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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (season 1)

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Template:Str sub
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Promotional poster and home media cover art
Starring
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 22
Release
Original channel ABC
Original release September 24, 2013 (2013-09-24) – May 13, 2014 (2014-05-13)
Season chronology
Next →
Season 2
List of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episodes

The first season of the American television series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is based on the Marvel Comics organization S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division), revolves around the character of Phil Coulson and his team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, who are assigned to several dangerous cases. The cases are centered around Project Centipede and its leader, The Clairvoyant, while Coulson also searches for answers concerning his mysterious resurrection after dying in The Avengers. It is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), sharing continuity with the films of the franchise. The season, which aired on ABC from September 24, 2013, through May 13, 2014, over 22 episodes, was produced by ABC Studios, Marvel Television, and Mutant Enemy Productions, with Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, and Jeffrey Bell serving as showrunners.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was picked up for a full season by ABC in May 2013, and filming took place primarily in Los Angeles. Clark Gregg reprises his role as Coulson from the film series, and is joined by principal cast members Ming-Na Wen, Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestecker, and Elizabeth Henstridge, while several other characters from MCU films and Marvel One-Shots also appear throughout the season. Some episodes directly crossover with the films Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, with the Winter Soldier crossover causing a retooling of the season for its final six episodes.

The series premiere was watched by 12.12 million viewers, the highest ratings received by the first episode of a drama series in the United States since the pilot episode of V in 2009. The season initially received a mixed reception, which also mirrored a decrease in ratings as the season progressed. However, reception grew more positive as the season progressed into its second half, which led to more consistent ratings. A second season began airing on ABC on September 23, 2014.[1]

Episodes

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Cast and characters

Production

Development

In August 2012, it was announced that Marvel's The Avengers director Joss Whedon would be involved in an upcoming project for ABC, set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.[18] A few weeks later, ABC ordered a pilot for a show called S.H.I.E.L.D., to be written by Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, directed by Joss Whedon, and executive produced by Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Tancharoen, Jeffrey Bell and Jeph Loeb. Jed Whedon, Tancharoen and Bell were slated to serve as the series' showrunners.[19][20] Additional executive producers on the series were Joe Quesada, Alan Fine, and Stan Lee. In April 2013, ABC announced that the show would be titled Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,[21] and it was officially picked up to series in May.[22] On October 10, 2013, ABC announced that it had ordered a full season of 22 episodes.[23]

Writing

From day one [Grant Ward] was Hydra in our minds. Now, if that had not worked out, and we felt like he couldn’t have accomplished that, if we felt like we needed other options, we could have changed. Here’s an example of changing. We didn’t know we were going to fall in love with Ruth Negga the way we did as Raina. She came in for episode five but we thought ‘She’s cool’ and so we brought her back. So what would have been somebody else became her, and as we fell in love with her character, we wrote more and more to that. We knew J. Richards was going to be Deathlok but we didn’t know we were going to care about him as much as we did. When you have actors like that, that you really like, you start writing to them... We knew the kind of person we wanted to bring in as The Clairvoyant and we knew we wanted a mislead so we brought in Victoria Hand. The fact that Bill Paxton worked out was fantastic. You’re going to write that character in a certain way because of who the actor is, so that changes, but we did know we were going to introduce The Clairvoyant, that we were going to introduce he was Hydra and then use that to reveal Ward. Those were things we knew loosely.

—Jeffrey Bell, executive producer, on the evolving nature of characters and story lines throughout the season.[24]

In July 2013, Maurissa Tancharoen revealed that Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Jeff Bell, Paul Zbyszewski, Monica Owusu-Breen, Brent Fletcher, Lauren LeFranc, Rafe Judkins, and Shalisha Francis would be the writers for the season.[25]

