First up, we should say that the pilot lives up to the hype. It goes forward at full throttle, introducing new characters worthy of the "Avengers" universe. The optimism and enthusiasm for this world pops off the screen, and it's really heartwarming to see that this has paid off. Even though this has introduced a whole new side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there are plenty of nods back to the blockbuster films. Here are the references we picked up on a first viewing:
Cobie Smulders returns as Agent Maria Hill. Like Nick Fury is Agent Hill's superior, so is she Agent Coulson's. She has a pretty big role in the pilot, though it remains to be seen how much she is seen during the rest of the first season.
"Iron Man 3" ties into "SHIELD" a lot. Extremis is a pretty big plot point during the pilot, so if you haven't seen "Iron Man 3" ... fix that. Also there's a control room scene where Iron Man can be seen on a computer screen. It's unclear if the "SHIELD" events are supposed to be happening concurrently or after "Iron Man 3's" conclusion.
Coulson lives, but how did he die? Agent Coulson tells his death as though SHIELD just had him fake it, but that doesn't seem to be the case. According to Maria Hill, "He can never know" the true story.
Gamma radiation, Extremis and supersoldier serum, oh my! "Agents of SHIELD" is creating its own universe, but it's built on what was already set up in the movies. Gamma radiation, Extremis and the supersoldier serum from "Captain America: The First Avenger" all are brought up, while Natasha Romanoff and Thor are all mentioned.
The wrong people have got their hands on Chitauri weaponry. It doesn't go well.
As for some other fun sightings:
Shepherd Book lives! Ron Glass, a "Firefly" alum, appears in the first episode as another SHIELD agent.
Spider-Man gets a shout out. Well, sort of. Skye has a line where she says, "With great powers comes ... a ton of weird crap that you don't want to deal with."
Lola is way cooler than she first seems. We'll let you watch the episode to figure that one out.
Photo/Video credit: Zap2it