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Recap / Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S1 E1 "Pilot"

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Coulson confronts Peterson.

The pilot episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

After the events of The Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson assembles a small team of agents to investigate a mysterious group called the Rising Tide. In doing so, they encounter Mike Peterson (J. August Richards), a laid-off factory worker who has acquired superhuman powers.


  • Action Bomb: The source of the explosion in the building that Mike Peterson saves a woman from. It's due to Extremis.
  • All Your Powers Combined: The Centipede device is a combination of gamma radiation (The Incredible Hulk), super soldier serum (Captain America: The First Avenger), alien tech (the Chitauri), and Extremis (Iron Man 3). This is lampshaded, comparing it to taking every known source of superpowers and throwing it in a blender.
  • Arc Words: "Tahiti. It's a magical place," makes its first appearance.
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  • Artistic License – Physics: Lola and the Van in Black are parked on the Bus's loading ramp without any tie-down straps or other standard load locking mechanism. Pilots of cargo-carrying aircraft don't permit this. For an example of what happens when the straps aren't good enough, see this.
  • Batman Cold Open: The opening infiltration with Ward.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: The burning building victim is looking pretty polished.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Early on, Ward notes he's good at disarming explosives, and would prefer single-man demolitions to working in a team. Eventually, the team finds out that there is a bomb involved. It's Extremis-driven Mike.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Coulson is calm, collected, and reserved in just about all circumstances, but when Simmons explains that they can't keep Mike from dying, he gets very loud and angry.
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  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The doctor involved in Project Centipede. It's the beautiful woman who Mike saved.
  • Blindfolded Trip: How Skye is recruited.
  • Blofeld Ploy: A non-lethal variation. Coulson describes in detail the truth serum he apparently plans to use on Skye, then jabs Ward with it so he'll have to answer her questions.
  • Can't Stop the Signal: Skye encourages Mike to go public with his gifts, believing the publicity will protect him from S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • Captain Obvious: Ward is told of a danger of incoming hostiles...while he is being attacked by them. He promptly lampshades this.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The "Night-Night" gun comes in handy at the end.
    • A longer term one is set when Skye secretly grabs a SIM card from her van and hides it. It's not until "Girl in the Flower Dress" that we find out what's on it.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: Parodied:
    Skye: With great power comes... a ton of weird crap that you are not prepared to deal with.
  • Continuity Nod: When Simmons asks Ward if he's excited to join them on their "journey into mystery", he responds "It's like Christmas." Tony Stark said that when talking about the new Arc Reactor he was building in The Avengers.
  • Creepy Centipedes: While no actual centipedes are featured, the villains have this motif.
  • Disney Death:
    • Coulson. He was officially declared dead and then he walks out of the dark hallway.
    • At the end of the episode, Mike gets shot in the head by Ward even though the situation was going calmly. The rest of The Team is distraught and worries he's dead... until they see that Ward just used a tranquilizer gun.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Skye tries to use this while being interrogated by Ward. The Truth Serum made him say "I mask my pain in front of beautiful women to protect my masculinity."
  • Double Entendre: Skye tries to get Mike to embrace his powers through noting that the woman he saved wanted to thank him... or to "thank" him.
  • The Easy Way or the Hard Way: Spoofed:
    Ward: There are two ways we can do this.
    Skye: [mocking] Ooh, is one of them the easy way?
    Ward: No.
    Skye: ...oh.
  • Emerging from the Shadows: Coulson, which he promptly gives a thorough Lampshade Hanging.
    Coulson: Sorry, this corner was really dark and I couldn't help myself. [beat] I think a bulb is out or something.
  • Exact Words: The Centipede lab was leased as a "self-empowerment center", which is technically true: It's a place you go to be given superpowers.
  • Female Gaze: Second degree regarding Thor.
    Ward: I don't think Thor is... technically a god.
    Hill: Then you haven't been near his arms.
  • Fly-at-the-Camera Ending: Courtesy of Lola.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Agent Hill's ID shows her birthday as "1982ARP04." Colbie Smulder's birthday is one day earlier: April 3, 1982.
  • Groin Attack: Skye kicks some poor guy in the nuts and pretends that Mike encouraged her to do so, so the guy's friends would attack Mike while she gets away.
