With Great Power Comes… a TV Pilot

Overthinking It is back to overthinking. Cuz…overthinking, you know? This time around we find one of the most complete reviews of the first episode of MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. anybody’s ever going to see:


by Andrew Buonopane

Disney’s ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. [has] premiered… to adequate ratings, and is off to the commercially promising start its creators intended. It is difficult to deny the show’s primary purpose (to make enough money to fund Joss Whedon’s production of the complete works of Shakespeare twice over), and other sites have already likened the first episode to a police procedural with Marvel badges. However, in a recent EW interview, Whedon indicated that it’s “basically a TV series of ‘The Zeppo’ [an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer], which was a very deliberate deconstruction of a Buffy episode in order to star the person who mattered the least. The people who are ignored are the people I’ve been writing as my heroes from day one.” Following on this, there is much to indicate that it will be more than just a money-grab.

Though we’ll definitely have to wait to get a statistically significant sample, in its first episode the show has evidenced a meta-textual commentary on the relationship between works of its predecessors’ ilk and the audience. The pilot is a reflection on the impact that superhero movies—and action-adventure movies in general—can have on the pop-culture consumer.

There are at least two good reasons for ABC’s new series to do this independent of meta-textual concerns: commercial association with the Marvel property and narrative legitimacy. The explicit references to each Avenger except Hawkeye remind people that they ought to keep tuning in for more of what they saw in theaters. Furthermore, the incorporation of plot elements from Marvel movies up to and including Iron Man 3 justify that commercial association by demonstrating the relevance of this new story to the established canon.

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