The reviews are in: Here's what 16 mainstream critics thought of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Contributed by
Jun 25, 2015

We're just hours away from the series premiere of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. So, should you bother watching?

The Joss Whedon-helmed pilot for Marvel's Avengers-linked TV venture is easily one of the most-anticipated and most-talked about events of the fall TV season, but what if it doesn't hit the same blockbuster mark that its movie counterpart did? What if it turns out to be a huge disappointment? What if it's an ill-fated notice that Marvel should stick to movies?

Well, we won't know for sure until we see the episode for ourselves, but in the meantime we've got the words of various major TV critics to guide us, and they seem to mostly agree that the pilot is indeed worth watching. Not everyone was enthusiastic about it, but nearly all of the big TV critics who wrote advance reviews of the show seemed to indicate that it's worth checking out, and that's definitely encouraging. So, check out quotes from more than a dozen mainstream critics below, and click through to read their full reviews. 

"On the positive side, Agents of SHIELD, which was co-created by Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, has a nice combination of Whedonesque humor and entertaining action. It's a fun hour and calling it 'good but not great' has more to do with expectations in the wake of the Marvel movies than anything else." -- Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter

"There’s certainly no shortage of action and fabulous gizmos, as well as some sly comic-book references (Spider-Man’s 'With great power comes great responsibility' line gets a bit of a rewrite) thrown in for the faithful. Cut through the slick packaging, though, and this is yet another twist on a procedural, albeit with a few mythological elements to sweeten the experience." -- Brian Lowry, Variety

"The setup is slow, but the show captures shadowy Coulson, sarcastic Grant (Brett Dalton), combat vet Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), and Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), whose superpower is Britishness. Bonus points for wry dialogue by co-creator Joss Whedon, who quips, 'With great power comes… a ton of weird crap that you are not prepared to deal with.'" -- Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly

"Agents of SHIELD should be the closest the Fall 2013 TV season gets to a sure hit but there's one potential complicating factor: It's a show about a team of co-workers that's going up against CBS's "NCIS," the No. 1 scripted drama in all of prime time that is also about a team of co-workers." -- Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"One other reason the show will do well: It doesn't feed off post-9/11 cultural unease as so many other dramas do. Homeland, Person of Interest, Scandal and others have the paranoia division well-covered. S.H.I.E.L.D. is the anti-Homeland, in a way: It's all about making TV fun again." -- David Wiegand, San Francisco Chronicle

“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. launches with a plucky, adventuresome and remarkably non-pretentious pilot episode, but if you haven’t been reading Marvel Comics lately (or at all — Stan Lee first dreamed up a S.H.I.E.L.D. story line in 1965), then the show can feel somewhat exclusionary and, frankly, a little too cornball and cutesy about its own geekiness. There’s an opportunity here to riff on the contemporary issue of government intrusion and Wikileaks paranoia, but, in its first episode at least, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. seems more like a Comic-Con afterparty in which not enough people came dressed as superheroes." -- Hank Stuever, The Washington Post

"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the television event of the year; giving you everything you look for from a TV show: action, laughs, a touch of mystery, great writing and acting, and, most importantly, it's the most entertaining new offering this season. Seriously, we dare you not to smile while you watch the series premiere." -- Tierney Bricker, E! Online

"...the first episode is polished, fast-moving and at least moderately entertaining, which is no surprise, given that it was directed by the gifted storyteller Joss Whedon, whocreated the show along with Jed Whedon (his brother) and Maurissa Tancharoen (who is married to Jed). But there’s still an inevitable residue of disappointment." -- Mike Hale, The New York Times

"Those of us who prefer the quippy moments to the big flashy explosions will have to hope the (expensive looking) pyrotechnics of the pilot aren’t Whedon’s ongoing focus." -- Joanne Ostrow, The Denver Post

“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. should round up all the Joss Whedon stragglers." -- Sara Smith, The Kansas City Star

"S.H.I.E.L.D. boasts a must-watch pilot that will forcibly remind viewers of what network TV can still do, if budget is a secondary concern. As with "The Avengers," Whedon's ear and sensibilities match the material perfectly -- that high-velocity back-and-forth snark that illuminates character and motive, even when you don't always know exactly what someone just said." -- Verne Gay, Newsday

"The production values look Hollywood-blockbuster expensive, the dialogue is that signature Whedon banter, and the only question is whether a comics adventure can still fly on the small screen. (Remember No Ordinary Family? Neither does anyone else.)" -- Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone

"Anyone familiar with Whedon's TV work will be happy to see some of his best traits on display: the sideways humor that surprises while staying true to plot and character; the efforts to ground the fantasy in real-world emotion; the belief that events in past episodes (and movies) must have repercussions in the present. And anyone who knows his work may also be willing to take it on faith that the various members of Coulson's team, now largely indistinguishable ciphers, will eventually become as real and whole as the members of Buffy's Scooby Gang." -- Robert Bianco, USA Today

"...the script, by Joss, Jed and Tancharoen, with Joss directing, is a mite too pleased with itself. Joss Whedon has made a career of producing ensemble pieces with quirky characters in bizarre circumstances who are quick of wit. Here, the jokes seem off and the actors seem ill-suited to spout them." -- Dan Greenfield, The New York Post

"Co-created by fanboy favorite Joss Whedon, the show’s pricey-looking pilot caters to both comic book geeks and mainstream viewers with its witty writing and special effects. Whether it’s able to sustain that for a whole season, only someone with Level 7 clearance knows." - Lori Rackl, The Chicago Sun-Times

"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. To be sure, Whedon’s series have rarely begun with their best foot forward—both the Dollhouse and Angel pilots are bigger messes than this episode—but even when his shows are messy, they feel like they’re trying something new. Even in its best moments, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. feels like the product of several hundred cooks." -- Todd VanDerWerff, The A.V. Club

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premieres tonight at 8/7C on ABC. Will you be watching?

Make Your Inbox Important

Like Comic-Con. Except every week in your inbox.

Sign-up breaker