Honesty time, folks. The pilot episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was way better than I was expecting.
Sure, the sub-plot about an average Joe (Angel's J. August Richards) turning to unscrupulous scientists to get "superpowers" to support his kid was a bit old hat but really that played a distant second-fiddle to the wonderful "getting the team together" main story.
Full of Whedonesque wit and intelligence, the blend of tight storytelling and humour was reminiscent of the golden days of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Firefly.
Add in the multiple references to Marvel Universe continuity (many nods to "the battle of New York" from Avengers Assemble, Chitauri technology, Dr Erskine's super soldier serum from Captain America, a direct tie-in to Extremis from Iron Man 3 and plenty of other Easter Eggs) that didn't swamp the uninitiated and I think we could be looking at a winning combination.
There were hints at a Big Bad (the rogue police officers in the third act) and the 'mystery' of Coulson's survival after being "killed" by Loki in The Avengers (come on, people, they as good as told us with that "he doesn't know" exchange between Maria Hill and Dr. Streiten - Firefly's Ron Glass - that he's a Life Model Decoy, a fixture of the old S.H.I.E.L.D. comics!) to keep us on our toes.
But to be frank, no matter what I'd thought of the show, the final scene was totally geekgasm-worthy. I may be a middle-aged man, but I had to stifle a squee! I'm now hoping that Lola appears in as many episodes as possible.
Yes, there was more I would have liked to have seen (a mention of Nick Fury would have been nice, but, hey, we got Maria Hill), however the episode was already packed in as tight as possible with all those characters to introduce and a sub-plot to move the action forward.
As to Coulson's team, I'm totally sold on the enigmatic Melinda May (played with kick-ass class by the ageless Ming-Na Wen) and on the fence about the others: I can see myself growing fond of Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) and Skye (Chloe Bennet) because they're the quirky characters I always gravitated towards in earlier Joss Whedon shows but I'm not sure about golden boy Grant Ward (Brett Dalton).
Of course, this is early days and on the strength of this first episode I can see this show running and running. This was a very solid pilot that did its job, now let's see where the show goes next.
My main wish is that it avoids the Lois & Clark/Smallville trap of constantly pitting our heroes against mad scientists, gangsters and uncostumed people who happen to have superpowers or advanced technology.
As the Marvel movies have shown: it's totally feasible to present a modern audience with characters in costumes.
Technology and design has advanced to such a degree that it really is possible to bring comic book action to life on screen.
There's clearly a talented design team at work on this show - just look at all the wonderful S.H.I.E.L.D. toys the stars had to play with - so surely, even on a TV budget, they can come up with supervillain costumes that look like they've stepped out of the pages of a Marvel comic.