The moment you’ve been waiting for since our beloved Agent Coulson shuffled off this mortal coil in 2012’s The Avengers is finally here: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the episodic adventures of the Marvel Universe’s black ops brigade’s non-superpowered members, premieres tonight on ABC at 8/7c. Chances are you’re already planning on watching in the hopes that they’ll explain how Agent Coulson cheated death and returned to prime time to stop supervillains dead in their tracks, but in case you want to brush up on your Tesseract trivia and get into the S.H.I.E.L.D. spirit, we have 4 videos that will get you up to Level 10 clearance in no time.
Following the runaway success of 2008’s Iron Man, audiences were eagerly awaiting the next installment of Marvel’s burgeoning Cinematic Universe with wide eyes and raised eyebrows at the suit-clad Clark Gregg and his mysterious mumblings about a shadowy organization called S.H.I.E.L.D. The second MCU offering, Tbe Incredible Hulk, didn’t offer much in the way of S.H.I.E.L.D.-related clues, but a short featured on the Thor Blu-ray a few years later, entitled The Consultant, offered up an insight into how Hulk fit into the grander scheme.
Centering on Tony Stark and two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents – Coulson and Jasper Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernandez), who is introduced in Thor – the short revealed the World Security Council, Marvel’s United Nations stand-in, as the governing body charged with keeping S.H.I.E.L.D. in check. After Hulk’s scuffle with the Abomination, the WSC mandated that S.H.I.E.L.D. meet with General Ross and convince him to remand Emil Blonsky (a.k.a. Abomination) to their custody so he could become a part of the nascent Avengers Initiative. It was their thinking that Blonsky would make a more suitable heavy hitter recruit than Banner, but fortunately for us and Mark Ruffalo, Coulson and Sitwell knew better and decided to send someone in their place. That someone is none other than Tony Stark, who, you may recall had an encounter with General Ross at the end of The Incredible Hulk that lead to Stark purchasing and demolishing a bar so that Ross could no longer drink there and Ross refusing to turn over Blonsky, thus securing the future for our favorite jolly green giant.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer
Despite what you might think, Iron Man 2 wasn’t a complete waste of time; we had constant references to an evolving situation in New Mexico, and we saw Agent Coulson being dispatched to investigate while Black Widow was left to clean up after Tony Stark. It wasn’t until the post-credits scene that we saw what the big fuss was: Thor’s hammer Mjölnir had fallen to Earth. Thor gave Coulson his largest movie role yet up to that point, but it was in the Blu-ray short A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer that he truly shined. The short focused on Coulson squaring off against convenience store robbers while en route to New Mexico from Stark’s Malibu mansion and, rather than offer any substantive plot development, it showcased that even a perceived pencil-pusher like Agent Coulson can kick ass and take names if the situation arises.
This may be more of a history lesson than most, but the fact that Marvel One-Shot Agent Carter was so good that it’s being developed into a standalone TV series is reason enough to watch it. Back before there was S.H.I.E.L.D., it was up to the Strategic Scientific Reserve and engineers like Howard Stark to keep the peace when supernatural, paranormal and Adolf-heiling menaces threatened the world as we know it. Centering on Captain America’s once-upon-a-time love interest, Agent Carter follows the titular Peggy Carter, who is assigned to desk duty following World War II in the wake of Cap’s disappearance. Despite being a more than capable agent in her own right, she’s a woman in what was a man’s world and is relegated to Rolodex duty by her chauvinistic boss. But when an after hours assignment crops up that only she can handle, it’s up to Peggy to prove that she’s up to snuff while impressing S.H.I.E.L.D. founder Howard Stark in the process.
Earlier S.H.I.E.L.D.-centric MCU outings centered on a small group of agents, but offerings like the Marvel One-Shot film Item 47 did their best to reverse that trend. Appearing on The Avengers Blu-ray, Item 47 serves well as a capstone to the Avengers story, revolving around a couple, Bennie (Jesse Bradford) and Claire (Lizzie Caplan), who wind up getting their hands on an errant Chitauri weapon (dubbed “Item 47″ by S.H.I.E.L.D., hence the name), which they then use to knock over a couple of banks. Agent Sitwell returns with marching orders to take the couple out by any means necessary, and quickly finds himself in the middle of a space age shootout. Fortunately for our erstwhile bank robbers, Agent Sitwell is so impressed with how Bennie modified the Chitauri weaponry for human use that he offers the pair a chance to join S.H.I.E.L.D. instead. Personally, I’d like to think that Claire is Party Down‘s Casey starting a new life for herself, but only time will tell.
And there you have it, folks. You have everything you need for tonight’s series premiere short of a DVR-capable Infinity Gauntlet. You may have noticed that we’ve been recapping shows like Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire, and tomorrow we’ll be adding Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to that roster with yours truly serving as The Watcher. The recap will be up early tomorrow morning, so keep a keen eye during tonight’s show and let us know what you think tomorrow or hit me up on Twitter!