If you’ve ever listened to the SF Squeecast, you’ve heard of the phenomenon “first bookytus.” Basically, it’s when you read the first book by a new writer and, even if you enjoy it, feel it speaks more about the promise of what’s to come than about being a great piece itself. That’s how I felt about the Agents of SHIELD pilot. There was lot’s to love and no reason to doubt that what’s still to come will be magnificent, but as its own moment of television, it wasn’t spectacular.
If nothing else, the pilot screamed that it was a Whedon show. The one liners, the characters themselves, the group dynamics we’re already starting to see, and even the teasing of secrets yet to be reveled all were familiar and very welcome. Having the science duo actually be called Fitzsimmons to their faces was a beautiful nod to fandom, as was the inclusion of Maria Hill. Joss knows exactly how his fans tick.
Which is one of the areas I think the pilot suffered a bit. Joss really didn’t have to sell us on this show, and I got the feeling he didn’t really try. Instead, he allowed this first episode to be a much needed info dump. He didn’t sacrifice his trademark banter or comic situations, but he made no bones about the fact he had to introduce all the characters and the general premise of the show. By tying it all to the familiar faces of Coulson and Hill, Joss gave us an anchor and trusted us hang on for the rather bumpy ride a pilot always presents.
Which leads me to what I considered the most curious and problematic parts of the premier…it was only 45 minutes long. I have no idea why they went with this instead of the more tradition two hour opening, but nearly all the pacing problems could have been rectified by giving SHIELD even a half an hour more to flesh out the characters a bit and to allow the setting to evolve a little. When I first saw Firefly, I did see it in the “proper order” but I wasn’t sold on the show until well into the second hour. In fact…that probably sums up a lot of pilots for me. I need the extra time upfront to get connected with the new world.
And this wraps back around the fact that Joss has earned a lot of latitude with us. When it comes right down to it, the SHIELD premier probably wouldn’t sell the show to skeptical watchers. But we were all ready sold between the Marvel movies and Joss’ impressive resume. So we can handle a rushed and info heavy start with the confidence that the show will improve from here.
So join me for what’s sure to be an exciting ride as we learn more about Ward, May, Skye, and Fitzsimmons. Not to mention how on earth Coulson’s not dead. I’m one of those sketchy people who have learned all I know about the Marvel universe from the movies, so I rather expect I’m in for surprises that long time comic fans will see coming a long way off. Feel free to chime in a share your hopes and theories about the ride in front of us.