Note: this review may contain spoilers pertaining to Tuesday’s episode.
They say the third time is the charm, and it appears the old adage holds true as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues its trend of getting better with each subsequent episode. Rather than trying to figure out where it fits within Marvel’s grander on-screen universe, S.H.I.E.L.D. is focusing its energy on developing the eponymous agents and giving us more backstory and reasons to care about them, beyond the fact that they can kick ass and take names.
Agents May, Fitz, and Simmons all take a backseat this episode, as the action hones in on the relationship between Skye, now an agent trainee, and Ward, her supervising officer, and their difficulties connecting on a student-teacher level. Through some clever twists, turns, and fakeouts, we learn more about Ward and Skye and their family backgrounds in particular, which goes a long way towards making them feel like fully fleshed out, real people. Skye continues to win me over, proving her ingenuity through situations like telling billionaire scientist-investor-villain Ian Quinn (the laid back David Conrad) that “S.H.I.E.L.D. is listening” in order to win his trust and gain access to his office.
Moreover, tonight’s episode gave us our first full-fledged supervillain origin story in the form of Dr. Franklin Hall (played by Ian Hart, a/k/a Professor Quirrell), who some eagle-eyed viewers may recognize as the alter ego of Graviton, a 1977 creation of Jim Shooter and Sal Buscema, who can control localize gravity fields by manipulating Graviton particles. Don’t let the talk of Gravitonium give you Avatar-esque PTSD, though.
Before his fateful metamorphosis, Hall tells Coulson that “we have to live with the choices we make, but sometimes we have to die with them, too.” Without missing a beat, Coulson tells him, “I understand. You made a hard call and now I have to make mine.” With a few bullets, Coulson shoots the floor out from under Hall, sending him flying into the Gravitonium generator, creating the show’s first supervillain in the process.
Where the episode truly succeeded, though, is in the ol’ switcheroo of presenting us with an obvious, red herring villain in the form of Quinn before imbuing the comparative milquetoast that is Franklin Hall with unimaginable power. It’s a solid origin story, and given Hall’s hateboner for organizations like S.H.I.E.L.D. and the fact that Coulson is the one who caused his transformation, here’s hoping that he’ll be a recurring baddie with whom S.H.I.E.L.D. must contend.
The show still needs to figure out its balance of seriousness and humor. Certain moments, like Skye’s callback to Ward’s story about his brothers, seemed a bit corny at first, but she saved it when her “Big Brother” metaphor went off the rails and turned into a moment of humor. On the other end of the spectrum, though, several moments felt undermined by tacked-on one-liners and hammy delivery. I appreciate the show’s lighthearted tone, but sometimes less is more. It might be growing pains as the show continues to find its voice, but it was definitely a noticeable dichotomy in tonight’s episode. One thing is for sure, though: this show just keeps getting better.
Odds and Ends
– Coulson is realizing something is different about him. But what? *cough* Life Model Decoy *cough* The plot thickens.
– Not much Agent May this episode, which is a bummer because she clearly kicks the most ass out of all of them.
– Of course the truck driver is named Agent Mack.
– Looks like that truck driver at the beginning is sipping a child-sized soda from Pawnee, Indiana.
– Seeing Agent Ward training in the loading bay reminds me of Lee Adama. Will we see Fat Ward in season 2?
– “I’ve got an invitation. Well, technically it’s an evite.”
– “Things are movin’ too quickly. I’m a proper Southern girl. You’ll make me untidy!”
– “You forget. I saw plenty of action with the Avengers.” “And you died.”
– “She probably just used her, uh, her, uh, uh….boobs.” – Fitz with the line of the night
– “Saying his name repeatedly does not increase productivity”
– “I’ll be honest. Our strategy did not take into consideration you saying that”
– If nothing else, you have to appreciate Coulson’s indefatigable dedication to dry quips in the face of abject danger.
– “Your search for an unlimited power source brought an alien invasion!” “Fair point.”
What did you think of tonight’s episode? How are you enjoying the series so far? Let us know in the comments below or let me know on Twitter.
Images: ABC/Marvel Studios