Previously on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Coulson was resurrected by the magical healing properties of Tahiti and given command of an enormous high-tech super-plane and a ragtag group of field agents. Among them: Melinda May, a veteran pilot and general badass who has time for neither shenanigans nor idle chit-chat; Simmons, one-half of the big-brained Fitz/Simmons dynamic duo, who looks like the love child of Jennifer Garner and Keira Knightley; and Skye, a van-dwelling computer hacker with ties to a terrorist organization and a big-time distrust of big government. Oh, and also: Ward, the brooding, vanilla, alpha male who is unaware that the line for dating Skye starts waaaaay back there.
Nearly every super-team story unfolds in the same way: 1) A group of kick-ass people with not much in common are thrown together for whatever reason. 2) The team’s internal strife is stifled when they are forced to face an external foe together. 3) The team members/the audience learn/s to love and respect each person as their archetypes blossom into fully realized characters. It was true for Frodo Baggins and his Ring Fellowship, it was true for Harry and Ron and Hermione, it was true for The Avengers and and The Justice League and the Teen Titans and the Power Rangers and the Pretty Little Liars and all those ninja animals from Kung Fu Panda. It’s just how it goes. So, it’s no surprise that S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s second episode is brewed using that exact formula.
Skye has accepted Coulson’s offer to join his team as a consultant, much to the dismay of Ward, who is very much about the established hierarchy of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and also is not what you’d call a “team player.” It’s not a misogynistic thing, though, because he’s got mad respect and reverence for Agent May, who nearly throttles him when he refers to her as “The Cavalry.” She doesn’t want to be called that because she’s got serious PTSD from her time as a field agent and would much rather be working behind a desk pushing papers than swaggering around in aviators and a leather jumpsuit piloting the S.H.I.E.L.D. bus. Fitz/Simmons aren’t faring much better in the amiability department, bickering amongst themselves about whether or not they should have left the safety of their lab for the wonder of the world.
Coulson puts the squabbles on hold when they get a call that an 0-8-4 has been located and needs to be contained. What’s an 0-8-4? Why’s an 0-8-4? From whence cometh an 0-8-4? No time to explain right now, but the last one that landed on earth was Thor’s hammer, so.
S.H.I.E.L.D. finds this particular 0-8-4 in a Peruvian temple near an archaeological dig. After Agent May disarms an entire squadron of military police with her bare hands — “If I need a gun, I’ll take one” — Fitz/Simmons determine that the 0-8-4 has been lodged in the temple wall for about a century and a half, powered by tesseract technology and capable of who even knows what all gamma radiation business. It’s lethal, basically. Another ticking timebomb. Fitz uses a couple of his little propellor robot drone guys (all of which are named after the seven dwarves, note) to examine the 0-8-4 up close, but when the temple comes under attack by Peruvian rebels, Wade just snatches that thing from the wall and tucks it under his arm and makes a run for it.
Coulson decides to invite the Peruvian military police onto the bus, to fly them to safety, to take them out of the line of rebel fire, because he’s a nice guy like that. Just kidding. Coulson invites the Peruvian military police onto the plane because they are led by Comandante Camila Reyes, who happens to be a former colleague and also happens to be hotter than the damn sun. So while the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents go back to squabbling and the Peruvian military police settle in with card games and whiskey, Coulson and Camila retire to his quarters for a little reminiscing.
Weirdly, Coulson actually means “reminiscing” when he says “reminiscing,” instead of “full-on making out,” which is what I would mean if I invited Comandante Camila Reyes to “reminisce” with me. In fact, Coulson gets kind of weirded out when it becomes obvious that her main plan is to get him naked. Which: You know how Coulson can never really know what happened to him in magical Tahiti? Pretty sure this right here is a clear indication that he is actually a robot instead of a human being with a working heart and functioning lungs and, you know, hormones powered by eyeballs. Or another idea is maybe he’s just feeling shy because he doesn’t want her to see his Captain America boxer-briefs.
Elsewhere on the plane, Skye is giving Ward a lesson on revolutions — explaining that guns are powerful, but so is Twitter — when he realizes none of the Peruvian military police are drinking their whiskey. Comandante Camila Reyes attacks Coulson as the military guys attack May in the cockpit. She ends up gassed and passed out, Coulson ends up bound and gagged, and the rest of the team ends up tied together in the cargo hold. Comandante Camila Reyes wants the tesseract technology to squash rebel uprisings in Peru, see, and Coulson just rolls his eyes when she says it out loud because if she’d spent any time at all reading comic books, she would know you can’t harness gamma rays for your own personal means. Reyes tells Coulson he’d better give the all-clear when S.H.I.E.L.D. command checks in, and he does because he knows his team’s got everything under control.
He’s kind of right. Agent May’s got everything under control. First, she wakes up and dislocates her own wrist to free herself from her handcuffs. Then, she single-handedly (literally, single-handedly, OK?) takes out all of the bad guys. Then, she cracks her dislocated wrist back into place. Then, she chastises Fitz and Simmons and Skye and Ward for spending too much time processing their feelings and not enough time getting shit done. Together, as a team, they come up with the day-saving plan: They’ll use Fitz’s little robot guys to activate the 0-8-4 and blow a hole in the plane, so the cabin pressure will get weird and suck all the bad guys out into the stratosphere, and then Skye will seal up the hole with a rubber life raft.
And it works.
After the plane is safely back on the ground, everyone gathers round on the gangplank(?) and drinks beer and watches NASA fire the 0-8-4 right into the heart of the sun, so it can’t be used by any bad guys anymore. Only, Skye takes her sweet time joining in on the team bonding because she’s got to send a text to her old shady buddies to tell them she’s all set-up now as a double agent. Coulson, too, is late to the party, because Nick Fury(!) stops by to tell him to stop motherfucking blasting holes into the motherfuking billionfuckingdollar plane they gave him as a prize for not motherfucking dying after Loki Fucking Laufeyson tried to murder him. Fuck, Coulson. Fuuuck. And no fucking fish tanks either.
All in all, a pretty solid second episode. ABC is obviously throwing bazillions of dollars at this show, as evidenced by the slick visuals and lush sets and big-screen caliber action sequences. But ABC’s fingerprints are all over it in other ways too. Whedon-y shows always thrive when networks step back and stop forcing formula and monster-of-the-week stuff into the story. In this case, it’s pretty apparent that they’re trying to keep that core Avengers movie audience engaged with lots of whiz! bang! pows!, but that wasn’t even the best part about Avengers. The best part about Avengers was the part where you think you know these iconic characters, but they have so many hidden motivations and unexplored insecurities that they don’t really even know themselves. So it’d be smart for S.H.I.E.L.D. to dial back the pyrotechnics and start digging into these characters’ backstories.
What caused May to remove herself from the field? What sort of Spike-ness and Angel-ness is going on inside of Wade? How’d Skye end up in that van, what’d she do those two times she hacked into S.H.I.E.L.D.’s system, and what happened to make her so distrustful of the government and so enamored with superheroes? Where did Fitz and Simmons meet and where does one end and the other begin? When, exactly, can we expect to see Simmons and Skye make out?
ABC will keep their hands all over this thing for a while, I’m sure, but my guess is that it’ll really find its voice — somewhere between Firefly and Dollhouse — once they loosen their stranglehold on it.
What did you think of “0-8-4”?