As a fan of all Marvel cinematic offerings and anything that carries the faintest possibility of a thirty second cameo from Tony Stark or Thor (we live in hope), it’s hard to be objective about a series that you desperately want to be a success. So let’s just get this over with and rip the plaster off so to speak. Overlooking all of Agents of SHIELD’s flaws, the last two episodes have been fun and entertaining. This week’s episode, aptly titled The Asset, was not the fun romp we’ve come to expect from the series and the moments of entertainment were few and far between.
What’s worse is that it was difficult to discern what vital element was missing from the episode to result in it being so lacklustre. It’s like ordering a delicious burger only to be given a leafy salad minus the dressing; it’s unsatisfying and certainly not what we asked for. We want something to sink out teeth into and, like a limp pile of soggy lettuce, The Asset left a lot to be desired.
This week the team were on a mission to track down one of their most valuable assets, the genius physicist Dr Franklin Hall, who Fitz/Simmons seem to adore more than life itself (they, incidentally, were slightly less irritating this week, so that’s a bonus). After being kidnapped and taken to Malta by his former research partner Ian Quinn, Hall is persuaded to finish a device that could control gravity. It was a fascinating concept but one that wasn’t given enough time to develop.
Instead the focus was on Skye, her uncertain allegiance to SHIELD and her ‘defining moment’. According to Ward, everybody has a specific moment that defines him or her, and Skye’s decision to stick by her team rather than betray them was hers. It wasn’t a very exciting occasion as far as ‘defining moments’ go but then Skye isn’t that exciting either – not yet anyway. She does however manage to infiltrate Quinn’s mansion so that Ward and Coulson can save Hall, only he has no interest in being saved. He wants to finish his device in order to destroy it, an action that will effectively destroy them all. I believe there’s logic in there somewhere.
And so it went on… Skye played her part as the self-assured spy before disintegrating into the damsel in distress who needed the big, strong man to save her. The stereotype was slightly annoying but Skye’s inability to protect herself ensures that she’ll take her future physical training sessions more seriously. That will please Ward at least.
It was left to Phil Coulson, or rather Greg Clark, to jolt the episode into first gear, as he tried to stop Hall and the gravity device from destroying everything in its immediate vicinity. It was here that the episode managed to find its groove, with scenes that could have been taken straight out of Inception. A bit more of the gravity shake-up and this could have been an amazing episode – sadly the thrill of Coulson walking on walls was too little, too late.
Frivolous banter and over-the-head tech talk slowed the overall pace and a lack of impending danger stopped the episode from ever taking off. The real problem, however, was not the over-indulgent chatter or the focus on Skye, but the absence of a worthy and hateful villain. A series like Agents of SHIELD needs a wicked villain to keep it going – whether it’s a different villain every week or a recurring baddie; Ian Quinn was neither wicked nor particularly villainous – just a really rich dude in a fancy suit who apparently likes to play scientist in his spare time (sorry David Conrad but you’ll always be sweet and kind Jim Clancy from Ghost Whisperer to me). We need a real villain – a Loki or a Lex Luther (he may be DC but he’s an admirable villain all the same).
With Dr Hall being thrown into his gravity device at the end (and that gloopy hand attempting to escape only to be sucked back in), we might have found our super-villain after all. Let’s hope that Whedon and co have plans to carry the Franklin Hall storyline on – they’d be foolish not to.