The first season of the American television series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is based on the Marvel Comics organization S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division), revolves around the character of Phil Coulson and his team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, who are assigned to several dangerous cases. The cases are centered on Project Centipede and its leader, The Clairvoyant, while Coulson also searches for answers concerning his mysterious resurrection after dying in The Avengers. It is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), sharing continuity with the films of the franchise, and was produced by ABC Studios, Marvel Television, and Mutant Enemy Productions. Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, and Jeffrey Bell served as showrunners.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was picked up for a full season by ABC in May 2013, and filming took place primarily in Los Angeles. Clark Gregg reprises his role as Coulson from the film series, and is joined by principal cast members Ming-Na Wen, Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestecker, and Elizabeth Henstridge. The main recurring setting of the season is the Bus, a retrofitted Boeing C-17 plane that was designed by visual effects company FuseFX, and created with CGI. Some episodes of the season directly crossover with the films Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, with the latter causing a major retooling of the season for its final six episodes. The season also sees several other characters from MCU films and Marvel One-Shots make guest appearances.
The series premiere was watched by 12.12 million viewers, the highest ratings received by the first episode of a drama series in the United States since the pilot episode of V in 2009. The season, which aired on ABC from September 24, 2013, through May 13, 2014, over 22 episodes, initially received a mixed reception, which also mirrored a decrease in ratings as the season progressed. However, reception grew more positive as the season progressed into its second half, which led to more consistent ratings. The series was renewed for a second season on May 8, 2014.
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||U.S. viewers
|1||1||"Pilot"||Joss Whedon||Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen||September 24, 2013||12.12|
|Following The Battle of New York, Agent Phil Coulson, having survived his apparent death before the battle, assembles a team of agents (Melinda May, Grant Ward, Leo Fitz, and Jemma Simmons) to investigate superhumans and other related phenomena, which are now public knowledge. Their first assignment involves Mike Peterson, who was supplied with an extremis-containing serum by Project Centipede. Skye, a hactivist who saw Peterson in action, warns him about S.H.I.E.L.D. and offers to help him, but he declines. While visiting the scene where Peterson rescued a woman from a burning building, the team learns that the fire was caused by another subject exploding due to the Extremis. Skye is kidnapped by Peterson, who is now on the run and makes her erase all his personal information. Coulson's team is able to track them down and subdue Peterson, taking him into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody. Viewing Skye as an asset, Coulson offers her a place on his team.|
|2||2||"0-8-4"||David Straiton||Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon & Jeffrey Bell||October 1, 2013||8.66|
|Skye is now integrated into Coulson's team as a consultant. Their next assignment is in Peru, tracking an "0-8-4", a S.H.I.E.L.D. code for "an object of unknown origin". Once there, the team quickly realizes that the object is a piece of forgotten Hydra technology powered by Tesseract energy. Coulson meets with a former colleague and officer in the Peruvian military, Camilla Reyes, and brings her team aboard their plane, the Bus. Reyes betrays Coulson in order to take the Hydra weapon for her government so they can defeat Peruvian rebels. The squabbling team members band together, and take out Reyes' men. When the plane lands at a S.H.I.E.L.D. base, Reyes is taken into custody. Later, Skye texts another member of the hacktivist group the Rising Tide, confirming that she is still loyal to them, while Director Nick Fury scolds Coulson for the damage to the plane, and warns him of the risk Skye poses.|
|3||3||"The Asset"||Milan Cheylov||Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen||October 8, 2013||7.87|
|S.H.I.E.L.D. searches for one of its assets, Dr. Franklin Hall, who was kidnapped by Ian Quinn, CEO of Quinn Worldwide, using a gravity-based device. Quinn wants to use Hall to take control of the planet's gravity by building a giant "gravitonium" generator. Heading to Malta with the team, Skye volunteers to infiltrate Quinn's mansion during a party so that Coulson and Ward can rescue Hall. Skye tricks Quinn into believing she is betraying S.H.I.E.L.D. for the Rising Tide. However, Coulson soon discovers that Hall perpetrated his own escape in order to find the gravitonium along with the generator and destroy both. Coulson warns him that doing so would end up killing millions. Their violent disagreement forces Coulson to send Hall into the generator, seemingly vaporizing him, but shutting the machine down at the same time. Coulson orders that the gravitonium be placed under S.H.I.E.L.D. high security and off the books; however, S.H.I.E.L.D. does not notice that Hall is still somehow alive within the gravitonium.|
|4||4||"Eye Spy"||Roxann Dawson||Jeffrey Bell||October 15, 2013||7.85|
|Coulson and his team investigate a series of diamond thefts by Coulson's former protégé Akela Amador, who is being blackmailed by an unknown handler using an explosive cybernetic eye. Coulson is able to take Amador to the Bus, while Fitz and Simmons create a pair of glasses that hijack her feed. This allows Ward to carry out Amador's mission while the team attempts to disarm and remove her cybernetic eye. Ward completes the mission, discovering mysterious carvings, while Coulson finds who he thinks is Amador's handler, only for that man to be killed through a similar device to Amador's. With the cybernetic eye now removed, Amador is taken away by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, though Coulson promises her she will have a fair trial in which he will testify for her. Before she goes, Amador tells May that something seems different to her about Coulson.|
|5||5||"Girl in the Flower Dress"||Jesse Bochco||Brent Fletcher||October 22, 2013||7.39|
