Review: 0-8-4

Agent Ward fighting soldier

This week, on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Agent Coulson and the S.H.I.E.L.D. team follow the trail of an item of unknown power when Coulson collides with a mysterious woman from his past.

The Story/Plot

DiegoThis was a second episode. Noticeably so. And while I’m glad to be outside the of the pilot, this isn’t yet fully formed. Which is expected. So the plot, again, is barely there. A mysterious object shows up, standard fighting for it ensues, and the team saves the day. What I’m really interested in at this point, and I’m glad they’re actually exploring it, is that they’re a *very* new team.

They are still not comfortable with each other, besides the Fitz-Simmons pair, and even they aren’t still sure they want to be in the field. Everyone’s wary of Skye. This is not a team already in operation, like in Buffy and Firefly, nor does it seems forced together like in the first episodes of Angel. I’m finding myself, at this point, more interested to see how this team develops (after, you know, being severely underdeveloped at this point) than in the cases of the week they’re taking.

Also I feel like adding that the action so far has been very good. Standard spy, gun, hand-to-hand affairs, but they are handled in a cool way.

Matt: The story was good. It is something believable within the context of the MCU. Surely there had to be residuals from HYDRA? Of course there was; and that is what we saw. There were 2 B-Plots. One was the team learning how to work together. That was expected. It ran it’s course rather like I thought it would. The other was Coulson’s relationship with Camilla. That was unexpected. Coulson seems like the kind of guy who doesn’t have flings. Up until The Avengers I didn’t even know he was interested in dating. I hope that Cellist from Portland doesn’t find out about Camilla….

Oh, one more thing. Did the plane being destroyed remind anyone else of Iron Man 3? That is definitely the most memorable scene from Iron Man 3, Marvel knew this episode would air a week after Iron Man 3 got released on home video, so it would be fresh on people’s minds.

Coincidence? Jury is still out.

Laura: The plot was just there, but that’s ok. Second episodes are almost always about settling the group in, with the plot as kind of a sideshow. Sure, it doesn’t always make for a great episode, but if done right it can still be enjoyable. I felt it was, even though I could feel the TEAM-BONDING from miles away. The best parts for me were the slightly pacing-interrupting scenes between Ward and May, and then Ward and Skye, where they essentially talk about their history. With completely new characters that we’re supposed to connect to just because they’re badass, these scenes were very very important this early on. We need reasons to root for this team beyond just “they’re Coulson’s team,” so those B-plots were my favorite.

Matt (reply): I agree about the plot being secondary – again. I think its going to be like that a lot these first few episodes until the team is established. It wasn’t a bad plot though, and I am anxious to see what else they find. Will it be a person or an artifact every episode?

Diego (reply): I had totally forgotten about those conversations Laura, and you’re right. Those kinds of scenes are important at this stage of the game.

Laura (reply): That’s a good point Matt. Beyond finding extraordinary people and crazy artifacts, what might this show deal with? I’m definitely hoping there’s some of the team being called in to handle a situation to break things up a bit. 

The Characters

DiegoI mentioned this above, but the characters aren’t still that defined. In second episode fashion, they just repeat their traits mentioned in the pilot. May’s got a dark backstory. Ward uses brawn over brains. Fitz-Simmons are smart and witty. Skye is excitable. It’s very hard to set every character up quickly, but it’s doable (see: Firefly, again.) (And sorry, get used to comparisons to Joss Whedon shows).

But in trying to serve everything (case of the week, connection to the Marvel Universe, hints to a larger mythology), the characters are getting the short end of the stick. Coulson gets a bit more shading, with his antique collection and past flame. But then again, he’s the one who least needs this at the moment.

Finally, I want to mention Skye. While I liked her in the pilot, and still generally do here, her “computer speak” is ingratiating. I allow Buffy to have nonsensical computer dialogue (its first season involved a demon living in the internet. It’s as cheesy as it sounds), but that was 1999. It’s 2013, and dialogue like hers and a phone with green text and a black background is not acceptable. At least she was partially redeemed by her (and the show’s) belief of people’s use of technology to better their situation.

Matt: I knew about Fury before I saw the episode. So I knew what I was going to post for this section. It was so easy. I almost did it before I even watched. It went like this:

Diego, Laura, you don’t even have to contribute to this section. I can cover the bases in two words. Just two words.

Nick. Fury.

.

But after watching the episode, I need to add more. As awesome as that would have been, I can’t rightly do it justice. I mentioned last time the only thing I cared about was the mystery of Coulson’s resurrection.  Let’s break it down further.

– Agent Coulson: I am curious to see what actually happened to him. I know that will be a mystery that will not be resolved until (at earliest) the season finale.


Melinda May: The only other one I actually care about at this point. Why did she leave the field? Why does she not want to go back? She is embedded into SHIELD lore, according to other SHIELD agents. Ward speaks highly of her. But WHY? I’m intrigued. She seems to have as much skill as Black Widow, but wanted a quiet desk job.

