Writers: Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon, Jeffrey Bell
Director: David Straiton
THE ONE WHERE Skye joins the team as a consultant and their first mission together – to pick up an unidentified artefact from Peru – goes horribly wrong when their flying command centre is assaulted. Can the gang overcome their differences and work together to escape?
VERDICT It was big and brash and full of action, but despite some of my colleagues thinking that this episode was better than the pilot, I’m not so sure. It felt contrived, a clumsy way to make the team feel like a team and it was peppered with annoying technobabble.
Don’t get me wrong: I still enjoyed it, the aeroplane siege was exciting. It felt big budget. Skye is becoming more interesting as a character, and Coulson remains likeable and resourceful. The shouting match in the lab felt very much like classic Buffy – tension in the library as the characters work themselves out – and in fact the storytelling format (start with the big bang then flash “19 hours earlier…”) is very Whedonesque. There’s humour in every scene too, from jokes about Coulson’s mid-life crisis and his “flying man cave” to the final fishtank gag. And if you have a TV show where Samuel L Jackson cameos, you’ve basically won me over.
The team-building shtick is awkward, however, and the episode practically chokes us on its metaphors. A team who can’t get along are literally tied together until they start working as one – like separate pieces of the same puzzle. Hey, wasn’t Skye just talking about that exact thing with Ward over vodka?
And heck, I need Fitz and Simmons to shut up. Fluctuating nano-core! Photon emissions! Hydrogen fuelled EPUs! The rocket will soon reach the Lagrange Point! What is this, late era Star Trek: The Next Generation?
But let’s not be over negative, because it has pace and heart and humour, a sense of the Marvel universe, and the characters are starting to develop distinct personalities.
One final nitpick, though. I don’t believe for a second you can repressurise a ‘plane by plugging an almighty hole in the cabin with an inflatable plastic raft. One former aerospace project planner I know watched this episode and said, “If you blow a hole in an aircraft, you pretty much have to build a new aircraft.”
MARVEL UNIVERSE “Technically Stark’s a consultant,” says Coulson, referring to Iron Man’s connection to SHIELD. The last 0-8-4 was Thor’s hammer, apparently. This 0-8-4 is fuelled by Tesseract technology, taking us back to Captain America and Avengers Assemble and there are references to HYDRA.
SEND IN THE CAVALRYThe Cavalry is a recent superteam from the Avengers comics. Is the implication that Melinda May is a former member of that team?
MEN IN BLACK Like last week we get to see how influential SHIELD are. Coulson lectures Reyes that an 0-8-4 situation “precedes all national claims,” so SHIELD must have some kind of UN mandate to go in and grab stuff anywhere. Coulson refers to covering up an antimatter meteor that splashed down just off the coast of Miami to avoid panic.
SPECULATION This is the second time Coulson has said of Tahiti, “It’s a magical place.” Is this a clue that it’s magic that brought him back? (I’m still voting LMD but what do I know?)
FAMILY VIEWING “We lost a lot of men!” says Camilla Reyes. Really? We didn’t see them: no corpses at teatime.
DISNEY DROIDS The probes are named after the Seven Dwarfs (nice to see Marvel plundering other universes owned by parent company Disney) and this week we see 02 SLEEPY. Last week the POV was 04 BASHFUL.
ANACHRONOMETER Coulson claims his prized walkie-talkie wrist watch is from 1936. In reality walkie-talkies weren’t developed until World War II. The most famous communicator wrist watch in fiction belonged to Dick Tracy but that wasn’t introduced until 1946.
TALKING OF CLOCKS Coulson asks Commandant Reyes to stay on his six – so she immediately moves to be on one side of him. Never seen a watch face?
PRODUCT PLACEMENT So this time the SHIELD gang are rocking a Lexus. It’s the GX460, according to the internet. You sure get to see that “L” hood badge a lot while they’re in Peru.