Agents of SHIELD
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1 Recap - Episodes 1-7

Bob Chipman | 21 May 2014 10:30
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The nice thing about immediate TV recaps? Immediacy, mostly: Real-time reactions for the readers, encouragement to watch carefully and pay attention for the writer. The down side? Near-complete lack of hindsight, at least as individual episodes are concerned - sometimes what feels like a big deal or a meaningful event in the instant aftermath reveals itself to be the opposite later, and the same can be true of things we disliked the first time.

I've spent the last year recapping, in detail, each weekly episode of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. With that season now concluded, (and a new one on the way) I figured it's time to reclaim some of that overlooked hindsight and (briefly) look back at the entire first season: What I was right about, where I went wrong and what it all meant.

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Episode 1: Pilot
As first episodes go, this one did its job. Granted, a lot of what might have been tedious exposition had already been handled by The Avengers, but in terms of "new for the show" information the new characters, the basic team dynamics and the setup are handled pretty efficiently. The main story (Mike Peterson, unwitting augmented-superhuman) is compelling on its own, though it does help highlight just how pointlessly long it took for the Project Centipede storyline to play out.

The main problem? Way too much time spent setting up the "Rising Tide" fake-out re: Skye. The idea of a shadowy Marvel version of a cyber-libertarian "hacktivist" collective to oppose S.H.I.E.L.D as more-or-less The NSA is interesting and politically loaded, but there's too much focus given here (and in the next few episodes) for the way it ultimately pays off.

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Episode 2: 0-8-4
One enlightening thing about taking the long view of the now-concluded season? The layout feels a lot more deliberate in total than it did in pieces. With rare exception, almost every episode has at least one new plot element or character beat that adds up to the kitchen-sink chaos of the post-Winter Soldier episodes. Unfortunately, "necessary to the meta-plot" doesn't always translate to "good," and 0-8-4 is an early example of a bad episode. Not much happens, the big mystery (an "alien" artifact in an ancient Incan\ temple is actually an old HYDRA weapon) is a bit of a letdown and the guerrilla enemies are a snooze.

There's just not much reason for this one to "be," apart from a Nick Fury cameo, continuing to tease about Skye/Rising Tide and explaining what "0-8-4" means; though it was a nice early lesson for Marvel fans to modify expectations when it came to fan service - I'm honestly a little embarrassed that the Inca temple had me hoping that Jack Kirby's Eternals might've been a plot point.

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Episode 3: The Asset
At the time, it felt like this was going to end up as one of the important episodes just based in being (part of) a super-villain origin for Marvel C-lister Graviton. Instead, Graviton wound up being (sort of) present for the season finale but not really playing a role; while evil businessman Ian Quinn (who seemed here like a one-off gag: "What if Steve Jobs was Goldfinger?") turns out to be it's big contribution to series canon - though he makes so little impact here that when he showed back up later I had to remind myself who he was.

Still, this is a fun one. I especially like Skye's "field work" opposite Quinn for the way it plays around with the edgy (for ABC, at least) moral/political dimensions of Skye's tinfoil-hat fraying at the edges as she's confronted with how much her supposed techno-anarchism lines up with Quinn's regulation-dodging greed.

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