All the episodes were written with the knowledge that S.H.I.E.L.D. would be destroyed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, with Jed Whedon saying "It’s the kind of thing that if someone told you that concept, you’d think it was a great thing to have happen at the beginning of the show or the end of Season 3. To have it happen in the middle of your first season is an interesting kind of riddle because we had to quickly establish what a regular day at S.H.I.E.L.D. looks like, what [is] it like to go on a mission, say here’s the team, and that there are also different teams all over the world. Then to blow that up, we knew the way to best illustrate that was by putting it on a personal level with our main man Coulson and to put him through the paces as a man dedicated to an organization."[26] Tancharoen elaborated that "We see what it actually looks like for S.H.I.E.L.D. to crumble in Captain America 2, we see the Helicarriers literally barreling through the Triskelion, we see the massive destruction throughout the city, but the benefit of our show is we get to dive into the emotional toll of that. To build our characters up to a point where they have established a bond, and they are working together in a way they’ve never worked together before, and to strip away the foundation that they’ve dedicated their lives to and the trust they’ve now laid with one another, it’s a really fun thing to play."[26]

From the beginning it was decided that one of the main characters would be a traitor, with Jed Whedon saying "When we started conceptualizing the show with Joss, knowing [Captain America: The Winter Soldier] was coming, we knew there would have to be some sort of personal toll, and there’s the version of it where someone gets injured, but since this is an infiltration based on betrayal on a massive scale, we wanted to have it on the small scale, and have it be a really personal dagger to the heart."[26] The individual character arcs were laid out by the series' creative team, with Marvel's only initial guidelines being to work around Captain America: The Winter Soldier.[26]

On whether it was Marvel's idea or the showrunner's idea to have Coulson promoted to Director and tasked with rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D. at the end of the season, Jed Whedon said "They’re one in the same. They have plans for films, and we have plans to intermingle with them, and it’s the name of our show. The second to last episode is called "Ragtag", and that’s a term we’ve used; we wanted to create this ragtag group, but within this giant organization with billions of dollars and support all over the globe and satellite feeds on their luxurious plane. Now we have a chance to start them over and figure out what it’s like to really be a secret again."[26]

Casting

File:Clark Gregg at NY PaleyFest 2014.jpg
Clark Gregg reprises his film role as Phil Coulson, playing the lead character in the television series.

The main cast for the season includes Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson, reprising his role from the film series, Ming-Na Wen as Melinda May, Brett Dalton as Grant Ward, Chloe Bennet as Skye, Iain De Caestecker as Leo Fitz, and Elizabeth Henstridge as Jemma Simmons.[2][27]

In April 2013, J. August Richards, one of the stars of an earlier Joss Whedon series, Angel, was also cast in the pilot in an unspecified role,[28] later revealed to be Mike Peterson,[27] the first live-action portrayal of Deathlok, and a recurring character throughout the season.[29] Buffy the Vampire Slayer actor Nicholas Brendon, another Whedon collaborator, was also reportedly considered for Richards' role.[30] In December 2013, two recurring characters were set to be added to the series, starting with the episode "T.A.H.I.T.I." They were described as "an African-American agent who specializes in combat/weapons, and a high-level S.H.I.E.L.D. agent/munitions expert who has past ties to both Coulson and Ward."[31] On January 13, 2013, Bill Paxton was cast as Agent John Garrett, "a rough-and-tumble former cohort of Agent Coulson with a little bit of attitude and cigar-smoking swagger", for at least four episodes of the season.[32] Jed Whedon said that "We actually discussed Bill Paxton in the room, when we were talking about the character ... Then when he came up as an actual possibility, we couldn't believe it."[33] In February, B.J. Britt was cast as Agent Triplett, described as being an associate of Garrett.[7] Saffron Burrows,[34] David Conrad,[35] and Ruth Negga[10][36] recur as Victoria Hand, Ian Quinn, and Raina, respectively, throughout the season.

In January 2013, Cobie Smulders, who played agent Maria Hill in The Avengers, said that her character may make an appearance in the show and that her commitment to How I Met Your Mother would not prevent her from participating.[37] Smulders reprised her role as Maria Hill in the pilot, with Joss Whedon saying, "I wanted very much to have Cobie in the pilot because as much as anyone else, she is S.H.I.E.L.D. She's cool and commanding, and has the dry humor that plays so well with Clark's."[16] Smulders returned once again in the role in the episode "Nothing Personal".[38] In June 2013, Samuel L. Jackson expressed interest in guest starring as S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury,[39] and subsequently appeared in the second episode "0-8-4".[15] Jackson makes a second appearance in the season finale.[40] During the episode "The Well", Chris Hemsworth appears as Thor via archival footage from Thor: The Dark World.[41][42] Maximiliano Hernández,[14] Titus Welliver,[17] and Jaimie Alexander[13] reprised their roles as Jasper Sitwell, Felix Blake, and Sif, respectively, from previous MCU films and Marvel One-Shots during the season.

