0-8-4, the latest episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., was a lot like the pilot. Solid, well-written, fun enough, but cruising when it could soar. And worse, it’s an episode that didn’t have to take place in the Marvel universe.
The numbers in the title refer to a scary-ass device of some sort that S.H.I.E.L.D. makes a habit of flinging into space. Flying right into Peru to grab a superweapon has its share of complications, but mostly this episode is about making the various stereotypes we met in the last episode work more as a team. Which is nice, and all, but the show still isn’t giving us any reason to care about these people.
To be fair, this show loses some of the bad habits the pilot had. Fitz and Simmons are no longer precious twee youngsters you want to deport back to Hogwarts, for example. But Ward is still a stiff who exists solely to punch things, and the show actually goes out of its way to highlight that Skye just kind of stands around as “the hot one” without bothering to explain why she’s part of the team. You find yourself wondering if she’s there to serve as a bullet sponge or something.
We do learn a bit more about Coulson this episode, namely that the man can apparently really rock the Winnebago, if you know what we mean. But this show still feels a lot like it’s holding back; most of this episode takes place on the show’s airplane set, and honestly, there’s nothing very “Marvel” about the plot; it’s a fairly standard espionage-action story. Pull the HYDRA ray-gun and replace it with a nuke, and there’s no reason this episode couldn’t play out the exact same way, and that’s a pretty serious problem.
It’s frustrating because over on Fox, we’ve got Sleepy Hollow nailing the line between campy fun and effective genre TV, something Joss Whedon did three separate times on three separate shows as well as in a billion-dollar movie on the big screen. Yet here this seems built from the ground up to be playing it safe, to be NCIS except based off a movie.
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. holds up in its second episode, but it really needs to start giving us less time alone with characters we don’t care about yet, and more time with stuff like the invisible truck hijackers that apparently strike next episode.
Some more thoughts:
- Anybody notice that whenever Tahiti comes up, Coulson always says “It’s a magical place?” Somehow we suspect that’s going to be relevant.
- There’s no way that death ray was actually thrown into space.
- Samuel L. Jackson’s cameo was actually pretty funny. Bitching out Coulson for wrecking the plane in particular was a hoot.
Let us know what you thought in the comments.