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

Bob Chipman | 2 Oct 2013 10:05
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Well, look at that: Seems you guys liked the first Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D recap well enough that we're giving this a shot as a recurring feature. Works for me! And not just because it now feels significantly less bizarre to feel somehow personally invested in the "survival" of a TV series that exists primarily to function as a marketing tool for multimillion dollar movies being made by the massive Hollywood studio that owns the massive TV network it airs on.

But yes, I'm rooting for this show. I'm a fan of the source material, I liked the movies, I think the cast and setup has potential and I think this multimedia-synergy angle has interesting storytelling possibilities. That said, do I think I'm backing a winning team yet? Well...


Episode 2 is titled 0-8-4, which is apparently S.H.I.E.L.D's coded designation for "weird object that's probably in our jurisdiction" (the last one was "a hammer," Coulson explains) and takes place primarily on The Bus - the plus-sized jet that Coulson's team uses as transport and mobile command center. We probably should've figured that this would become the show's central locale based on how much effort has clearly gone into its design.

Huh. Motley crew of misfits packed together in an aircraft bouncing from adventure to adventure? Okay, Joss. It's not exactly more Firefly, but I'll take it. In any case, now that the pilot has introduced our heroes - Coulson, strong/silent pilot Melinda May, wacky scientists Fitz and Simmons, hard-nosed Agent Ward and onetime anti-S.H.I.E.L.D hacktivist Skye - it's time to start establishing relationships. Ward and Skye don't get along (because they're ideological opposites re: privacy vs. security), but have palpable sexual tension because it's a TV show. May has something like PTSD and gets annoyed when she has to do action stuff even though she's scary good at it and the others are in awe of her former combat history (she doesn't like that, either.) Fitz and Simmons are alternately excited or uneasy about field work, and Fitz has a poorly-hidden crush on Skye. Everyone seems to feel that at least one or more of their teammates have no business being around, except for Coulson who "has his reasons" for having faith in each of his picks.

The 0-8-4 they're off to investigate is a potentially alien artifact that's turned up during the excavation of an Incan ruin in Peru. The location and the implications of alien technology immediately made my fan-tennae perk up, thinking we might be en route to an unexpected dip into Jack Kirby's Eternals mythos, but it appears that the series is still more comfortable expanding on worldbuilding from the movies rather than adding new strains of its own accord: The device is a ray-gun built from 1940s German tech and infused with gamma-radiation from The Tesseract. Yup, it's an old HYDRA weapon - the type last seen in Captain America: The First Avenger.

Some jurisdictional head-butting commences over whether the find belongs to S.H.I.E.L.D or a squad of Peruvian soldiers who turn up on-site, but they mellow a bit when it turns out their leader, Commandante Camilla Reyes, is an old pal (and, it's implied, ex-lover) of Coulson's. Amusingly, Gregg's flat-yet-smug affect really does turn out to be perfect for selling the somewhat contradictory nature of Coulson's personality; veering seamlessly between hyper-capable 007-analogue, starry-eyed fanboy acutely aware that he gets to live in the Marvel Universe, and oddly-askew packrat with a nostalgiac penchant for gizmos and memorabilia he doesn't seem quite old enough to have genuine nostalgia for. Every once in a while, a character that gets made up as you go along ends up functionally-unique instead of just being a hodgepodge.

The reunion gets interrupted when both the Agents and Reye's commandos are attacked by a group of nondescript rebel guerillas (credit where it's due, the show does specifically namecheck Shining Path - though it's unclear if these rebels are supposed to be official members of the movement.) Shining Path's presence makes me briefly, irrationally hopeful that we're about to get a surprise villain appearance from The Tarantula, Marvel's resident South American Revolutionary baddie and the only supervillain I can recall whose threat-level is based entirely around having pointy shoes. It's not to be, though, and everyone winds up on The Bus. New Mission: To transport the weapon to a S.H.I.E.L.D facility for safe-keeping. I'm assuming we're just supposed to ignore that, if the movies are anything to go on, S.H.I.E.L.D isn't really all that good at holding on to these things...

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