“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” might be a mouthful of a show title, but it’s also quite descriptive. The top-secret Joss Whedon project tells the story of a team of agents in the Marvel law enforcement agency S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) tasked with investigating strange and unknown phenomenons around the world.
It’s been an ultra-secretive operation since its inception — especially since its main character, Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) supposedly died in “The Avengers” movie — something that’s doubtful to change as the show goes on. It’s going to spark plenty of theories about literally every aspect of its storyline — including, for example, what even happened to Coulson after he “died” and before he went back to work with a group of people who need a higher clearance level than the actual superheroes to know he’s still alive — but Whedon tells reporters his policy is strictly silence.
“I’m not going to confirm or deny anybody’s ideas,” Whedon told a small group of reporters after a screening of the “S.H.I.E.L.D.” pilot last month. He hears enough theories that “somebody somewhere is going to be right, but I’m not going to say when that happens. I’m not going to even blink.”
The wait to see exactly what the new “S.H.I.E.L.D.” world looks like will be over once the highly anticipated series premieres on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 8/7c on ABC, so here are five things to know about “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.“:
1. Secrecy. Forget about plot leaks — secrecy on this set is as tight as an actual military operation. Heck, the team won’t even confirm where they shoot, let alone what they’re shooting. (They will confirm that they are shooting a television show, but that’s about it.) That means no advance screeners for press, and episode descriptions as vague as a “next week on ‘Mad Men’” teaser.
2. Procedure. The show may be set in the Marvel universe, giving it all the trappings and mythology of an “Avengers” movie, but this is not an “Avengers” TV show. “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is, at its core, a plain old procedural. Each week there’s a bad guy to stop and a crime to solve, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents just have fancier equipment than any “CSI” team you’ve ever seen before.
3. Family. “S.H.I.E.L.D.” may be Joss Whedon’s brainchild, but the man’s busy shooting approximately 16 movies (or at least just “Avengers 2″). Whedon’s enlisted his brother, Jed, and his sister-in-law, Maurissa Tancharoen, to run the show on a day-to-day basis. “When we did ‘Dr. Horrible,’ and even when we worked on ‘Dollhouse,’ we very much had that completing each other’s sentences thing,” Joss says. “I’m reading every script and every story and giving rewrites. I’m doing all the stuff, I just can’t be in the room every day. Knowing I have a group that’s going to push it forward and shares this hard-to-convey idea of exactly how I want this show to feel, it’s a great relief. It’s why you do television — you build these families; you find people who are not just going to further your vision, they’re going to enhance it in ways you didn’t see coming.”
4. Girl Power. Sure, Agent Coulson’s at the center of the “S.H.I.E.L.D.” action, but like Whedon’s other shows, strong women provide much of the intellectual heft. There’s Ming-Na Wen, who plays a S.H.I.E.L.D. superagent lured out of retirement, Chloe Bennet as savvy computer hacker Skye, and Elizabeth Henstridge as Agent Simmons, one half of the gang’s resident tech expert team. Henstridge tells xfinityTV that the fact that the tech nerd is traditionally a male role isn’t even brought up. “It’s not even an issue,” she says. “It’s not even raised in the show and I don’t think it should be. It’s not remarkable. Women can do everything. I think it’s great — Joss champions women, and he writes great parts for women.”
5. Technology. The pilot is set after the battle of New York we saw in “The Avengers.” Coulson’s hand-picked team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are tracking down a man who has gained what ABC’s episode description calls “extraordinary powers,” but we’ll go so far as to tell you that the powers he acquires will be familiar if you’ve seen the most recent Marvel summer blockbuster. It’s that tie-in that sets the tone for the new series — it’s taking known elements of the Marvel universe and presenting them in a way that will play out on television instead of on the big screen.
“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” premieres Thursday, Sept. 24 at 8/7c on ABC.