Anghus Houvouras reviews the second episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D…
The first episode of the new Marvel series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was a whip smart, lightning fast hour of television that introduced us to the clean up crew of this superhero filled universe. It was so fast, in fact, that it felt a little rushed. We barely got a chance to meet the characters or delve into their personalities before potential danger reared it’s ugly head. If the first episode was fifth gear, the second episode slammed down on the clutch and put the engine in idle.
The entirety of “0-8-4” (a code used to describe an item of unknown origins) feels like a team building exercise designed to give audiences some insights into the character traits each member of the team is supposed to exhibit. The vast majority of it is a bottle episode where the characters, confined in their flying airbase must overcome personality conflicts in order to defeat a common enemy. It’s a tried and true premise that feels like a ‘do-over’ for those who complained the pilot episode was too heavy on plot advancement and too thin on character development. It’s the difference between an overcooked meal and an under-cooked one. “0-8-4” is most assuredly the product of too much time in the oven.
It also seems to exist to show even more blatantly obvious comparisons to Joss Whedon’s other TV shows. The first episode had equal servings of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly, but the second episode of S.H.I.E.L.D. shows where its creative allegiances lie. Lets just say the Agents here feel like they would have been right at home on board Serenity. It’s difficult to not draw such comparisons as the crew unloads from the cargo lift of their mobile airbase. As the hydraulic lift drops down and vehicles exit for an away mission, it’s almost like I was waiting to see Jayne walk out start loading up cargo. In just two episodes, S.H.I.E.L.D. feels awfully familiar. And whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is solely based on your appreciation for all things Whedon. I’m still star struck by the very existence of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but the second generated a lot of deja vu vibes. Shouldn’t something this shiny and new feel a little more fresh?
The second episode takes the crew to Peru to recover a potentially dangerous piece of hardware which turns out to have connections to Hydra and the tesseract fueled weaponry of The Red Skull. After recovering the device, a bit of sabotage and subterfuge sees the crew captured and their plane hijacked by allies. Coulson (Clark Gregg) gets some fun moments, dealing with an old flame whose interests have changed. Agent May (Ming-Na Wen) has some fun being the kind of expressionless ass kicking machine that all Whedon associated media must have. It’s practically contractually mandated. The rest of the crew is still a shallow, pedantic blank slate. Seeds are being planted as Agent Ward and hacker consultant Skye are looking like an unlikely pair. And our resident super nerd scientists get a moment or two to marvel (no pun intended) at this larger, scarier world which they are rapidly becoming ensconced.
There’s some potentially interesting developments dealing with a traitor amongst the ranks of S.H.I.E.L.D. And there are a smattering of wonderful references to the larger Marvel Universe. Tony Stark gets a mention. Coulson informs his crew that the last 0-8-4 even involved “a hammer”. And this week’s final sequence features none other than Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) himself in an amusing conversation with Agent Coulson about authority.
“0-8-4” wasn’t a bad episode, merely an extremely functional one. A paper thin premise, the promise of something major, all of it arranged to get the Agents an excuse to put aside the friction in favor of teamwork. Mildly entertaining, but there’s a lot of wasted potential here. Eventually this show is going to have to produce some steak to go with the sizzle.
Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker. His latest work, the novel My Career Suicide Note, is available from Amazon.