD along with him to San Diego Comic-Con 2013.
The episode begins with a little boy and his dad (who may look familiar to Angel fans, as he is played by J.August Richards) looking into a shop window at some toys when all of a sudden there is an explosion in the building behind them.
The father quickly jumps into action and uses his hidden supernatural abilities to scale the brick building, plunging his hands into the brick with each movement. He then jumps and lands safely, bringing with him the woman he has now saved.
Whlie all of this is going on, we see the girl we will soon know as Skye, filming the entire encounter with her cell phone, plunging us all into queries of “Who is this girl?” and “I wonder whose side she’s on?”
While the audience was left to wonder about this mysterious girl, a new face, Agent Grant Ward steps into the scene, pulling off a caper in which he steals fingerprints off a glass, uses them to break into a fireplace/safe and manages to fight off the hostiles that appear quickly and escape on a helicopter.
The introduction of this character does one thing exceptionally well, it shows just how capable Agent Ward is of handling things by himself.
The next punch comes as Ward is talking to someone we haven’t seen, and the reveal shows it is none other than Agent Maria Hill, played by Colbie Smulders, and they are discussing the presence of beings with supernatural powers, including the green guy, the retro guy in a star-spangled suit, and the god from that fight in New York City.
Ward goes on to say, “I don’t think Thor is technically a god.” and Agent Hill responds, “You haven’t been near his arms.” We then get our first look at the very much alive Agent Coulson just as Agent Ward is discussing the knowledge of his death. It will never not be great seeing our favorite agent donning his own version of a super suit.
We go on to find out that Nick Fury faked Coulson’s death in order to bring the clan of superheroes now known as the Avengers together to save the planet. Coulson was sent to a grass shack in Tahiti, where he got a little time off, but he is now more than happy to be back on the job.
Next is the first mention of the Rising Tide, a force that we believe may be the antagonistic force for season 1. We also get a little thrill as Ron Glass (better known as Shepherd Book to any and all Firefly fans out there) steps on screen in a small role, but it is never not thrilling seeing him involved in another Joss Whedon project.
Agent Hill and Ron Glass’ character share a quick moment about Coulson’s trip to Tahiti that suggests that everything may not quite be as it seems with the faking of his death. There are definitely some variables in play that we cannot wait to see more of in season 1.
Next we fly back to Skye as she sneaks in to meet with the hooded hero we saw at the beginning of the episode. The immediate feeling about her personality is that she seems a little bit of a fangirl when it comes to guys with superpowers.
She tries to convince the hooded hero, whose name is Mike Peterson, that he should come out of the shadows and be proud of what he’s done. She also gets a chance at an iconic line, but doesn’t quite get it right when she says, “With great power comes… a ton of weird crap.” She leaves him with a warning, “They’re coming for you.”
We then get our first look at Ming-Na Wen as Agent Melinda Mays, a clearly experienced agent that has opted for desk work in exchange for the ever crazy field-work. Coulson tells her just how badly he needs her help, and she reluctantly agrees to “drive the bus.” The “bus” is a very impressive black jet that serves more as a flying command center for their outfit than simply a mode of transportation.
The following scene is a first look at Fitz and Simmons, a dynamic duo when it comes to technology and investigation, including a Hermione joke from Simmons, which made this writer instantly love her and her partner.
It was at this point in the episode that it was clear that this was just another amazing property from Joss Whedon, and that his stamp of wit, humor, and action is all over Agents of SHIELD.
Next we go back to Skye as she is broadcasting herself talking about the Rising Tide, threatening SHIELD amongst other things. Coulson triangulates her position and interrupts her by thrusting open the van door and throwing a black hood over her head. They take her back to their turf and interrogate her about the name of the hooded hero.
She mentions something called Centipede, which elicits a ‘What?’ look from Agent Ward. When she refuses to name the hero, Coulson threatens her with a newly developed truth serum, which he surprisingly injects into Agent Ward, leaving his agent in the hands of a skilled hacker who has a few interesting questions to ask.
While Skye doesn’t get anything top secret out of Agent Ward, she does feel more like a part of the team, and we realize that Coulson is more interested in making her a part of the team than punishing her for the trouble she has caused.
We then flash to Agents Mays, Fitz and Simmons at the site of the fire from the beginning of the episode as they investigate what may have caused it in an attempt to solve the mystery of the hooded hero.
The elusiveness of the hooded hero continues, as we saw him taking on the phone to a mysterious ‘doctor’ who somehow managed to give him his powers, and the next time we see him, he is confronting a former boss as he looks desperately for work that will allow him to take care of his son. He ends the interaction by killing his boss, proving that whatever has given him his powers has also altered his mind.
He then visits the hospital to see the woman that he saved, who we quickly find out is the ‘doctor’ he was talking to earlier. She is not happy about his heroic stunt, and scolds him for showing off and exposing them both. We find out that there was a patient before that had also been given the Centipede, and he went crazy and eventually killed himself in an explosion.
While the hooded hero continues to seek knowledge of his condition and find a way to be there for his son, Coulson’s team is getting closer to solving the mystery themselves. Fitz digitally replicates the scene before the explosion, and we find out that the previous patient of the ‘doctor’ was the source of the explosion, not just a victim.
The Centipede may give a person superhuman abilities, but it also causes them to lose their minds and eventually burst in anger due to a volatile substance known as Extremis.
Peterson takes Skye hostage in an attempt to save her and himself, also requesting that she delete any and all of his presence so he can effectively disappear and keep himself and his son safe from the powers behind Centipede.
Skye skillfully triggers a security breach and gives Coulson the coordinates of her position, and our favorite agent responds just as we expect, he rushes to her aid. A fight breaks out as Peterson tries to escape both Coulson’s team and the assassin that the doctor had instructed to kill him, and results in Ward being forced to shoot Mike in the head.
Fortunately, due to his superhuman abilities, Mike Peterson survives and last we know, his child is safe as Mike Peterson recovers from his wounds.
Our last look at the episode shows Skye and Coulson zooming away in his hovercraft vintage red car toward what Agent Ward called a “084,” after Coulson requests that Skye seriously consider joining the team long-term and helping them further their cause.