Ward: He’s the muscle. The badass. I don’t dislike him, but I’m not intrigued yet. No depth yet. There is a blooming crush on Skye (but who doesn’t have one to be honest). I hope they flesh out his character more. This is only episode two, so I’m sure they will.

Fitz Simmons: The writers don’t make them individual so why should I? These are the two I feel most distant from. It feels to me that they don’t know what to do with them. I like their 7 Dwarfs (no I won’t do an entry for all of them….don’t worry) and their iPad³ thing they have. (If I could afford 3 iPad’s I would totally get the case they have). Don’t get me wrong. I mean no disrespect. I like them, but it seems they are secondary characters, or at least, have more important matters to get to right now, which is a shame if it is to be a true “ensemble” cast.

– Skye: Other than the obvious “I have a crush on her comment”, the last minute (before the epicness discussed below) made me have something to talk about. Is she infiltrating SHIELD on behalf of Rising Tide? A classic double agent? Or is she a triple agent playing Rising Tide? Or is she truly a double agent, but will change her mind later? Who knows. But on the list of “intriguing mysteries” this is third. Coulson and May’s are definitely higher, yet somehow I think this one will be a shorter arc than the other two. She is definitely easier to relate to than the others since she is an outsider, like we are. I do like that she thinks that tweeting is important too.

– Colonel Nick Fury (Director of S.H.I.E.L.D): Yes he needed the full title. He demands that much respect. It was a cameo. Samuel L. Jackson probably walked across the street while filming Captain America: The Winter Soldier and filmed this on his lunch break, in one take. Ok, ok, two takes as he probably dropped the F-bomb while yelling at Coulson 5 or 6 times in the first take, then had to be reminded that this is Network Primetime Television, and had to clean it up a bit. Was it necessary? No. Coulson could have said that he got his ass chewed out by Fury for the plane (but with elegance, in true Coulson style.) But Marvel went the extra mile. Ratings ploy? Absolutely. But it was also to please fanboys like me and give me the tiniest bit of hope, that it could happen again, or that others could appear. Like Agent Romanoff or Agent Barton.

There. Now I’m done; and on a side note, I really miss Bernie Mac.

LauraCoulson is still the best fleshed out, although I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’ve never really felt Coulson was the date around type. I mean, he’s supposed to be the unassuming business man type that really ISN’T an unassuming business man, which still means maintaining that part of the cover. It just felt a little off, but that’s not really a problem, cause he still handled it PERFECTLY. I mean, once she started trying to seduce him in the bedroom, I had zero doubt that he knew exactly what was going on instantly. Also, I very much suspect that Coulson knows his recovery wasn’t just natural or something. It’s in the way he says the Tahiti thing every single time. Skye isn’t really believing it either.

Nothing really new to say about Fitz & Simmons, although like Matt, I too love their Seven Dwarfs little bots. I feel like the show needs to deal with Melinda May’s backstory sooner rather than later, because while I love her “you pulled me out of my safe desk job for a job that I didn’t want” attitude is great, the more she has to fight, the more I’m going to question what made her stop being a field agent. I feel like that’s really crucial to understanding her.

Ward is just there. I’m glad they showed him getting a little frustrated (yay emotion!) and having really good spy skills (quick reaction times, aware of his surroundings even while having a conversation), but look Ward, we know you like working on your own. You don’t have to bring it up every week.

Skye is still the one that intrigues me the most, if only because she feels the most fleshed out in terms of what she believes in. The final scene with her seeming to agree to work with the Rising Tide still to (possibly? who knows!) take down S.H.I.E.L.D./whoever was unsurprising, but I’m definitely betting she changes her mind later and saves the day even if it means revealing her original intentions. That was a complicated sentence, but you get what I mean. She’ll get too attached to the team and not want to leave it.

And look, here’s my thing: yes the Fury cameo was great, but it was also kind of pointless. Of course Nick Fury’s going to be pissed about his super expensive (now totaled) plane. But if he went through all this effort to save Coulson (which however it was done, was probably not cheap), why not use the scene to hint at that? Like, have him start out yelling, but then the point be that he was more worried about yet again losing his agent? It was more of a tacked-on funny scene than really adding anything, and I really really wanted it to add something. That being said yes of course I loved the scene still, especially how Coulson barely responded with more than three words at a time and how angry that made Fury.

Matt (reply): I completely agree Laura. If you are going to use Samuel L. Jackson, make it count for something…..with that being said, maybe they did. If he was there for a day of filming, they could have filmed several scenes with him for later episodes. Don’t freak out spoilerphobes – I know nothing. It is just an educated guess, and is precisely what I would do in that situation.

Diego, I agree about Coulson, they are fleshing him out, when he is the most fleshed out already. As much as I love Lola, they should really focus on the others.