Design

Storyboards were used throughout the season, to "put the director, stunts, camera, FX and the crew on the same page", though Joss Whedon did not use them for the pilot. One of the storyboard artists, Warren Drummond, noted the process was different to that on films, because there was limited time to complete the work, and because the storyboard artists were often working with different directors for each episode. Most of the sequences storyboarded were action or science fiction sequences.[43] The main recurring setting for the season is the Bus, a retrofitted Boeing C-17, that serves as both the transportation and headquarters of the titular team. The Bus includes such features as a soundproof interrogation room, a forensics and research lab located on the lower deck, where Fitz and Simmons work, and a cargo hold directly outside the lab where the team parks its SUV and Lola, Coulson's prized 1962 Corvette.[44]

Filming

The pilot was produced almost entirely in Los Angeles to accommodate Joss Whedon's busy schedule.[45] Subsequent episodes were also produced in Los Angeles,[46] as well as Culver City, California,[47] though additional filming took place around the world, including in Paris, France, for "Pilot",[48] and in Stockholm, Sweden, for "Eye Spy".[46]

The stunt coordinator for the season was Tanner Gill.[49] In September 2013, Ming-Na Wen talked about stunts and action scenes on the series, saying "I train. I work out and I have great stunt coordinators and choreographers to help me through every step and with the magic of filmmaking and editing, it all brings about her skills, to another level. That has to be very believable ... I think the hardest part is doing the actual stunts, the stunt-fighting. That's a whole other thing. I'm not really punching out the stunt guy, nor are they hitting me, so it's learning this dance, really, within the fight. It's how to pull back, how to take a hit and make it look real.[50]

As with many Marvel projects, secrecy was a big issue. For instance, it was a challenge keeping Samuel L. Jackson's cameo in "0-8-4" a surprise due to "this age of tweets and spoilers".[51] The showrunners had been exposed to this while working on The Avengers, but with their own series they were able to see "all the details that go into keeping everything under lock and key".[26]

Visual effects

The visual effects supervisor for the season was Mark Kolpack,[47] with Los Angeles-based visual effects company FuseFX the main visual effects vendor. David Altenau was the in-house VFX supervisor for "Pilot" and the first eight episodes, with Matt Von Brock overseeing the computer generated imagery on the show. Kevin Lingenfelser started the season focused on 2D supervising, but took over as lead in-house visual effects supervisor after episode 8. Two separate production management and creative teams were established to work on the show, and though creative leadership stayed consistent during the series, producers, compositors and various artists were able to alternate episodes. This was important because most of the episodes had to be worked on concurrently, either two or three at a time.[52]

File:The Bus from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.png
The Bus is a modified C17 transport plane. The digital model used in the series was designed and created by FuseFX.

For the Bus, Altenau explained that it "has all kinds of S.H.I.E.L.D. technology that is revealed over time as the series progresses. This includes an extra wing and engines in the rear giving the plane the ability to operate vertically for take-offs and landings, and even mid-flight u-turns ... FuseFX was given the opportunity to design the Bus. The design included many features from the start, such as the ability to do vertical take-offs and landing". FuseFX designed the Bus, and "Extreme attention was paid when designing the textures and rigging for this asset. Half a dozen 8k maps make up the details on the plane which allows the camera to get right up to the surface of the plane without any loss of detail. A very complex rig controls every aspect of the plane from the landing gear, engine transformation, doors opening, lighting and even the wings have flex controls for the animators to sell the weight of this massive aircraft. When the engines are in vertical flight mode they have several degrees of rotation which gives the jet a lot of maneuvering ability."[52]

