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"Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.": The Complete First Season DVD Review

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Complete First Season DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season One (2013-14)
Show & DVD Details

Creators: Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen (series); Stan Lee, Jack Kirby (Marvel comics) / Executive Producers: Alan Fine, Stan Lee, Joe Quesada, Jeph Loeb, Jeffrey Bell, Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon, Joss Whedon

Writers: Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, Jeffrey Bell, Paul Zbyszewski, Brent Fletcher, Monica Owusu-Breen, Rafe Judkins, Lauren LeFranc, Shalisha Francis, Joss Whedon, Daniel J. Doyle

Directors: Vincent Misiano, Bobby Roth, David Straiton, Milan Cheylov, Roxann Dawson, Billy Gierhart, Joss Whedon, Jesse Bochco, Jonathan Frakes, Holly Dale, Kevin Hooks, Kenneth Fink, Paul Edwards, John Terlesky

Regular Cast: Clark Gregg (Phil Coulson), Ming-Na Wen (Melinda May), Brett Dalton (Grant Ward), Chloe Bennet (Skye), Iain De Caestecker (Leo Fitz), Elizabeth Henstridge (Jemma Simmons)

Recurring Characters: Bill Paxton (John Garrett), B.J. Britt (Antoine Triplett), J. August Richards (Mike Peterson / Deathlok), Ruth Negga (Raina), David Conrad (Ian Quinn), Saffron Burrows (Victoria Hand), Patton Oswalt (Eric Koenig, Billy Koenig), Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill), Maximiliano Hernαndez (Jasper Sitwell), Glenn Morshower (General Jacobs), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Titus Welliver (Felix Blake), Adrian Pasdar (Colonel Glenn Talbot), Ron Glass (Dr. Streiten), Patrick Brennan (Marcus Daniels), Elena Satine (Lorelei), Shannon Lucio (Debbie), Cullen Douglas (Edison Po), Robert Belushi (Jimmy Mackenzie), Jeffrey Muller (Agent Kaminsky), Mark Berry (Admiral Jolnes), Christine Adams (Agent Weaver), Charles Halford (Agent Shaw)

Notable Guest Stars: Leonor Varela (Comandante Camilla Reyes), Ian Hart (Dr. Franklin Hall), Pascale Armand (Akela Amador), Louis Ozawa Changchien (Chan Ho Yin/Scorch), Austin Nichols (Miles Lydon), Tzi Ma (Agent Kwan), Vincent Laresca (Tony Diaz), Peter MacNicol (Professor Elliot Randolph), Michael Graziadei (Jakob Nystrom), Erin Way (Petra Larsen), Robert Baker (Tobias Ford), Laura Seay (Hannah Hutchins), Rob Huebel (Lloyd Rathman), Dylan Minnette (Donnie Gill), Daniel Zovatto (Seth Dormer), Carlo Rota (Luca Russo), Emily Foxler (Sofia), T.J. Ramini (Mancini), Stan Lee (Debonair Gentleman), Jaimie Alexander (Lady Sif), Brad Dourif (Thomas Nash), Amy Acker (Audrey Nathan), Austin Lyon (Teenage Grant Ward), Josh Daugherty (Kyle Zeller)

Running Time: 939 Minutes (22 episodes) / Rating: TV-PG

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai, Chinese
Suggested Retail Price: $45.99; Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled and Captioned
Five single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s)
Blu-ray & DVD Release Date: September 9, 2014 / Season One Air Dates: September 24, 2013 - May 13, 2014
Also available on Blu-ray ($79.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

Buy Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season One from Amazon.com: DVD • Blu-ray • Instant Video

An ABC television series seemed like an obvious next step for Marvel Studios after their mostly autonomous film universe evolved into Hollywood's biggest empire under the ownership of the Walt Disney Company. In this age of branding, it would have been stranger not to see "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." on the alphabet network's primetime schedule.
This program would serve primetime viewers in a way similar to how the Marvel Cinematic Universe's offerings serve moviegoers now typically twice a year.

As the title implies, the focus of this hour-long live-action series is not on the larger than life costumed superheroes who turned The Avengers into the third highest-grossing film of all time, but the employees of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, the government agency of espionage and law enforcement that has worked with and sometimes against the likes of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and the Hulk.

Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), a binding recurring figure in the feature films who was killed off in The Avengers is resurrected in the pilot episode. We're told he hasn't been dead so much as taking it easy in Tahiti, though there's more to the story than that. Gregg takes top billing among the series regulars, which gives you a good indication of just how close the series is willing to get to the films that have twice grossed over a billion dollars worldwide. Which is not very close. Gregg's Agent Coulson, even in the more badass version of the character featured here, could only be leading man if the unfrozen patriot, hammer-swinging Asgardian, sarcastic industrialist, and short-tempered scientist were all out of the picture. As they are. There are frequent mentions to such marquee superheroes, but our focus remains squarely on the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., who may be smart, strong, and equipped with top-grade technology but remain human at all times.

Meet the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.! Left to right, they are Coulson (Clark Gregg), Skye (Chloe Bennet), Ward (Brett Dalton), Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) and May (Ming-Na Wen).

The regular ensemble is assembled and roles are clearly drawn in the pilot episode. The core includes a hunk and hot girl destined for obvious romance in the serious, square-jawed Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) and Skye (Chloe Bennet), a snarky hacktivist (that's hacker-activist) recruited after leaking and scooping many of the agency's covert actions. Two pale UKers serve as action-averted comic relief: Scottish nerd Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and brainy Brit Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), a duo who is neatly referred to as "Fitz-Simmons." Rounding out the regulars, as the "Mom" to Agent Coulson's "Dad" is Melinda May, a no-nonsense pilot getting in touch with her secret past as a legendary butt-kicker nicknamed The Cavalry. May is played by Ming-Na Wen, the "ER" veteran and voice of Disney's Mulan who simultaneously brings experience and diversity to the cast.

"Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is always aware not to do anything that the countless future movies afforded by Marvel's extraordinary success might. Relying on such devices as corny action, clunky exposition, glaring visual effects, deliberate commercial breaks, promo-ready banter, episode-closing teases and comic tags, the show is never any better than you'd expect the network television version of a Marvel production to be. Almost entirely unknown save for Gregg and Wen, the cast seems to have been picked more for their appearances than their dramatic gifts and comic timing. They all make do with the material, earning a chuckle or tightened fist on occasion, without ever displaying the potential for movie stardom or a big screen adaptation. Unlike the Marvel movies whose characters are a big enough draw to free the filmmakers from convention enough to inject some offbeat creativity, "Agents" is explicitly designed to appeal to the broadest audience possible, leaving little room for surprises or spontaneity.

Hacktivist newbie Skye (Chloe Bennet) and her serious SO Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) seem destined for romance. Or do they? Agents Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) handle comedy, science, and holographic imagery.

The minimal importance of the series to Marvel is evident in whom they get to make guest appearances. Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders, still best known from television) pops up in two episodes. The second episode surprises with a brief, post-climactic appearance by S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), which is fun but hasty and seemingly done without the actor being adequately prepped on the story. The season finale offers Fury more screentime and a better chance to fit in. You won't find anyone bigger than that in Season 1. Even Stan Lee, whose brief cameos are almost the one constant of all modern Marvel comic films, doesn't appear until the second half of the season.
Though Avengers director and cult classic TV creator-showrunner Joss Whedon directs the pilot and takes creator and executive producer credits, his input feels more like a favor than a foundation. Whedon's less accomplished younger brother Jed and Jed's wife Maurissa Tancharoen do the lion's share of writing and showrunning.

You may very well be put off by all I've told you about the show so far, but "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." actually isn't so bad. Even a cheap, significantly watered-down version of a Marvel film makes for a fast, easy, reasonably entertaining watch. One of the nicest things about the series at its start is that it's not heavily serialized. Once the norm, that is unusual nowadays. The design should give the show some potential for an afterlife in syndication, something that typically eludes hour-long dramas. It also makes it easy to treat every episode as its own story. Accordingly, each has a distinct feel, taking the agents to a different international location (never visited, of course, but sufficiently faked) to wrangle or work with the focal guest star or two (typically, working class folk with a powerful gift they must keep under wraps) of that episode. The series clearly values its ensembles and thus lets core cast members take turns being the center of episodes' storylines. There are even shrewd/savvy efforts to incorporate the plots of Marvel's theatrical releases into the show shortly after their big opening weekends.

