TV REVIEW: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - 0-8-4

Marvel's agents return with a much stronger second episode, hinting at better group dynamics and snappier writing in the show's future.



With the team assembled and sort of ready to go in the pilot episode, it is left to second instalment 0-8-4 to see if these mismatched individuals can actually work together as a cohesive whole. When the titular 0-8-4, SHIELD lingo for an 'object of unknown origin', is discovered in Peru, our heroes are dispatched to the site in order to work out what it is. Coulson brings Skye along as a consultant, much to the disappointment of May and Ward, both of whom think that the last thing they need is more inexperienced agents in the field. And it turns out, they may have point when the team are put to the test by a face from Coulson's past.

Now this is more like it. A much stronger episode all round, 0-8-4 benefitted from all of the admittedly clunky leg-work done in the pilot to hit the ground running with a good storyline in which we got to see how the dynamics of the cast regulars would work. First of all, it was a great move to address the fact that, without computers to hack, Skye doesn't seem to have much to offer the SHIELD team, something which is repeatedly referred to throughout the episode. However, she does naturally find out where she fits over the course of the narrative which develops in a suitably organic way as the other characters also slot into their various roles with ease.

The conference between Ward, May and Coulson was a nice way of pointing out where a lot of the dramatic conflict will arise throughout the season, particularly in relation to the inexperienced characters. Ward and May are quite right to question Coulson's thinking and let's face it, I bet there were a few audience members thinking the same. However, not only does he clearly see some potential, so do we as the audience; it's going to be much more interesting watching a group of people learning to overcome obstacles together whilst dealing with their own anxieties than it would if these characters arrived fully formed and heroic. After all, that's part of what made the Avengers so compelling.

The 0-8-4 of the title turns out to be a weapon powered by Tesseract technology, granting us both a decent MacGuffin and a chance to shoehorn in some clunky Marvel Cinematic Universe references: "HYDRA! Captain America!". Thanks Fitz, we got it. Whilst I'm loving some of the easter eggs dropped in (the hammer one was great and a good example of how it should be done), they still feel like they are pandering to people rather than putting these references in for the good of the story. I'm fairly confident in saying that the audience watching the series will already be fans of the MCU and will know what you mean when you say the Tesseract by now. What also needs to happen is less of the technological babble. We know Fitz and Simmons are smart, but we shouldn't be alienated in the process.

Speaking of MCU references, the cameo was not so long-awaited as I thought it would be and proved to be a welcome reminder of SHIELD's movie origins in both character and tone. For Coulson, it was especially good as we had been seeing Action Man Coulson a lot, a side we were not used to from the movies (other than his Marvel One-Shot). Having Fury back in reminded us of Admin Coulson, a man who still seems to have an inferiority complex around certain characters. Clark Gregg plays both aspects of the character well and the novelty of seeing good old Phil back again has not worn off just yet.

As for the action of the episode itself, less reliance on special effects and a couple of neat set pieces made this quite the thriller. Though I don't think the physics of a rubber dinghy re-pressuring an aircraft necessarily checks out, the scene of the team pulling together to solve the problem, culminating in said inflatable was a quick and confident way of developing these characters as an ensemble. Individually, Skye and Ward shared some nice scenes and it's always good to see Ming-Na Wen's May kicking all kinds of arse. We're still lacking depth for Fitz and Simmons but I'm enjoying the pair's chemistry and they will no doubt get an episode devoted to their third dimensions very soon.

A much stronger episode all round for SHIELD then. There are still kinks to be ironed out and a couple of awkward phrasings still stick out. However, the potential is still very much apparent. It's likely to be a while before we see any more cameos, but hands up, who else wants to see Tony Stark get to grips with Fitz and Simmons?

You gotta love it when a team comes together.

- Becky

You can see Becky's review of the Pilot episode here.

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