TV Review: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Episode 7 / November 12, 2013)
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EPISODE 7: "The Hub"
SYNOPSIS: Dangerous secrets are being kept from Coulson’s team and he works the system to save Ward and Fitz when they are sent on a Level 8 classified mission that may end in tragedy.
BREAKDOWN: (The following column contains MAJOR SPOILERS, so I don't recommend reading this if you haven't watched this episode).
Seven episodes into the season and fans are still raging against AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. despite the show being exactly what it set out to be. Playing like a light-hearted version of ALIAS, AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. is slowly finding it's groove by shifting focus to characters like Fitz and Simmons. Last week, Simmons took center stage in the viral mystery episode "FZZT" and this week it is Fitz's turn.
After extracting an undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. operative, the team heads to the top secret base known as The Hub to investigate a Level 8 mission. Agent Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows) sends the team to dismantle a weapon while against the clock. The only team member who can do it? Fitz. The team discusses the danger involved and off they go.
While Fitz and Ward are off site, Simmons and Skye investigate what the root of the mission is. Skye questions S.H.I.E.L.D.'s entire hierarchy to which Coulson tells her to trust the system. The show clearly wants to instill in us that this agency has an order that may not be the most inclusive. The pair end up making a mess of things as they search for intel including a very uncomfortable exchange between Agent Sitwell and Simmons.
Skye discovers that Ward and Fitz are on a suicide mission which prompts another discussion about clearance levels and why S.H.I.E.L.D. hides information. Coulson angrily says that they can go off-book because there is a book and maintaining protocol is what makes everything work. You can see that Coulson begrudgingly trusts in everything that S.H.I.E.L.D. does even if he is beginning to question that authority as he did last week when it could have signalled Simmons death.
As Ward and Fitz are saved by the team, Coulson provides Skye with the unredacted information about her from The Hub. Coulson explains a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent dropped her off and could have been her mother. In a private moment, Melinda May and Coulson discuss the real reason Skye was left at an orphanage. They never say what the reason was, but an image of a dead woman is shown in the file, adding yet another mystery and open plot point to this already full show mythology.
The little moments on AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. seem to work better than the overarching story, but little moments don't make a show work. So far this season we have big given a big bad behind the Extremis experiments, in-fighting amongst the S.H.I.E.L.D. hierarchy, and a mysterious list of known superpowered humans. While the showrunners are clearly trying to avoid too deep of a mythology, they are spreading it too much and not giving us a clear direction for the show.
MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE REFERENCES:
Agent Sitwell from THOR and a couple of One Shots returns when the agents visit the secret base known as The Hub. Hand also makes reference to Romanoff and Barton as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who understand how missions work.
"There are dogs chasing us and you brought a proscuitto sandwich?"
Fitz using the weapon as he and Ward work to escape the enemy compound was a nicely directed sequence. The use of practical sets and not a lot of green screen went a long way to making this episode feel a lot more tangible.
DO WE KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO COULSON YET?
While talking with Agent Hand, Coulson repeats that Tahiti is a magical place, but stutters when he does as if saying it is somehow programmed into him. Could this be another clue that he is a robot? In the closing moments, Coulson calls into S.H.I.E.L.D. to pull his own file about his time in Tahiti to which he is told his Level 8 clearance is not sufficient to gain access and only Director Fury can provide it.
EPISODE CLEARANCE LEVEL: 8/10
A nicely put together episode that focuses on practical locations and deepens the rift within S.H.I.E.L.D., this is what the show should be about. While I do think it is not Marvel enough for what fans want, these types of episodes make for an entertaining show. The showrunners need to find a focal point for the series and stick with it.
NEXT ON MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.:
"The Well" - In the aftermath of Thor's battle with Malekith in Greenwich, Coulson and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pick up the pieces -- one of which threatens to destroy a member of the team.
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