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

"Trust the system."

Another week, another major drop in the ratings. It's starting to look increasingly likely that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. won't live to see a second season. At this point I don't think I will be too upset if it is cancelled.

Like many episodes this season, 'The Hub' suffered from having a central storyline that was so predictable Inspector Clouseau could’ve easily deduced what the outcome would be. While the writers have started to fix a lot of the problems with the characters, they are still struggling to come up with interesting stories to tell every week.

That's not to say that this episode was all bad. It was nice that the writers decided to shake things up a little this week by pairing up a pair of characters who don't really interact that much. It was also nice that the episode didn't rely too heavily on tiresome chalk and cheese-style comedy. I don't think I could tolerate an entire hour of stoic action man forever rolling his eyes at chatterbox lab geek’s bumbling. And it was especially nice that Fitz’s proved to be more adept at field work than anyone gave him credit for. It was his quick thinking that saved them from Russian Mags Bennet and her goons. Unlike Ward, Fitz understands that if you fix someone’s TV they will give anything you want, whether its passage across the border or a first born child.

Throughout this episode people are told to trust the system, the system being S.H.I.E.L.D., here personified by Agent Victoria Highlights. But what exactly were they meant to trust the system to do? Protect Ward and Fitz at all cost? Because that wasn't going to happen. No way would the higher ups at S.H.I.E.L.D. risk the success of a mission to ensure the safety of a pair of, let's face it, replaceable agents. That's why they were chosen for this mission in the first place; they're expendable. S.H.I.E.L.D. no doubt breeds agents like Ward the same way the CW does Amells for their TV shows. And for all his technical skill, Fitz is no Tony Stark. At the end of the day, the only thing you can trust the system to do is look out for the best interests of the system.

On the story arc side of things, it looks like I was right about “It’s a beautiful place” being some kind of programmed response. And it seems like Coulson has started to realise that himself. We’re still no closer to knowing how he is survived, but at least he is now not only questioning his miraculous recovery, but actively investigating it as well.

At the same time, Coulson also found out something about Skye's past but decided not to share all of it with Skye. He’s an experienced spy and knew that if he gave Skye nothing she would just keep digging and digging. So he gave her just enough info to keep her satisfied while he and May looked into what really happened to her parents. Was the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Skye’s mother? Or was she the “poor kid” who was killed? Or maybe she is waiting to the shadows before revealing herself in the season finale in true Irina Derevko-style? In shows like this it is a given that at least one of Skye’s parents will turn out to be evil.

Intel and Assets

--Loved Coulson and May’s little ‘conversation’, especially her eye roll at the end.

--While at the Hub, Simmons mentioned the Triskelion to Skye. The Triskelion is S.H.I.E.L.D.’s official HQ in Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, which has been a huge influence on Marvel's Cinematic Universe. It will appear in Captain America: the Winter Soldier.

--The ID machine actually said "Say cheese". Sometimes S.H.I.E.L.D. is this scary, faceless organization, and then they do adorable things like this.

Simmons: "No, I can't be part of your bad girl shenanigans. I like following the rules and doing what is expected of me. It makes me feel nice."

Fitz: "So anything interesting happen in the hub?"
Simmons: "I shot a superior officer in the chest."

Two out of four Derevko sisters.


Lamounier said...

Great review, Mark. You nailed it. While the characters are nice to watch, the stories are generally so dull. It’s like the writers have this good idea, but never develop it enough. This episode the good idea was “let’s put Ward and Fitz together on a mission without extraction”, but they stopped right there and obvious plot points such as why they couldn’t be rescued were left without an explanation.

While I was ok with Skye worrying that something was off with the mission, every time the show returned to Ward and Fitz’s mission I kept thinking “why is Skye worrying? Give us something to worry about too, damn it”.

The episode was filled with plot holes, and that really bugs me. I already mentioned the no explanation as to why our agents wouldn’t get extracted, but there was also Simmons shooting a superior officer and not being caught by anyone (seriously, it’s The Freaking Hub, of course they have cameras everywhere) and getting away with it, and Coulson and co. leaving The Hub without authorization, like they could just leave the place with that airplane and no one would notice or stop them.

