If you’ve been mourning the end of the summer blockbuster season with its strapping superheroes, explosive stunts, and snappy one-liners, then ABC has good news for you. The network is bringing one of the big screen’s most popular franchises to prime time with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Though the name sounds a bit tedious, the show itself is nothing of the sort. Few series realize their potential in their pilot episodes, and even those that become hits usually take a while to find their groove. But perhaps because S.H.I.E.L.D. is building off the established Avengers canon, the characters feel well-defined from the outset, trading barbs with the energy and confidence of a cast in its third season.
Writer/director Joss Whedon’s flair for cheeky dialogue notwithstanding, much of the credit for this goes to Clark Gregg, reprising his role from The Avengers, Iron Man, and Thor as government agent Phil Coulson. Going from supporting player to lead, Coulson heads a team of specialists in the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division. As they investigate and neutralize all technological, paranormal, and extraterrestrial threats to mankind, the team also works to keep incidents like “The Battle of New York,” in which superheroes came to the public’s notice, from happening again.
This kind of continuity (along with a noteworthy cameo) makes the first two episodes especially fun for Marvel fans. Whedon handles the presence of Coulson, who supposedly died at the end of the last Avengers film, especially deftly, making his resurrection an ongoing mystery rather than offering up a cheesy soap opera explanation.
Though ABC was no doubt most interested in targeting the 18-49 male demographic when they green-lighted the series, its Tuesday 8 p.m. time slot suggests they’re also aware of its family viewing potential. Early episodes bear this out, avoiding anything beyond typical network profanity. Add to that some timely themes beginning to take shape—government spying, Third World revolution, and economic malaise—and S.H.I.E.L.D. should appeal to a wide range of viewers, adding up to ratings of super-heroic proportions.