Wednesday, October 9, 2013

In Which I Review Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (1x3)

Moralistic television can be annoying. This is not to say there exists TV that doesn't have a moral message--all TV does. But if the program in question beats you over head with its sugary sweet message of goodness and righteousness, it can get old fast. I don't want to say that Agents of SHIELD is going down that road--because it's a Whedon show and he knows what he is doing--but this is the third episode in a row that sets up a moral quandary and then focuses on how the characters do their best to uphold that moral in the face of adversary. It can feel a little pretentious and precious. The first week it was the idea of the everyday hero; the second episode focused on teamwork and unique individuals forming a collective whole; in this weeks episode, "The Asset," the so-called "defining moment" took center stage. A defining moment is when a person is confronted with a choice: stay and fight or run. This week we saw Skye have her own defining moment, we heard about Ward's moment and to a lesser extent May made her own choice. 
One final word before the review: Whedon's season one of television. There is a reason why I'm sticking with SHIELD for now and it's because I know what typically comes after a lukewarm season one: epicness. I grew up on Buffy and Angel and love them dearly but when you go back and watch season one of both, they are slightly cringe worthy. It takes time for the show to find its niche. Season one of Buffy, while good enough, is nothing compared to season two, and certainly nothing compared to seasons 4-6. The same with Angel, it took until the second season for it to hit its stride. I think if SHIELD can find a better mix of morality and action/adventure, it can be really good. 

 The titular "asset" this week refers to one Dr. Franklin Hall, super science genius. The episode opens with a truck driver (and SHIELD agent) assuring his handlers that "the cargo is secure." This is, in TV land, cue for the cargo to become decidedly un-secure. And lo, two black unmarked (they are always unmarked) vehicles approach the truck and it's battle of the heavy armored cars! Until the truck starts to fly, which I admit was pretty wondrous--I actually put down my pen and just watched--until it crashed. The people in the black cars break into the now crashed truck and take Dr. Hall. We then cut to the other asset of this episode--Skye, our hacktivist who is being pushed and trained by Ward. Skye, because she's a bit of a child and very unappreciative, complains the entire time about how she doesn't want to train or condition her body because it "doesn't come easy to her" like computer science. Whine whine whine. She reminds me a bit of Cordelia Chase from Buffy, has one skill and one ability and doesn't see the need to improve in other areas. Of course, once Cordy got off of Buffy  and went to Angel, she really grew on me, so Skye will probably receive close to the same treatment.

As Skye whines, Ward treats her to our moral message of the week: everyone has a defining moment in which you decide to stay or you run. Most of us know this as the natural "fight or flight" response, but it sounds more superhero if we call it a "defining moment." Skye tries to pry into Ward's background and figure out his defining moment but they are interrupted by Hall's disappearance. This is when we get a lot of science mumbo-jumbo. Ready? Hall is an expert on something called Graviton, which is a theoretical material which, if put into a theoretical machine, can change the rules of gravity and make everything topsy-turvy. Hall has been kidnapped by Ian Quinn, billionaire philanthropist advocate who continually steals Hall's work. He has brought Hall to his villa in Malta, outside of international law, to force him to power his machine in order to bring down the USA, EU, and SHIELD because they are hindering technological progress. With the help of an insider at SHIELD (dun-dun-duuuuun) Quinn was able to kidnap Hall.

So what is SHIELD to do? They can't go after Hall because of extradition laws and their hands must be clean. Cue Skye. She has no association with SHIELD because she is just a consultant and not an official agent. After some fancy hackery, Skye finds herself invited to Quinn's villa where her mission is to get Ward and Coulson in. Naturally, this does not go as planned and Quinn figures her out and Skye proceeds to dance and lie and sell out SHIELD--on the surface. Quinn has a rather enticing offer for Skye--come join my freedom fighting team and put your skills to use. For awhile it seems like Skye may actually be considering this offer, but just prior to this Skye and Ward had a little heart to heart where Ward reveals his own defining moment. Ward was the middle child and his older brother was a bully who would beat Ward and his younger brother for simple things, like eating his cake. So it should come as no surprise that when Skye is found out and Quinn questions why someone of Rising Tide would betray her principles for SHIELD, Skye defends SHIELD, that it is the brother who protects the little guy because of cake. Skye and Ward are so obviously the romance of this story, it's not even subtle.

Meanwhile, Ward and Coulson have landed on the beach, ready to invade the villa and take back Hall. But Hall doesn't want to go. He has a mission and he wants to complete it. Turns out, Hall was the insider mole who sold himself out to Quinn. Coulson, being Coulson, tries his hardest to convince Hall to come with him and be part of the good guys, but in the end he is forced to sacrifice Hall (make the hard decision) for the greater good. Hall falls into the graviton machine and is sucked into the metallic void. The episode ends with reflections of these defining moments. Melinda May, who again was relegated to doing next to nothing, finally steps up and says that she wants to be more active, she wants to be "in." She's tired of running and has decided to stay. Thank goodness; I was getting really tired of her just flying the plane. And then there is Skye who was given an out this week and did not take it. She reciprocates Ward opening up to her with her own tragic story: foster child, unloved, unwanted, so she runs. But this time, "I made my choice. I want this. Bad." She's here to stay for SHIELD! (Until they do something questionable that offends her principles and she goes back to Rising Tide, breaking Ward's heart. It's TV people. It's how it works).

Oh and Hall is alive inside the graviton.

Miscellaneous Notes on The Asset 

--This episode was much better than last week, despite my rather sarcastic review.

--Coulson is the man. Can we please talk about how he shows up in Malta wearing an expensive suit while Ward in head to toe in his black ops gear, but somehow Coulson looks more epic.

--Great visual effects this week. This really is a high budget show.

--I think one thing that would really help SHIELD right now would be a beginning to flesh out a bad guy. You need to have a Big Bad, and while we have the Centipede people, we need more than just an organization. We need an actual human to root against--we live in a world of Loki's and Red Face's. I hope we see this by episode 5.(afterthought: someone getting caught in a theoretical substance of Graviton is the perfect set up for a villain arc)

--What are we calling Skye and Ward? Sward? Waye? (The shipping name is almost more important than the actual ship).

No comments:

Post a Comment