So we open with Cobie Smulders revisiting her role as Agent Maria Hill – she was the operational officer in charge of the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier while Nick Fury was off glowering at people with one eye – explaining the show concept to New Guy and, helpfully, the audience. New Guy is apparently named “Grant Ward,” because that’s easier for the writers to type out regularly than “the character that’s Pierce Brosnan era James Bond.” The downside, of course, is that I’ll inevitably confuse this guy with the second, less talented half of Hüsker Dü for like, three years. I still do that with the Asian-ish “Grant” guy that’s been on Mythbusters for like, six years now, too. All Grants are Harts to me.
Anyway, Agent Hill is explaining to New Guy Grant that they’re getting a new S.H.I.E.L.D. team together because otherwise they wouldn’t have a TV show, and eventually lets drop the big reveal; the team is lead by Phil Coulson! Which is the least kept reveal in the history of all things, perhaps. So New Guy Grant is all like “I’m level six clearance, I know Phil Coulson died in the Battle of New York,” which was just a weak excuse for the writers to have Coulson pop out of a dark corner and say “welcome to level seven” with little gravitas and much snark. It did get them a good line in there about “I was just standing in that corner; it’s really dark back there. I think there’s a bulb out,” which was vaguely entertaining.
So now we have Agent Coulson back on the roster with New Guy, and he explains that he was dead for like 40 seconds before rehabbing in Tahiti. That was just a set up for Hill to mutter ominously that Coulson “can never know” something something something… So let me clear this up for you. Coulson died. Not just mostly dead. Dead dead. He’s either resurrected or a clone, either of which is perfectly feasible because Marvel’s universe is friggin’ deep and huge, man. Just pick up the new Infinity Avengers reboot and dip your toe in, if you’re confused on this point of order. Anyway. Agent Hill departs, because How I Met Your Mother was filming in 30 and there’s no way the show runners could afford Samuel L. Jackson in the pilot.
So then we cut to Gunn from Angel, who is apparently a laid off factory worker in Los Angeles. This is odd, because I’m pretty sure LA doesn’t have a manufacturing sector outside of porn, but hey, we’re dealing with a fictional universe where Thor, God of Thunder will totally show up for a cross-promotional opportunity when “Dark World” is released. So okay. Factory worker in LA. Good for Gunn, finding work after that whole apocalypse thing went down last time he worked with Whedon.
By the way, “Thor, God of Thunder” is currently the best written, drawn and inked trade comic on the market. Just sayin’, yo.
Unemployed Gunn apparently has a son, but not a wife, because again, pilot ep budgets are rough. He’s talking to Gunn-son when a building explodes across the street. Then he’s like, “hey, newspaper and periodical vendor that I know by name, watch my son while I skulk off into the alley!” In the alley, he punches his hands into brick walls and climbs up to save people from the explosion. The least believable aspect of this scene is that 1) there are still periodical vendors on the streets of LA, and 2) Gunn is not only on a first name basis with the guy, but would just use him as street-side day care when a building just blew up in front of his kid. Bad Daddy. No points awarded.
Anyway, that all leads us to meet Skye, super-hacker, because seriously, is it even possible to have a TV show these days without a super-hacker character? Super-hacker character is the 2013 equivalent of the “black Mammy” from 1930’s era movies. Try harder, writer people. Seriously.
Anyway, Skye is basically a member of Anonymous, only hot and wearing a low cut blouse. She tries to get Gunn to join Anonymous, which had some sort of Marvel-y name that I forgot. (Apparently it was “Rising Tide.” Because Nick Saban said so.) Gunn is like, “uh, no.” So Skye goes Mulder on him and warns him about the men in black suits from S.H.E.I.L.D. who will come to disappear him. And steals his driver’s license. Which begs the question; why is Gunn walking all the time if he has a car? Maybe he was just concerned about getting stricken from the voting records in Orange County? Weird.
Um, so now we go back to meet more agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., because the show is called Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. so it’s expected. There’s Melinda May, a field agent with issues, to compliment New Guy Grant, a field agent with issues. May is played by Ming-Na Wen, because Stargate Universe got cancelled and the occasional spot as Finn’s mom on AdventureTime just doesn’t pay the bills. She’s all “I don’t want to do action sequences,” which means she’s going to do a lot of action sequences. They kidnap Skye, because good guys always kidnap citizens, and because they needed to introduce her to the young tech dorks “Fitz” and “Simmons”, who are often called Fitzsimmons because, get it, they’re like, twins and stuff. I think. Not really clear on that, actually. Fitz is a girl, so she does a lot of biology science stuff. Because, baby factory, right? And Simmons is a boy, so he’s all hardware tech and hard science, because hardware is totally like a penis or something. Again, writers. Try. Harder.
So there’s this scene where Coulson recruits super-hacker Skye into the team, even though she is totally AGAINST THE MAN, MAN! Which totally wasn’t telegraphed from the fact that she was a hottie with low cut blouse in the opening sequence. Ah, broadcast tee vee. You rarely disappoint.
Skip forward and apparently Gunn is not a mutant who is just coming into his powers – which would ABSOLUTELY WORK because Marvel is the same universe as the X-Men. But no, this is an Avengers tie-in, not an X series tie-in, so he’s actually been supersized by some nefarious group calling themselves “Centipede” – because, comic books – who apparently have access to the Extremis virus that wreaked havoc* in Iron Man III. Okay. I’m following that. I’m not sure the rest of America did, but I gotcha Joss. I’m on your wavelength, geekboy.
The thing about Extremis is, unless you’re Tony Stark or Pepper Potts, it typically makes you explode. Which is actually how that whole building exploding thing from the open went down. So fine. Extremis. Now Gunn is actually Bomb. Literally. And he’s totally losing his self-control too, because someone really wanted to write a metaphor for the disenfranchised working class into this episode. Like, *really* badly. So disaffected working class Gunn-Bomb goes back to his factory job, looking for work, and gets into an argument with the foreman, where he rips a fork lift’s propane tank off of the back of the lift and beats the guy with it using his super strength. This is weird for two reasons. First, the propane tank did not explode, which, okay. And then second, the later news coverage of the event just says the foreman was assaulted. I’m alright with the gas not blowing up, because sure, why not. But you just had a super-powered, super-strong angry man rip a propane tank off the back of a fork lift and swing it at full force into a non-super’s skull. Gunn-Bomb is a murderer, dude. No way around that shit now. Stop being pussies! Stand by your muse!
Meh. So the agents of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. save the day by shooting Gunn-Bomb in the head with a super-techno-jazzy dart gun and he doesn’t explode, and then they apparently send him to a farm to rehab until they need him to return as a super-powered member of the team later in the year. Maybe to help Thor with that cross-promo bit. Then Clone Coulson gets Hot Super-hacker Skye into his sweet vintage ride, which apparently flies. Okay.
All in all, on a Whedon scale of Dollhouse to Episode 11 of Firefly (Objects In Space) we’ll give this one a solid “early episode of Season 2 of Buffy.” Not bad. Should get significantly better as the cast gels and they get the cadence and timing of Whedon-dialogue down. Plus they should have big budgets to get through the awkward setup process of season 1, what with Marvel backing this gig.
Oh, and Freddy Garcia allowed on 2 runs while striking out 7 in 6.2 innings, which really sort of has to put him in the lead for “starting Game 4 barring catastrophe” race. Paul Maholm breaks out his left arm tonight.