Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been steadily improving, and this episode shows that it can consistently hit a tone and stay there. Especially when it busts up the team and forces them to improvise.
This episode is really the Ward and Fitz Show, as the two pull a Batman and Robin on a “Level 8” assignment to retrieve a sonic weapon that looks very close to the saem weapon used by the Marvel villain Klaw. And it’s welcome not least because it gives both of these characters a lot more dimension. Fitz, for example, has a few surprisingly steely moments. He manages to use his tech skills to outmaneuver a bar full of angry, armed hicks, and he also gets a few heroic moments, thanks to this episode’s MacGuffin.
Ward, meanwhile, shows his human side. It’s nice to see Brett Dalton being given something to do beyond punch stuff; when Ward realizes his bosses have screwed him, his first action is… to try and get the guy less likely to survive a full assault out the door.
Also, we actually dug into S.H.I.E.L.D. as an organization for the first time. We met Victoria Hand, Agent Sitwell is back, the Triskelion is mentioned, and, of course, S.H.I.E.L.D. is a bit more callous and impersonal than Coulson would like. And secretive, since he realized that he was acting like a Manchurian Candidate whenever somebody asked him about Tahiti. In the ongoing “What the hell is Coulson, actually?” subplot, we discover that he’s not allowed access to his own file.
Finally, we also find out that Skye was dropped off at an orphanage by a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, who is now dead. Honestly, this subplot could stand to pick up the pace; two characters with a mystery in their past is two too many when only one of them is really compelling. But, hey, there’s always next week, and next week promises a little Thor action, or at least an episode referencing the bulldozer that is Thor: The Dark World.
A few more thoughts:
- The “nose-picking” opening was one of the worst effects fails on TV in some time.
- Skye was incredibly grating this episode, verging on Mary-Sue fanfic territory. At least she makes the right choice to help Fitz and Ward, but yeesh.
- How many jokes about Ming-Na Wen being stoic can they cram into one episode?
- I give it until February sweeps before Coulson does a “personal mission” to look at his file.