TV REVIEW: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - The Hub

I know I say this every week, and it must be getting a little boring to read, but SHIELD really is getting better with each episode. The Hub may not have carried the same level of thrills or death-of-character potential as FZZT, but it had heart and a sense of humour that made it the most enjoyable instalment so far.

Coulson's SHIELD team are dispatched to The Hub, one of the bases for SHIELD field ops, where they meet Agent Victoria Hand (an excellent Saffron Burrows) who has a mission for two of their members. A weapon has been identified in South Ossetia, rather dramatically entitled Overkill, an object so powerful it can set off weapons all around it with the power of soundwaves. A fairly standard Marvel McGuffin then, but just like in the films, it's not the object they're going after that's important, it's what the characters do to get to it. In this case, it's splitting the team up into up unusual pairings which finds Fitz with Ward and Simmons with Skye. The results are nothing short of hilarious.

The combination of Ward and Fitz was a joy to behold throughout the episode with both Brett Dalton and Iain de Caestecker rising to the challenge of both the comedic moments and the emotional beats. The sandwich scene was a delight, as was Ward's constant bemused reactions to Fitz' successes. Fitz has always been presented as a bumbling incompetent when it comes to field work; both he and Simmons failed their field assessments as revealed last week and he seems to have taken it a little to heart. After Simmons' trauma last week, he's struggling with feelings of inadequacy which are soon undermined by his brief action hero prowess and some wise words from Ward. 

Speaking of which, I'm finally starting to think Ward may not be so dull after all. After last week's brilliant self-impersonation, Dalton has seemingly embraced Ward's stick-in-the-mud attitude and there's a more knowing level to his performance. Ward's commitment to the system (much like Coulson's) is now played more for laughs than as a dramatic device. It's working much better, allowing Ward to be the big, brawny action hero when needed, as well as the big brother type who feels its his duty to look after younger members of the team. As such, he's become a far more endearing character than he had been in the earlier episodes and his interactions with FitzSimmons are a real highlight now.

The partnership of FitzSimmons has been something I've loved from the very beginning and last week, we finally saw just why they were so dependent on each other. I know in interviews that de Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge has spoken more about the pair's relationship as one between siblings, but in this episode, it struck me as more of a Mulder and Scully type deal. They don't carry quite as much sexual tension as their FBI counterparts, but there's a massive co-dependence there which is based on a mutual respect and knowledge of each other. Their reunion at the end of the episode was a great example of this, as well as going back to the comic relief the pair represented at the beginning.

Another dynamic that has improved the characters a whole lot was the Buffy/Willow feel that the writers gave to Simmons and Skye this time around. Their attempts to hack into the Hub for information about their team-members reminded me of a similar moment in which the Sunnydale pair must distract Giles to steal the Watcher Diaries. Another very funny scene, Henstridge in particular demonstrating that the cast seem to have finally struck the balance between dramatic and humourous. I'm still struggling to warm to Skye, but this episode was a vast improvement on what has gone before, especially with the parentage reveal.

The more regular partnership of May and Coulson produced some great moments, particularly in the latter's one-sided conversation as May went about her business expressionless. She may have had little to do so far in the season, but Ming-Na Wen has got the raised eyebrow comic timing down and it made for some wonderfully deadpan punchlines. Coulson too was at the centre of the episode's debates around classification and hierarchy, ceasing to follow orders (though it appears that this was expected by Hand) and trying to track down what really happened to him in Tahiti. Note how the 'it's a magical place' stuttered a bit this week. I liked the final post-episode scene with Coulson trying to access his own file, showing that even SHIELD's stalwart is starting to suspect that they can't be trusted, but we're going to need a little more if this narrative arc isn't going to become dull.

All in all, The Hub was a character piece, one that cemented the team as an odd sort of family, complete with bickering, secrets and heartwarming moments. It gives the SHIELD can't be trusted theme more dramatic weight and I'm fairly certain it won't be long before we see the team cast out and forced to fend for themselves. In the meantime though, we're going to see them dealing with the fallout from Thor: The Dark World, a tantalising prospect indeed.

- Becky

You can read Becky's review of FZZT here.

Follow @AssortedBuffery on Twitter
Or like our Facebook page

TV REVIEW: Atlantis

TV REVIEW: Ripper Street - Become Man