Review: The Asset

Dr. Franklin Hall

This week, on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: When the brilliant scientist Dr. Franklin Hall is kidnapped, Agent Coulson and his S.H.I.E.L.D. agents must race against the clock to locate him.

The Story/Plot

Diego: Leaps ahead of what we’ve seen so far, at least in terms of setting. Kidnapped scientist, the team worked together, and well, for once, and cool sci-fi/superhero action. However, as we’re still stuck in the procedural part of the show, there was really nothing new here. After watching this episode, I compared it to Chuck to my family (I watched both shows with all of them). Fun, breezy show that is mostly based on episodes of the week. But doing that comparison (sorry) only hurt SHIELD. Chuck’s cases, even three episodes in, had a personality, or at least shaded the characters a bit more. It’s fine to be procedural, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have style and personality.

Matt: This one was the first episode that I actually cared about the plot. It planted more seeds for later episodes, kind of veering away from Scooby Doo’s Monster of the Week format. While it will still be that format, I like that the episode’s will be related to each other and be more serialized. The birth of Graviton was great, and was exactly (I think) what Laura was talking about last time; stuff from the comics being used.

Laura: I will admit I was a bit distracted during the beginning parts of this (real life, grr), but the plot was a bit better. You know, it was it’s own independent thing that felt like it actually belonged in this universe. THEY DREW FROM THE COMICS! I was so excited to find that out! Is it sad that I’m not really sure I have more to say than that?

Matt (reply): Good comparison to Chuck, Diego. I also liken it to the first season of Torchwood, which to most people, isn’t a compliment…

Laura (reply): I’ve definitely compared it to Chuck in my head, but I think the flaw is definitely more in the characters. That show had much clearer characters even after just three episodes than S.H.I.E.L.D. does. And now I just miss Chuck.

Diego (reply): The birth of Graviton was definitely a highlight, and I really liked the teaser at the beginning. Good (considering it’s TV) effects, and the most “out-there” the show has been. I’m with Laura, though, in finding less and less to talk about.

Quinn and Skye

The Characters

Diego: Fitz-Simmons are still a nobody, which I guess is still better than being ‘standard cocky’ like Ward. It’s a shame, because while I tend to gravitate towards the nerd characters and I even like technobabble, we don’t know much about them so far. With Dr. Hall as their teacher, there was a perfect opportunity to know more. Instead, we learned the cliché backgrounds of Ward and Skye. At least we got out of the way.

What’s more interesting, as usual, is whatever’s happening with Coulson. He feels ‘rusty’ and his muscle memory isn’t what it is. And I liked him respecting May’s wishes and leaving her in the plane, but I can’t help but feel that was part of his plan all along. He wanted her on the field, and now she’s there.

Matt: The two new characters we met were Franklin Hall and Ian Quinn. Quinn was the stereotypical bad guy. Rich guy who wants power, in a foreign country, untouchable etc. “Next to him, who would suspect p-p-poor, st-stuttering P-Professor Quirrell?” (Had to be done.)

Agent May wants back in the field. Why? To protect Coulson? Orders from Fury to protect Coulson? Because she misses it? I am still interested in her back story.

The other character I wanted to mention was Skye. I wasn’t sure what side she was on. She was also stunning in this episode. But the boss says that’s all I can say on the manner.

Diego is Fury, I am Coulson, and Skye’s dress is the fishtank…

@Dreyesbo How much space can I dedicate to Skye’s dress? 😛

— Matt V (@Iceman525) October 9, 2013

@Iceman525 Just the length of the dress itself so, you know, not much.

— Diego (@Dreyesbo) October 9, 2013

Laura: We had a little bit of background reveals in store for both Ward and Skye this week, although really, both of them were almost cliche. Ward had an abusive brother, Skye’s a foster kid who never really had a home? Not saying that it’s not sympathetic, it’s more that OF COURSE they have dramatic backgrounds. Also, if Skye was a high school dropout who doesn’t understand FitzSimmons super genius speak, then how did she ever develop super hacker skills? Just saying, it’s a little off.

That being said, Skye continues to be that character that normally I would absolutely hate and be annoyed by and yet cannot help but love. I don’t understand myself one bit.

I could see Melinda May’s change of heart at the end of the episode coming from a mile away, but this was an odd episode to have that in. Sure, she felt like she couldn’t do a thing miles away and she’ll feel better if she’s actively involved. But remember, this is the same character that gave Coulson the cold shoulder because she had to fight. Until they reveal what happened in her past to make her want a desk job, all of this is just pointless.