|The team attempts to find Chan Ho Yin, a Chinese street performer with pyrokinetic abilities, after he is kidnapped by Project Centipede recruiter Raina. Raina injects him with Extremis to increase his power, before harvesting his blood platelets for further experimentation. Skye knows a hacker who could have released the information on Chan's location and abilities, and secretly sleeps with him, trying to discover the truth. May finds them and, not trusting Skye, arrests them. S.H.I.E.L.D. attacks the Centipede facility, and attempts to help Chan, but he refuses and May activates the unstable Extremis within him to kill him. Coulson questions Skye, and she reveals that she joined the Rising Tide and S.H.I.E.L.D to find her parents. Coulson agrees to help her, but fits her with a device to block any computer access. Raina visits Centipede member Po in prison, telling him to inform the "Clairvoyant" of the experiment results.|
|6||6||"FZZT"||Vincent Misiano||Paul Zbyszewski||November 5, 2013||7.15|
|The team investigate a series of deaths involving levitation and electrostatic anomalies. Although the team initially assumed the deaths were caused by some form of weapon, the cause is found to be an alien virus from a Chitauri helmet salvaged from the Battle of New York. When Simmons is infected by the fatal virus, she and Fitz work feverishly on a cure while Coulson ignores a direct order from Agent Blake to sacrifice Simmons and save the rest of the team. With time running out and unaware that their last attempt at a vaccine was successful, Simmons leaps from the plane, though Ward manages to save her by jumping out after her and inoculate her before she dies. May tells Coulson, who feels different to before he died, that anyone would be changed by such an experience. The helmet is delivered to Agent Blake, who warns Coulson of the consequences of disobeying a direct order from headquarters, though Coulson dismisses this, accepting that he is different now.|
|7||7||"The Hub"||Bobby Roth||Rafe Judkins & Lauren LeFranc||November 12, 2013||6.67|
|At The Hub, a S.H.I.E.L.D. command facility, Agent Victoria Hand assigns Ward and Fitz to a mission in South Ossetia, where they must disable a weapon called "the Overkill Device", which turns enemy weapons against their users. Skye and Simmons try to find more information about the mission, which has been classified as Level 8, with Simmons tranquilizing Agent Jasper Sitwell when he catches her hacking into Level 8 files. Skye learns that there is no extraction team for them, and informs Coulson, who takes his team to rescue Ward and Fitz, who are successful in their mission. Later at The Hub, Coulson discovers that the person who brought Skye to the orphanage was an unidentified S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. However, Coulson does not tell Skye the entire truth about the file, and asks May to discreetly investigate further. Coulson is later denied access to information about his recuperation in Tahiti, despite his Level 8 clearance.|
|8||8||"The Well"||Jonathan Frakes||Monica Owusu-Breen||November 19, 2013||6.89|
|The team look into a plot to find and assemble three parts of an Asgardian Berserker Staff which imbues the holder with super strength and an uncontrollable rage. They are opposed by a pagan hate group who have already discovered the first piece of the staff. With Thor off the grid, Coulson's team is assisted by Dr. Elliot Randolph. While retrieving the second piece of the staff, Ward touches it and relives a traumatic childhood memory involving his abusive older brother. He becomes irritable, aggressive, and his strength increases. The team realizes that Randolph is an Asgardian who has lived on Earth for centuries, and he gives them the location of the third staff piece. The team recovers it, and Ward and May use the completed staff to defeat the pagans. In a hotel, Ward declines Skye's invitation to talk, instead following May into her room, while Coulson has a nightmare about his recuperation in Tahiti.|
|9||9||"Repairs"||Billy Gierhart||Maurissa Tancharoen & Jed Whedon||November 26, 2013||9.69|
|A mysterious force threatens Coulson's team when they bring in a safety inspector named Hannah Hutchins, who is blamed for an explosion that killed four technicians, and who Coulson believes has developed telekinesis from the explosion. After the plane makes an emergency landing, the team discovers that the mysterious force is one of the technicians named Tobias Ford who is trapped between Earth and "Hell" following the explosion. Tobias "targets" Hannah to protect her from those who would try to harm her. It is later revealed that Tobias caused minor safety issues and filed safety reports to spend time with Hannah. One of his issues inadvertently caused the explosion. May manages to defeat Tobias and convinces him to let go, causing Tobias to disappear to an unknown location. Coulson tells more about May's difficult past and how he wants to help her recover. May later pulls a prank on Fitz, revealing that she is healing.|
|10||10||"The Bridge"||Holly Dale||Shalisha Francis||December 10, 2013||6.11|
|Coulson recruits Peterson to his team for super soldier support when Edison Po is sprung from prison by upgraded Centipede super soldiers. Coulson's team traces a Centipede-powered soldier to an abandoned factory and are ambushed by a squad of super soldiers, who were subjected to the same eye implant as Akela Amador. Edison recommends Raina to stop inquiring after the Clairvoyant or it could mean her death. Meanwhile, Coulson and May are keeping information regarding Skye's parents from her. When Peterson contacts his son, he learns that he has been kidnapped by Centipede, who suggest a trade – Peterson for Ace. Coulson escorts Peterson to the arranged exchange, where Peterson reveals that Centipede want Coulson, not Peterson. Coulson, agrees to be taken prisoner. After the exchange, Peterson attempts to rescue Coulson, but is apparently killed in an explosion. Raina tells Coulson that they want to know how he was resurrected.|
|11||11||"The Magical Place"||Kevin Hooks||Paul Zbyszewski & Brent Fletcher||January 7, 2014||6.63|
|Victoria Hand leads S.H.I.E.L.D.'s efforts to rescue Coulson while Centipede tortures him to learn the secret of his resurrection. Believing Skye to be untrustworthy, and after seeking May's input, Hand has Skye removed from the Bus. Skye sets out on her own investigation which leads the team to Coulson's location. After the Clairvoyant kills Po, Raina takes over Coulson's interrogation. She uses a scanning device to compel him to remember aspects of his being brought back to life. Coulson experiences flashbacks and after his rescue he confronts Streiten, who tells Coulson he had been dead for days, and was resurrected at the orders of Director Fury. Streiten reveals that after his revival, Coulson had lost the will to live, and that the doctors manipulated Coulson's brain to give him false memories in order for him to continue his work. It is later revealed that Peterson is alive, albeit badly burned, missing the lower half of his right leg, with an explosive surveillance eye implanted in him by someone working for the Clairvoyant.|
