Whedon’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ fulfills expectations too well

Sept. 30, 2013

Cynthia Jeub
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Sorry to disappoint, Nathan Fillion. “Firefly” is not coming back, and its writer’s latest show doesn’t compare.

A father and a son share a heartwarming and endearing conversation about hard financial times. Behind them, a building erupts into flames. Typical Joss Whedon.

Picking up the story where “The Avengers” movie left off with a new group of characters, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is quick to establish Agent Phil Coulson is not dead.

Coulson, played by Clark Gregg, was presumed dead in “The Avengers.” Now (spoiler alert) he’s working at a higher level of intelligence, and most people don’t know he’s alive.

Fans of Whedon, known for his creations “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly” and as the writer of “The Avengers,” have had high expectations for the debut of his newest show.

The pilot episode, which aired Sept. 24, is also quick to establish everything else. Every minute feels jam-packed with asides to fans of the long-running franchise, which will get an eighth movie in November.

Four more films, including a “Captain America” sequel, a “Thor” sequel, a connected film with all-new characters and an “Avengers” sequel, are planned through 2015.

For fans of the series, the pilot doesn’t disappoint. Countless moments of clever problem-solving, more than one plot twist, fast-paced fight scenes, witty dialogue and impressive cinematography and graphics fill the time.

This show deserved commendation for setting up nerdy young people as the heroes. Smart, technologically capable and a little lacking in self-awareness, these new characters are likeable.

They’re all genre-savvy enough to drop lines like “with great power comes…a ton of weird crap.” When asked what “S.H.I.E.L.D.” means, one young agent answers, “that somebody really wanted it to spell ‘shield.'”

True to Whedon’s other strength, the show asks a few poignant philosophical questions. Is the government trustworthy?

A conspiracy theorist goes head-to-head with Coulson, who surprises the audience with some dark decisions involving mind control, kidnapping and truth serum.

Perhaps the rest of the season will have moments slow enough for a more intellectually challenging conversation than what was presented here.

Overall, the pilot falls flat by not falling flat – it meets everything on the checklist, making something so quick-paced that it loses what made Whedon’s earlier work worth watching.

It can’t be helped that because the show picks up where seven movies left off, it doesn’t have the advantage of an original concept, low budget and slowly warming up to new characters.

Whedon has reached the top, so he’s too busy fulfilling the expectations of an ever-growing fanbase to bring something new and competitively risky.

While “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” will no doubt deliver an entertaining season, it’s too mainstream to get the classic cult following of Whedon’s other shows.