FuseFX also worked on Lola, Coulson’s "vintage 1962 Corvette" which was described as "a classic car and beautiful in its own right, but through digital effects, Fuse has added hovercraft capabilities. When Coulson needs it, the wheel’s rotate into a horizontal position, exposing hidden jet engine ducts that create lifting thrust through the rims of the tires, which double as turbo-fan blades. We worked closely with production to help design the mechanism and the look of the hovercraft engines. It’s Stark technology designed to be consistent with the period aspect of the car."[52] When the real Corvette is shown transitioning to its hover mode, volumetric dust, exhaust, and particle effects are added. Occasionally, FuseFX was required to use a fully digital model of the car, which matches the real vehicle precisely.[47]

Music

In addition to the series' main theme for Coulson, Bear McCreary composed several other themes that he used throughout the season: themes for Mike Peterson and Project: Centipede were introduced in "Pilot";[53] a theme for the Agents as a team was introduced in "0-8-4";[54] the Skye theme was introduced in "The Asset";[55] a theme for both Fitz and Simmons together was introduced in "FZZT";[56] a theme for Victoria Hand and The Hub, which served as the theme for 'Big S.H.I.E.L.D.', as opposed to Coulson's 'little S.H.I.E.L.D.' team, was introduced in "The Hub".[57] McCreary opted not to reprise any themes from the films during the season, notably composing his own themes for the Tesseract and Asgard, which he acknowledged had already appeared in several films.[54][58]

Marvel Cinematic Universe tie-ins

In June 2013, Clark Gregg explained how the series would tie into the Marvel Cinematic Universe films: "...the exciting part is going to be seeing the way that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. interacts with the S.H.I.E.L.D. component in Captain America 2, and the other movies, and whether those movies will then affect our show."[59] Joss Whedon did state that the show would be autonomous from The Avengers, saying "It’s gotta be a show that works for people who haven’t seen the Marvel movies. It will please Marvel fans, I think."[60] He reiterated that sentiment in an interview at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, explaining "It's new characters. It needs to be its own thing. It needs to be adjacent [to The Avengers]... What does S.H.I.E.L.D. have that the other superheroes don't? And that, to me, is that they're not superheroes, but they live in that universe. Even though they're a big organization, that [lack of powers] makes them underdogs, and that's interesting to me."[61]

Ultimately, the season featured several tie-in episodes with Marvel Cinematic Universe films: the episode "The Well" takes place directly after the events of Thor: The Dark World;[62] the episode "T.A.H.I.T.I." introduces the alien race the Kree to the MCU (confirmed as such in the second season), members of which play a significant role in Guardians of the Galaxy;[63][64] and the episodes "End of the Beginning" and "Turn, Turn, Turn" revolve around the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.[65][66] Due to Captain America: The Winter Soldier revealing that Hydra had infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. with sleeper agents, the season sees a retooling for the final six episodes. Regarding the synergy the show has with addressing events from the films, Loeb said "It's an extremely unique experience that doesn't exist anywhere else out there in the entertainment business". The characters face the Hydra issue head on, while experiencing trust issues within themselves. Jed Whedon added that the Hydra element, which the show could not mention until after the release of The Winter Soldier in order to avoid spoiling the film, also attempts to address the lack of characters from the comics, a complaint fans had throughout the season, while also tying established threats such as the Clairvoyant, Project Centipede, and Deathlok, back into Hydra.[67]

Release

Broadcast

Along with the premiere in the United States on ABC, the season began airing in Canada on CTV on September 24, 2013.[68] In the United Kingdom, the season debuted three days later on Channel 4,[69] while it began airing on the Seven Network in Australia on October 2, 2013,[70] and in New Zealand on TV2 on February 16, 2014.[71]

Marketing

Three episodes were screened before their initial air dates: "Pilot" at San Diego Comic-Con International on July 19, 2013,[72] "Eye Spy" at New York Comic Con on October 12, 2013,[73] and "End of the Beginning" at Marvel's PaleyFest panel for the series on March 23, 2014.[74] Beginning with "T.A.H.I.T.I.", all episodes leading up to The Winter Soldier crossover were marketed with the subtitle "Uprising".[75] On March 18, 2014, ABC aired a one-hour television special titled Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe in the place of an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode. The special included promotional footage for then unaired episodes of the season.[76]

"The Art of Level Seven"

File:Agents of SHIELD final Art of Level Seven poster.jpg
The final "The Art of Level Seven" poster, highlighting several changes made to the series since the release of the first official poster.

