Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S01E01 “Pilot” and S01E02 “0-8-4” Discussion

Posted by Matthew on October 02, 2013
Television

Agents of SHIELD

I’ve been on holiday so my plan to start recapping Marvel’s Agent’s of S.H.I.E.L.D. is now a week late. That being said, I now have two episodes to talk about and that’s going to work mostly because these episodes function as two halves of a whole.

I’m not going to do a straight recap of each episode each week but rather talk about what I feel the key points are, a few things I’ve noticed, and anything that I find cool (or not so cool) in general.

There will be spoilers so make sure you’ve watched before you read. And with that, let’s get this show on the road!!

Just a reminder that what follows discusses both the pilot episode and episode two “0-8-4”.

It’s A Magical Place

Coulson

Let’s just get this out of the way: Coulson is alive and there’s something weird about it. In episode one there’s a brief scene with Coulson, Maria Hill and a S.H.I.E.L.D. doctor discussing his health and when he leaves the room the doctor asks “He really doesn’t know does he?” to which Hill responds “He can never know.”

So clearly that’s a mystery that’s going to need to be solved at some point, especially if couson has a place in Avengers 2 (or any other Marvel universe movie at this point, really). There’s a few ideas floating around, such as that he’s a life model decoy or that he’s an android. One of the bits that makes me think that he might be an android (and maybe turn into the Avenger team member Vision) is in the pilot: there’s a scene where a door is blown off the side of a van and everyone is leaping out of the way and Coulson just does a backwards dodge, limbo style, and comes back up like it was nothing.

Whatever it is, the pilot sets it up pretty heavily so we’ll find out something probably this season. I do kind of like the recurring line in both episodes, Coulson saying “It’s a magical place” every time someone mentions his supposed R&R in Tahiti. Maybe that’s a hint too? Marvel phase two is supposed to start introducing more of the fantastic, so maybe it’ll turn out that he was magically resurrected. More likely he’s a Stark built android with Coulson’s brain patterns (or brain?) though.

Team Players

Shield s01e02 Team

So let’s take a look at the team.

I am liking Melida May so far. It’s kind of awesome to see Ming-Na Wen kicking some serious ass. If I have a complaint it’s that the whole “hyper capable field agent who saw some things and now doesn’t want to be in the field” story is one I’ve seen before. I hope they go somewhere interesting with it but for some reason I’m not that hopeful.

Fitz and Simmons, they’re the inseparable nerds, so close they finish each others sentences and whatnot. They’re fun so far and Fitz has had a few good moments as the “what are you doing don’t touch that [insert technobabble here] one.”

Agent Ward as the “loner forced to work with a team” one has been pretty good. They’re obviously pushing towards some chemistry/tension with Skye which is annoying. He has had a bunch of the best lines not delivered by Coulson.

And then there’s Skye, the feisty hacker recruited in the first episode. She’s the outside one, the audience surrogate and the one with the questionable allegiances.

If this doesn’t sound so positive that’s because, really, it isn’t. I’m liking the show but each of these characters are such well worn archetypes at this point that feel like I can probably predict their every move when they are confronted with new circumstance. Luckily archetypes are good starting points for characters and this really is the start of the show so there’s plenty of time for them to grow and become, you know, actual characters.

The Plot Thickens Exactly On Time

These first two episodes were good,just the right of cheese and whatnot, but damn were they predictable.

I mean, seriously. Episode 1 was the one where the team was assembled and the morals of the show were explicitly stated. Episode two was the one where the new team doesn’t know how to work together and then facing a common enemy learn to work together and become the team that Coulson knows they can be.

I know these episodes had to happen. You can’t just start with a team, that’s cheating. You need to introduce an audience surrogate (that’d be Skye, the hacker, who despite having a skill the team needs and being obsessed with superheroes knows the least about the full universe) so that they can explain everyone to someone for the viewers. You need to have a situation they can come together in and do some good to convince them all to work together. You need the moment where the team says “we don’t think this can be done” and the leader says “not getting it done isn’t an option”.

