Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D Season 1 Ep 2 (TV Show Review)

Here we are. The show had its second episode this Tuesday (for American viewers that is), and compared to the rankings and ratings for the pilot, the second episode fell quite a bit short, according to rumours. I haven’t seen any numbers yet, mostly because I’m not really interested, so I don’t know if that’s how it is. But, it doesn’t really matter to me. What matters to me is whether or not this episode was good. And for me, it certainly wasn’t.

The first episode wasn’t without its flaws, but a lot could be excused because it was a pilot and thus it just needed to be good enough to hook me for a second episode. Which it did. Quite well actually. But the second episode just threw me for a loop. It was predictable, frustrating, and inconsistent with what has happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Kind of ironic considering that the show is a spin-off of the MCU.

Note: This post contains spoilers for this episode.

Agents of SHIELD Logo 0001Following on from the pilot, what I wanted to see was more focus on this Rising Tide organization that has been collecting various bits of alien tech from all over the world, particularly Chitauri artifacts from the Battle of New York. I think it is a fair assessment to say that they are going to be the big bads of the first season at least, and that the show will eventually move on to HYDRA and others. But for now, given Skye’s connections to them, the Rising Tide definitely makes for an interesting antagonist for SHIELD.

However, instead of moving that entire plot forward and deal with why Coulson has brought Skye on board to work as a part of his team, we get an episode that focuses on bringing the disparate team members together. Its not a “bad” choice per se, but its just so disconnected from the pilot that it felt like an episode that should have come much later in the season, as a bit of an “off-mission” so to speak. But, this is what we get and all it does is prove to be disappointing for a host of reasons.

The most frustrating thing about this episode was that it was a snooze fest in terms of the plot. It starts off well enough, with the team deploying to somewhere in Peru to take care of an “0-8-4”, a mission designation implying that an alien object of unknown provenance has been discovered and that nobody has any idea what to do with it. SHIELD is called in to handle the transfer and its Coulson’s team which gets to do the grunt work. But about 15 minutes in, the show becomes overbearingly predictable. And it stays that way. It was almost painful how predictable it was, especially once we get to a scene later on between Coulson and the (oh-so predictable) villain in which Coulson pretty much explains what his team is going to do to get themselves out of the mess they are in.

Second, just what is Skye doing here? We see her do some hacker doohickey stuff in the pilot but all of that is absent from this episode. The closest we get is seeing her browse “all the streams” on her smartphone while in Peru. And even then she’s just checking for news on local media/social networks, which is just anticlimactic in a way. I mean, she’s a HACKER, good with computers. Coulson brings up her hacking abilities repeatedly in the episode, yet we see none of that. Its all tell, tell, tell, and no show (pun intended).

Agents of SHIELD Cast 0001The biggest thing that bothered me here was that the 0-8-4, a tesseract-powered weapon is deemed too dangerous for any government or individual on Earth to make use of and so SHIELD decides to rocket it to the sun to keep it away from everybody. Which doesn’t make any kind of sense. In an age of superheroes and alien invasions, something that just might be able to give the good guys an edge over the bad guys is blithely dismissed as too dangerous. So just what the hell was the point of SHIELD making weapons from the tesseract cube in The Avengers? Its the same technology, except that the end product in this case is “contaminated” by human tech and is essentially a piece of Earth technology with a tesseract power source. The whole thing was way off for me.

And finally, something else that really bothered me was that the whole dynamic between Skye and War, and FitzSimmons just felt too artificial. There really wasn’t any heart in it. Just story beats that needed to be hit for future episodes and nothing else. The team is gelling together on its first joint mission when we’ve already seen that they really don’t get on well together. And this raises an interesting side-point about these people all being qualified to be out in the field together as a team. There are too many kinks.

But, also as expected, Clark Gregg is aces again. He has a really nonchalant and relaxed attitude throughout which works really well for Coulson. We also get to see Coulson being fully serious for the first time here, as well as what can be said to be anger, which was a surprise. Dead serious and anger aren’t exactly what I associate with the character. So the writing definitely does that, even if it fails in other places. Gregg is easily the best actor for this show so far and he holds it all together, even when several of the other characters do little more than disappoint.

I also liked Ming-Na Wen. She had a cool brief moment in the pilot and she has a few here as well. They really add to her character, even though she is in danger of coming across as a bit too stoic and serious and… unfun. We get to see some nice background on her character this time, and that helped me understand her better. Given what Ward says about her, its pretty obvious what kind of an event got her to give up the field life altogether. Probably for the best if that is never really explained and it all goes down as just a mild curiosity.

Where I really liked the pilot, the second episode was too problematic. All the in-jokes, the references to the MCU, the unsubtle teasing of what happened to Coulson after he was stabbed through the heart by Loki in The Avengers, etc, its all too much to take in. The show needs to focus on its core setting and not rush off to exotic sites for the thrill of it.

Joss Whedon can do a lot better than this.

Previous episode – S1E01.

Posted on October 4, 2013, in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Review Central, TV Show Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Above and beyond those structural problems – which are undeniable – it’s the show’s mechanics which truly sucked. The production values were bottom of the barrel and aside from Ming-Na, the actors brought nothing to the table. Just completely awful television.

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  2. I really wanted to love this show. I truly enjoyed the pilot but was bored with the predictability and lame plot of Episode 2.

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  3. I had a much more positive experience with the second episode, but, then, I had a less favourable response to the first one. Where the pilot was fractured, cluttered and trying too desperately to be hip and cool, this episode seemed more coherent and simply structured. Arguably, that does present issues with predictability, but, having spent a lot of the first episode trying to work out whether ‘Michael’ was going to turn out to be Luke Cage after all and just how Skye was going to end up on the team, the second episode’s more straightforward plot made for a much more watchable experience.

    That’s not to say it was perfect. Far from it. The actors are still mediocre at best (apart from Clarke Gregg, who was excellent this episode, but, then, he did have a better script to get his teeth into), but at least they had some decent screen time together and there are encouraging signs that Fitz and Simmons might not turn out to be the disaster the pilot suggested they might be.

    You raise some interesting points in your review though, Abhinav. The team destroying the artifact they’ve retrieved makes perfect sense to me for a post-Avengers SHIELD who have had their fingers well and truly burned by hanging on to the tesseract, but that explanation (which I kind of assumed) was never really made in the show. One movie universe reference too far, maybe? Not sure. In any event, things are a bit unsatisfactory as they’re left in the episode.

    As to those wider Marvel universe references, again, I find myself in the somewhat uncomfortable position of disagreeing with you. They didn’t seem as intrusive to me as the ones in the pilot. (Heck, even Project Pegasus got a mention last episode!)

    The point about production values made above is a valid one. The shot of the plane landing in Peru reminded me of Thunderbirds – and I don’t mean the film remake!

    That said, I enjoyed this ep a lot more than the first one. It’s not must-watch TV yet – nowhere near the standard of Arrow or Grimm, for example – but the signs are encouraging. Ian Hart’s in the next one and he’s usually very watchable. (Btw, if you google his character’s name, you might just get excited – hope the ep doesn’t disappoint. 🙂 )

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