‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’: ‘Pilot’ spoiler-free review

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Much like the films (the franchise’s eighth outing, Thor: The Dark World, arrives in cinemas later this year), this opener has its fair share of dumb action moments (which will no doubt please many) and predictably good-looking people, but Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. also contains a great deal of wit, warmth and humour.

Much of his comes from the wasn’t-he-dead-already Phil Coulson (played with such style and fun by a returning Clark Gregg). Coulson’s genuine personality makes for a hugely engaging watch and is a solid reason for tuning in (if tuning in is still something people do). For those curious, his “demise” in 2012’s Avengers Assemble is addressed, though there may be more to it than is revealed, providing the audience with a lovely mystery to get their collective teeth into.

In this pilot episode, S.H.I.E.L.D. is on the trail of the “Hooded Hero” – real name Mike Peterson (fact fans will note a character of the same name appeared in the comic books as the best friend of Slapstick) – who publicly displayed some neat superhero skills and, of course, this was noticed. A hacker, known simply as Skye, approaches Mike in order to save him from the “scary men” in dark suits from S.H.I.E.L.D.

However, there’s something worse in store for them both and it’s Coulson and his chums who come in to help out. As the plot unravels, there are some excellently unexpected twists and turns that keep you on board throughout, and will leave much to think about for future episodes.

There’s some terrifically humorous moments embedded in the drama, some which parody the genre or simply reference in a pleasing fashion. The cast do a good job here with scientific duo Jemma Simmons (played by Elizabeth Henstridge) and Leo Fitz (The Fades star Iain De Caestecker) also providing some giggles.

But beware, it’s not all gold. Skye is not entirely believable as a “hacker” and some of the dialogue, as you may expect from an action series, is clunky and expositional (Coulson describes Peterson as “good guy, bad breaks”).

Having said that, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has much to admire and Joss Whedon has created an incredibly fresh and tasty introduction which will appeal across the board (well, not the entire board) for telly lovers needing a new fix. Don’t be put off if you’re not too familiar with the adventures of Tony Stark and friends – knowledge of the movie franchise is unnecessary.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is fun and brash and a little bit dumb, but its heart is in the right place – not a bad way to start at all.

Airs at 8pm on Friday 27 September 2013 on Channel 4.

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