Season 1, Episode 7
Date of airing: November 12, 2013 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 6.667 million viewers, 4.1/6 in Households, 2.20/6 with Adults 18-49
Usually in the business of television, the strongest episode so far is followed by a weak episode. It seems like AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. is going to continue that very curse for itself. It wasn’t a wow-episode, and it wasn’t an episode that could hold up my interest, but some elements actually were intriguing to me. First of all, the hierarchy of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been getting attention, which is a nice thing to do, as it was an unexpectedly interesting thing about the politics of this government agency. You have a show about a government agency, yet there hasn’t been a chance to actually dwell into the politics of it all, up until this point. Okay, the Level clearance is a joke to me, and the “Trust the system” tagline could come right out of a dystopian movie and was repeated a little too often, but at least the writers were trying, even if the political angle of S.H.I.E.L.D. would have deserved an entire episode. And as long as they play with trust and distrust, and how it could conflict characters with each other, I’m able to look past the weak story and separated character development. Also, going deeper into the mythology of S.H.I.E.L.D. is always a good thing. I already know almost enough about S.H.I.E.L.D. from the comics, but now I have proof that the writers are equally interested in depicting S.H.I.E.L.D. in the show as well, and this is a plus, no matter how much of a snooze this episode was in hindsight.
When it comes to character development, we have to talk about Ward and Fitz. I was hoping for some character development for the two, but there wasn’t much. On the other hand I was happy that the mission wasn’t used to bring in comedy. Yeah, Fitz did this one or that other thing that made the episode look horrendous (the thing with the sandwich was the biggest problem of them all), but I have to say that I expected a whole lot more of comedy when I realized the episode would go with a Ward/Fitz team-up — but the hour kept itself down to earth during this time, and never got silly or overboard with that premise. Which could mean two things: Either the writers were really interested in bringing some character depth into the show, or they just completely failed to make a comedy hour out of the episode. When I think about BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and their silly episodes, AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. smells just a tad bit, because there is absolutely no silly comedy moments to go for, while BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER always managed to take the cake and make a run for the hilarious and stupid and look sexy while doing it.
Anyway, the Ward/Fitz team-up thankfully wasn’t boring, though I really would have wished to see some real deep scenes between the two. The scene in the pipe, for example, was just smelling of sandwiches and character development, yet there was nothing really to be seen, except Ward kind of behaving like a big brother towards Fitz – which was cool in a way, but it also kind of was the only “moment for the characters” in that story. Because the rest was simple proceduralized storytelling. Two guys who are yin and yang to each other team up and go on a top-secret mission to prove they can work well together, and are also in the middle of showing that their team members care for them and pick them up when they are in danger. The usual — no surprising twists, and no real danger. Not even with Ward and Fitz in the hands of some Russian/Georgian wannabe mob masters, and not even with Skye and Simmons stupidly risking their reputations and jobs to save their friends.
The latter was probably the most troublesome thing of the episode. I mean, you have Skye, and she is wearing the “I’m a cheater and liar, so never trust me” wristband, and yet she is still trying to be Skye the hacker, who would do anything to find out more about her past and go beyond any rule she has been told exists. So, why exactly is she wearing the wristband in the first place, when she is clearly able to still do what she does best? Were her actions in this episode just a plot by the writers to show that she really is one of the good guys, who would do anything to save her new friends? Or was Skye pushed to her episodic limits in this hour to show the audience that she still can’t be trusted after betraying Coulson’s trust for the second time in three episodes? Besides that, is the wristband really working when Skye was able to hack S.H.I.E.L.D., or did she hack the wristband, too? Yes, she might have done the right thing, but it was the right thing for her only, which means it was the wrong thing to do, which means she is a pretty egoistic character. Which means she can’t be trusted as a character in the show. And I don’t really know if this was intentional or just plainly bad writing. And all of this made Simmons look kind of bad as a character as well. The scene where she used the nite nite gun against Sitwell may have looked funny, but inside my brains I was just thinking ‘Oh no, how can she be so stupid and out of character, and how can she trust Skye after two episodes ago, and how can she trust her now, and why the hell does she have such awkward and silenced confidence in a situation she was never before, and what the hell did I just watch?’ I really don’t know what to think of it except bad things.
Well, at least the S.H.I.E.L.D. part was good. I hope this episode isn’t the only one where The Hub is being used, and who knows, maybe it’s going to be shown in one of the MCU movies as well. Fact is that the writers just included Victoria Hand, and she is a recurring character in the comics. Whether she is prepped to be a villain in future episodes/seasons, or becomes a force against the evil to reckon with (becoming part of either this S.H.I.E.L.D. team, or the Avengers, or maybe even The Defenders?), it’s clear that she will be part of the show for now. Her interactions with Coulson were nice, and I liked the uncertainty behind her character — did she not tell Coulson about the non-existence of the extraction team, because she knew Coulson would save the day and do his own thing, or was she ordered to not tell Coulson anything, because he (and his strength) was tested? Interesting questions, which dig deeper into the S.H.I.E.L.D. hierarchy, as well as into Coulson’s back story.
Meanwhile, the mid-sentence pause during Coulson’s once more repeated “It’s a magical place” was instantly noticeable, and now that even he questions his own back story, it has somewhat become more interesting. A character that doesn’t know about his own past? Neat. And I know it’s the usual memory-wipe twist we see everywhere in science-fiction these days, but in AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. it’s neat, because the conclusion to that story will ultimately reveal who Coulson really is here. Because one thing is for sure: He is not the Coulson from MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS.
And finally: The Bus can hover right above the ground without blowing anyone’s ears out of their head, without creating something that could resemble a storm. I was laughing when I saw that. As it stands, the writers bend their rules and in-show technology as it fits. I hate inconsistencies of this kind, and it doesn’t even matter if any airborne device in the Marvel universe can hover, because the MCU has a hovering helicarrier above the cities of the world. I just can’t believe that a plane as huge as The Bus can easily hover above the ground without blowing a huge crater into it — or blowing Ward and Fitz away with burning clothes. There’s just so much disbelief I can suspend in one episode…