Agents of SHIELD
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Review - Episode 2: 0-8-4

Bob "MovieBob" Chipman | 2 Oct 2013 14:05
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But the point is moot, since it turns out Reyes and her crew aren't really the good guys - they want the weapon so they can use it to wipe out the rebels. What they end up doing instead is separating The Agents from Coulson just long enough for them to overcome their bickering and pool their skill-sets against a common enemy, and in case you missed that this was happening, Coulson helpfully spells it out for us. Places like this are where the show suffers a bit from one of the repeating Joss Whedon Problems: Everybody is so darn glib and clever all the time that, when called on to say something earnest or direct, it doesn't sound quite right. It might've been a good idea to designate at least one character as the default straight-man for moments like this, but instead even "the stiff" Ward is really just John Wayne Smartass on a team of Jon Stewart Smartasses.

Still, it all hangs together nicely in the end, and the big Act III action-beat feels appropriately flashy and cinematic - especially compared to the relatively subdued wrap-up of the pilot. It does still feel like a show unstuck in time in the modern TV landscape. It's something better suited to running on Sunday afternoons in mid-1990s syndication in between Xena and Acapulco H.E.A.T, than a prime-time series living in the same 2013 as Scandal or Mad Men. Not necessarily in a bad way - the world needs its goofballs, too.

It must be said, though - if Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has a significant problem still in need of work, it's that the internal mythology of the show is just not as compelling as either the mythology it's inherited from the movies or can potentially inherit from the comics. The MacGuffin for 0-8-4 is more interesting than the Reyes betrayal plot simply because it has Captain America to pull from. Taking place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the show's gimmick, but it can't be a crutch. Eventually, things like "What really happened to Melinda May?" have to be more compelling than "How much, if any, of this is setting the stage for Ultron?" and the show isn't there yet.

PARTING OBSERVATIONS:

  • Yes, that was Samuel L. Jackson making a stopover as Nick Fury to chew Coulson out at the very end. Interesting that Colbie Smulders' Maria Hill was our movie-person cameo in the pilot and he shows up for the second - if we're staging these cameos in ascending order to star-power, Robert Downey Jr. will be here even sooner than people have been betting on.
  • It's not a major issue yet, but I'm hoping that not every crisis-of-the-week ends up being a mystery of some kind, requiring a full cycle of fake-outs and red-herrings. The show is already chock full of unanswered questions, and the ones that would go a long way toward character-building might have more room to breathe if once in a while the Agents were up against a more straightforward "I am _____ and my diabolical plan is ______" heavy.
  • I'm actually a little more interested in the Rising Tide business than I thought I'd be after the first episode. Misdirection is one of the things the series seems to be doing really well right off the bat - in the pilot, the reveal seemed to be that Rising Tide was either really just Skye working out of her van or at least a much smaller threat than they seemed... but in the next-to-last scene of 0-8-4, it's implied that they are not only is Rising Tide bigger than her, it's apparently big enough to know that she's thrown-in with S.H.I.E.L.D and to want her to play sleeper agent while there.
  • How hopeless a geek am I? Part of me really, sincerely hopes that Rising Tide's name is actually super-literal and that Namor is somehow involved.
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