The secret is out. The battle of New York showed the world that gods can drop from the sky, men in iron suits can soar to the stars, a super soldier can awaken from the past and a green, hulking creature can smash that which needs to be smashed. The world is full of heroes. Not all of them are super like the action figures a young boy gazes at longingly through a store window. His father, Mike Peterson, would love nothing more than to buy his son his favorite hero for his birthday. But times are tough. The young boy understands. This doesn’t make the situation any easier for Mike. In fact, it makes it hurt even more.
BOOM! An explosion in the upper floor of an apartment building rocks the city. Mike asks a friend to watch his boy as he rushes into an alley. When he’s sure no one is looking, he smashes his hands into the side of the building as he scales its exterior. Mike grabs hold of an injured woman and bounds down to the ground from high above. He saves the woman’s life. No one saw him go into the building, but an amazed onlooker certainly caught him on the way out. Her name is Skye (Chloe Bennet) and she captures the entire amazing rescue on video. Mike knows this woman saw him. She knows his secret.
Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) is in Paris on a mission involving a group known as the Rising Tide. He’s attacked by two hostiles while retrieving a package. He neutralizes them by smashing one man with a blender and another into an oven door. Agent Ward is good with his hands and, apparently, quite skilled in the kitchen. Once back on American soil, Ward is asked by Agent Maria Hill (special guest star Cobie Smulders) what he knows about S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division). He has Level 6 clearance, so he knows that Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) was killed before the battle of New York. Ward is stunned when the aforementioned deceased agent steps into the room to welcome him to Level 7.
Coulson explains that after he was stabbed by a nasty Asgardian, Director Fury shuffled him off to Tahiti where he enjoyed Mai Tais and Travis McGee novels. It’s a magical place. There’s more to the Tahiti story than even the storyteller knows, but Coulson is back into the game because there are unregistered “gifted” individuals out there. The Rising Tide provides evidence of this via a video showing Mike leaping from that burning building. Ward has been selected to be part of a mobile command unit because Coulson knows that things are about to get very weird for this mystery man. He’s going to need help. He’s going to need S.H.I.E.L.D.
As for the rest of Coulson’s team, he convinces Agent Melina May (Ming-Na Wen) to drive the bus. It’s a big, technologically-loaded airborne mobile command station just to be clear. Agent Leo Fitz (Ian De Caestecker) and Agent Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), call them Fitz-Simmons, are two bickering research brains that have never been in the field. They use little flying drones named after dwarfs to help analyze problems. And then there’s Lola, Agent Coulson’s cool collectible convertible. Don’t ever touch Lola.
Skye tracks down Mike to tell him that S.H.I.E.L.D. will be coming for him. Her offer to help him in the superhero department is rejected. Skye is great with computers. That’s why she’s been able to hide her identity as part of the Rising Tide right up until the moment Coulson and Ward abduct her from her mobile office (aka her van). They want to contain the superhero from the video. Coulson also wants to know about something Skye calls “Centipede.” So he shoots Ward with a truth serum which forces the agent to admit that he thinks Skye is beautiful. Coulson gives Skye free reign to ask Ward whatever she wants in order to gain her trust.
Mike tries to get his old factory job back. His ex-boss is having none of it. This causes Mike to lose his temper big time. He causes some major damage and serious injury to his former foreman. Skye knows this type of thing doesn’t fit the good man she met. Mike visits the woman he saved from the bombed building in the hospital. She’s a doctor from his past who is upset that he exposed her and the program. She wants Mike to disappear. She thinks he’s losing it just like the last guy.
Thanks to some help from Skye, Fitz and Simmons recover video footage featuring the “last guy.” He had an intravenous filter on his arm that looks like a centipede. It’s used to filter a serum into the blood that allows the recipient to have strength that is far more volatile to the one used to create a certain super soldier from the '40s. It’s called Extremis and it’s very unstable. Its effects cause Mike to act out irrationally by kidnapping Skye so that she can help him and his son. Coulson and his team realize the superhero they seek could literally explode at any time.
Fitz and Simmons believe there are two options for Mike. He needs to be isolated from other people or they need to put a bullet in his brain. That’s not good enough for Coulson. He wants a third option—one that doesn’t involve a son losing his father. Using coordinates secretly sent by Skye, the team tracks the subject to Union Station as Fitz-Simmons work frantically to come up with option number three. Mike wreaks havoc both outside and inside the building. Ward tries to capture him but to no avail. BANG! A cop fires at Mike. Actually, the gunman is not a real police officer. Coulson realizes they have an uninvited third party on the scene.
BANG! The faux cop shoots Mike forcing him to plunge off the upper floor and crash to the ground below. Melinda May takes down the bad cop with some precision hand-to-hand combat moves. It seems she does more than just drive the bus. As for Mike, the poison in his system is taking over. He’s losing control. Coulson lays down his gun. He listens to Mike’s impassioned speech about how he matters, how he could be hero. This is something Coulson is counting on. THWAP! Something strikes Mike in the head putting him down. It’s not a bullet. It’s something that came from a futuristic-looking rifle being held by Agent Ward. He got it from Fitz-Simmons. Option 3 has arrived.
Mike’s family is happy to hear that he’ll be coming home someday. Coulson knows that whoever sponsored the Centipede project is still out there, as are many other unknown threats. He asks Skye if she’s willing to join the fight. This is moments before he receives a call about an 0-8-4. Coulson fires up Lola. He’s pretty far from the rest of the team, but expects to meet up with them in about 10 minutes. That’s because Lola can fly. She can literally fly. The world is full of wonders. There are heroes and monsters. There are also the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.