For a show like Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the pilot was a big deal. Everyone had questions ranging from “How will it tie into the movies?” to simply “Will it work as a series?” The grandiose first episode had no problem establishing a show that clearly draws heavily from its big screen predecessors, is fairly effects heavy to emphasize its fantastic nature, and even tips its proverbial hat the comic books of decades past. The pilot also presented a few questions of its own, such as the mysterious nature of Agent Coulson’s resurrection, Agent May’s shadowed past, and the biggest question of all: Can this ragtag band of agents work together as a team? Let’s find out in this week’s episode, 0-8-4.
Object of Unknown Origin
All seems well and good aboard the Bus, the team’s mobile commander center, that is, until an explosion tears through the hull and sends one poor soul on a 30,000-foot journey into the wild blue yonder. But let’s not start there. Jump back 19 hours to find Skye unpacking her own mobile commander center (aka her van) to take up residence aboard the Bus with the rest of Coulson’s team. Much to Agent Ward’s chagrin, Coulson endorses the home-grown cyber-terrorist as a valuable asset, choosing to use her as a consultant. Noting Ward’s chiseled frown, Coulson focuses on the latest assignment, the recovery of an 0-8-4 or “object of unknown origin” in Peru.
As Skye acclimates to her new digs, courtesy of the science Wonder Twins, otherwise known collectively as Fitz-Simmons, Coulson explains that the Bus was his consolation prize for getting stabbed through the heart by the Asgardian Mussolini. For those of you playing the home game, Coulson manages to name drop Tony Stark, Thor’s hammer, and Loki within 4 minutes. You all saw the movies, right? RIGHT?! We also get another reminder that Coulson enjoyed his alleged convalescence in Tahiti, “a magical place” as he once again professes. Nothing suspicious about that reply at all…
Once in Peru, the team locates and examines the 0-8-4, which, according to Fitz resembles German technology. German? Glowing blue? Extremely dangerous? Paging Dr. Zola. Dr. Arnim Zola. Meanwhile, Grant and May stand guard, a seemingly mundane act in the middle of the jungle, but with Peruvian rebels on the prowl, one can’t be too careful. We also get a hint about May’s history as an agent, specifically her former moniker, “The Cavalry.” Grant also mentions an incident in Bahrain which, evidently, was the catalyst for May’s departure from field work and transfer to the exciting world of administration. However, before we get more details, the Peruvian National Police attack, led by Commandante Camilla Reyes, an old flame of Coulson’s. (Peru apparently has a knack for digging up the past.) Thankfully, their familiarity quells the scuffle between their respective forces.
Before the pleasantries and 0-8-4 analysis can be concluded, actual rebels attack and Ward buys the team some time with a shockwave stick thing that operates almost identically to a tool used by Simon Tam in Serenity. (coughWhedoncough) After escaping the attack, both teams seek refuge aboard the Bus. Once airborne, Fitz reveals that the 0-8-4 is fueled by Tesseract technology, citing HYDRA, World War II, gamma radiation, and Cap himself. Are we still keeping score?
Get Off My Plane!
At this point, I’d like to say the team is safely in the air, but the 70-year-old WMD onboard says differently. As if tensions weren’t high enough, May is giving Coulson the silent treatment for putting her in a combat situation, Grant once again reminds everyone that he works best alone, and Skye says what we’re all thinking: this group of alleged top specialists is as green as grass when it comes to teamwork. After Coulson steps in to prevent anyone from shoving the person next to them out the nearest hatch, the lab rat duo further explore the 0-8-4, determining that it’s an energy gun and speculating about the levels of its destructive power. Anyone who saw Captain America: The First Avenger will know that it’s capable of completely vaporizing its target. That should trigger a nice mental picture.
Elsewhere, Skye offers an olive branch to Ward in the form of a bottle of vodka, hoping to smooth over their rough start. G.I. Joe obliges, but keeps it real by stating that the two of them “see the world differently.” Not exactly a hug and a handshake, but I suppose it’s a start. These two are too different to come to a quick reconciliation. However, if they do, I see Skye’s sudden but inevitable betrayal stomping it out just as quickly. Meanwhile, Coulson gives the grand tour to Reyes, a woman who COULDN’T POSSIBLY be playing an angle. Incoming Call from Admiral Ackbar. Unfortunately, both Coulson and Ward figure this out just seconds too late and Reyes and her team hijack the Bus in an effort to claim the 0-8-4. This whole episode has been about how fractured this team of agents is. In case you weren’t paying attention, they are now in the perfect position to prove the opposite. How many of you saw this coming? Don’t be shy.
Team Building Exercise
In a delightful tie-in to both Marvel history and actual history, Reyes explains that the 0-8-4 was, in fact, created by former HYDRA scientists who fled to South America along with the likes of Joseph Mengele after WWII. Naturally, Reyes and her forces want it to quell the rebellions plaguing the area. Sure, that’s always a great idea. Meanwhile, in the cargo hold, the incapacitated team comes to the inescapable conclusion that the only way out of this is to work together. Ok, so they’re only a few steps behind the audience in figuring this all out. Thankfully, it didn’t take Coulson dying AGAIN to bring this group together. Appropriately led by The Cavalry, the jail break is successful and Fitz-Simmons manage to activate the 0-8-4, causing the explosion that kicked off the episode. Chaos ensues, giving the agents the upper hand as they take out Reyes and her men. Lastly, in a stunning display of comic book physics, Skye inflates an emergency raft to plug the hole in the side of the plane. Just roll with it.
After safely arriving at The Slingshot, another super secret S.H.I.E.L.D. installation, the baddies are carted off and the 0-8-4 is loaded onto a rocket and shot into space. Ok, this move makes no sense. S.H.I.E.L.D. held onto HYDRA weapons and equipment, hell, even the Tesseract itself, for decades. They’re just sending this one into orbit? THERE ARE ALIENS OUT THERE! THIS HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED! Someone could just pick it up! I immediately think of the Garbage Ball episode of Futurama where Professor Farnsworth, when asked if the rocket will ever return to Earth, states that it’s none of their concern. Cop out. You disappoint me, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Blue skies from here on out?
As the threat of the week rockets off to parts unknown, Skye receives a text message from The Rising Tide, or so we must assume. I thought she was The Rising Tide. Regardless, the aforementioned inevitable betrayal looks to be on the horizon, but her pained expression and hesitation leaves her loyalties in question now that she has bonded with Coulson, Ward, Fitz-Simmons, and May. Mid-season finale fodder? We’ll see.
Lastly, in classic Marvel Cinematic Universe fashion, be sure to stay until the very end of this episode for an added treat. Just when you think a cameo from Cobie Smulders is the closest this TV show can get to the movies, Director Fury himself appears, berating Coulson for the damage to the Bus. And is it me or do the scars around Fury’s bad eye get worse every time we see him?
This episode definitely stumbled in some areas. Predictable? Yes. Poorly thought out resolution? Indeed. However, in all fairness, this episode (the one where the team comes together) had to happen, so it’s better to have gotten it out of the way. As a fan of Marvel and the MCU, references to what came before is always fun, but I really hope the off-handed mentions of Loki and HYDRA don’t turn off the uninformed audience. Every new show takes some time to find its footing so I’m willing to give Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. some grace period.