|12||12||"Seeds"||Kenneth Fink||Monica Owusu-Breen & Jed Whedon||January 14, 2014||6.37|
|While at a S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy Ward, Fitz, Simmons, and Skye investigate an attack upon Seth, a popular cadet, with an "ice machine" that can freeze people and their surroundings. Another ice machine soon freezes cadet Donnie Gill, though the agents are able to save him. While the rest of the team interrogates the other cadets, Fitz befriends Donnie, seeing much of himself in him, and helps him solve a problem with a new power source. Meanwhile, Coulson and May go to Mexico City to find a former agent named Richard Lumley, who tells them of a mission 24 years earlier involving Skye, an 0-8-4 with apparent superhuman abilities. The team deduces that the cadets are building a bigger ice machine for Quinn, and with the better power source, Seth and Donnie give Quinn a demonstration, creating a massive ice storm. Though the team apprehends Donnie, Seth is killed by the storm, and Donnie gains apparent cryokinetic abilities. Later, Coulson calls Quinn, who has connections to the Clairvoyant.|
|13||13||"T.R.A.C.K.S."||Paul Edwards||Lauren LeFranc & Rafe Judkins||February 4, 2014||6.62|
|Hunting the Clairvoyant, the team boards a train in Italy on which a Cybertek Inc. security group is shipping a package to Quinn. The group is exposed, forcing Coulson and Ward to flee the train. Meeting up with May, they get back to the train and Simmons, but Fitz and Skye are gone, having already followed the package to Quinn's mansion. Skye is confronted by Quinn, and discovers the alive Peterson in a hyperbaric chamber. Inside the package is a high-tech prosthetic leg from Cybertek's "Project Deathlok" that Quinn fits onto Peterson's amputated right leg. Peterson goes on to murder the Cybertek guards on the orders of the Clairvoyant, who once again has kidnapped Ace. Quinn shoots Skye twice in the stomach and leaves her for dead. S.H.I.E.L.D. raids the mansion and finds Skye after capturing Quinn. Simmons can only sustain Skye temporarily by placing her in the hyperbaric chamber.|
|14||14||"T.A.H.I.T.I."||Bobby Roth||Jeffrey Bell||March 4, 2014||5.46|
|Skye is rushed to a S.H.I.E.L.D. medical facility, but the doctors are only able to stabilize her. Agents John Garrett and Antoine Triplett arrive to take Quinn for questioning, but Coulson refuses to turn him over. Garrett decides to interrogate Quinn on the Bus, learning that the Clairvoyant ordered Quinn to shoot Skye so they could learn about Coulson's resurrection. Fitz and Simmons, after looking over Coulson's files, realize that Coulson was revived at a place known as the "Guest House", where Coulson, Ward, Garrett, and Fitz head for answers. Fitz finds the drug, while Coulson finds a room marked "T.A.H.I.T.I." where he finds the source of the drug, the upper half of a blue-skinned humanoid corpse. Everyone escapes the facility, which was rigged to explode, and despite Coulson attempting to prevent Fitz from giving Skye the drug based on what he saw in the T.A.H.I.T.I. room, Fitz gets the drug to Simmons in time to successfully save Skye.|
|15||15||"Yes Men"||John Terlesky||Shalisha Francis||March 11, 2014||5.99|
|The Asgardian Lorelei enslaves a biker gang and begins to form an army, while the team is summoned to investigate an energy reading from the Bifrost, encountering Sif, who is seeking Lorelei. She explains that Lorelei escaped imprisonment during the attack of the Dark Elves and to neutralize her power of controlling the minds of men, Sif must fit a special collar around her neck that prevents her from speaking. They fight Lorelei and her men, but Lorelei enchants Ward and they commandeer the Bus. Lorelei tells May that Ward loves someone else. Sif confronts Lorelei while May fights Ward and fixes the collar to her neck, undoing her enchantment. Sif returns Lorelei to Asgard, and May ends her relationship with Ward. Coulson tells Skye the origin of the drug used to revive them, and despite how disturbed Coulson is by this fact, Skye remains optimistic. He orders Skye to keep the origin of the drug a secret until Fury gives them the truth. Unknown to them, May is monitoring their conversation, and reporting to someone else.|
|16||16||"End of the Beginning"||Bobby Roth||Paul Zbyszewski||April 1, 2014||5.71|
|Agents Garrett, Triplett, Hand, Sitwell, and Blake join the team in hunt of the Clairvoyant. The agents pair up to pursue different candidates. While searching for Thomas Nash, May and Blake encounter Peterson / Deathlok and tag him with a tracker. They soon converge on his new location while Triplett and Simmons stay at the Hub with Hand. The team finds Nash, a vegetative man on life support who communicates through a computer. When Nash boasts about being the Clairvoyant and says that Centipede will kill Skye, Ward kills him. Coulson and Skye soon realize that Nash was not the Clairvoyant, and that the Clairvoyant is a high-ranking member of S.H.I.E.L.D. Coulson accuses Ward of working with the Clairvoyant and shooting Nash, but they are interrupted when Fitz discovers May's secret phone line. As Coulson and Skye standoff with May in the hangar, control of the Bus is hijacked by the Hub, where Hand orders everyone onboard to be killed.|
|17||17||"Turn, Turn, Turn"||Vincent Misiano||Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen||April 8, 2014||5.37|
|Garrett's jet is attacked by S.H.I.E.L.D. drones after the Bus is hijacked, and he rejoins the team. At the Hub, Simmons and Triplett begin working together to secretly upload Simmons's research on Skye's blood, only for a Hydra assault on all S.H.I.E.L.D. facilities to force them into hiding. Coulson locks May in the interrogation room with Ward, still believing she is the traitor. Skye discovers a secret code in a signal on S.H.I.E.L.D.'s network that she deciphers to reveal Hydra's infiltration. When the Bus arrives at the Hub, the group splits into teams to capture Hand. However, Hand reveals that she is not a member of Hydra but believes that Coulson is, and recruits Triplett and Simmons to aid her in stopping them. Garrett accidentally discloses information that reveals himself as the true Clairvoyant, and is captured by Coulson and May. Ward accompanies Hand to the Fridge so he can see to Garrett's imprisonment personally, but shortly reveals his own allegiance to Hydra by killing Hand and freeing Garrett.|