As usual, the highlight of the episode was Simmons. Plot holes aside, she’s just so adorable and Elizabeth Henstridge nails it every single time. Ming-Na is also very good, especially if you consider that she’s bringing depth to a character that has one single expression on her face most of the time. As for Skye, while I liked her on the beginning, there’s something off about her that I quite can’t put my finger at. Maybe it’s the hair. I hate her hair.

sunbunny said...

I liked this one more than a lot of the earlier episodes. I don't know why. I like the idea that SHIELD is not to be trusted and I hope they develop that further. Maybe Coulson and everyone will break off from them completely and go on some Firefly-style adventures?

I was utterly terrified they were going to make May either the person who found Skye or her mother. Thank GOD they seem to not be going there.

Patrick said...

sunbunny, to me it's not so much that SHIELD isn't to be trusted, it's just a matter of recognizing what their priorities are. SHIELD's goal is accomplishing the mission, even if it means sending two agents in without an exit plan.

I actually thought this was one of their best episodes so far, and that they've been on a creative upswing of late. It was nice to see Fitz have a chance to shine, especially with his sneaky plan to win over those people by fixing their TV. Between this epispde, and Simmons in the previous episode, it's good that they've shown the two scientists to be SHIELD through and through, willing to make the sacrifices necessary even if they aren't soldiers like Ward or May.

But the real gold acting star goes to Clark Gregg this week. Lots more hints about what's really going on with Coulson, and he played those moments beautifully. The most powerful was when he caught himself reflexively saying "It's a magical place". That look on his face was so powerful, and so heartbreaking.

I wonder if they've got some super-sneaky reveal in mind other than "Coulson's a Life-Model Decoy", simply because the hints they've been dropping have all been leading us in that direction SO blatantly.

It's really a shame about the ratings, I don't know what ABC is thinking keeping this show up against NCIS. I'm glad they've given it a full-season commitment, and the season's only one-third over. I hope they can figure something out, this show has a lot of potential. Who knows, maybe ABC's seeing something in the DVR & online viewing numbers that isn't in the standard ratings.

Billie Doux said...

I have to chime in with "terrific review" and "you nailed it", Mark. I enjoy the episodes and I am particularly liking Coulson and May, but this doesn't feel like a Whedon show to me and by now, it should.

Jess Lynde said...

I so love the Irina Derevko reference, Mark! I couldn't help thinking that this was pretty much another episode in Alias-mode. :) And that being the case, I rather enjoyed it.

I agree that the main plot was nothing to write home about, and the MacGuffin of the week was pretty much forgettable. But I really liked the character dynamics in this one, especially the way they changed up the pairs. Ward and Fitz were surprisingly entertaining together, even more so because they let Fitz be capable in his own way. It was wonderful to behold.

But the big character winner for me this week was Simmons. She didn't do much except annoy me for the first few weeks, but these last couple episodes have kind of made me fall in love with her. (Did you see that goofy flower on her sweater? She is so the Willow of this series.) She was absolutely adorable working with Skye, and the way she told Fitz about shooting Sitwell had me grinning from ear to ear.

I agree that on the whole, the show isn't completely gelling or doing anything overly special, but I'm really starting to warm to the characters, and that gets me past a lot of flaws with any series.

Marianna said...

I agree this episode wasn't a strong one, but I am loving the series overall. It bothered me that there was no extraction plan. I get that some of the higher-ups in SHIELD prefer not to think of the people they send on these missions as people, but they're still assets that they presumably spent a lot of money training. I would think they wouldn't want their assets destroyed needlessly. Agent Highlights' excuse was there was no available extraction team. Why didn't they just assign May to extract them? She wasn't busy, and she did it no sweat.

My guess for the question of what's the deal with Coulson is that he's a vampire! Who's with me... no one?