Welcome to VOCIFERY, my attempt to re-watch every piece of media in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – every movie, every television series, every one-shot, every web series, and every tie-in comic book, using the Wikipedia entry on the MCU as a guide, before the release of Avengers 4 in May 2019. Join me as I write my thoughts about what I’m seeing, as I see it!
Also, spoilers follow – if you’re worried about that kind of thing, view before reading.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 1 Episodes 01-06 (2013)
Let me start by saying what a relief it is to be viewing something other than the films, the tie-in comics and a couple of one-shots. It was all starting to get a bit samey there. The start of Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. (or SHIELD, as I’m going to refer to hit going forward) should – at the very least – mix things up a little bit.
I’ll admit, I was a little confounded when SHIELD was first announced. Sure, there was excitement that Joss Whedon was coming back to television, even if only as a consultant and pilot director. And my brain ran out of control thinking of how closely and how often the series might connect into the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But then confusion set in when it was revealed that Agent Phil Coulson – played by Clark Gregg in Iron Man 2, Thor and The Avengers – would be the leader of the team within the show. “Um, Son Of Coul died during The Avengers; I would’ve thought Joss Whedon would know that,” I thought to myself. “How will they bring him back?”
As it turns out, that mystery was central to the first season of the show – they’re even planting seeds of it back in the pilot episode (“Tahiti. It’s a magical place.”) – as SHIELD spun off into very much its own thing.
Then the second bout of confusion set in: why wasn’t SHIELD more connected to the films? Cobie Smulders makes an appearance as Agent Maria Hill in the pilot, and Samuel L Jackson makes a brief appearance at the end of Episode 2 (titled “0-8-4”) but beyond that, it seemed like the show would be referencing the wider universe in name only.
It quickly became clear that a) Iron Man would not be making an appearance, and b) SHIELD would have to be judged completely on its own merits.
In fact, that has only become more apparent; in the later seasons of the show, the connections have become more and more scarce, and more and more vague. The same can be said for all of Marvel Television’s productions – Daredevil, Jessica Jones, LThe Defenders, et al, for Netflix; Marvel’s Runaways for Hulu – and my understanding is that this is due to internal politics within Marvel Entertainment. (Now is a good time to mention that VOCIFERY won’t be delving into that at all.)
As such, these first six episodes are a very interesting group of episodes to view in hindsight. They’re written very much to play up the connections to the universe without relying on the universe, and to establish the show as its own production, giving us a glimpse at the character dynamics and regular format that will take the show forward.
Some of it works. The format of the show – serialised, but with occasional case-of-the-week episodes – is a winner from the very beginning; the sixth episode (“FZZT”) is fantastic, while the second episode (“0-8-4”) perfectly encapsulates what the team will be doing each week. I’m also a fan of the original team: the first iteration of Ward is the best iteration of Ward, while the May-Coulson and Fitz-Simmons relationships are fully realised from the very start.
Daisy is a bit of enigma early on. While she is probably my favourite character on the show now, she didn’t start out that way, and I found myself cringing at some of the decisions she makes, and some of the tech lingo she uses, in the early going.
A lot of this comes down to how you need to write a broadcast television drama. In addition to starting a show, you have to establish the core characters and their various dynamics, and explain why each of them are here; you have to put a format in place so that the show remains consistent throughout its run; you have to start realising the world of the show by introducing supporting characters; and you have to start introducing recurring antagonists for the main characters to play off.
These first six episodes introduce a few disparate – but undoubtedly interconnected – baddies in scientist Ian Quinn, femme fatale Raina (played by the fantastic Ruth Negga), and a pair of organisations known as The Rising Tide and Project Centipede, all of whom are interesting in their own ways.
The episodes also introduce the idea of a love triangle featuring Simmons, Ward and Skye, and starts to look into Coulson’s rebirth in Tahiti (“it’s a magical place”). As it was when it first aired, I don’t really care about either of these storylines.
Anyway, a good start to the show – I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed SHIELD back in the beginning, and that love has only grown over time. I’m looking forward to continuing the rest of the season.
Next: Thor: The Dark World – coming in two weeks time!