|18||18||"Providence"||Milan Cheylov||Brent Fletcher||April 15, 2014||5.52|
|Ward frees Raina and introduces Garrett to her as the Clairvoyant. Though disappointed that he is not actually clairvoyant, she agrees to try to replicate the "Guest House" drug. Colonel Glenn Talbot sends a military team to the Hub, so Coulson leaves with the team and Triplett, ordering Skye to erase all their identities, including Ward's. Coulson discovers a message with coordinates in the Canadian wilderness, where they discover the hidden S.H.I.E.L.D. base Providence, run by Agent Eric Koenig. Coulson learns from Koenig that Fury is alive but is told to keep the information secret. He also learns from May that Fury did not oversee the T.A.H.I.T.I. project. Ward and Garrett infiltrate the Fridge, freeing its prisoners and stealing weapons, including the Berserker Staff, the 0-8-4 from Peru, and the gravitonium. Raina informs Garrett that the hard drive containing all of Skye and Simmons' research is locked and only Skye can access it, prompting Garrett to send Ward to Providence.|
|19||19||"The Only Light in the Darkness"||Vincent Misiano||Monica Owusu-Breen||April 22, 2014||6.04|
|Koenig subjects Coulson's team to a rigorous lie detector test, which Ward narrowly beats to maintain his cover. Coulson takes Fitz, Simmons, and Triplett to stop Marcus Daniels, a superhuman and former Fridge inmate possessing the Darkforce who is obsessed with cellist Audrey Nathan, Coulson's former love interest. After rescuing Audrey, they devise a plan to lure out Daniels. The group overloads him with energy, causing him to explode. Coulson briefly comforts Audrey before withdrawing, as he plans on telling her he is alive some other day. Meanwhile, May leaves the team, tired of Coulson not trusting her. Skye and Koenig hack the NSA to get eyes on the Hydra attack at the Fridge, forcing Ward to murder Koenig to prevent discovery. Skye finds Koenig's body and realizes that Ward is with Hydra. In order to avoid suspicion by Ward, Skye joins him as they steal the Bus before Coulson and the others return to Providence. Later, May is picked up by her mother in Ontario, Canada who helps her look for Maria Hill.|
|20||20||"Nothing Personal"||Billy Gierhart||Paul Zbyszewski & DJ Doyle||April 29, 2014||5.95|
|Fitz finds a message left by Skye informing them that Ward is a member of Hydra. Hill and a Special Forces team led by Talbot arrive at Providence, where Hill tries to convince Coulson's team to surrender themselves. However, upon hearing of Ward's betrayal, Hill decides to aid the team directly in their hunt. Skye leads Ward to the diner where she met Peterson, and secretly tips off the police. She reveals that she knows his secret and escapes, while he fights the police, but she is captured by Deathlok. As Ward tries to fly the Bus away, he is confronted by Hill and Triplett, who stall long enough for Coulson to sneak on board. Coulson frees Skye and they escape. The team retreats to a hotel, where Skye reveals she left a trap in the hard drive. Hill departs for D.C., while May returns and shows Coulson the contents of a flash drive she recovered from his false grave. The file is a video of Coulson himself, who was apparently the head of Project T.A.H.I.T.I., informing Fury that the project must be shut down due to its horrific side effects.|
|21||21||"Ragtag"||Roxann Dawson||Jeffrey Bell||May 6, 2014||5.37|
|In flashbacks, a teenage Ward is seen in juvenile detention where he first meets Garrett, and accepts his offer to join his organization. Over the years, Garrett trains Ward, and eventually tells him about Hydra. In the present, Coulson and May infiltrate Cybertek (who they realize is connected to Centipede and Hydra) and learn that Garrett was the first Deathlok, his implants are failing, and he needs the Guest House drug to survive. The team travels to Havana, Cuba, finding the recently abandoned Hydra base, and Fitz and Simmons find the captured Bus. The latter are caught by Ward and taken aboard the Bus, which departs. Fitz disables Garrett's implants with an EMP, and the dying Garrett orders Ward to kill them. After the two agents lock themselves in the Bus' infirmary, Ward ejects it into the ocean. Raina injects Garrett with her synthesized Guest House drug. Initially it seems to cause an Extremis reaction, but Garrett recovers. Quinn attempts to sell Deathlok soldiers to the military, and invites them to tour Cybertek's facility.|
|22||22||"Beginning of the End"||David Straiton||Maurissa Tancharoen & Jed Whedon||May 13, 2014||5.45|
|At Cybertek, Quinn begins his presentation to U.S. military officials only for Garrett to interrupt and kill one of them. Evading the Centipede soldiers, Coulson and his team attack the Cybertek facility, with Skye saving Ace, May defeating Ward, and Coulson confronting Garrett. Fury rescues Fitz and Simmons, though Fitz is barely alive, before joining with Coulson to face Garrett, who is ultimately dispatched by Peterson when he learns that Skye has saved Ace. Peterson, unable to face his son, goes off on his own to redeem himself. Fury expresses his respect for Coulson, who he sees as an Avenger, and appoints him as the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., leading the team to a secret base run by Agent Billy Koenig. Raina delivers a photo of Skye to a mysterious man, telling him she has found his daughter. Later, Coulson awakens in the middle of the night and begins exhibiting signs of the same enhanced mental capacities and fixation that Garrett experienced, compulsively carving strange symbols into a wall.|
In August 2012, it was announced that Marvel's The Avengers director Joss Whedon would be involved in an upcoming project for ABC, set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A few weeks later, ABC ordered a pilot for a show called S.H.I.E.L.D., to be written by Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, directed by Joss Whedon, and executive produced by Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Tancharoen, Jeffrey Bell and Jeph Loeb. Jed Whedon, Tancharoen and Bell were slated to serve as the series' showrunners. Joe Quesada, Alan Fine, and Stan Lee also executive produce. In April 2013, ABC announced that the show would be titled Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and it was officially picked up to series in May. On October 10, 2013, ABC announced that it had ordered a full season of 22 episodes.
