TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 2
This week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D was a fast-paced, intense rollick through the Marvel universe, with a chance to really invest in the storyline. So what did I think?
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D – episode two – 0-8-4
*mild spoilers alert*
The episode began with a suitable bang… quite literally, as the side of the plane explodes mid-air, with little (no) explanation.
Jump back 19 hours, and our band of S.H.I.E.L.D heroes are a bickering, distrustful bunch on their way to Peru to recover a mysterious object referred to as an 0-8-4 – an unidentified object that isn’t from these ‘ere parts (helpfully, Coulson explains that the last 0-8-4 was a hammer, so we know what we’re in for).
Predictably, our 0-8-4 is embedded in an Incan temple in the middle of the jungle, and rebels and interested parties are all racing to get to it. Coulson and his team, although reaching it first (and quickly establishing it as an unstable and dangerous object – good-oh) are beset by a band of military types, and face an uncomfortable stand-off before Coulson recognises Camilla Reyes, the leader of the group.
Their shared history proves a suitable subplot for the ensuing gunfight with rebels and high octane escape, but for me the relationship felt a little flat. It does serve to reference the Marvelverse as a whole, widening our world and hinting at greater plots to come. It also pads out Coulson as a character from the excitable agent of Avengers Assemble et al. and his subsequent maturing.
But in actual fact, the episode was not so much about the 0-8-4 or Reyes (played by Leonor Varela), but about the relationships between the agents. Their bickering is suitably witty and entertaining and keeps the episode moving along at a lick, but our poor Agents Grant Ward and Melinda May remain somewhat lacklustre.
Skye as the outsider is fantastic – she flits between sulky, eager, angry and smug with ease, carrying the scenes and bouncing off Coulson smoothly. Her fish-out-of-water-genius is tempered by the sparky duo Fitzsimmons (who are on much better form this week), and her brilliance carries Ward’s sullen demeanour.
Whedon has a habit of building up to a big finale, which it seems is going to happen here, and so earlier episodes are merely foundation stones for our ending. We learn more of our characters, see them begin to bond, and get glimpses into the wider story – the Marvelverse as a whole, and the mysteries surrounding the team. We’ve slipped easily in to a formula – the monster-of-the-week format, or a shiny procedural – which seems to work by serving up the characters as our central theme.
It seems a shame that most reviewers have quickly dismissed Ward, May and the other characters as two-dimensional, and the script as cliché-ridden and predictable. But Whedon and his team (including his brother and some Angel alumni) have a lovely habit of underwhelming before overwhelming. They build slowly but assuredly – relying on the hardcore fans to grow in number. And personally think that part of the charm of Whedon’s scripts is the sharp blend of cliché’s with fresh banter (although he handed the reins of this episode to another team, it still had the Joss stamp).
It suited the series to have such a dramatic second episode, and the last scene, with a brief and tantalising cameo from Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury, only serves to further whet the appetite.
What did you think of episode two? Will you keep watching?