By Edie Nugent
If the response from the fans at NYCC is anything to go by, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. should delight viewers with “Face My Enemy,” the fourth episode of season two. Nearly 3,000 people lined up in advance of the Friday night screening to obtain bracelets allowing them to get an early look at the episode which airs tonight at 9pm on ABC. Once the doors closed to the exhibition hall, it wasn’t long before Jeff Loeb-Marvel’s Head of Television-stepped onto the stage. The fan response to the Eisner-award winning writer was warm, with extended applause from the crowd.
Loeb seemed genuinely excited to introduce the NYCC exclusive premiere of the episode, explaining that around the Marvel offices the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. franchise is referred to as “The Mothership.” When he expressed how proud he was that the show made it to a second season-something the show’s lackluster first season ratings in no way guaranteed-the cheering reached its’ zenith.
Loeb took full advantage of the atmosphere, saying “one of the things I hope that you learn about season one is, let’s put it this way: anyone can be Hydra.” Loeb opened his button-down shirt to reveal a Hydra logo-tee underneath. The audience booed and moaned, but their disapproval was short-lived. Actor Clark Gregg quickly jumped on stage and began yanking at Loeb’s shirt in disgust. The booing quickly turned to cheering as fans jumped to their feet to give the man who portrays fan-favorite Agent Coulson a standing ovation. Some even stood on their chairs and began a sweeping chant of “Coulson! Coulson!”
Gregg appeared to be humbled by the adulation. Loeb agreed with the response, saying: “the reason why we are here, the reason why there is an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is because of the extraordinary talent of our friend Clark Gregg.” The actor shouted: “It’s good to be alive!” Whether he was speaking of his resurrection in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., his adoring fan base, or both was unclear. Gregg went on to thank his fans for sending emails and messages in support of his character following Agent Coulson’s death in Marvel’s The Avengers (2012).
Gregg revealed that when Loeb announced he’d be attending NYCC, Gregg begged to tag along. He explained that the announcement from “Jeff and Joss” that Coulson “wasn’t quite dead” was made at NYCC two years earlier, giving him a special feeling about the con. Gregg continued: “I love New York, I love this con…and my feelings have only gotten warmer because this is where I was resurrected.”
Gregg playfully teased Loeb for his Hydra t-shirt, prompting Loeb to offer to “make it up” to Gregg by showing “Face My Enemy” in its entirety to the crowd. As the episode played, the eager audience seemed to embrace the story at every turn, applauding when Agents May (Ming-Na Wen) and Coulson appeared on-screen. The episode continues S.H.I.EL.D.’s efforts to understand the strange carvings that both deceased Agent Garrett (Bill Paxton) and Agent Coulson created following their exposure to GH-325-the mysterious drug that brought Coulson back to life.
The audience reaction was one of deep emotional investment, by turns exuberant, amused, and-near the end of the episode-shocked. When Gregg and Loeb returned to the stage following the end credits, Loeb noted the crowd’s reaction and said: “I have to thank you, Clark and I were sitting back stage and your response to that was just extraordinary.” He also gave a shout-out to veteran television writer Drew Greenberg, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Smallville fame, who penned the episode.
Gregg pestered Loeb further, asking “can we show them something from Agent Carter?” The resounding cheers spurred Loeb to comment that the series, had only begun shooting earlier that week. Agent Carter follows the life of Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), founder of S.H.I.E.L.D., last seen in Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Solider (2014). Gregg then produced a CD allegedly containing some of the shows early footage. Moments later a short clip appeared on screen, which found Carter partnering with Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), inventor, father of Iron Man Tony Stark & founder of Stark Industries. The teaser also saw Carter’s introduction to Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy), butler to the Stark family and inspiration for Tony’s Starks’ invention of J.A.R.V.I.S. Artificial Intelligence.
“Face My Enemy” premieres tonight, but fans will have to wait until January 2015 to see the premiere of Agent Carter. While the audience reaction to the early footage was overwhelmingly positive, whether Marvel Television can keep fans engaged and tuning into both of their S.H.I.E.L.D-based shows remains to be seen.