In July 2013, Maurissa Tancharoen revealed that Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Jeff Bell, Paul Zbyszewski, Monica Owusu-Breen, Brent Fletcher, Lauren LeFranc, Rafe Judkins, and Shalisha Francis would be the writers for the season.
The individual character arcs were laid out by the series' creative team, with Marvel's only initial guidelines being to work around Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which sees the organization S.H.I.E.L.D. destroyed. Jed Whedon said on this, "if someone told you that concept, you'd think it was a great thing to have happen at the beginning of the show or the end of Season 3. To have it happen in the middle of your first season is an interesting kind of riddle". The writers worked to establish a "regular day at S.H.I.E.L.D." and the existing hierarchy, and then "to blow that up, we knew the way to best illustrate that was by putting it on a personal level with our main man Coulson". Tancharoen elaborated that "We see what it actually looks like for S.H.I.E.L.D. to crumble in Captain America 2, we see the Helicarriers literally barreling through the Triskelion, we see the massive destruction throughout the city, but the benefit of our show is we get to dive into the emotional toll of that." Therefore, it was decided at the beginning of the series that one of the main characters would be a traitor, with Jed Whedon saying "since this is an infiltration based on betrayal on a massive scale, we wanted to have it on the small scale, and have it be a really personal dagger to the heart."
On whether it was Marvel's idea or the showrunner's to have Coulson promoted to Director and tasked with rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D. at the end of the season, Jed Whedon said "They're one in the same. They have plans for films, and we have plans to intermingle with them, and it's the name of our show. The second to last episode is called "Ragtag", and that's a term we've used; we wanted to create this ragtag group, but within this giant organization with billions of dollars and support all over the globe and satellite feeds on their luxurious plane. Now we have a chance to start them over and figure out what it's like to really be a secret again."
The main cast for the season includes Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson, reprising his role from the film series, Ming-Na Wen as Melinda May, Brett Dalton as Grant Ward, Chloe Bennet as Skye, Iain De Caestecker as Leo Fitz, and Elizabeth Henstridge as Jemma Simmons.
In April 2013, J. August Richards, one of the stars of the earlier Joss Whedon series Angel, was cast in the pilot in an unspecified role, later revealed to be Mike Peterson, the first live-action portrayal of Deathlok and a recurring character throughout the season. Nicholas Brendon, another Whedon collaborator, was also reportedly considered for Richards' role. In December, two recurring characters were set to be added to the series with the episode "T.A.H.I.T.I." They were described as "an African-American agent who specializes in combat/weapons, and a high-level S.H.I.E.L.D. agent/munitions expert who has past ties to both Coulson and Ward." In January 2014, Bill Paxton was cast as Agent John Garrett, "a rough-and-tumble former cohort of Agent Coulson with a little bit of attitude and cigar-smoking swagger", for at least four episodes of the season. Jed Whedon said that "We actually discussed Bill Paxton in the room, when we were talking about the character ... Then when he came up as an actual possibility, we couldn't believe it." The next month, B.J. Britt was cast as Agent Triplett, an associate of Garrett. Other recurring guests in the season include Saffron Burrows as Victoria Hand, David Conrad as Ian Quinn, and Ruth Negga as Raina.
In January 2013, Cobie Smulders, who played agent Maria Hill in The Avengers, said that her character may make an appearance in the show and that her commitment to How I Met Your Mother would not prevent her from participating. Smulders reprised the role of Hill in the pilot, with Joss Whedon saying, "I wanted very much to have Cobie in the pilot because as much as anyone else, she is S.H.I.E.L.D." Smulders returned once again in the episode "Nothing Personal". In June 2013, Samuel L. Jackson expressed interest in guest starring as S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury, and subsequently appeared in the second episode "0-8-4". Jackson makes a second appearance in the season finale. During the episode "The Well", Chris Hemsworth appears as Thor via archival footage from Thor: The Dark World. Maximiliano Hernández and Jaimie Alexander also reprise their film roles, Jasper Sitwell and Sif, respectively. Titus Welliver reprises the role of Felix Blake from the Marvel One-Shots short films.
Storyboards were used throughout the season, to "put the director, stunts, camera, FX and the crew on the same page", though Joss Whedon did not use them for the pilot. One of the storyboard artists, Warren Drummond, noted the process was different to that on films, because there was limited time to complete the work, and because the storyboard artists were often working with different directors for each episode. Most of the sequences storyboarded were action or science fiction sequences. The main recurring setting for the season is the Bus, a retrofitted Boeing C-17, that serves as both the transportation and headquarters of the titular team. The Bus includes such features as a soundproof interrogation room, a forensics and research lab located on the lower deck, where Fitz and Simmons work, and a cargo hold directly outside the lab where the team parks its SUV and Lola, Coulson's prized 1962 Corvette.
The pilot was produced almost entirely in Los Angeles to accommodate Joss Whedon's busy schedule. Subsequent episodes were also produced in Los Angeles, as well as Culver City, California, though additional filming took place around the world, including in Paris, France, for "Pilot", and in Stockholm, Sweden, for "Eye Spy".
