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Coulson Lives: How The Agent Survived 'The Avengers' Revealed In Reviews Of 'Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.'

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist September 24, 2013 at 2:30PM

If you're wondering why the comic book stores are empty tonight, it's because fans across the nation will be tuned in to watch the series premiere of "Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D." The comic studio is trying their lucky with a weekly format, taking the beloved Agent Coulson, played by Clark Gregg, and making him the center of the action. But one the sticking point for many will be: didn't he die in "The Avengers"? Wasn't that the crucial motivation in getting the team to work together to defeat Loki? While the answer to both those questions is "yes," it's now moot as the character lives, but you won't believe how it's being explained away.
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Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

If you're wondering why the comic book stores are empty tonight, it's because fans across the nation will be tuned in to watch the series premiere of "Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D." The comic studio is trying their lucky with a weekly format, taking the beloved Agent Coulson, played by Clark Gregg, and making him the center of the action. But one the sticking point for many will be: didn't he die in "The Avengers"? Wasn't that the crucial motivation in getting the team to work together to defeat Loki? While the answer to both those questions is "yes," it's now moot as the character lives, but you won't believe how it's being explained away. **SPOILERS AHEAD**

Reviews have dropped in advance of the airing tonight, and a couple of them have revealed just how Coulson has managed to cheat death. According to JoBlo, "Coulson reveals that he had 'only stopped breathing for 40 seconds' after his run in with the 'Asgardian Mussolini' aka Loki in 'The Avengers' and that he had recovered for a few weeks in Tahiti." Though, the AV Club cautions, "the pilot is already building a minor mystery around just how he successfully came back from being struck by the full fury of Loki’s wrath." So let the speculation begin. 

As for the actor, he too teases that there may be more behind the fake death of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. "By the time 'The Avengers' rolled around, [Coulson] was the one who knew most of the superheroes so he was the one tasked with bringing them altogether. When I got the call explaining how he brought them altogether, I realized how much I had grown attached to the guy. I was a little heartbroken. Then I got another call [saying] you may be being reborn in a different medium," Gregg told the LA Times, adding: "Certainly after dying in 'The Avengers,' that’s a big discussion that has to be had. What’s clear is that he has an idea why he’s walking around, about the close call that he had, but he clearly has not been told the full truth. I think that’s such a compelling part of the show to me. I feel like the things that happen to us, no matter how much we block them out, a part of us knows, and that’s really interesting to play with. He’s had an experience that was near death, it might have been very near death—it may have even been death—I don’t know yet. Any one of those versions means he’s going to be different and have a different take on the world."

Certainly it will provide a lot for fans to chew on, and the actor notes he will not be appearing in "Thor: The Dark World" or "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." But what are critics saying about the show? Well, word is certainly mixed. Check out a roundup of reviews below and tune in tonight at 8 PM on ABC to see for yourself.

AV Club: "The idea of a superhero procedural is a good one, and there are enough fun and funny moments in the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot to suggest the kind of show that will settle into a groove with time. Yet there are also moments that seem boring, cautious, and predictable....Even in its best moments, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. feels like the product of several hundred cooks."

Slate: "The shame is that a series about a band of heroes trying to hunt down more potential heroes could be the perfect antidote to TV’s own overly dark cliché: the anti-hero. But instead it resists the call, too self-serious to be really goofy, and yet too fan-boyish to rescue even one hour of television from mediocrity."

HitFix: "It's... okay—quippy in that pleasingly distinctive Joss Whedon way, with a few intriguing ideas about life in a superhero world, but with a cheap look and mostly bland supporting characters. In particular, a lot is asked of both Brett Dalton (as a solo action hero type struggling to play well with others in Coulson's new globe-trotting team) and Chloe Bennet (as a rogue hacker understandably suspicious of a powerful, shadowy, vast spy organization like SHIELD) as two of the show's most important characters...and not a lot is given in return."

PopMatters: "Whedon’s well-known cleverness makes it possible that S.H.I.E.L.D. will develop into an entertaining series, offering something like a mini-Marvel movie every week. But, like the best comic books, it shouldn’t take itself so seriously."

New York Times: "The first week’s adventure feels perfunctory, though, even given the constraint of introducing characters and back story, and most of the team members are still strictly two-dimensional. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” doesn’t need to emulate the Marvel movies, but it will need to show pretty quickly that it has at least as much wit and style as its TV comparables: shows like “Heroes” (the first season) and “Alphas,” on the superhero side, or “Alias” and “Covert Affairs,” on the spy side."

Variety: "How is it?...Okay...“Agents of SHIELD” resembles any number of other series from the past built around crack teams charged with facing down fantastic threats — from “The Man From UNCLE” to “The X-Files” to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s” Scooby gang—albeit with a souped-up level of hardware."

JoBlo: "The end result is a show that feels very much like a Joss Whedon TV show, only with a superhero angle (with a great "heroic" score by The Walking Dead's Bear McCreary). It’s low key enough that it can exist outside the big mega heroes and the characters are diverse and quirky enough to want to see more from them."

This article is related to: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Television, TV News, Clark Gregg


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