After a slick pilot that was praised and pounded by the critics in equal measures, the second episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D had a lot riding on it. Whilst sticking firmly in the Marvel cinematic universe, episode one struggled to differentiate itself from all the other superhero ‘geek’ shows past and present. What episode two needed was something special, something viewers had never seen before or wouldn’t expect – an original narrative to back up the stylish visuals and snazzy gadgets, of which there are plenty. Though it didn’t technically deliver on the originality front, a factor that will further fuel the haters, it more than delivered on being thoroughly entertaining with plenty of Whedon nerd-humour to keep it going.
This week the agents travelled to Peru for their second assignment, with Skye in tow as the newly integrated S.H.I.E.L.D consultant. Whilst tracking an object of unknown origin, an ‘0-8-4’ as they called it, the team realised that the object in question was actually a piece of HYDRA technology powered by Tesseract energy. Ah yes, that well-known Tesseract energy that everyone’s always talking about… Eyes may roll in frustration at the lack of explanation here – sadly unless you have prior knowledge of Captain America and The Avengers, you’re more than likely to be completely baffled by this HYDRA thingamajig. If you hadn’t gathered from all of Fitz’s lightning speed jabbering, the 0-8-4 is not to be messed with, unlike Fitz’s face, which is just begging to come into contact with Ward’s fist at some point in the not too distant future. Sorry Fitz/Simmons fans – I’m not on board with this brainbox duo yet.
With the 0-8-4 in their possession, the team met Coulson’s former ally and assumed flame Camilla Reyes and her soldiers, who were invited onto the team plane after escaping rebel fighters. It soon became clear that Reyes was no longer Team Coulson though and the whole thing was just a set up so that she could get her hands on the HYDRA weapon in order to take over Peru. A wonderfully far-fetched notion that resulted in an in-flight fight that caused more than a little turbulence.
Despite the nonsensical main storyline, this episode was all about getting the S.H.I.E.L.D team to stop bickering like infants and start working together for the common good. It’s a rehashed narrative but it worked because it allowed the characters time to bond, something they need to do if viewers are ever to believe in this merry band of misfits that make up S.H.I.E.L.D. Having acted like a petulant teenager with a gigantic chip on his shoulder in the pilot, Ward softened in this episode and you can already see the makings of a fine romance swirling around him and Skye.
The cast’s chemistry on the whole however, is just not quite there yet. Whilst the Scooby-gang in Buffy had it nailed the very moment they were all flung together on screen, our agents here will have to work a little harder. Nikita-esque May might be one kick-ass lady but her strong and silent persona doesn’t allow her to form exciting dynamics with any of the other characters. There’s a back-story there though, it’s that tiny dot in the distance that will hopefully get clearer as the series progresses. This goes for Ward and Skye and pretty much every main character we’ve seen thus far.
A surprising revelation came out of this episode though – Phil Coulson, or Phillip as Reyes called him, is quite the flirt! Who knew he was a secret ladies’ man? What we did already know is that he’s the main source of comedy in the series; a fact he continues to prove every time he’s on screen. It was fairly impossible not to laugh when Reyes purred in her sexy Spanish accent “you look good”, and Coulson channelled his inner LMFAO by saying “yeah I work out”. Clark Gregg is really holding this series together and he knows how to work the at times cheesy dialogue to his advantage.
When the excitement of all the fighting dies down, and there’s a lot of fighting and action to be enjoyed, we’re left with that same nagging question I posed at the end of the pilot. Does this series have any appeal for non-Marvel fans? Right now the answer is looking like a big, fat no. There’s too much Marvel jargon and if you miss the brief comic explanations and references, you risk losing the gist of the whole episode.
Despite the evident flaws, there’s still so much to enjoy about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The camerawork is an exciting cinematic affair, with a mix of static and hand-held filming, and the entire production is as stylish as it comes. In fact, it’s so polished that you almost want to throw some dirt on it, mess up Ward’s hair and rough up the backdrop just to give it a bit of edginess. The gadgets are so cool they’ll be making it onto all those nerdy lists of things that don’t exist but should; I know I’m hoping Christmas will bring me that shiny blue thing that scans other things (who needs fancy terminology…).
If you’re a fan of The Avengers, Joss Whedon and fun comicy-stuff in general, it’s hard to dislike Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I still feel like I’m watching an X-men/Smallville crossover but that’s ok, flaws can be overlooked in favour of pure entertainment. Besides, with Samuel L. Jackson making an awesome cameo as Nick Fury at the end, you can’t help but love this programme. Who can we expect next? Pepper Potts? Thor? Black Widow? With the power of Whedon, anything’s possible.