The stunt coordinator for the season was Tanner Gill. In September 2013, Ming-Na Wen talked about stunts and action scenes on the series, saying "I have great stunt coordinators and choreographers to help me through every step and with the magic of filmmaking and editing, it all brings about her skills, to another level. That has to be very believable ... I think the hardest part is doing the actual stunts, the stunt-fighting. That's a whole other thing. I'm not really punching out the stunt guy, nor are they hitting me, so it's learning this dance, really, within the fight. It's how to pull back, how to take a hit and make it look real.
As with many Marvel projects, secrecy was a big issue. For instance, it was a challenge keeping Samuel L. Jackson's cameo in "0-8-4" a surprise due to "this age of tweets and spoilers". The showrunners had been exposed to this while working on The Avengers, but with their own series they were able to see "all the details that go into keeping everything under lock and key".
The visual effects supervisor for the season was Mark Kolpack, with Los Angeles-based visual effects company FuseFX the main visual effects vendor. Kevin Lingenfelser started the season focused on 2D supervising, but took over as lead in-house visual effects supervisor after episode eight from David Altenau. Two separate production management and creative teams were established to work on the show, with most of the episodes being worked on concurrently, either two or three at a time.
For the Bus, Altenau explained that it "has all kinds of S.H.I.E.L.D. technology that is revealed over time as the series progresses. This includes an extra wing and engines in the rear giving the plane the ability to operate vertically for take-offs and landings, and even mid-flight u-turns ... FuseFX was given the opportunity to design the Bus. The design included many features from the start, such as the ability to do vertical take-offs and landing". FuseFX designed the Bus, and "Extreme attention was paid when designing the textures and rigging for this asset. Half a dozen 8k maps make up the details on the plane which allows the camera to get right up to the surface of the plane without any loss of detail. A very complex rig controls every aspect of the plane from the landing gear, engine transformation, doors opening, lighting and even the wings have flex controls for the animators to sell the weight of this massive aircraft. When the engines are in vertical flight mode they have several degrees of rotation which gives the jet a lot of maneuvering ability."
FuseFX also worked on Lola, Coulson's "vintage 1962 Corvette" which was described as "a classic car and beautiful in its own right, but through digital effects, Fuse has added hovercraft capabilities. When Coulson needs it, the wheel's rotate into a horizontal position, exposing hidden jet engine ducts that create lifting thrust through the rims of the tires, which double as turbo-fan blades. We worked closely with production to help design the mechanism and the look of the hovercraft engines. It's Stark technology designed to be consistent with the period aspect of the car." When the real Corvette is shown transitioning to its hover mode, volumetric dust, exhaust, and particle effects are added. Occasionally, FuseFX was required to use a fully digital model of the car, which matches the real vehicle precisely.
In addition to the series' main theme for Coulson, Bear McCreary composed several other themes that he used throughout the season: themes for Mike Peterson and Project: Centipede were introduced in "Pilot"; a theme for the Agents as a team was introduced in "0-8-4"; the Skye theme was introduced in "The Asset"; a theme for both Fitz and Simmons together was introduced in "FZZT"; a theme for Victoria Hand and The Hub, which served as the theme for 'Big S.H.I.E.L.D.', as opposed to Coulson's 'little S.H.I.E.L.D.' team, was introduced in "The Hub". McCreary opted not to reprise any themes from the films during the season, notably composing his own themes for the Tesseract and Asgard, which he acknowledged had already appeared in several films. A soundtrack featuring music from the first and second seasons, was released by Marvel Music digitally on September 4, 2015, and on CD in October 2015.
In June 2013, Clark Gregg explained how the series would tie into the Marvel Cinematic Universe films: "...the exciting part is going to be seeing the way that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. interacts with the S.H.I.E.L.D. component in Captain America 2, and the other movies, and whether those movies will then affect our show." Joss Whedon did state that the show would be autonomous from The Avengers, saying "It's gotta be a show that works for people who haven't seen the Marvel movies. It will please Marvel fans, I think." He reiterated that sentiment in an interview at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, explaining "It's new characters. It needs to be its own thing. It needs to be adjacent [to The Avengers]... What does S.H.I.E.L.D. have that the other superheroes don't? And that, to me, is that they're not superheroes, but they live in that universe. Even though they're a big organization, that [lack of powers] makes them underdogs, and that's interesting to me."
Ultimately, the season featured several tie-in episodes with Marvel Cinematic Universe films: the episode "The Well" takes place directly after the events of Thor: The Dark World; the episode "T.A.H.I.T.I." introduces the alien race the Kree to the MCU (confirmed as such in the second season), members of which play a significant role in Guardians of the Galaxy; and the episodes "End of the Beginning" and "Turn, Turn, Turn" revolve around the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Due to Captain America: The Winter Soldier revealing that Hydra had infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. with sleeper agents, the season sees a retooling for the final six episodes. Regarding the synergy the show has with addressing events from the films, Loeb said "It's an extremely unique experience that doesn't exist anywhere else out there in the entertainment business". The characters face the Hydra issue head on, while experiencing trust issues within themselves. Jed Whedon added that the Hydra element, which the show could not mention until after the release of The Winter Soldier in order to avoid spoiling the film, also attempts to address the lack of characters from the comics, a complaint fans had throughout the season, while also tying established threats such as the Clairvoyant, Project Centipede, and Deathlok, back into Hydra.
Along with the premiere in the United States on ABC, the season began airing in Canada on CTV on September 24, 2013. In the United Kingdom, the season debuted three days later on Channel 4, while it began airing on the Seven Network in Australia on October 2, 2013, and in New Zealand on TV2 on February 16, 2014.
