Fans attending San Diego Comic Con were treated to a special preview screening of Marvel’sAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D. during the panel on Friday afternoon. This was a welcome surprise and something we here at didn’t take lightly given even members of the press and many of the fine folks at ABC had not been given the opportunity to preview the pilot before now.

We don’t plan to give you a blow by blow description of the plot, we would rather let you enjoy the story as it unfolds on your screen in September but we will discuss some of our general observations and assume that you have watched the trailer released in May

Personally I had high expectations of the S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot, it is hard not to develop such expectations when something has been such a focus in your day-to-day for nearly 12 months (we launched this site at the beginning of August 2012). There is always a fear lurking somewhere deep in your gut that you may be in for disappointment when you allow your expectations to be built up but I am delighted to say that the S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot not only lived up to my expectations but also exceeded them!

With a healthy dose of drama, suspense, action, and humor, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot screening was met by roars of laughter, thunderous applause, collective gasps of shock, and excited cheers from the audience from beginning to end.

The pilot episode serves, as you would expect, to introduce both the basic concept of the series and each of the main characters.  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the story of a team of regular people whose job it is to deal with the consequences of the extraordinary and the extraterrestrial fallout that has come to the attention of the general population since the Battle of New York (seen in The Avengers).

Each of the characters introduced in the pilot has flaws, some more obvious than others. We meet Agent Grant Ward, the guy you send in to single-handedly take care of a situation. He is used to working alone. If you need someone to diffuse a bomb, he’s your man. Agent Ward is in his element when working alone which makes Agent Coulson’s decision to bring him on board as part of a close knit team an interesting one. Ward is clearly not used to being close to people, he reacts with surprise to physical contact and even the simplest of jokes sails right over his head.

Agents Fitz and Simmons clearly have a history together, given their young age it is reasonable to assume they studied together. Their relationship has a brother-sister feel, they engage in friendly banter and arguing that shows they have spent a lot of time together and they work together well as a team providing encouragement and support when needed. Both are obviously highly intelligent with Simmons trained in biochem and Fitz in engineering, they respond well to a challenge.

For now we know her as only “Skye”, she has outstanding skills as a hacker and she has been working for “The Rising Tide” a rogue group that aims to expose the secretive organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D.  Skye is super confident and uses her skills to do what she thinks is the right thing and she sees S.H.I.E.L.D. as the bad guys. When they track her down and there is an unexpected (but funny!) twist in the interrogation session she starts to see that maybe S.H.I.E.L.D. aren’t the bad guys she thought they were.

Agent Melinda May has been through some kind of trauma that has seen her withdraw from field duty and isolate herself until Agent Coulson recruits her to “drive the bus” (fly the S.H.I.E.L.D. plane). He reassures her by pointing out that the team he is putting together is just like they used to talk about, picking their own ops, making the calls and that there’s no red tape, so Coulson and May obviously have some past history together.

Agent Coulson, as we all know, was supposed to have been killed by Loki in The Avengers but having seen the trailer you all know that didn’t happen… or did it?  What we do know is what Agent Coulson thinks happened, and what actually happened are not the same thing. The S.H.I.E.L.D. doctor, played by Ron Glass (Firefly) finds it hard to believe Coulson “really doesn’t know’ what took place.

The Rising Tide look as though they may continue to be a thorn in the side of S.H.I.E.L.D. throughout the series, Agent Ward has experience dealing with them and of course Skye has first hand knowledge of what they’re about.  There are several threads woven into the pilot that will no doubt take some time to unravel. Just what did happen to Agent Coulson? What is The Rising Tide really about? There is plenty of background waiting to be revealed about each of the complex characters.

There are numerous references to both characters and events from the Marvel Phase 1 movies so we recommend if you haven’t (of course you have!) watched those yet you might get more out of the pilot if you take time out to watch them before September 24th rolls around.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is full of laughs (more than we expected) but they never feel out of place or forced. Paired with the action, drama, suspense, unexpected moments (there was a collective gasp or cheer as several things surprised the audience) and even emotional attachments to characters we’ve just met, we have no doubt Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has what it takes to appeal to a wide range of viewers and give it what it needs to stick around for the long haul.  Any doubts people have about the longevity of the season will end when the pilot airs in September.

If you watched the pilot at San Diego Comic Con on Friday why not share your own thoughts with us in the comments below.

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