by Brett White
After what feels like years of waiting (or actually just one year), the debut of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is a day away. Set your DVRs, invite your friends over, bust the S.H.I.E.L.D. shirt out of the closet and fly your "Coulson Lives" flags high, because there is some serious TV watching in your future. The internet has been going S.H.I.E.L.D. crazy lately, with wacky morning show segments and behind the scenes photos popping up at a rapid pace, but none of this will accurately prepare you for the awesomeness of "S.H.I.E.L.D."
With that in mind, here are the five things you should watch before plopping down on the couch for tomorrow's television event. You've got time, so make it count!
"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer" short from "Captain America: The First Avenger"
Agent Coulson's second solo outing (following the previous Marvel One-Shot short film entitled "The Consultant") shows Clark Gregg in full on secret agent action as he thwarts a couple of ne'er do wells at a gas station. This was the first time we saw Coulson get dirty with some hand-to-hand combat, and boy does it contrast with his mild-mannered attitude. This is a reminder of what we could get every single week now that "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is a reality.
"Marvel's the Avengers"
This is the most obvious selection, of course, because it contains at least three key elements needed to understand the "S.H.I.E.L.D." pilot. This movie introduces us to Agent Maria Hill, played by Cobie Smulders. We know she'll be showing up in Tuesday night's episode, further strengthening the ties between the small-screen S.H.I.E.L.D. and the big-screen one. Secondly, the show's entire premise hinges on the battle of New York outing all of the Marvel-crazy to the world at large. The public now knows superheroes exist, and this hand-picked squad has to deal with the fallout. And then there's the hand that does the picking, a hand that was left cold at the end of "Avengers." Yeah, remember how Agent Coulson died in this movie? You might want to have his death scene—and the fallout—fresh on your mind just in case Joss Whedon and friends have peppered in any clues about his resurrection into the pilot.
"Item 47" short from "Marvel's the Avengers"
This Marvel One-Shot, which was the most elaborate one Marvel had tried at the time, has been credited with inspiring Whedon to come up with the series' premise. In it, a couple of ordinary folks decide to break bad and get away from their troubles... with a Chitauri arm cannon. Agent Jasper Sitwell gets put on the case and tracks the duo to a motel room, where we again see that you just shouldn't mess with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.
"Hail, HYDRA," from "Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes," episode 1.21
While this isn't in Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity, this episode does shine a little bit more light on Maria Hill and the inner-workings of S.H.I.E.L.D., which will provide some context for just how similar or different this take on the superspy organization is to what's come before. Plus, it shows Maria Hill getting to be a total bad ass as she takes command of S.H.I.E.L.D. and stands up to the Avengers.
"War Zone," from "Angel," episode 1.20
This episode isn't from any version of the Marvel U, so why is it required viewing? J. August Richards stars in the pilot as the first "superhero" S.H.I.E.L.D. is tasked with tracking down, and this episode of "Angel" marks Richards' debut as Charles Gunn. While we don't yet know how much Richards' still-mystery character and Gunn will have in common, this episode shows off a young J. August Richards' natural acting ability as he presents a captivating three-dimensional character. Considering how great of a character Gunn became during "Angel's" five seasons, we can only hope he comes back for more after the "S.H.I.E.L.D." pilot.
What are you going to watch before the pilot? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Twitter!