Three episodes were screened before their initial air dates: "Pilot" at San Diego Comic-Con International on July 19, 2013, "Eye Spy" at New York Comic Con on October 12, 2013, and "End of the Beginning" at Marvel's PaleyFest panel for the series on March 23, 2014. Beginning with "T.A.H.I.T.I.", all episodes leading up to The Winter Soldier crossover were marketed as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Uprising. On March 18, 2014, ABC aired a one-hour television special titled Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe in the place of an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode. The special included promotional footage for then unaired episodes of the season.
For the final six episodes, Marvel began the "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Art of Level Seven" initiative, in which a different image was released each Thursday before a new episode, depicting a first look at a key event from the upcoming episode. Bell stated that the initiative was a way to tie the series back to its comics roots, and was thought of at the beginning of the season. The production team tried to pair specific artists to the teaser posters based on their previous work and how it connected to the themes and emotion of the intended episode. The art also appeared as variant covers to select titles published by Marvel Comics in August 2014. Jeph Loeb stated, "It's exciting to bring this art to life once more, exclusively at comic book stores, and to give fans a chance to own the Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. art in a different format."
The poster for "Turn, Turn, Turn", created by Mike Del Mundo, depicts a maze forming the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo and show title, with a rat inside, hinting ominously at S.H.I.E.L.D.'s corruption and a possible traitor. The poster for "Providence", created by Paolo Rivera, highlights the rise of Hydra by showing a melded Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. logo, and depicts the team divided by Coulson, Raina, and Ward. The poster for "The Only Light in The Darkness", created by Pascal Campion, focuses on Coulson and his cellist lover, Audrey, while also hinting at the villain for the episode, Marcus Daniels. The poster for "Nothing Personal", created by Stephanie Hans, highlights Skye and Ward in a depiction of a moment from the episode, with Deathlok looming over them, and the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo in the background. The poster for "Ragtag", created by Emma Ríos, depicts significant moments in Ward's life, as well as Fitz–Simmons in danger, and Skye looming behind the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo, as if she is a presence that Ward cannot seem to shake. The poster for "Beginning of the End", created by Phantom City Creative, is reminiscent of the first official poster released, with differences including the characters' order and clothing, the poster's coloring, a broken S.H.I.E.L.D. logo over Hydra's, and Ward being tinted by Hydra.
The season was released on September 9, 2014, on Blu-ray and DVD. Bonus features included behind-the-scenes featurettes, audio commentary, deleted scenes, a blooper reel, as well as the television special, Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe. On November 20, 2014, the season became available for streaming on Netflix.
|1||"Pilot"||September 24, 2013||4.7/14||12.12||2.3||4.89||7.0||17.01|
|2||"0-8-4"||October 1, 2013||3.3/10||8.66||2.1||4.50||5.4||13.17|
|3||"The Asset"||October 8, 2013||2.9/9||7.87||1.9||4.15||4.8||12.01|
|4||"Eye Spy"||October 15, 2013||2.8/8||7.85||1.7||3.75||4.5||11.60|
|5||"Girl in the Flower Dress"||October 22, 2013||2.7/8||7.39||1.7||3.76||4.4||11.16|
|6||"FZZT"||November 5, 2013||2.5/7||7.15||1.7||3.79||4.2||10.93|
|7||"The Hub"||November 12, 2013||2.2/6||6.67||1.6||3.46||3.8||10.13|
|8||"The Well"||November 19, 2013||2.4/7||6.89||1.6||3.42||4.0||10.31|
|9||"Repairs"||November 26, 2013||2.6/8||9.69||1.3||3.06||3.9||12.75|
|10||"The Bridge"||December 10, 2013||2.1/6||6.11||1.3||3.05||3.4||9.16|
|11||"The Magical Place"||January 7, 2014||2.2/6||6.63||1.4||3.02||3.6||9.65|
|12||"Seeds"||January 14, 2014||2.2/6||6.37||1.5||3.22||3.7||9.59|
|13||"T.R.A.C.K.S."||February 4, 2014||2.2/6||6.62||1.4||3.15||3.6||9.77|
|14||"T.A.H.I.T.I."||March 4, 2014||1.8/6||5.46||1.4||3.11||3.2||8.58|
|15||"Yes Men"||March 11, 2014||2.1/7||5.99||1.4||3.08||3.5||9.07|
|16||"End of the Beginning"||April 1, 2014||2.0/6||5.71||1.4||3.16||3.4||8.88|
|17||"Turn, Turn, Turn"||April 8, 2014||1.9/6||5.37||1.5||3.46||3.4||8.83|
|18||"Providence"||April 15, 2014||2.1/6||5.52||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|19||"The Only Light in the Darkness"||April 22, 2014||1.9/6||6.04||1.4||2.98||3.3||9.02|
|20||"Nothing Personal"||April 29, 2014||2.1/6||5.95||1.2||2.89||3.3||8.84|
|21||"Ragtag"||May 6, 2014||1.9/6||5.37||1.3||2.95||3.2||8.32|
|22||"Beginning of the End"||May 13, 2014||2.0/7||5.45||1.3||3.13||3.3||8.58|
As of September 30, 2013, an estimated 22.1 million viewers have watched the premiere episode in the US through live, DVR, encore, and online viewing. In Canada, the premiere saw 2.706 million viewers, the third highest viewership for the week on the network. In the United Kingdom, the episode debuted as the highest rated drama launch of the year, averaging 3.23 million viewers including the +1 channel and recordings viewed the same night, a share of 14.8 percent of people watching TV in the UK at the time. The premiere in Australia was watched by 1.3 million viewers, the top show of the night. In New Zealand, the episode premiered to 326,790 viewers, the fourth highest show of the night, and the most watched show on TV2. By the time the full season was picked up by ABC it ranked as the number one new series of the 2013–14 television season among adults 18–49.
