In the beginning there was “Iron Man,” and lo, it was pleasing to the masses. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was born and the world became a much bigger place. And in that birth another seed was planted for an organization whose name was too long to keep repeating over and over. And so it was that the world was introduced to an agent of this organization, this S.H.I.E.L.D., which would soon become not just the face of that organization, but the connective tissue of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Behold the coming of the Son of Coul!
The MCU has been trucking along for some time now, constantly building on what has come before. “Iron Man” started the whole thing and it has continued with sequels for all the solo films, and culminated in what many thought was impossible, Marvel’s “The Avengers,” which brought all its heroes together to face a massive threat. Sadly during those events we lost Agent Coulson (the incomparable Clark Gregg) to Loki’s treachery. Or so we thought. Not one to keep a good character dead (I don’t think any comic company can do that forever) Agent Coulson triumphantly returned, this time as a leading man in Marvel/ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” focusing on a small team of agents looking into the unexplained. “The X-Files” for the MCU if you will.
Right away, Marvel doesn’t shy away from the big question: How is Coulson still alive? But they only tease at the answer and it is maddening, though that gives the show time to introduce characters and flesh them out. Gregg reprises the role he has made into a fan favorite. Coulson’s popularity has even gotten the character to make the transition from film to the comics, as well as the “Ultimate Spider-Man” animated series on Disney XD! But while Coulson is why most tuned in at first, the show was rounded out by a cast of decent characters. And while many questioned using new faces as opposed to ones from the comics, AOS benefited from introducing and building new agents as opposed to bringing in ones with predetermined personalities and such. Joined by veteran agent, pilot and badass Melinda May (Ming Na Wen), Science and Tech whizzes Fitz and Simmons (Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge), field operative Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), and ace hacker extraordinaire Skye (Chloe Bennet), we spend as much time getting to know these characters as they do getting to know each other. And because of that the early episodes in the season were a bit slow to get going.
When it was first airing, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” was constantly compared, unfairly in my opinion, to “Arrow.” Other than both being based on comic properties, they have nothing in common. As a matter of fact, “Arrow” had it easy compared to AOS — while “Arrow” had to build a world, they essentially had free reign to do as they pleased. AOS has to connect with the rest of the Marvel cinematic universe, an issue that caused not one, but two breaks as the show waited for the releases of the films to make sure their story went along with what happened in the movies. Marvel’s unprecedented move to connect the show to the larger MCU paid off in the end. Cameos by Samuel L. Jackson (Director Nick Fury), Cobie Smulders (Agent Maria Hill), Maximiliano Hernandez (Agent Jasper Sitwell) and Jaimie Alexander (Lady Sif) pop up, and events of the films are mentioned and have repercussions on the show. The largest of these hits towards the end of the season.
The show handles storylines well once it gets moving and seeds that are planted slowly grow to fruition with mostly satisfying results, with some twists and turns along the way. Trust issues arise, as is always the case where espionage is involved, and not everyone is forthcoming with their motives. But that is one of the things that the show does well, leaving you wondering about something else just after wrapping up a different mystery. Coulson’s resurrection may be the driving question everyone wants the answer too, but Whedon and crew did a great job of making the other questions that turn up just as intriguing, and sometimes even more so.
The set includes decent amounts of deleted scenes and a gag reel, VFX breakdowns, and audio commentaries. There’s also the “Marvel’s Studios: Assembling A Universe” TV Special, and “Journey Into S.D.C.C.” a featurette chronicling the cast’s trip to the San Diego Comic-Con for the first time. Finally, get your Level 7 clearance and watch 5 behind-the-scenes Field Reports about different episodes.
If you’re a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe at all, AOS should at least get a onceover, if nothing more than to keep up with what’s going on between movies. This show, these Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. led by the honorable Son of Coul are truly heroes in their own right, protecting the world from the unknown, be it terrestrial or otherwise.