Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 1, Episode 2 of ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," titled "0-8-4."
It's all good and well to bring a group of people together and call them a team, as Agent Coulson did in the pilot of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," but that doesn't make them a team. This week, the makeshift team finally came together as a single unit and showed the potential that Coulson saw in them in the first place. And even though he likes Skye for her hacking abilities, she proved she might have some leadership potential as well. Which is good, because she didn't use any of her hacking abilities this week, rendering her otherwise rather useless.
Of course, the first thing everyone is going to be talking about in this episode was the extra scene at the end of the credits -- it's not just for Marvel movies now! Just as he's done in countless Marvel films, Samuel L. Jackson made a surprise appearance at the end of the episode to yell at Agent Coulson. In this case, considering the damage "the bus" sustained, it was completely warranted. The explosion was initially shown in the opening scene as a teaser, before the action jumped back 19 hours.
This type of flashback is a device that's been used countless times on television, and is especially a favorite for crime procedurals. Based on this episode, it looks like "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is heading down that path, though with way more butt-kicking. In fact, other than the dialogue establishing this as taking place in the Marvel Universe, this could have been any action/adventure story.
In "0-8-4," the team goes down to Peru for a mysterious object. When they get there, Coulson reconnects with a former lover, who's now heading up a military team of her own. When Coulson brings them on board the bus to save them, they are quickly established as our villains for the week. But really, they're just a plot device to teach the team to work together. While his former lover is quick to dismiss Coulson's ragtag team of misfits, he has more faith. As he tells her, she just gave them a common enemy.
That's the main reason that this episode works. Normally, it would be frustrating that they're only battling ordinary humans in the second episode, but this isn't about the villains. If they were cool supervillains with flashy costumes and neat powers, then our attention would be drawn to the villains. Since they're just boring military types, our focus stays on the team. And they finally earn their stripes as a team.
We also got to learn a bit more about them, other than the fact that their attractive -- representing Coulson's midlife crisis? Melinda May is a badass who quit working in the field. We knew that. This week, we learned that she had a nickname that was legendary, "The Cavalry." We also learned that she hated that nickname. See, layers being peeled slowly. We're not in a hurry to know everything, but we do need to come to understand these people better as the series progresses, or we'll only be here for the cool special effects and freaks of the week.
Skye remains our access point for the series, and yet she's also a strange addition to the team. Only Coulson seems to really understand why he's brought her on board. Neither May nor Ward are behind the decision, and even Fury warned Coulson that she's a risk. Of course, Fury couldn't have known how right he was, could he? The episode closed with Skye getting a text asking her if she was still on board with Rising Tide. She texted back, "I'm in," but at least had the decency to look conflicted.
When the gang came together -- okay, they were captured and put together on the loading bay -- they decided to blow a hole in the side of their hijacked plane in order to disable the door locks. A little extreme, but effective. Also effective -- but I'm not buying it for a minute -- was the inflatable raft used to plug the hole. There is no way that wouldn't have just been ripped through the hole. I demand to know what that raft was made of.
At least they knew that comic book science was in play when using that strategy, otherwise, it could have been a disaster! The action sequences, both in the bus and at the temple, were handled very well and it was great seeing everyone on the team able to hold their own when given no other choice.
All in all, this second episode left me even more breathless than the first. Comic books are action-based by their very nature, so it was nice to see "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." embracing that aspect with its storytelling. So many crime shows on TV are forensics-based, making "S.H.I.E.L.D." feel like a welcome throwback to the action series of the 1970s and 1980s. This could well be an "A-Team" for the new millennium, with Coulson's Lola as the new KITT from "Knight Rider."
While the stakes weren't as high this episode, they were just high enough. The team learned to work together, and more important, they learned to trust one another. Now that we've gotten past that, I expect bigger and better from "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." The Marvel Universe is a vast playground with plenty of crazy stuff going on. Coulson said the world changed when the Avengers battled an invasion in New York City. Let's explore that world now, OK?
- The last 0-8-4 was a hammer, referring to Thor's hammer. Coulson tracked it down in the Marvel short aptly titled, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer."
- The mysterious device dated back to the Hydra of the 1940s aka the Hydra from "Captain America: The First Avenger." And, of course, the gamma radiation contained in the device is the same gamma radiation that brought us The Incredible Hulk.
- Skye is hired on as a "consultant" for S.H.I.E.L.D. in the same way that Tony Stark (Iron Man) is a consultant.
- And, of course, the big one. Samuel L. Jackson reprised his role as Nick Fury in what is hopefully the first of many fun film cameos -- but not too many, too soon. We've had Hill and Fury now in two episodes. Take a breath and let these new "Agents" take the spotlight for a while.