All great TV shows have that one episode where after luring me in with some bait, they set the hook. One of the easiest to recall in recent memory is Lost with the first Locke-centric episode that featured the big reveal that before the castaways crash landed on Island Hell, that Locke was confined to a wheelchair. Or in the case of Battlestar Galactica, it was “32,” the first regular episode after the mini-series.
With Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, I feel like the writing staff has done a decent job of baiting the hook, but I’m still waiting for it to be set and to reel me in.
If this week’s episode was any indication, I feel like the writing team is tugging on the line a bit and getting ready to possibly give us that one episode that completely blows us away and leaves us all hooked.*
* To go back to another Whedon show, it took them six or so (broadcast) episodes to get there with Firefly and the episode in question was “Out of Gas.”
After last week’s installment felt a bit like a re-hash of the pilot and a bit too rushed to try and build the group of people into the team that Colson wants them to be, “The Asset” felt more like a story designed to begin bringing a bit of depth to some of these characters. I don’t necessarily think the show is helped by the reliance on the procedural format it’s adopted because it requires giving over a certain amount of time to build up the threat of the week and attempt to have us care about that situation and/or the people involved. But there were certainly enough character moments from the main cast to keep me interested, even when my connection to the “crisis of the week” plotline wasn’t necessarily always at it’s highest level.
That said, I think the show has definitely set the hook for some of the characters from this installment to return at a future point and time. And if so, these are some adversaries who would have a legitimate reason to be very unhappy with certain members of our SHIELD team (namely, Coulson).
The asset of the title is Dr. Frank Hall, a top SHIELD scientist. He’s kidnapped by his old business partner, Ian Quinn who is hiding out in Malta because their laws won’t bring down the wrath of the United States or SHIELD on him. Turns out Quinn is a bit of a rouge, along the lines of the Rising Tide, but apparently better funded and more out in the open. He wants Hall to help him finish work on a new element called Gravitonium, which will be a new source of energy and make both of them very, very rich. The SHIELD team has a connection to Hall beyond just wanting to save a valuable asset when we discover that Hall was a mentor to Fitz and Simmons.
Skye volunteers to go into Quinn’s headquarters to disable some security systems so SHIELD can come in and save Hall.
Everything appears to be going according to plan, that is until Skye apparently turns on SHIELD and the whole plan could go straight to hell.
I’ll admit I was glad when the shocking twist of the episode wasn’t that Skye would appear to turn on her newly found SHIELD family, but instead that Hall was the one who had arranged his own kidnapping. He want to unleash the element on the world, regardless of the destructive powers it may or may not possess. This leads to Coulson having to make a choice between saving the asset and the world. And it allows Coulson to show off just why he’s the leader of the team and he’s not just the quippy nice guy we met in all the Marvel movies leading up to this. He’s forces to sacrifice Hall to save the world and while it’s clear he regrets it, we can also see that he realizes it’s all part of being the leader of this elite force. That scene alone really helped push the episode out beyond just being “Ok” and into the “pretty good” category for me.
It also sets up some interesting plot threads down the road with the coda, indicating that maybe Hall isn’t dead. And should he come back, he would have a fairly legitimate beef with Coulson and his SHIELD team.
What I didn’t necessarily like as much as the plotline around Quinn. I kept wondering if the show might be setting him to to be a recurring thorn in the side of the team, but I’m not necessarily sure this is an avenue the series could or should explore. The character lacked the instant villain charisma of other Whedon adversaries like Spike or Badger. This may be my bringing my preconceptions and fond memories of other Whedon-verse shows to SHIELD, of course.
I also have to admit that most of the scenes involving Ward serving as some kind of mentor to Skye felt a bit flat. His defining moment speech wasn’t a highlight of the episode (and it should have been) and there are times he seems a bit too clunky. In some ways, it reminds me a bit of Riley from Buffy. I’m hoping at some point the show will turn this around or find a way to play to the strengths of Ward….whatever those may be.
I also will have to admit I found the whole gravitonium thing a bit too reminiscent of Doc Ock’s device in Spider-Man 2. Could this be a call back that the show wants us to make or is it just my love of that movie coming through and coloring things? I have a feeling it’s more the former than the latter.
But those things aside, I still feel like SHIELD is taking baby steps in the right direction. The hook is baited…now they just need to set it and start reeling me in.