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported an 85% approval rating with an average rating of 7.8/10 based on 48 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is sure to please comic book fans, but the strong ensemble and brisk pacing help to make this better-than-average superhero show accessible to non-fanboys as well." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned a score of 74 out of 100 based on 33 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews."
The early screening of the pilot at San Diego Comic-Con International was met with a very positive reaction from the crowd. Critically, the initial screening of the pilot was met with mostly positive reviews, though The New York Times' Brooks Barnes noted that "what goes over well at Comic-Con does not necessarily work in the real world," especially on a network with "Scandal moms and Dancing with the Stars grandparents". Entertainment Weekly's initial reactions were that if everything that made the show appealing— its continuity with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, its continuance of The Avengers storyline, and Whedon's return to television, were stripped from it, the show would still work. However, they also questioned whether the show was accessible enough to attract a wider audience.
Evan Valentine, writing for Collider, divided the season into highs and lows: highs included the Captain America: The Winter Soldier crossover, with Valentine noting that "The creators had clearly known this moment was coming ... and did a great job of capitalizing [on] it," as well as other tie-ins with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and he praised Gregg's performance, stating "What made us fall in love with the character from the first Iron Man to his death in The Avengers is still alive and kicking"; lows of the season included the episodes before the Winter Soldier tie-in, with Valentine feeling that the series "became the show that had to stall its developments and character building to make way for the [tie-in]." He also criticized the rest of the main cast, though he did approve of the guest and supporting cast members, and he criticized the series' use of minor comic book characters and concepts, singling out the costume design for Deathlok as "horrid" and not scary.
Eric Goldman of IGN gave the season a 7.5 out of 10, calling it "a fun, lighthearted, but fairly disposable piece of entertainment", noting that it improved through the season, especially following the Captain America: The Winter Soldier tie-in, and that by the end of the season, the series "was starting to come into its own". Though he found the main cast's performances to all be good, and praised the strong guest and recurring stars, Goldman found the main characterizations to be weak during the first half of the season, and he also criticized the pacing of certain overarching plotlines, noting "the mystery of Coulson's return, Skye's parentage, etc. – moved far too slow, with relatively minor revelations treated as though they were big reveals".
Jim Steranko, an artist and writer who worked on the Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. comic between 1966 and 1968, was critical of the pilot episode, lamenting that "the show had no menace, no tension." For the second episode, Steranko said that it was "too unfocused to be satisfying," but praised Jackson's cameo as Nick Fury as "an electrifying reminder of what the series could and should be." In contrast, Steranko's opinion of some later episodes in the first season were more positive, congratulating the writer and director of "The End of the Beginning" for "finding an entertaining, bravura groove that finally brings the concept to life", and saying of the next episode "I was concerned that last week's bravura transformation was only a fluke, but it was apparent from the opening moments that the exec lineup's new image-and-edit policy was in play." Overall, however, he found season one to be "22 episodes of 'sanctified' plot and character crumbs being salted with terminally-sluggish velocity (into anemic 'standalone' stories)".
Both the way the series was affected by the destruction of S.H.I.E.L.D. in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the way its characters are depicted rebuilding the organization have been noted by some:
Terri Schwartz, writing for Zap2it following the airing of "Nothing Personal", called the series "incredible", stating that it "got off to a rocky start", but that changed once the Winter Soldier tie-in took place. Schwartz felt that the season earned many of its early criticisms from having to "bide time" until the crossover, but "Now that it has the freedom to be the series it was always intended to, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has turned into a fantastic show. Its connection to Marvel's Cinematic Universe is clear: This is where viewers get to see the fallout of Hydra's S.H.I.E.L.D. infiltration. And the fact that the movie so influenced the show is game-changing in terms of how the mediums of film and television can be interwoven."
Merrill Barr, reviewing "Beginning of the End" for Forbes, reiterated this sentiment, stating that "the series finally stands its ground and stakes its claim as a member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ... By establishing world changing consequences that don't just affect one MCU franchise, but all of them." He continues saying that "what Marvel's daring to say with this season finale is "everything we do matters, and you need to pay attention to all of it." ... It's been a long journey, and there's no question many viewers' patience wore thin toward the end, but that never stopped Marvel from pushing forward to one of the most entertaining hours of television this season and finally cementing a deserved place on the small screen."
Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times felt that the series "created a whole new sort of television show: One that must support, and change with, the plot twists of its film family ... never before has television been literally married to film, charged with filling in the back story and creating the connective tissue of an ongoing film franchise." She stated that the Captain America: The Winter Soldier crossover "infused S.H.I.E.L.D. with a new energy, and helped explain, perhaps, why the show took so long to find its footing—in the writers' room at least ... That Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was able to succeed as a story both independent and ancillary is all but miraculous." She concluded that the series "is now not only a very good show in its own right, it's part of Marvel's multiplatform city-state. It faces a future of perpetual re-invention, and that puts it in the exhilarating first car of television's roller-coaster ride toward possible world domination."
|2013||Critics' Choice Television Awards||Most Exciting New Series||Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.||Won|||
|Television Critics Association||Most Promising New Fall Series||Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.||Won|||
|2014||People's Choice Awards||Favorite Actress in a New TV Series||Ming-Na Wen||Nominated|||
|Favorite New TV Drama||Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.||Nominated|
|Visual Effects Society Awards||Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program||"Pilot"||Nominated|||
|Golden Reel Award||Best Sound Editing – Short Form: Music||"Pilot"||Nominated|||
|Satellite Awards||Best Television Series or Miniseries||Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.||Nominated|||
|Saturn Award||Best Network Television Series Release||Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.||Nominated|||
|Online Film & Television Association Awards||Best Sound in a Series||Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.||Nominated|||
|Best Visual Effects in a Series||Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.||Nominated|
|Teen Choice Awards||Male Breakout Star||Brett Dalton||Won|||
|Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards||Outstanding Special and Visual Effects||"T.A.H.I.T.I."||Nominated|||