For the final six episodes, Marvel began the "Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Art of Level Seven" initiative, in which a different image was released each Thursday before a new episode, depicting a first look at a key event from the upcoming episode. Bell stated that the initiative was a way to tie the series back to its comics roots, and was thought of at the beginning of the season. The production team tried to pair specific artists to the teaser posters based on their previous work and how it connected to the themes and emotion of the intended episode.[77] The art also appeared as variant covers to select titles published by Marvel Comics in August 2014. Jeph Loeb stated, "It's exciting to bring this art to life once more, exclusively at comic book stores, and to give fans a chance to own the Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. art in a different format."[78]

The poster for "Turn, Turn, Turn", created by Mike Del Mundo, depicts a maze forming the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo and show title, with a rat inside, hinting ominously at S.H.I.E.L.D.’s corruption and a possible traitor.[77] The poster for "Providence", created by Paolo Rivera, highlights the rise of Hydra by showing a melded Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. logo, and depicts the team divided by Coulson, Raina, and Ward.[79] The poster for "The Only Light in The Darkness", created by Pascal Campion, focuses on Coulson and his cellist lover, Audrey, while also hinting at the villain for the episode, Marcus Daniels.[80] The poster for "Nothing Personal", created by Stephanie Hans, highlights Skye and Ward in a depiction of a moment from the episode, with Deathlok looming over them, and the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo in the background.[81] The poster for "Ragtag", created by Emma Ríos, depicts significant moments in Ward’s life, as well as Fitz–Simmons in danger, and Skye looming behind the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo, as if she is a presence that Ward cannot seem to shake.[82] The poster for "Beginning of the End", created by Phantom City Creative, is reminiscent of the first official poster released, with differences including the characters' order and clothing, the poster's coloring, a broken S.H.I.E.L.D. logo over Hydra's, and Ward being tinted by Hydra.[83]

Home media

The season was released on September 9, 2014, on Blu-ray and DVD. Bonus features included behind-the-scenes featurettes, audio commentary, deleted scenes, a blooper reel, as well as the television special, Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe.[84] On November 20, 2014, the season became available for streaming on Netflix.[85]

Reception

Ratings

No. Title Air date Rating/share
(18–49)
Viewers
(millions)
DVR
(18–49)
DVR viewers
(millions)
Total
(18–49)
Total viewers
(millions)
1 "Pilot" September 24, 2013 4.7/14 12.12[86] 2.3 4.89 7.0 17.01[87]
2 "0-8-4" October 1, 2013 3.3/10 8.66[88] 2.1 4.50 5.4 13.17[89]
3 "The Asset" October 8, 2013 2.9/9 7.87[90] 1.9 4.15 4.8 12.01[91]
4 "Eye Spy" October 15, 2013 2.8/8 7.85[92] 1.7 3.75 4.5 11.60[93]
5 "Girl in the Flower Dress" October 22, 2013 2.7/8 7.39[94] 1.7 3.76 4.4 11.16[95]
6 "FZZT" November 5, 2013 2.5/7 7.15[96] 1.7 3.79 4.2 10.93[97]
7 "The Hub" November 12, 2013 2.2/6 6.67[98] 1.6 3.46 3.8 10.13[99]
8 "The Well" November 19, 2013 2.4/7 6.89[100] 1.6 3.42 4.0 10.31[101]
9 "Repairs" November 26, 2013 2.6/8 9.69[102] 1.3 3.06 3.9 12.75[103]
10 "The Bridge" December 10, 2013 2.1/6 6.11[104] 1.3 3.05 3.4 9.16[105]
11 "The Magical Place" January 7, 2014 2.2/6 6.63[106] 1.4 3.02 3.6 9.65[107]
12 "Seeds" January 14, 2014 2.2/6 6.37[108] 1.5 3.22 3.7 9.59[109]
13 "T.R.A.C.K.S." February 4, 2014 2.2/6 6.62[110] 1.4 3.15 3.6 9.77[111]
14 "T.A.H.I.T.I." March 4, 2014 1.8/6 5.46[112] 1.4 3.11 3.2 8.58[113]
15 "Yes Men" March 11, 2014 2.1/7 5.99[114] 1.4 3.08 3.5 9.07[115]
16 "End of the Beginning" April 1, 2014 2.0/6 5.71[116] 1.4 3.16 3.4 8.88[117]
17 "Turn, Turn, Turn" April 8, 2014 1.9/6 5.37[118] 1.5 3.46 3.4 8.83[119]
18 "Providence" April 15, 2014 2.1/6 5.52[120] N/A N/A N/A N/A
19 "The Only Light in the Darkness" April 22, 2014 1.9/6 6.04[121] 1.4 2.98 3.3 9.02[122]
20 "Nothing Personal" April 29, 2014 2.1/6 5.95[123] 1.2 2.89 3.3 8.84[124]
21 "Ragtag" May 6, 2014 1.9/6 5.37[125] 1.3 2.95 3.2 8.32[126]
22 "Beginning of the End" May 13, 2014 2.0/7 5.45[127] 1.3 3.13 3.3 8.58[128]

