The week after what was arguably the most fully formed, emotionally charged episode of Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. yet, is the show able to maintain its newfound status, or does it settle back into mediocrity?
Let’s bitch it out…The honest answer is that ‘The Hub’ falls somewhere in between. There’s a certain amount of momentum that carries forward from ‘FZZT’, though there remains a distinct lack of personal stakes. Fitz (Iain De Castecker) gets his opportunity to shine in an adventure that once again rearranges the players and their interactions, but for the most part this is an average mission that simply allows Fitz time to do non-Fitz things outside of the lab for a change. Do we know more about him than we did before? Not really. We know that he has the potential to become more interesting (and a decent field agent), but in terms of elevating the show into something that generates human emotion? Nope – because once again the stakes are laughably low. Last week there was at least a pretense that Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) might actually die – for 2.5 seconds at least – whereas here there’s never any possibility that Ward (Brett Dalton) and Fitz wouldn’t be rescued by their teammates.
The most interesting element of ‘The Hub’ is the suggestion S.H.I.E.L.D. may actually be the Big Bad of the season. This is something that many fans began picking up in the last few weeks as it became more and more clear that the agency has its own set of shady rules. I didn’t really pay much attention to the argument considering how large a role S.H.I.E.L.D. supposedly plays in next year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, though the idea that the agency may end up being evil there, as well, could certainly suggest a future direction for the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
If this is what develops, Coulson (Clark Gregg) and his team will be the interlopers operating on the fringe of the agency. Without suggesting too heavily that this is a classic Whedonism, there’s an obvious parallel to Firefly if this turns out to be case: a group of loners operating within (and just outside) of the established order. If we’re being honest, this would the best case scenario for the series, which has thus far struggled to create a memorable villain (the Centipede serum is little more than a leftover from Iron Man 3). Sending Coulson and his team on the run from corporate Big Brother would certainly increase the stakes and turn the high flying team into the little guys, which would help to increase the urgency.
As it stands, ‘The Hub’ is a perfunctory episode, but nothing to write home about. It’s good to see the show divvying up the screentime to these underserved characters – and both Fitz and Simmons have become significantly more tolerable as a result – but on the whole the larger narrative of the shows need more direction and urgency. With ratings dropping each week, S.H.I.E.L.D. better get its act in order or else these twenty-two episodes will mark the end of its run.
- One thing S.H.I.E.L.D. could very easily stop doing is refrain from including MacGuffins in the plot. It’s entirely possible that the writers are pulling our leg by naming the weapon of mass destruction the “overkill device” but if we’re being honest it’s not that funny. As it is, the machine is ridiculously easy to dismantle, leaving ‘The Hub’ with the dubious honour of being the first episode of the series without anything approaching a climax
- Just in case we couldn’t read the signs, Simmons makes Fitz a sandwich to take on the mission because she totally lurves him. It’s cute and silly, but very ligthweight, particularly when Fitz brings it up several dozen times after Ward throws the sandwich away to distract the apparently literal wolves tracking them
- Not sure why Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows) is a fan-favourite character since she seems like just another stick in the mud bureaucrat. Of course there’s a strong chance Burrows will recur, so maybe her ice queen presence will thaw a bit in subsequent episodes
- There’s no reason why the silly comedy interplay with Simmons, Skye (Chloe Bennet) and Maximiliano Hernández’s Agent Sitwell in the restricted hallway should work as well as it does. Any yet watching Skye gawk at how terrible Simmons is as a field agent is surprisingly enjoyable
- Skye’s dilemma with the whole redacted document concerning her parents is like a televisual sleeping aid. If it turns out that either Coulson or Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) were involved in her adoption, I’m going to get very angry
- Finally, Coulson tries to access his own file and can’t, despite his Level 8 access. Is this further proof of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s untrustworthiness (disguised behind 1984-esque mantras such as “Trust the system”) or is this Nick Fury trying to protect him?
- Simmons (to Skye): “I can’t be part of your bad girl shenanigans”
- Simmons (to Agent Sitwell, when he suggests he could also ask Simmons why she’s in a restricted hallway): “No…don’t”
- Skye (when Simmons compliments Sitwell on his head): “Stop talking. Stop talking”
- Simmons (when Fitz asks if anything interesting happened today): “I shot a superior officer in the chest”
What are your thoughts on S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s evolution? Are the secondary characters developing enough for you? Do you agree that the stakes need to be significantly raised? Did Hand make an impression on you? Sound off below
Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 8pm EST on ABC