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Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a superherogeek’s TV dream come true, drawing from the monster franchise of The Avengers movie, including the Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America movies. ABC has filled the void that fans of the early seasons of Heroes and the Buffy The Vampire Slayer series and spin-offs have been feeling for quite some time.
Within the first 11 minutes we are invested. The show picks up after the battle of New York (The Avengers movie). Footage from a cell phone video shows an unknown man leaping from an 8-story building, amazingly saving a woman from an explosion unharmed. The video quickly goes viral because of the notorious government hacking group, Rising Tide. It is up to S.H.I.E.L.D (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) to create a team seeking out these superheroes, or “unregistered gifted” people. Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), a black-ops agent, is first recruited by Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), Nick Fury’s right-hand woman. He is introduced to Agent Phil Coulson, whom we all believed was dead, after being cleared to level 7 and welcomed to this new team. Of course, the real question we are all asking is how Coulson is alive. There is no big reveal; an answer is only hinted at, which is an answer that Coulson himself doesn’t really know.
The man from the video, we learn, is Mike Peterson (J. August Richards). Peterson had been a factory worker, but is currently unemployed and trying to do everything he can to make ends meet for his son and himself. Skye, the creator of the viral video and also a computer hacker for Rising Tide, reveals herself to Peterson in an attempt to join forces and create a superhero identity for him and warn him of government agencies that may also be interested in him. Skye is quickly dismissed by Peterson but not before she is able to pick-pocket his driver’s license. Back at his apartment, Peterson speaks on the phone with someone he only refers to as “doctor," asking if it’s possible to use his the power to get a job. The answer, we find out, is a definitive “no." He pulls up his sleeve to show a metal contraption digging into his skin, giving us a look that his power is not natural.
Coulson continues his mission to recruit personnel for his team. He invites Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), a former field agent and pilot now pushing papers behind a desk, to “drive the bus," which turns out to be a plane/headquarters for his team. On the plane, we meet partners Agent Leo Fitz, an engineer, and Agent Jemma Simmons, a bio-chemist (dubbed “Fitz-Simmons”). Coulson and Ward set out and bring back Skye for questioning, asking about Peterson and what she knows. She reveals to them an operation called "Centipede." In order to earn her trust, Coulson gives a high-dosage truth serum to Ward, which Ward thought was intended for Skye, and lets Skye interrogate Ward. Meanwhile, May and Fitz-Simmons go to the explosion site to find the cause. They find alien tech and part of a surveillance camera. They head back to meet up with Coulson at the plane to see if they can piece anything together.
A frustrated Peterson goes back to the factory where he lost his job, begging and pleading with his boss to work, telling him he is much stronger now. His boss tells him he can’t help him, and Peterson completely loses it, shoving a giant palate of supplies with ease, then attacking his boss. Peterson says, “You are the bad guy…and I’m the hero." Peterson then goes to the hospital room where the woman he saved is, revealing himself to her, or so we think. We quickly learn that the woman he saved is the doctor he talked to on the phone and gave him the powers he has. She tells him that he needs to disappear, that the people she is working for need won’t like this leaking out. She adds that if he’s not careful, he will end up like the last guy did.
After piecing everything together, Agent Fitz is able to construct a video and audio with help from Skye of the last minutes before the explosion in the building. Two people were in the room arguing, one of whom had the same contraption Peterson has on his arm, which they quickly realize much like a centipede. Ultimately, we see that the contraption is altering Peterson’s body as well as his mind. Simmons and Coulson figure out that it is pumping Extremis throughout his body, the unstable chemical agent designed to heal injured soldiers we saw in Iron Man 3. Coulson learns that Peterson, with his son, has now taken Skye as a hostage and is trying to flee by train. While Ward is preparing for a worst case scenario of taking Peterson out with a bullet, Coulson orders Fitz-Simmons to figure out an alternative way of handling Peterson.
Coulson and Ward are first on the scene to capture Peterson, confronting him in Skye’s van. Peterson uses his super strength to throw the van door at them, running off into the station with Skye and his son. Thinking quickly Skye throws a leg to the groin of a gang walking by, forcing Peterson to step in and beat them up. Next we see the doctor pull up in a car to the station, ordering a man dressed as a policeman to kill Peterson.
During Skye’s diversion, Coulson is able to take Peterson’s son to safety. Peterson drags Skye up to the balcony where the impostor policeman fires at him, knocking Peterson off the balcony. He crashes into a kiosk down below. As the impostor takes aim at Skye, Melinda, with some quick martial-arts moves, takes down the assassin and saves Skye.
Coulson and agents surround Peterson as he gets up from the rubble of the kiosk. With sniper rifle in hand, Ward takes aim at Peterson. Coulson approaches Peterson, lays down his weapon and tells him to come with his team, stating the last person who had Extremis going through him exploded. Peterson persists, stating that he is a good guy and can make a difference. While moving closer to Coulson, now face-to-face, Peterson says he could be a hero. A shot is taken, Peterson is down and Simmons runs up to him to make sure he is still alive. As their alternative way to handle Peterson without having to kill him, Fitz-Simons had given an advanced stun gun to Ward. Coulson makes the call to Agent Maria Hill to say the job is done.
In the last scene we see Coulson and Skye checking in on Peterson’s son, who is now living with an aunt on a farm, waiting for his father to come back. Coulson assures him that his father will return soon. As they get into Coulson’s classic car, he asks Skye if she’s considered his offer to join the team. She admits to not being the best team player. Coulson then gets a call from Ward stating they have a report of a “0-8-4." Coulson states that she has 10 minutes to make up her mind while he revs the engine. “There’s no way we can make it to the airfield in 10 minutes,” Skye says. With a few buttons pushed and switches flicked, the classic car, wheels turning inward, is converted into a flying machine. “The tide is rising," Coulson says as they are whisked away through the field.
Overall, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. truly does fill the void between the movies, giving us glimpses of the non-superhero heroes, and bringing back the beloved character, Agent Coulson. With fast-paced action and signature Whedon dialogue and humor that has helped build the franchise, I can't see this not being a hit.