While it does not fully make good on its promise ("a front row seat to the craziest show on Earth"), the show still compares slightly favorably to much of its network brethren.

Just days before ABC begins airing the second season, The Complete First Season of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." recently hit DVD and Blu-ray alongside the more popular than expected Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

The pilot episode sees unemployed Mike Peterson (J. August Richards) wanting to keep a low profile. Hong Kong street magician Chan Ho Yin (Louis Ozawa Changchien) is recruited and renamed "Scorch" by the "Girl in the Flower Dress."

Disc 1

1. Pilot (44:02) (Originally aired September 24, 2013)

2. 0-8-4 (41:26) (Originally aired October 1, 2013)

3. The Asset (43:04) (Originally aired October 8, 2013)

4. Eye Spy (42:24) (Originally aired October 15, 2013)

5. Girl in the Flower Dress (42:20) (Originally aired October 22, 2013)

An alien virus puts Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) in quarantine and gives her just two hours to live in "FZZT." Norse mythology professor Elliot Randolph (Peter MacNicol) reveals himself to be a bit Asgardian in "The Well."

Disc 2

6. FZZT (42:58) (Originally aired November 5, 2013)

7. The Hub (42:37) (Originally aired November 12, 2013)

8. The Well (42:13) (Originally aired November 19, 2013)

9. Repairs (43:02) (Originally aired November 26, 2013)

10. The Bridge (41:36) (Originally aired December 10, 2013)

An abducted Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) is questioned and tested by Raina (Ruth Negga) about his time in "The Magical Place." Have no fear? Bill Paxton is here!

Disc 3

11. The Magical Place (42:35) (Originally aired January 7, 2014)

12. Seeds (43:02) (Originally aired January 14, 2014)

13. T.R.A.C.K.S. (42:32) (Originally aired February 4, 2014)

14. T.A.H.I.T.I. (42:36) (Originally aired March 4, 2014)

Asgardian escapee Lorelei (Elena Satine) is ready to rumble with her nemesis in a Nevadan bar in "Yes Men." In his first crack at playing twin brothers, Patton Oswalt guest stars as Eric Koenig, a Level 6 S.H.I.E.L.D. operative with big secrets.

Disc 4

15. Yes Men (43:02) (Originally aired March 11, 2014)

16. End of the Beginning (41:14) (Originally aired April 1, 2014)

17. Turn Turn Turn (43:03) (Originally aired April 8, 2014)

18. Providence (43:04) (Originally aired April 15, 2014)

Agent Coulson believes Lola, his 1962 Chevrolet Corvette, can fly... with good reason. Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) shares a two-shot with someone as badass as him: death-faking S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in the Season 1 finale.

Disc 5

19. The Only Light in the Darkness (42:59) (Originally aired April 22, 2014)

20. Nothing Personal (43:00) (Originally aired April 29, 2014)

21. Ragtag (42:58) (Originally aired May 6, 2014)

22. Beginning of the End (42:59) (Originally aired May 13, 2014)

Allegiances are frequently in flux in Marvel's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."

VIDEO and AUDIO

Studios usually send Blu-rays for review these days, but we got DVDs for this title. While that still preferred physical medium typically faces no hurdles in giving new movies and TV a permanent home, I can't help but notice as a predominantly Blu-ray viewer that the added detail and smooth playback of 1080p is missed in this standard definition presentation. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen picture is fine, but no better than that, with its player-dependent shimmering issues and somewhat bland colors.

Similarly, Dolby Digital 5.1 used to represent the peak (and standard) of home theater audio, but these discs' mixes feel kind of lackluster, often making limited use of the sound field despite the genre leanings. Again, there are no issues specific to this release; the sound just usually lacks the impact of Blu-ray's standard DTS-HD master audio and rarely commands your attention. Though no dubs are provided, subtitles are offered in five foreign languages in addition to English SDH.

Saturday Night Live's take on The Avengers is briefly seen in the ABC television special "Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe." Clark Gregg and Chloe Bennet take a look out the bus window at the excitement awaiting them at San Diego Comic-Con.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Video extras are relegated to the last two discs, but three audio commentaries are spread throughout the set.

