Melinda May Is Going To Be My Favorite: Let’s start with the thing I loved the most before we get into some of the stickier wickets. There are a lot of reasons to love a Whedon (or Whedon-adjacent) project. The pitter patter of little joking beats. The deep reverence for a certain brand of geek sensibility. But the thing that hooked me hardest on Buffy The Vampire Slayer as a teenage girl was the joy of having an unmitigated bad-ass female hero to latch onto. Those heroes are less rare these days, and there are plenty of kick-ass ladies we can point to. But there was a teenaged part of me that sat up and took notice when Melinda May (played by the glorious Ming-Na) handed that henchman his ass. She’s phenomenal. Like Michelle Rodriguez with a slightly sunnier glower. I can’t wait to see what they do with her.
Agent Coulson Lives! Or Does He?: But of course, the most familiar, welcome face in last night’s episode was Phil Coulson as played by the phenomenal Clark Gregg. I’m a huge fan of Gregg’s and, in my opinion, he was absolutely the best part of Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. Plumb stole the show. Naturally, the big question leading up to the premiere was how, exactly, Agent Coulson could star when he kicked the bucket so poignantly in The Avengers. One explanation the show gives us is that Coulson didn’t die at all but that Nick Fury used his apparent death to rally the troops. The second, more sinister explanation has to do with Tahiti. (If, you know, Tahiti is code for “Agent Coulson is totally a clone or, possibly, a robot.”)
Anyway, whatever reasoning they cook up, I’m grateful to have Agent Phil Cloneson running the ship. It’s as if there were a show with Giles in the lead. And who wouldn’t want that? Gregg is wry and enthusiastic with cracker jack line readings and some slick moves. His delivery of the rather mawkish Confrontation Speech made it totally work for me. Let’s hope they keep the focus on him and off the shiny-haired new kids.
Charles Gunn Lives! Or Does He?: I hope we devotees are treated to a continual parade of Whedon regulars. This episode saw both J. August Richards (Charles Gunn from Angel) and Ron Glass (Shepherd Book from Firefly). Richards was pretty solid in a pretty thankless and familiar story of a man whose super powers get out of his control. But that opening jump was fairly swanky and thank god he saved Lindsay From The OC so she can live to lip-glossily threaten lives another day.
Okay, We’re Going To Be Calling Back To The Avengers: Like Iron Man 3, the plot of this show is clouded over by the fact that all our characters are living in a post-disaster world. A lot of show and films have evoked 9/11 in the past decade, but none quite so effectively (in my mind) as Iron Man 3. The idea of “The Battle For New York” is still quite prevalent if less personally traumatic in this series. Though how could it not be personally traumatic given that Coulson is barely a survivor of it? Between their moments of sharp banter, our heroes carry with them the air of grim survivors.
Oh, We’re Going To Be Calling Back To ALL The Movies: The complicated web they’re weaving between TV show, film franchise and comic book history is fairly unprecedented. It must have been tough to draw on all that mythology while both keeping the plot fresh and interesting for veterans of the comic and accessible for newcomers. But the “bad guy” in this episode (Dr. Lindsay From The OC) was experimenting with Extremis. Which you might remember either from Iron Man 3 or the “Iron Man” arc from 2005-2006. Once again, I don’t know if they went with something moviegoers would recognize in order to create an air of familiarity, but I look forward to the ways in which they eventually branch out.
The Blandly Attractive Girl Was Better Than I Expected: I thought at first that she might have a case of the Dushku, but relative newcomer Chloe Bennet got some good line deliveries in there and she’ll only get stronger.
The Blandly Attractive Guy Was Not: Blue Steel on the other hand? Oh I’m not a fan. Like I said above, let’s keep the focus on Coulson. Also, Dollhouse fans, try not to wish too hard that Skye and Grant were being played by Dichen Lachman and Enver Gjokaj respectively.
Adorable, Accented Tech Deathwatch: Aren’t they the CUTEST? Just the most adorable combination of Topher and Kaylee and Andrew? With accents!? And they come with a pre-assigned couple-y nickname! My heart!
Of course, this ain’t my first rodeo. Don’t grow too attached, folks. Whedon always kills the ones you love. I’ll have my fingers crossed that he takes out Blue Steel, but in my heart of hearts I know one of these two is likeliest to fall before the season’s over.
At Least The Whedons Are Aware Of Their Own Reputation: I choose to believe that the following was a sharp little nod to the rabidity of fandom surround the brothers Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen.
I imagine Joss had a fairly heavy hand in this pilot and will have less time to be as deeply involved going forward. And while Jed and his wife Maurissa are fantastic and brilliant, they’re not exactly Original Flavor Whedon, are they? So what we might end up with is something that’s a little less Buffy and a little more Chuck. And you know what? I’m okay with that.
Didn’t Love That Ending: I’d like the show to try a little less to look so cinematic. No matter what the budget, this is still a TV show and while I enjoyed the dramatic fall in front of the mural, I was not really a fan of that fight scene in Union Station. I was even less of a fan of this ending. Is Lola going to have to fly everywhere now? Won’t we be disappointed if she doesn’t? Does she run on Mr. Fusion? Didn’t it look a tiny bit cheesy? I suppose we could do a lot worse.