Is Agent Coulson really dead or still alive? That's one early question "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD" episode 1 attempts to answer for die-hard comic book fans. Last time Phil Coulson had been seen was during his "death scene" in Joss Whedon's "The Avengers," but now he's back on ABC's new weekly spin-off TV series.
In a Sept. 24 report via CNN.com, they spoke with director Joss Whedon who created the show, as well as lead actor Clark Gregg, who portrays Agent Coulson on both the big and small screens. When asked about his death at the hands of Loki in the blockbuster "Avengers" movie, Gregg told CNN:
"He's like a cockroach; you can't kill him off.
When it came to do that 'Avengers' [death] scene, it was an emotional day. I had played this part for four movies, and I loved so much what Joss had written for that. I wasn't sad, but I found I was really emotional about it. At the end they were saying, 'It's a comic book, so [he might come back],' but I thought, 'Oh they're just being nice. Just trying to smooth my path to the next world.'"
Not surprisingly, just like in the comics, Gregg came back for the new series as Agent Coulson. His death [spoiler alert] is explained like it was a "set up" by Nick Fury, the head of SHIELD, to help band (manipulate) the Avengers group together to fight the menace attacking New York City. Coulson tells the newest SHIELD recruit he spent months in Tahiti, undder the radar, and that the Ageners don't know he's still living. Moments later, a scientist who overheard Coulson's talk says to returning Agent Maria Hill (Colby Smulders),"Tahiti, he really doesn't know, does he?" Hill tells the scientist, "He can never know," which may lead fans to question exactly what that means. Maybe it will even be explained more in a future movie.
The first episode of the show, called "Pilot," it centers around the forming of the team, with a few new recruits who find their way on board. They include Brett Dalton who will play Agent Grant Ward and helps head up the team along with Coulson. Actress Ming-Na Wen is introduced as Agent Melinda May who is called "the pilot" for the big fancy SHIELD plane, but she's also a weapons and fighting expert. Viewers also meet Agent Leo Fitz a technology specialist and Agent Jemma Simmons, a biochem/science specialist. Together they form Fitz-Simmons. They're joined during the episode by another new recruit, "Skye," who is a civilian computer hacker with top notch skills. Coulson realizes her value to the team and ends up bringing her on board.
The episode not only centers on the team being formed, Coulson's return from the dead, and what the team will be doing (protecting the world from chaos, finding superheroes and villains), but it also focuses on one particular "unregistered" individual. He's a guy named Michael Peterson, who early on is able to save a woman from a burning building, showing off some extraordinary powers, including the ability to use superhuman strength, climb up a wall and jump out of a burning building from several stories up, easily landing on the ground. That early act of "superheroism" is captured on video footage by the civilian hacker, Skye, who is later captured by SHIELD. After bringing her in, that is when Coulson realizes her value for the team.
Peterson never quite does anything else heroic, and begins to have a breakdown. It's revealed that he's lost his job, his wife, and only has his son left. He becomes increasingly frustrated at the situation he's in, and it's also unveiled that he is part of a project, whereby certain "test subjects" were given injections of a radioactive material giving them these extraordinary abilities. The injections of the substance involved a "centipede" type structure on their arms, and ultimately caused one of the test patients to blow up. Agent Coulson wants to "contain" and help Peterson before he goes the same route.
The episode winds down at a train station with most of the team trying to stop Peterson as he has kidnapped Skye. He's trying to get her to create a new identity for he and his son, so he can leave the scene and hide out. However, another band of individuals appears to be after him. Dressed as police officers, Coulson notes a "third party" is involved. There's shots being fired at Peterson as he continues to get enraged. At one point a shot hits him and he falls off a balcony through a concession/newstand below. However, in the final scenes Coulson is able to talk him down from a possible meltdown, telling him that with the heroes he's met it's not about what they can do, but more about who they are inside. Peterson comes to grips with the idea that he can be a hero. A shot is fired from Agent Ward's sniper rifle from a level above. It goes right into Peteron's forehead, causing him to hit the ground.
The good news is that the shot didn't kill Peterson, as Fitz-Simmons had cooked up some sort of serum to neutralize whatever the "poison" was inside him. With that, he's taken away somewhere to be rehabilitated from the after effects of the experimentation. Meanwhile, Coulson and Skye say their goodbyes to Peterson's son on what may be a family farm. Coulson recruits Skye to join the team and shows her that his fancy car "Lola" can fly, just as a call from Agent Ward comes in for an "0-8-4." That is appropriately the title for the next episode of the show, airing next week.
One of the great things about the new show is that it will inevitably have tie-in's and surprises involving the Marvel universe. The first episode alone had countless references to "The Avengers," including talk of Stark Tower, Thor's arms, The Hulk and Captain America. The new "Thor" sequel film was promoted at least once during a commercial break. There's even a slight shout out to Spider-Man given, with the start of the line "With great power comes..." There's sure to be much more to come for comic fanboys and even those just starting to get familiar with the Marvel comic book world.
"Marvel's Agents of SHIELD" will air on ABC weekly at 8 p.m. EST, with fans able to watch episodes via online video at the Hulu and ABC.com websites.