So I finally got a chance to watch the much-hyped television premiere from Marvel, the studio that gave us the much-hyped Iron Man 3. I found the viewing experiences remarkably similar.
I believe in hooking an audience from the start, but from the pilot Marvel seems to be content with their brand of mediocre entertainment. Sure, there was nothing particularly bad about the show, but there was not a single moment that stood out, either. No wow factor in any particular scene. The plot was similar to an episode of the superior Fringe, except without any appealing characters to become attached to.
About the only point of interest was the status of Agent Coulson, returned from his ‘death’ by a Loki shank job in the rip-roaring Avengers movie. It was great to see Clark Gregg again, and he is the highlight of the show with his charismatic charm as the boss of the new group of agents. There is some ominous secret about his resurrection (clone, perhaps?), but it doesn’t really matter why he’s back. This is Marvel, and if there’s one thing assured, it’s that nobody dies. Ever. Except maybe Uncle Ben. (Correct me if I’m wrong, I haven’t picked up a comic in over a decade)
So now that aliens have invaded New York, everyone knows superheroes roam the world and the universe is swarming with evil threats. Yet SHIELD apparently has nothing better to do other than keep tabs on small fries like Mike Peterson, a man gifted with sudden superpowers who may be more threat than hero. Sure, the FBI and a SWAT team could probably handle the situation, but SHIELD has more letters in their name and is funded by billions of our taxpayer dollars, so it’s probably best to put all that to good use and track down one man with no agenda, no money, and no outside assistance. Of course SHIELD will only be able to do so with the help of a civilian hacker who can not only find said person of interest first, but also hack through SHIELD’s firewall with no problem as well.
Why the sarcastic tone? I dunno, I guess I was just expecting more. But what really disappointed me was the cast of characters. Maybe they appeared so thin because the pilot had to introduce them all, but I found nothing of particular interest with any of them.
First up: Grant Ward. He’s supposed to be a super-tough special ops agent, proved by his best Bourne imitation as he single-handedly takes out some bad guys and recovers some important doohickey that SHIELD wants off the streets. He is also fond of tough guy quips like making fun of SHIELD’s name and such. Problem is, the character is horribly miscast. Brett Dalton never appears tough enough for the part, and the dialogue is uttered in unconvincing fashion, as if not even he can buy himself in the role.
Then you have Melinda May, the ‘mysterious’ character. A female counterpart to Grant Ward, but without the attitude. She is all business with a past that haunts her. Look to her for polished martial arts moves against foes more muscular and heavier than her.
Agents Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons are the respective tech and biology experts, a dynamic duo with a quibbling brother/sister relationship.
And lastly you have Skye, a hacker/cyber journalist running a podcast seeking the truth about the New York alien attacks and the interfering presence of SHIELD. Atypical of the standard hackers we see on TV, she does not appear to be a fashion or social misfit. In fact she appears to be a fashion model, which makes her claim of living in a van rather unbelievable. Her genius at hacking also appears to take place off the screen most times, so no technical dialogue necessary for how she does her cyber-magic.
Everyone gorgeous, everyone likable, everyone getting along. Compared to the initial gathering of the Avengers, how very boring. Not a single spark anywhere, unless you really believed that Skye was going to refuse the job, or that Grant was actually serious in his posturing.
Once Coulson and Skye took of in his flying car, I found myself wondering why I should continue watching the series. I couldn’t think of any particular reason, except the hope that the show improves. I’m willing to give it a few more episodes, as I have an opening for a new show to watch. But things had better shape up, or I’m going to start thinking that the ‘M’ in Marvel stands for ‘Mediocre’.
Pilot grade: C