Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S01E07 “The Hub” Discussion

Posted by Matthew on November 14, 2013
Television

Agents of SHIELD

Another week, another adventure with Coulson and Company. As always I’ll be discussing what I feel are the important points in the episode and am assuming you have watched it already. Naturally spoilers will abound.

Fitz To The Rescue! Wait, What?

In last week’s episode when Simmons thought she was going to die she jumped off the bus. Fitz grabbed a parachute but before he could even get the straps figured out Ward grabs it from him and jumps out of the plane, leaving Fitz with an “everyone thinks I’m a coward” complex. There’s a lot of room for a character to grow from that. Instead of doing that though, this week they tossed him into the field and it turns out that he’s super agent in the field. He may not be a ninja like Ward or May, but in basically every situation it’s his quick thinking that saves the day.

Uh, what? This is a character thread that I feel maybe should have gone on for a while. Maybe Fitz could have, I don’t know, gone through some training? Sparred with Skye (she’s learning too, remember)? Studied some past missions (as his overly analytical brain is wont to)? And then after a few episodes have him picked for an assignment before he thinks he’s ready and he can then figure out that he’s been ready this whole time! But no, they just toss him out in the field and he saves the day.

It also casts Ward in a bit of a “I can only solve things with punching” light, since he’s the other guy on the mission because he has contacts in the region but when it turns out his one friend in the region is dead he basically says “ok, I’m out of ideas here.”.

Ugh.

Level Up!

It was interesting to get a look at some of the inner workings of S.H.I.E.L.D. this week though and how it all seems to be based around clearance levels. At the start of the series Ward is upgraded to Level 7, this week it’s revealed that Coulson is Level 8, May is Level 7, Fitz and Simmons are Level 5, and Skye still isn’t an agent.

This is all tying back to my predicted/hopeful Captain America: The Winter Soldier tie in episode that we’ll probably get towards season end next year. On The Bus everyone is in the loop about whatever they are working on, but at S.H.I.E.L.D. everything is on a need to know basis and the higher level you are the more you need to know. IE: People at the bottom can basically be told to do things and they will with little or no question. The rumours about Captain America: The Winter Soldier are that it’ll feature S.H.I.E.l.D. divided and this is a nice little bit of set up for how that could be accomplished.

Also, nice to see more recurring agents from previous work, Jasper Sitwell back from Thor and the one-shots The Consultant and Item 47, and new character Victoria Hand. Sitwell is already going to be in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it’ll be cool if Hand shows up in future movies/series also.

Coulson’s Team Is Super

When it becomes apparent that Ward and Fitz have been sent into hostile territory with no extraction plan Coulson goes ballistic. During that argument with Victoria Hand she points out that Barton and Romanoff never need an extraction plan to which Coulson points out that they know that going in.

At the end of the episode Coulson and the team rush in to extract Ward and Fitz and when Sitwell points this out to Hand she says “It’s Coulson’s team, they didn’t need an extraction plan.” So clearly at this point S.H.I.E.L.D. considers Coulson and Company special. Super even. A unit that can be sent in to get things done and trust that they will. It also goes to great lengths to point out that Coulson runs the team differently than the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D. runs.

This makes all the sense, the are the stars of the show after all, but it’s nice to see it actually pointed out and not just assumed by everyone.

Coulson Is Getting Worried / Skye’s Past Is A Mess / I Could Say The Same About The Writing

Last episode it was revealed that Coulson knows that there is more going on with his death and recovery than he was letting on. This week he tries to look into it but despite having what should be the proper clearance he’s denied a look at the reports on the subject.

We learned two episodes ago that Skye is only in this to find out about her past which is tied to S.H.I.E.L.D. somehow via a redacted file she found. Coulson finds the file and tells her a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent dropped her off at the orphanage but that that is all it said. He then shows the file, complete with grizzly crime scene photos of the murder of her parents, to May and asks her to help him find out what happened.

I’ve said this before, I’m getting tired of being drip fed this stuff. I don’t want to see it in episode stingers or the conclusion or whatever. Let’s do monster of the week episodes and plot episodes. That’s what has worked for basically every other show out there, right? This everything in every episode but only tiny amounts of it is wearing thin, and it also makes every episode feel rushed (because they could use those scenes for other things) and frustrating (because they aren’t telling us very much).

Ugh.

Conclusion

This episode was actually pretty fun. It was nice to see more of the agency, it was nice to be reminded that Coulson’s team is just one cog in a much bigger machine. The action was fun, I like seeing Ward kick some butt, and I’m kind of liking the relationship that Coulson and May have as the two veterans on the bus. Ward is level 7 but doesn’t have the experience that both May and Coulson do. Plus, Ward needs coaching still.

All in all I still think the series is improving. Will it be enough though? {Variety reports that ratings are still dropping](http://variety.com/2013/tv/news/agents-of-shield-hits-another-low-as-nbc-cbs-top-tuesday-1200826817/) and while Disney/Marvel seem to have all the money in the world right now, at what point will the universe building the show provides for the movies (and future series) not be worth it anymore?

It’s getting better, but it has a long way to go.

Next week we get our first real tie in episode: “The Well” follows on directly from Thor: The Dark World although from the promo below it looks like it has precious little to do with the plot of that movie. Something left behind by an Asgardian or Elf causes some problems, it seems. See you next week for that!

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  • After watching the pilot on day 1 and being underwhelmed, I made the decision to stop and marathon episodes 2-4 – and I’ve been hooked ever since. Every episode, thus far, has improved upon its predecessor, and in terms of pacing – after being used to comic book pacing – I actually think they’re giving away too much too soon. They’ve got “I don’t think we’re getting a renewal” syndrome… which is funny considering of all the shows out there, they’re probably safest. Seriously though – have we ever seen a company that owns the original material, the production AND also the “Big 4” broadcasting network?

    Nice touch with introducing Victoria Hand too. My brain went pop when she showed up. Loved her character in the comics. Shame about how it ended.

    • Matthew

      I think a lot of that “we might not get renewed” thing is that they only had a short order to start, 9 episodes or something like that, they only got picked up for the full 22 after a few episodes. I guess where my frustration lies is that if they just keep teasing at both Coulson and Skye’s background and I feel like the show needs to decide to focus on one at a time rather than drip feeding us both.

      You could argue that Smallville fits that mould, but the CW isn’t exactly big four. Still, Warner Brothers owns DC and the CW so it almost works.

      I like Hand as well. Like I said above, I’m curious how much this is all going to tie into future storylines in the rest of the universe!