And then you need to give them a common enemy to make them come together as a team and use their various skills to great complimentary effect.

They weren’t bad but I’m glad that we’re past them so we can focus on, you know, the actual story.

Speaking of which, so Skye is a member of The Rising Tide and confirms her status at the end of episode two. Five’ll getcha ten that when the time comes she sticks with the team.

This is my main problem with the show right now, basically everything seems like it might be pretty predictable. Then again maybe it’ll turn out she did it on Coulson’s orders. Probably not though. Bleh.

I did enjoy the tailgate party though. Moreso even than Lola turning out to be a rocket car.

Tailgate Party

I Didn’t Hear You Can We Record That Again?

Look, I know they’re trying to fit a lot into each episode but so far there’s been a bunch of dialogue that seems to have been inserted via ADR. Am I the only one hearing this? I can’t be, right? Anyway, it find it distracting because the timbre of the lines is usually wrong. Nitpick, I grant you, but still.

The Real Enemy is Our feelings

Even though the resolution of it was pretty apparent from the get go, I really enjoyed J. August Richards as Mike Peterson, the ordinary guy turned extraordinary. His progression from lovable dad:

Shield s01e01 Richards

To desperate, morally confused almost villain:

Shield s01e01 Richards

Was very well done. He’s a good actor, and I don’t know why he’s not working more, but his speech at the end of the pilot in which he basically delivers the point of the show (“how is being ordinary good enough in a world now filled with giants?”) was delivered exactly as it needed to be. Thoughtful, angry, and exactly the right amount of sad.

The 0-8-4 Was Leonor Varela’s Acting Skill

Shield s01e02 Leonor

I don’t know why, but there was nothing about Leonor Varela’s turn as Camilla Reyes. Everything about it seemed forced. It was one thing when she was supposedly faking being nice, but once she went into full on monologuing bad guy I bought it even less. I sincerely hope that this episode is an exception to the rule when it comes to antagonists.

We’ll Give You A Callback

Shield s01e01 Hill

One of my favourite things about the show so far is how well it’s doing with calling back to the movies without being over the top about it. Even having Cobie Smulders in episode one was a good example of this, talking about the Battle of New York, and everything came up organically; it never felt forced or faked, which is great because that would be so easy to do.

Even in 0-8-4 this week, the exchange between Coulson and Skye:

Coulson: “An 0-8-4 is an item of unknown origin. The last one turned out to be pretty interesting.”

Skye: “What was the last one?”

Coulson: “A hammer.”

Kind of perfect. Not too over the top but not too subtle. I like it. Then of course there was a post credits scene in 0-8-4 where this happened too:

Shield s01e02 Nick Fury

Which is also perfect. Nick Fury was really the thread that held the phase one movies together, seeing him here only cements this as a full blown part of that universe. Plus, Samuel L Jackson. It was awesome.

Conclusion and Questions

Overall I think the show is off to a decent start. Live I’ve said I think that the use of archetypal characters and stories will serve as a good foundation, I just really hope that it grows out of all that pretty quick and becomes something a little more special.

Here are a few things that I’d like to know. Some of this is probably pretty obvious but:

  1. What is Rising Tide actually up to and how is Skye involved?
  2. Who was the blonde woman in the apartment at the start of episode one? Does she matter? Will she come back?
  3. When exactly does this take place? We know that Iron Man Three takes place about 6 months after The Avengers, and I have it on good authority that Thor: The Dark World is about a year after and Captain America: The Winter Soldier is around 2 years after, so where does this fit into that timeline?
  4. Will we see more of Hill and Fury? I hope so. I’m not going to hold my breath just yet though, given that Sam Jackson is a major movie star and Cobie Smulders has a full time job on How I Met Your Mother until next year.
  5. Seriously, what’s the deal with Coulson?

That’s about all I have for this week. I’m still on vacation through next weeks episode and will be spending most of the day after on a plane, so while I do expect to have something up for episode 3 it’ll probably be about a day late.

See you then!

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