It’s kind of a shame because there were some interesting pieces to the episode, but they didn’t all come together. If anything, “The Hub” suffered from a lack of focus.
When SHIELD intel reveals that a new weapon nicknamed the Overkill Device has been built and fallen into the wrong hands, agents Ward and Fitz are sent in to sabotage it. It’s a covert mission and one whose details are only known to agents with a level eight clearance or higher — a clearance level Coulson has when we start the episode, but one that he may not necessarily still have when the episode is over (looks like we’ll have to wait and see on that one).
Of course, being kept out of the loop doesn’t sit well with Skye, who immediately begins plotting to find a way into the top secret files to determine the truth of the mission. She’s helped out by Simmons, who proves to not be so deft on her feet in coming up with a convincing cover story. There’s probably a reason she’s not in the field that often. I will say that the scene with Simmons coming up with excuses for why she’s at a panel with a flash drive was one of the more amusing on the program. It also shows that Elizabeth Hendridge does well with humor and that she could be more capable of delivering Whedon-esque dialogue than I’d originally given her credit.
I also liked the continued plot threat of Skye’s growing loyalty to the team and her friends. Presented with the chance to try and find out more about the mystery surrounding her parents, Skye goes for the data on Ward and Fitz’s mission, only to uncover an uncomfortable truth — it’s actually a suicide mission since SHIELD has no extraction plan in place for the two.
On the one hand, I can see how Ward might be expendable, but it’s hard to believe that SHIELD would want or allow someone as technologically savvy as Fitz to be killed in the field or worse yet, captured and allowed/forced to develop tech for the enemy. Sure, it worked out that Tony Stark’s tech helped him to escape from his captors and eventually became an asset for the good guys, but we can’t forget that Starks initial mandate was to develop and replicate his work on weapons systems for terrorists.
The mantra of this episode was “Trust the system.” And it really felt like the series was trying to remind me that I needed to have faith that all these pieces would come together and that the series will eventually find its footing and become the show we’re all hoping it’s capable of being. And yet, it’s another week where I feel like the pieces were all there for a home run of an episode and instead we only got a run-it-out double.
Part of that could be that I was less than compelled by the teaming of Ward and Fitz heading into the field. It felt like a weak attempt to follow the unlikely buddy cop formula with these two wildly contrasting characters forced to work together for the greater good. It’s interesting to see that Ward would open up to Simmons last week and know he’s the butt of jokes for his rigid adherence to rules and regulations. And yet he can’t or won’t warm up as much to Fitz when the two are in the field, fighting for their lives. The one spark of hope from this plot thread was the news that Coulson asked Fitz to take of Ward. I’m not sure how much of that was really necessary and how much of that was a pep talk from Coulson to Fitz to bolster his confidence in the field. But, that isolated moment worked well. The rest of the plot line felt a bit tired to me and I never engaged with it like I wanted to or should have.
The threads taking place at the super-top-secret SHIELD hub worked a lot better. Watching this show, Thor 2 and the preview for Captain America 2, I can’t help but wonder if we’re seeing a different, darker side of SHIELD developing. Perhaps this is an organization that started with good intentions but has become corrupted by its own power and need for secrecy. We saw hints of this in Thor 2 with various characters not wanting SHIELD to become aware of activities for fear they would be shut down and here we see that SHIELD agents are capable of lying to each other.
Coulson is willing to give Skye a hint of information about her parents to keep her loyal and possibly pursuing the wrong lead, all while keeping certain knowledge between himself and May. It’s interesting to see this is thrown back on him in the coda when he tries to access information on himself only to find that he’s out of the loop and that someone higher up has removed his access to the information he wants most. Could we be leading to a Coulson/Skye team-up to uncover the truth as it relates to their past and the questions they have about it? If so, this could be interesting.
I also get the feeling that Coulson’s team and his leadership style is starting to make a few enemies within SHIELD itself. Going back to my theory that we are seeing SHIELD become corrupted from its original purpose or that its a darker group that we were led to believe by the initial wave of Marvel movies, it could be interesting to see our team eventually become some kind of rogue group within the organization. Part of me can’t help but think of Babylon Five and the station eventually declaring independence from Earth due to the corrupted leadership. Are we seeing something similar in this series? And would audiences have the patience for it? I get the feeling SHIELD is intended for a less hard core audience and that such a heavy arc story might drive away viewers or put the show into the same type of niche as Dollhouse — loyal audience but not a huge one.
But that’s all for the future of the show.
Perhaps this is a building block show and one that will pay dividends as the season progresses. If so, that could jump it a point or two in my estimation. But for now, I find myself once again relatively disappointed by “The Hub.”