As of September 30, 2013, an estimated 22.1 million viewers have watched the premiere episode in the US through live, DVR, encore, and online viewing.[129] In Canada, the premiere saw 2.706 million viewers, the third highest viewership for the week on the network.[68] In the United Kingdom, the episode debuted as the highest rated drama launch of the year,[69] averaging 3.23 million viewers including the +1 channel and recordings viewed the same night, a share of 14.8 percent of people watching TV in the UK at the time.[130] The premiere in Australia was watched by 1.3 million viewers, the top show of the night.[70] In New Zealand, the episode premiered to 326,790 viewers, the fourth highest show of the night, and the most watched show on TV2.[71] By the time the full season was picked up by ABC it ranked as the number one new series of the 2013–14 television season among adults 18–49.[23]

Critical response

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported an 86% approval rating with an average rating of 8/10 based on 43 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is sure to please comic book fans, but the strong ensemble and brisk pacing help to make this better-than-average superhero show accessible to non-fanboys as well."[131] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned a score of 74 out of 100 based on 33 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[132]

The early screening of the pilot at San Diego Comic-Con International was met with a very positive reaction from the crowd.[72] Critically, the initial screening of the pilot was met with mostly positive reviews, though The New York Times‍ '​ Brooks Barnes noted that "what goes over well at Comic-Con does not necessarily work in the real world," especially on a network with "Scandal moms and Dancing with the Stars grandparents".[133] Entertainment Weekly‍ '​s initial reactions were that if everything that made the show appealing— its continuity with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, its continuance of The Avengers storyline, and Whedon's return to television, were stripped from it, the show would still work. However, they also questioned whether the show was accessible enough to attract a wider audience.[134]

Evan Valentine, writing for Collider, divided the season into highs and lows: highs included the Captain America: The Winter Soldier crossover, with Valentine noting that "The creators had clearly known this moment was coming ... and did a great job of capitalizing [on] it," as well as other tie-ins with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and he praised Gregg's performance, stating "What made us fall in love with the character from the first Iron Man to his death in The Avengers is still alive and kicking"; lows of the season included the episodes before the Winter Soldier tie-in, with Valentine feeling that the series "became the show that had to stall its developments and character building to make way for the [tie-in]." He also criticized the rest of the main cast, though he did approve of the guest and supporting cast members, and he criticized the series' use of minor comic book characters and concepts, singling out the costume design for Deathlok as "horrid" and not scary.[135]

