"Pilot" is the premiere episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Following 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, an ordinary man who has acquired superhuman powers.
Mike Peterson is out with his son Ace, when an explosion erupts from the top floor of a nearby building. He climbs up the outside of the building by punching holes in the brickwork and enters through a flaming window. As the crowd looks on, Peterson jumps from the top floor whilst holding a woman in his arms. Watching him is Skye, who films him on her smart phone.
Meanwhile, Maria Hill is interviewing Grant Ward for a new S.H.I.E.L.D. team alongside Agent Phil Coulson, who is officially dead. Coulson steps from the shadows and welcomes Ward to "level 7", explaining that he faked his death to motivate the Avengers in their fight with Loki. The team's mission is to investigate a hacker group called the Rising Tide. Coulson visits Melinda May), who had retired from field duty, and convinces her to join the team.
Skye meets with Peterson and warns him about S.H.I.E.L.D, saying that they cover up superhero based events. Later as she broadcasts alone from her van as Rising Tide, Coulson opens the door and arrests her. He takes her back to a mobile S.H.I.E.L.D. base on board a plane. He and Ward question her, but she is uncooperative and mentions Project Centipede which neither of the agents had heard of. In order to gain her trust, Coulson injects Ward with a truth serum and allows Skye to question him. With her trust gained, she reveals where she filmed Peterson and Coulson sends Agents Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons to investigate the scene of the explosion. They discover a strange device in the debris and take it back to the base to investigate. Peterson returns to the factory he used to work at, and angrily injures his former boss Gary, saying that he was the "bad guy" and Peterson was the "hero".
Peterson visits the woman he saved in the hospital, and it is revealed that she was the doctor who implanted the Centipede device into his left forearm. He wants to go public, but she says that her backers wouldn't like that. He claims this is all his origin story and jumps from the hospital window. Fitz and Simmons investigate the device and find that it is a combination of all known causes of super powers including; alien technology, gamma radiation, the Captain America formula, and Extremis. Meanwhile they reproduce footage from the crime scene using the flash memory of a video camera and the audio recorded by Skye who had bugged the lab. They discover that the explosion was caused by an angry man exploding due to Extremis. The man had the device implanted in his forearm, which they recognize on Peterson due to video footage of his attack at the factory.
Skye had returned to her van to send the audio as the encryption was tied to the geolocation. Peterson abducts her and makes her delete his information from the government's systems. At the same time she hacks into S.H.I.E.L.D. systems to inform them. Peterson and Skye are tracked down to a train station by Coulson's team and a gunman sent by Peterson's doctor. May takes out the gunman and Coulson talks Peterson down long enough for Ward to shoot him with an advanced stun gun developed by Fitz and Simmons. Afterwards, Coulson offers Skye a place on his team when a call for a "0-8-4" comes in.
- Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson
- Ming-Na Wen as Melinda May
- Brett Dalton as Grant Ward
- Chloe Bennet as Skye
- Elizabeth Henstridge as Jemma Simmons
- Iain De Caestecker as Leo Fitz
- J. August Richards as Mike Peterson/Hooded Hero
- Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill
- Ron Glass as Dr. Streiten
- Ajani Wrighster as Ace Peterson
- Shannon Lucio as Debbie
- Bob Stephenson as Gary
- Dan Sachoff as Reporter #1
- Arlene Santana as Reporter #2
- Doug Simpson as FBI Agent
- Nicole J. Butler as Aunt Mindy
- Aaron Behr as Angry Man
- Sarah Dumont as Beautiful Woman
Continuity and References to the Marvel Cinematic Universe
- Phil Coulson appears and despite allegedly dying in The Avengers is alive. His apparent death at the hands of Loki is also acknowledged.
- It is revealed that Coulson believes Nick Fury faked his death to bring the Avengers together, however, the exact method of his resurrection may have more sinister origins due to an exchange between Maria Hill and Dr. Streiten.
- Maria Hill appears and oversees Coulson's creation of a team.
- Grant Ward is introduced.
- Skye is introduced.
- Leopold Fitz is introduced.
- Jemma Simmons is introduced.
- Mike Peterson is introduced.
- Ace Peterson is introduced.
- Dr. Streiten is introduced.
- Lola is introduced.
- Bus is introduced.
- Agent Ward has the best espionage scores since Agent Romanoff aka Black Widow.
- Nick Fury is mentioned.
- The Battle of New York is mentioned.
- Project T.A.H.I.T.I. is indirectly mentioned.
- The Avengers are mentioned.
- Tony Stark, Iron Man and the Stark Tower are mentioned. Iron Man is also seen flying in recycled footage.
- Iron Man is mentioned and seen in recycled footage.
- Thor Odinson is mentioned and seen in recycled footage.
- Mjölnir is seen in recycled footage.
- Hulk is mentioned and seen in recycled footage.
- Captain America is mentioned.
- Captain America's shield is seen in recycled footage.
- There are toys of Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Captain America, Black Widow and Hawkeye.
- The Chitauri are mentioned and seen in recycled footage.
- Centipede, which uses Extremis, appears.
- Project Puente Antiguo (New Mexico) and Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. are mentioned.
- Gamma Radiation and the Super Soldier Serum are mentioned.
- The S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier is mentioned.
- Abraham Erskine is mentioned.
- Abomination is seen in recycled footage.
- It seems that Lola is a perfected version of the flying car Howard Stark effortlessly tried to present at the World Exposition of Tomorrow in Captain America: The First Avenger.
- Skye puns Spider-Man's mantra when speaking with Michael Peterson, saying: "With a great power, comes...a ton of weird crap you are not prepared to deal with!"
- Agent Simmons asks Agent Ward: "Are you excited to be coming on our journey into mystery?". Journey Into Mystery is a Marvel comicbook series, on which also Thor made his debut.
- Skye mentions Terminator when talking with Coulson.