Matt (reply): “Also, if Skye was a high school dropout who doesn’t understand FitzSimmons super genius speak, then how did she ever develop super hacker skills? Just saying, it’s a little off.” Excellent point Laura. I never thought of that before. I agree with the both of you, you would think with a Whedonverse show would have a tad bit more character development.

Diego (reply): Tipping my hat for the Potter reference, Matt. I also agree with you both on Skye. It’s the one character I like, and I think it’s because…she has a personality. Her dialogue reflects her, every time. She’s not an exposition delivery machine, as the other characters have been. So even if her hacker-type dialog grates me, at least she’s being more than just that. I like that Fitz-Simmons grab beers after missions (like on ‘Pilot’ and ‘0-8-4’). Nice character touch. Now let’s dive more into that.

Laura (reply): I definitely didn’t notice the beer continuity, but that’s something that shows maybe they have thought more about the characters than we’re seeing. Lesson number one in film school was always “show don’t tell,” and the beer is a perfect example of that, whereas most of the rest of the episodes character reveals were definitely telling. Do more of the showing, pretty please.

Coulson in Hall's lab

The Mythology and The Theories

Diego: Another nod to Coulson’s state, and another nod to the Avengers. This time I liked it. The point wasn’t just a fact (like with ‘A hammer’ last week). The point was May’s answer of “You died.” That has an impact on the show we’re watching, and ties to him being rusty, and all. That’s a smart use of a reference. Graviton will definitely come out later, and I wonder… was that the same vault (‘The Fridge’) they held the Abomination after his rampage in Brooklyn?

Also, I want the show to stop playing lip service to the ideas it professes and actually explore them. Rising Tide is one example (transparency vs. protection), and here Dr. Hall (rightly) blames SHIELD on the invasion of New York. Sure, they just happened to have the cube when Loki arrived. But they had it for nefarious reasons, to build weapons and missiles. Under orders of the World Security Council, of course, but still… I leave it there before I nerd myself out.

Matt: I am curious about the Rising Tide, I wanna know how the arc with Graviton will play out. Coulson’s “muscle memory” comment didn’t get away from me either. We are slowly uncovering more about his mystery; and I use the term “slowly” generously. Graviton is definitely the most interesting arc outside of that now. I am anxious to see how it plays out.

Laura: COULSON IS DEFINITELY A LIFE MODEL DECOY OR WHATEVER. I mean do they really think we’re that slow? Or incapable of piecing together the little details? Give us some credit.

Matt (reply): “Another nod to Coulson’s state, and another nod to the Avengers. This time I liked it. The point wasn’t just a fact (like with ‘A hammer’ last week).” You forgot when he said “I saw action with the Avengers”. That was a name drop just for the sake of name dropping. But I agree with what you said.

Laura (reply): Yes, it was still a name dropping, but it was a bit more natural. These stories are taking place in the same universe, so a complete lack of nods would be extremely awkward. I liked that the nods were more of an acknowledgment of where Coulson came from than the reason the show exists.

Diego (reply): Ha, we all mentioned Coulson. I think the Life Model Decoy theory has feet, but at this point, with the itty bitty drops of information they’re dropping, he could be anything. My money is still on Dr. Strange, just ’cause.

Parting Thoughts

Diego: I’m feeling like I’m being overtly negative. I enjoy the show, I like it (at the barest definition of the world), and I want it to be better and succeed. I grant that they need time to figure this out, and I’m the first to admit Buffy took a while to get going. But that was a low-rated show on the WB in the 90’s. Right now, there’s less time to figure things out before viewers leave.

Matt: I am starting to understand the pace of the show. I like where it is going. It definitely isn’t what I thought, but I am very much enjoying it. I like seeing the progress of a team, with them working out the kinks, and I think it will be fun late in the season, or even season 2, if it gets one, to see them gel like a well oiled machine. I just hope the strange person/artifact thing each episode doesn’t get old as the season goes on.

Laura: I hate to say that this is (for now) going to be a show I watch while on the computer at the same time, but it’s the truth. It’s not a bad show, but it’s not a great show. It needs to work on it’s characters and work at becoming it’s own thing, not just the MCU’s sandbox. I’ll give it some time of course, but hopefully they’ll start to figure it out soon.

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