Disc 2's "FZZT" has a commentary by co-executive producer/episode writer Paul Zbyszewski and "Fitz-Simmons" actors Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge. It is a comical chat,

but one with substance, as the actors recall their audition process, and all three speak highly of the cast's chemistry and celebrate the work of make-up and other departments.

On Disc 3, a commentary for "The Magical Place" features supervising producer/writer Brent Fletcher and actors Clark Gregg and Chloe Bennet. Co-producers/writers Rafe Judkins and Lauren LeFranc are joined by actors Ming-Na Wen and J. August Richards (who recurs as the gifted/cursed Mike Peterson) for a discussion of "T.R.A.C.K.S."

Video extras begin with Disc 4's "Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe" (43:02). An ABC television special that aired on March 18th in "Agents" timeslot, it is designed to define and celebrate the Marvel Cinematic Universe at large. Thus, little time is dedicated to the show, with more spent detailing the evolution from Iron Man into one big interconnected film universe. Notice is paid to the casting, the links, and the Marvel One-Shot shorts. Culling from the riches of behind-the-scenes footage from the films, Comic-Con panels, and an assortment of TV clips (from ABC News to "Saturday Night Live" and "The Colbert Report"), this is a thoughtful and well-produced reflection on the biggest force in modern cinema, one that "Agents" belongs to and its fans are sure to care about. That makes it easier to overlook that the latter parts of the program transparently promote Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy (movies that require no free publicity).

Disc 5 houses the bulk of the bonus material, starting with "Journey Into S.D.C.C." (13:13), which documents the cast's trip in a troubled bus to 2013 San Diego Comic-Con, where an "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." panel teased the series to palpable excitement. The behind-the-scenes views of and reflections on this promotional excursion is more interesting than the usual fan-friendly panel Q & A itself, though we get glimpses of that too.

Jaimie Alexander (Thor's Lady Sif) provides a Field Report on her Asgardian Bar Fight scene. It's got to be the outtakes reel if Ming-Na Wen is laughing.

Five Field Reports shorts, presumably produced for the show's official website, offer behind-the-scenes looks at certain days of location filming (those with stunts, pyrotechnics, fight choreography, and the like) with cast and crew comments. They are "The Malibu Jump" (2:54), "The Bridge" (3:39), "Asgardian Bar Fight" (3:07), "Classified" (4:16), and "Cello Duet" (3:46).

VFX Progressions present two scenes -- "Lola Takes Flight" (1:09) and "Free Falling" (1:36) -- with split-screens illustrating the different steps used to bring the effects to life.

"Bloopers of S.H.I.E.L.D." (6:31) preserves the verbal fumbles and general tomfoolery you knew such a series had to spawn. Profanity is bleeped, a middle finger and slates are blurred, but tension is cut and fun is had.

Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) disturbs a meditating Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) in this deleted scene. The DVD's menus are designed like S.H.I.E.L.D.'s database.

Finally, eight short deleted scenes (6:56) are identified by title and the episode they were intended for. They're mostly character moments,
not story-changers, but Fitz-Simmons fans may appreciate hearing those characters discuss one another.

Disc One opens with trailers for Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Disc Five's Sneak Peeks listing repeats those and follows them up with a dramatic ABC promo.

The menus are creatively designed like S.H.I.E.L.D. computer systems, with three-dimensional designs of "The Bus" and weapons plus materializing and disappearing episode stills.

I can't tell you anything about the set's packaging because Marvel continues to send review discs to critics in paper envelopes without the official retail packaging. I would imagine final product offers something more typical and sturdy for these blandly labeled silver discs.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. look forward to a second season.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

While it never inspires the passion or fandom of Marvel's films, "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is a harmless diversion. This globe-trotting sci-fi-action-drama lacks the budget and superhero star power to deliver the entertaining thrills of the big screen counterparts, but it's passable for a television approximation.

The DVD offers good extras, adequate picture and sound, and creative menus. Those who are certain they like the show and would want to revisit it should be pleased by either this or the significantly more expensive Blu-ray release. But you might be better off picking up two or three of the franchise's movies for the same price.

Buy Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season One from Amazon.com:
DVD / Blu-ray / Instant Video

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Reviewed September 17, 2014.



Text copyright 2014 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2013-14 Mutant Enemy etc., Marvel Studios, ABC Studios,
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