Marvel – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D
Apparently The Blacklist has brought NBC its highest ratings for a freshman drama series since the turn of the century, and just ten episodes into its run it’s not only been given a full-season order it’s also been given a very early renewal for a second year as well. I’m surprised by this, not because the show isn’t any good (it’s one of the best of the Class of 2013 so far) but because it’s such early days and the show is still so clearly finding its feet by trying on a succession of different borrowed sets of attire as it seeks to find out what it wants to be when it grows up and becomes a proper TV show.
The high-concept premise is that notorious former high-level government agent turned elusive most-wanted fugitive called Raymond “Red” Reddington suddenly walks into the FBI building in Washington DC to calmly turn himself in. He offers to help them capture some of the most evil and dangerous criminal threats in the world – many so successful the FBI doesn’t even know about them – but on one condition: he will work only with rookie profiler Elizabeth Keen. A special task force is green-lit with the sort of alacrity only ever seen in time-starved television pilots desperate to lay out their format for the studio execs, and away we go: only it’s soon clear that not only is Red playing a very different game, he is also ten steps ahead of the plodding FBI staff at every turn to entirely his own unknown ends. Read the rest of this entry »
The first episode of Marvel – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. does exactly what a good pilot should and indeed must do: it lays out its stall clearly and efficiently and with some verve and style. It delivers just what it needs to to reassure us that this is going to be something we’re going to enjoy down the weeks, months and hopefully even years that it will be on our screens. And it does it with a broad, infectious smile on its face long before the main protagonists take off in a flying retro sports car.
Because it was busy doing exactly what I expected it to (and what it needed to in order to get the project off the ground) I can’t say that the pilot episode blew my mind or left me wildly excited. However what it did achieve was almost as important: it didn’t unduly disappoint. Rather, it reassured me that all the ingredients I had been hoping for were present and correct, and that given time and some careful attention it should develop very nicely indeed.
The pilot episode simply had too many demands placed upon it to be a slam-dunk success straight out of the gate. To start with, it had to take the concept of the super-secret high-tech S.H.I.E.L.D. agency that has been developed as a linking theme through several of the biggest box office blockbusters of recent years, and successfully scale it down to something sustainable on a weekly TV series budget. Then it had to populate this with an entirely (with one exception) new set of characters, set the tone and basic premise of the show, and meet the expectations of fans who love writer/director Joss Whedon’s work not only directing Marvel – Avengers Assemble but also as showrunner for his own previous TV successes such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel. And while doing all this, it also had to tell an interesting and exciting story and doubtless wipe the floor and clean out the oven in its spare time. Read the rest of this entry »