Diego (reply): That’s quite an essay you got there Matt, haha. You both touch on the Rising Tide, and I hope the next episode deals more with them. Any of the possibilities you mention (double agent, triple agent, change of heart later) are equally likely, but I’m kind of dreading the standard plots and scenes these kind of setups get. I hope they either execute them very well, or they do something completely different.

Laura (reply): Oh I definitely agree that it’s a completely standard plotline, I’m just hoping they’re aware of that and pull a quick one on us. Seems like the next episode deals heavily with Skye being a part of the operation, so maybe our wishes will come true a bit!

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The Mythology and The Theories

DiegoThe mention of Thor’s hammer might’ve been a little too much for me, as was the show’s insistence to mention the tesseract-object emitting gamma radiation. We get it. There’s a difference between references and name-dropping, and this week I felt most fell in the latter. I could give a pass to the Centipede, the super-serum, gamma-infused,-alien-framed, Extremis-using device, given that it was the pilot and bluntness is expected. But this, not so much. I hope they dial it down.

I saved the Fury appearance for this section. I loved it, as having Samuel L. Jackson screaming in my TV is always great. Besides Hill, he’s the most logical cameo to be had, and him checking in on Coulson makes sense. The scene gave me the feeling that Fury and SHIELD *are* interested in Coulson team, for whatever reason. The team is not just an excuse for a TV show, it’s also important for whatever Fury is cooking up, whether that’s Coulson himself, the Rising Tide, or some other threat, I don’t know.

Matt: Mythology….not much added here. Coulson got another notch on his belt, we know that HYDRA remains still exist, and that Skye isn’t what she seems. I also feel like Camilla will recur. Call it a hunch. My only thing – a lot of SHIELD tech looks like Stark Tech. Especially when Fitz Simmons were looking at the digital 084 blueprints. That was completely a “JARVIS rendition” thing that Stark uses. So I hope they add mention later that Stark sold/donated a lot of tech to SHIELD.

Laura: We really need to know more about the Rising Tide, because clearly that’s not only important in Skye’s backstory, but Ward has a strong enough hatred towards it that implies the organization is big enough to be an annoyance to S.H.I.E.L.D. Not shocked by all the MCU references, but maybe they could draw more from the comics sometime soon? If they’re that desperate for plots that still involve something “super.”

Matt (reply): Laura, I think they will most definitely will draw things from the comics, but anything big will be held for the movies I’m afraid. Diego, the references didn’t bother me. On the contrary, I like that they are recognizing it. It makes it feel like it is one cohesive universe, instead of ignoring it to create its own identity. I don’t know, it doesn’t feel like they shoe horned it in, it felt like it came up in regular conversation. Just my opinion.

Laura (reply): I definitely don’t need anything big! Just a little bit on inspiration would be good. Every plot every week can’t deal with the Tesseract or gamma radiation or the movies, and the comics would certainly be the best place to start looking for even developing new ideas.

Diego (reply): The Hydra mention was cool, I grant you that. I especially like the real-world comparison of their scientists fleeing to Central America, and that having to do with the plot. And again, as you said Laura, we need to know more about the Rising Tide. It sounds, so far, like the biggest completely new element in this universe, with ties to two main characters.

Parting Thoughts

Diego: While I liked this episode better than the pilot, it still has a long way to go. I mentioned to a friend, after the Pilot, that what I really want to watch is episode 10 and beyond. The show’s best scene was, predictably, Nick Fury’s one, but it shouldn’t be.

The real test of whether this show works or not isn’t to have Nick Fury and Maria Hill fit in this world. It’s having these characters fit in theirs. Pretty soon, a couple episodes from now, we will have spent more screentime with these characters than with any in the Marvel films. I hope they are better developed than those by then.

Matt: I actually liked this episode better than The Pilot. Lola still received ample screen time and plenty of mentions, that makes me happy.  The Pilot was of course necessary, to set up the team, but shows always work best when the team is established already. I fear that Marvel pulled out all its tricks in the first two episodes, with Agent Hill and the epicness that is Nick Fury.

While Hill wasn’t a secret, Fury seemed to be, until Marvel/ABC made the decision to tease it for the episode, which I felt unnecessary. We have yet to see an episode that speaks for itself. The first episode was aided by Cobie Smulders. The second, by Samuel L. Jackson. While I would like to see them recur, as well as Hawkeye and Black Widow, I need to see how the show stands by itself. Once I know it can exist on its own, and thrive with Coulson and his rag tag team, then by all means bring in extended MCU characters; but as a bonus, not as a crutch.

Laura: I’m not sure I liked this one any more or any less than the pilot. The pacing was a little bit better, but the plot was even less relevant as it took a backseat to the Phil/Camilla and team relationships stories. Still, not bad for a second episode, but now we’re getting into the stretch where the show has to figure itself out. And the real question is, will they focus on plot or developing their characters into believable people we want to see week to week? Please let it be the second one.

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