THE ONE WHERE After busting a SHIELD agent out of a Siberian prison, the team learn of a dangerous new sonic weapon about to upset the balance of power on the Russian border. They visit a SHIELD hub for advice, and agent Victoria Hand sends Ward and Fitz in to rescue the weapon from separatists. But is she telling Coulson the whole story?
VERDICT The story is blatantly an attempt to get Ward and Fitz to bond: it’s their “turn” to be the pair of the week. A shame, because in many ways they’re the blandest duo on the team. Fitz blossoms a little as a result of the experience but I’m no closer to loving Ward.
Whatever else Agents Of SHIELD does wrong, it does feel “big” – the Hub is no Torchwood Hub, although you can’t help but wonder about the parallels – instead we’ve got huge indoor and outdoor locations. Our heroes’ plane can also, apparently, hover like Serenity.
As well as introducing us to the exigencies of level eight, the episode shows us that Simmons clearly cares for Fitz (last week was her episode and this week it’s his); she’s worried about him and that he might be being tortured. And he’s telling stories about her to Ward, belying his apparent interest in Skye. Fitz proves to be as resourceful as Ward and in fact immerses himself in the mission, reminding him “their lives are on the line to so let’s not get too comfortable”, a sense of responsibility that we’d begun to sense last time when he was prepared to jump from the plane for Fitz. This is balance for last week’s episode – Fitz was prepared to leap but Ward did it. It’s about defining who’s a hero. All the regular team members are proving that they have courage outside their comfort zone; in fact even Simmons, although it’s played for comic effect, has a tense undercover scene within the corridors of the Hub. When Ward says at the end “truth is, I was in good hands” it’s a bit of a cheesy reconciliation… but that was the purpose of the main story arc here. The mission itself is fairly forgettable, a fetch quest that enables Ward and Fitz to have some alone time – but everybody emerges a little more credible.
The truly interesting stuff? Well, it’s the hints at story arc, the subplots of Coulson and Skye – SHIELD really does have a hand in everything…
MARVEL UNIVERSE “Fury has a soft spot for his favourites” obviously refers to Nick Fury. But the big comics crossover in this episode is Victoria Hand – the senior SHIELD agent, initially an accountant, was created by Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Deodato in The Invincible Iron Man in 2008. Meanwhile, did you notice at the bottom of a signpost in the Hub a label for HAMMER? In the same episode of the comics that Victoria Hand was introduced, HAMMER was introduced as a replacement for SHIELD during the “Secret Invasion” storyline. Also, Simmons says “wait ’til you see the Triskelion”, which is the SHIELD base in the Ultimates universe (created 2002). When they refer to Romanoff that’s obviously Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson in the flicks), but there’s also reference to Barton this episode – Clint Barton was the agent that was sent initially to assassinate her but who led to her participation in SHIELD, and is better known as Hawkeye.
REFERENCES Getting the bug out through Agent Shaw’s nose (a “paranasal extraction”) is a bit Total Recall?
MEN IN BLACK It’s pretty clear that a faction within SHIELD, if not the actions of the whole organisation, is going to be challenged by Captain America in the next movie. With that in mind, it’s interesting how monolithic and unsympathetic the organisation is: you can’t help sympathising with Skye. She calls them “Big Brother” and that mantra “trust the system” is spouted at least a half a dozen times. When you hear “Level 5s are more expendable than 8s?” you can’t help wondering who these people are.
COULSON LIVES More and more hints about this sub-plot. He’s definitely an android or LMD, right? That’s what we’re all thinking? Note how he stumbles while saying “it’s a magical place” about Tahiti – even he isn’t buying it. Then Skye says Coulson is “acting like a robot version of himself right now” – gotta be a clue.
FILM TIE-IN Next week’s episode is “The Well”, supposedly a follow-up to the current Thor movie on the big screen. It’s directed by ex-Star Trek beard Jonathan Frakes.
So, the SHIELD server actually has a folder called “redacted documents” – that’s exactly how we store deleted or confidential files here at SFX Towers too. Nobody will think to look there.
You think Fitz is being tortured but actually he’s helping the Russians start their generator, and making friends with a lady calling him her “little bear”.
NOT QUITE LMAO
Coulson having a chat with May in which she says nothing but carries on doing her Tai Chi while he worries about going soft… it feels like a break from Coulson’s otherwise redoubtable character in the episode and it’s an old gag, somebody receiving solace while their conversational partner says nothing.
CHEKHOV’S GUN This show really likes the dramatic principle of Chekhov’s Gun. Is that every episode now? Show a weapon prominently in the first act (the night-night pistol this time) and then it goes off in the second or third. They even double it up this week, telling us about the sonic weapon at the start and ensuring Fitz has to use it at the end.