Eric Goldman of IGN gave the season a 7.5 out of 10, calling it "a fun, lighthearted, but fairly disposable piece of entertainment", noting that it improved through the season, especially following the Captain America: The Winter Soldier tie-in, and that by the end of the season, the series "was starting to come into its own". Though he found the main cast's performances to all be good, and praised the strong guest and recurring stars, Goldman found the main characterizations to be weak during the first half of the season, and he also criticized the pacing of certain overarching plotlines, noting "the mystery of Coulson’s return, Skye’s parentage, etc. – moved far too slow, with relatively minor revelations treated as though they were big reveals".[136]

Jim Steranko, an artist and writer who worked on 18 of the Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. comic books between 1966 and 1968, was critical of the pilot episode, lamenting that "the show had no menace, no tension."[137] For the second episode, Steranko said that it was "too unfocused to be satisfying," but praised Jackson's cameo as Nick Fury as "an electrifying reminder of what the series could and should be."[138] In contrast, Steranko's opinion of some later episodes in the first season were more positive, congratulating the writer and director of "The End of the Beginning" for "finding an entertaining, bravura groove that finally brings the concept to life",[139] and saying of the next episode "I was concerned that last week’s bravura transformation was only a fluke, but it was apparent from the opening moments that the exec lineup’s new image-and-edit policy was in play."[140] Overall, however, he found season one to be "22 episodes of 'sanctified' plot and character crumbs being salted with terminally-sluggish velocity (into anemic 'standalone' stories)".[141]

Analysis

Both the way the series was affected by the destruction of S.H.I.E.L.D. in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the way its characters are depicted rebuilding the organization have been noted by some:

Terri Schwartz, writing for Zap2it following the airing of "Nothing Personal", called the series "incredible", stating that it "got off to a rocky start", but that changed once the Winter Soldier tie-in took place. Schwartz felt that the season earned many of its early criticisms from having to "bide time" until the crossover, but "Now that it has the freedom to be the series it was always intended to, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has turned into a fantastic show. Its connection to Marvel's Cinematic Universe is clear: This is where viewers get to see the fallout of Hydra's S.H.I.E.L.D. infiltration. And the fact that the movie so influenced the show is game-changing in terms of how the mediums of film and television can be interwoven."[142]

Merrill Barr, reviewing "Beginning of the End" for Forbes, reiterated this sentiment, stating that "the series finally stands its ground and stakes its claim as a member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ... By establishing world changing consequences that don't just affect one MCU franchise, but all of them." He continues saying that "what Marvel's daring to say with this season finale is "everything we do matters, and you need to pay attention to all of it." ... It's been a long journey, and there's no question many viewers' patience wore thin toward the end, but that never stopped Marvel from pushing forward to one of the most entertaining hours of television this season and finally cementing a deserved place on the small screen."[143]

Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times felt that the series "created a whole new sort of television show: One that must support, and change with, the plot twists of its film family ... never before has television been literally married to film, charged with filling in the back story and creating the connective tissue of an ongoing film franchise." She stated that the Captain America: The Winter Soldier crossover "infused S.H.I.E.L.D. with a new energy, and helped explain, perhaps, why the show took so long to find its footing—in the writers' room at least ... That Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was able to succeed as a story both independent and ancillary is all but miraculous." She concluded that the series "is now not only a very good show in its own right, it's part of Marvel's multiplatform city-state. It faces a future of perpetual re-invention, and that puts it in the exhilarating first car of television's roller-coaster ride toward possible world domination."[144]

Accolades

Year Awards Category Recipient Result Ref.
2013 Critics' Choice Television Awards Most Exciting New Series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Won [145]
Television Critics Association Awards Most Promising New Fall Series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Won [146]
2014 Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing – Short Form: Music Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nominated [147]
People's Choice Awards Favorite Actress in a New TV Series Ming-Na Wen Nominated [148]
Favorite New TV Drama Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Special and Visual Effects "T.A.H.I.T.I." Nominated [149]
Satellite Awards Best Television Series or Miniseries Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nominated [150]
Saturn Awards Best Network Television Series Release Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nominated [151]
Teen Choice Awards Male Breakout Star Brett Dalton Won [152]
Visual Effects Society Awards Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program "Pilot" Nominated [153]

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General references
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External links

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