SAN DIEGO — Rather than just show a clip from the highly anticipated pilot for ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., executive producer Joss Whedon announced to a packed Comic-Con crowd on Friday that he was going to screen the entire episode instead.
Granted, there will be no better audience for this pilot than this assembled pack of Marvel fans, but there was also no mistaking that the episode played like gangbusters. Humor, action, humanity — even a location shoot in Paris! The audience lapped it up.
The pilot episode will air on Sept. 24 on ABC, but if you can’t wait that long, here are six major revelations from the episode.
1. We learn how Agent Coulson lived! Sort of!
Within the first few minutes of the pilot, ace solo S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) learns that Agent Coulson indeed survived the Battle of New York from Marvel’s The Avengers, and he quickly deduces that Nick Fury faked Coulson’s death in order to bring the Avengers together. Coulson says he was dead for a few seconds, then he was revived, and whisked off to Tahiti to recuperate.
But after he leaves the room, a S.H.I.E.L.D. doctor says to another S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, “He really doesn’t know, does he?” The agent replies, “He can never know.” Season-long mystery alert!
Oh, and about that doctor and agent…
2. Cobie Smulders and Ron Glass have cameos!
Smulders, of course, reprises her role from The Avengers as Agent Maria Hill, who oversees Agent Ward’s inclusion in the new crew that Coulson puts together in the pilot. Her appearance was greeted with loud cheers, though it wasn’t entirely unexpected. But the sight of Ron Glass — who played Shepherd Book in Joss Whedon’s Firefly — was a true surprise, and worked the crowd into a frenzy. He plays a S.H.I.E.L.D. physician of sorts who begrudgingly clears Coulson for duty again, indicating this won’t be the last time he appears on the show. Smulders, on the other hand, still has a full (and final) season of How I Met Your Mother to shoot, so Maria Hill’s presence on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this season will likely be minimal at best.
3. It’s funny!
As one would expect from a script from Whedon and his brother and sister-in-law, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, the entire pilot was sprinkled with several choice quips and exchanges. Two examples:
Agent Ward: I don’t think Thor is technically a god.
Agent Hill: You haven’t been near his arms.
Agent Ward: She might as well be one of those sweaty cosplay girls crowding around Stark Tower!
4. It’s fully integrated within the Marvel cinematic universe!
The show’s first trailer made clear the pilot is set after the events of The Avengers. But the episode’s plot — which revolves around tracking and containing the superheroic actions of J. August Richards’ mysteriously powerful character — is far more connected to the events in Iron Man 3. To say anymore would spoil the entire episode, but it’s clear that those who want to watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would do well to familiarize themselves with the latest Marvel feature film.
5. The cast looks good!
Before the pilot was screened, Clark Gregg got a true hero’s welcome when he stepped onto the stage along with the rest of the show’s main cast. But all of the series regulars made a strong first impression in the episode: Dalton has a nice looseness as the show’s nominal straight man/action hero; Chloe Bennet has some fun Whedonesque banter as a hacker bound to take down S.H.I.E.L.D. (at least, at first); Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge are an agreeably geeky pair of techies named Fitz and Simmons (get it?); and while Ming-Na Wen wasn’t featured perhaps as much as one would like, she still kicks some major butt as a former field agent who Coulson drags from her desk job to join the team.
6. The show looks very expensive!
Along with an honest-to-goodness location shoot in Paris, the pilot included explosions, CG mini-drones, life-size holograms, and a massive cargo plane that serves as Coulson’s HQ (and the show’s main set). Will the show be able to maintain this level of production value in its subsequent episodes? “All I have to say,” said Gregg, “is wait ‘til you see episode 2.”