  • Ground-Shattering Landing: Mike does this during his initial rescue. It doesn't have attention called to it at first, but we later see Agent May looking over at the dual footprint craters.
  • Heroic Fire Rescue: The episode starts with a classic "burning building" scenario. However, it is later revealed that there's more to the rescue than just saving an innocent woman.
  • Hero's First Rescue: Mike Peterson's heroic debut is climbing up the side of a burning building to rescue a woman trapped in the top floor. The scene provides the image on the trope page.
  • Hologram: The team uses videotape footage and a holographic computer simulation to recreate a laboratory explosion.
  • Instant Sedation:
    • Played for Laughs in a variation with the QNB-T16 Truth Serum, which is lampshaded by Ward.
      Ward: My God that stuff works fast.
    • Double Subverted with the Night-Night Gun. Simmons says that she can't cause instantaneous paralysis with its mechanism, but, as revealed at the end of the episode, it can do just that.
  • Monster of the Week: More like Metahuman of the Week, but this is true of Mike. The actual villains are whoever was behind Project Centipede.
  • Mythology Gag:
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Centipede.
  • Never Tell Me the Odds!:
    Simmons: We've a couple of hours at most, there's no way that we could possibly—
    Coulson: Don't ever tell me that there's no way!
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Skye encourages Mike to embrace his powers and try becoming a full-on public superhero. He takes it to heart, seeing himself as the hero and everyone opposing him as the bad guy.
  • Obliviously Evil: Mike Peterson's Sanity Slippage leads him to believe that his Jumping Off the Slippery Slope is his Super Hero Origin.
  • Off-the-Shelf FX: Actual Avengers action figures from Hasbro make an appearance.
  • One-Word Title: "Pilot"
  • Psycho Serum: The centipede makes its users increasingly emotionally unstable before they explode.
  • Ship Tease:
    • A lot between Skye and Ward during the interrogation scene. "Mask my pain in front of beautiful women" and all.
    • Fitz and Simmons' extremely close relationship could also fall into this trope, or Platonic Life-Partners, depending on your perspective. (They even come with a prefabricated Portmanteau Couple Name!)
  • Shout-Out:
    • Fitz softly sings "heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it's off to work you go" as he sends out his little scanner drones. The one whose point of view we briefly see is designated "Bashful".
    • "I'm not Hermione, I can't create instant paralysis!"
    • Coulson's Cool Car turning into a hovercraft and flying away brings to mind the "Where we're going, we won't need roads" scene from Back to the Future. It's a shot-for-shot replica, complete with wheels turning horizontal, putting on shades, and the car first zooming away from the camera and then ending by zooming back past the camera.
    • Lola is also a throw back to hover car that was "a few years" away.
  • Super-Power Meltdown: The Centipede tech has this problem, as Extremis is one of its components.
  • Sword Limbo: Not a sword, but Phil Coulson leans backward to avoid being hit by the flying door of van propelled at high speed by a Peterson.
  • Take a Third Option: When Coulson is looking over their two options in stopping Mike before his Extremis powers blow up, he asks that Fitz and Simmons find a third option so that they won't have to kill Mike to stop him.
  • Tempting Fate: Skye is recording a impassioned speech for Rising Tide saying they'll never be found and nothing will stop them... just as Coulson and Ward open the door of her van.
  • They Would Cut You Up: Coulson points this out as a reason why Skye should help them find Mike:
    Coulson: We want to contain him, yeah. The next guy will want to exploit him and the guy after that will want to experiment on him.
  • Tranquilizer Dart: How the "Night-Night" gun is supposed to work. Simmons is annoyed with it being called as such, since she can't make instant paralysis with it, but Fitz likes the name. The latter is justified, as it does work once they fix it up.
  • Truth Serums: Coulson uses one in an unorthodox manner in order to help recruit Skye. He actually injects Agent Ward, who proceeds to babble more than a few secrets, which helps her to trust them.
  • Unfazed Everyman: The woman in Paris whose apartment Ward infiltrates in the Batman Cold Open barely gives more reaction than an eye-roll at her fireplace opening up or that men are wrecking her place as she leaves.
  • Unperson: Skye has to do this for Mike. When he wants assurance that it'll work, she says she's done it before.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Skye tucks a SIM card into her bra just before Mike attacks May.
  • Why Am I Ticking?: A side effect of Extremis is explosion.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: One of the side-effects of Centipede is progressive insanity, and eventually a bit more than that.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Mike is obviously aware of the old tropes, claiming at one point that the events unfolding around him are the elements of a typical origin story of a superhero. Actually, he's close to Jumping Off the Slippery Slope and was becoming violently unstable.


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