Here at 13/31 we’re fans of a lot of different genres. But in particular, we’re fans of things like superhero movies and Joss Whedon. So when it comes time for those worlds to collide, as with the spectacular Avengers that broke box office records last summer, you know it’s a special occasion. So, as you might imagine, the Fall 2013 TV lineup is particularly exciting, because it included Marvel’s first live-action television series, Joss Whedon’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Joss Whedon, for the few of you who don’t know, is best known for Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, and ever since it went off the air after 7 seasons and the 5 season spin-off, Angel, he’s had a notoriously difficult time keeping a show on the air. In fact, Buffy is probably still his most successful venture, with a comic series continuing the story as well as a number of spin-off comics expanding on the universe. That’s not to say that he isn’t loved for other things — the tragically short-lived Firefly being one of them, as well as the criminally underrated Dollhouse. But really, after Buffy, Whedon has had a dedicated following with little mainstream success.
Then The Avengers came and changed everything. Whedon is now a key player in Marvel’s cinematic universe, penning the sequel to The Avengers as well as working closely to determine the direction of future stories. And he’s back on TV, at long last, with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. And what a return it is. The premise of the series is simple, and in many ways, feels radically different from Whedon’s usual fare — at first. The series focuses on the shadowy government organization seen throughout the Marvel universe ever since Edward Norton’s less-than-stellar The Incredible Hulk, and featuring heavily in The Avengers. Casual moviegoers will know it as the organization headed by Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, with much of the legwork done by Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson, a fan-favorite character.
While at first sight, the show seems like it will focus on an organization of spies, with espionage and politics, thankfully Whedon quickly establishes a small core of primary and supporting characters, and provides plenty of the action his fans expect. This action includes a special effects budget that seems to be on par with that of the movies, plenty of well-choreographed fight scenes, and, of course, plot twists and surprises galore. Diligent Whedon fans will recognize some familiar faces, like Firefly’s Ron Glass — because what’s a Joss Whedon production without a little nepotism?
Not that I’m complaining; Joss has always picked some fantastic actors, and though their faces are familiar, they never seem to be playing the same role in a different setting.
As always, the writing is stellar; you’ll get no complaints from me there. There are of course many of Whedon’s usual hallmarks — witty banter with some particularly well-timed comments, as well as a car named Lola, which may bring to mind Jayne’s favorite gun, Vera, from Firefly. The show is very clearly a Joss Whedon show, and he’s working at top form. I would be surprised if the series didn’t outlast Whedon’s other small-screen endeavors, save perhaps Buffy.
My only major complaint has not to do with the show itself, but with the advertising for it. As pretty much anyone who doesn’t live under a rock knows, SPOILER ALERT Phil Coulson was presumed dead by the end of The Avengers, and didn’t appear in Iron Man 3, lending more credence to the appearances. But the advertisements clearly show Agent Coulson alive and back in action. Now I don’t doubt that there’s some more backstory to this development, but Coulson’s first scene in Agents which was written to be a spectacular and stunning reveal, would have been much better if I hadn’t already expected it. Let’s face it, the first episode, which aired yesterday, was only released little more than a year after The Avengers. Imagine the impact of the revelation, after over a year of assuming our beloved Phil was gone, that he was alive after all? Without the spoilers of the advertisements?
All in all, aside from the gripe about spoilers in the advertisements, I’m definitely a fan of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and hope that it lasts longer than Whedon’s other shows. It’s not often you get a gem like this, and even with the CW’s stellar Arrow returning next month, and their upcoming spin-off featuring the Flash, I can certainly stand to have some more heroes on my TV screen. It’s a great and much needed reprieve from the usual vapid fare served up by television networks these days, and I will gladly add it to my list of shows to look forward to each week.
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