Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 1.02: "0-8-4"

“Do you need anything else before I go check on the device made of evil that’s sitting in our cargo hold?”
-Agent Coulson

As the second episode of a new series, “0-8-4” had a lot stacked up against it. Second episodes are tough, because the creative team has to take the show out of the introduction phase and provide a good example of what the show is going to be like on a week-to-week basis. In that sense, I think “0-8-4” accomplished what it needed to. The team is going through some growing pains as they all get to know each other (a trick pulled from the “Avengers” mothership), but they also went on a really cool adventure. It appears that the team will go on some threat to the world-type adventure each week, and I think that could be a lot of fun for as long as the creative team can come up with engaging ideas for adventures.

In this episode, the team is responding to an “0-8-4,” which S.H.I.E.L.D. code for an object of unknown origin. This one is in Peru, which I think is part of what made the adventure fun. I wasn’t expecting the team’s escapades to be on an international scale, but I guess I should have, considering S.H.I.E.L.D. is a global organization. Coulson even has a custom plane that his team uses to travel. They all have their own bunks, and the whole thing is Coulson’s pride and joy (after Lola, of course). Anyway, the team heads to a cool looking pyramid in the Peruvian jungle. The artifact is inside, and the team really doesn’t have much of a chance to figure out what it is before they have company. Peruvian military arrive on the scene and they’re led by Camilla Reyes. It’s pretty clear right from the get-go that Coulson and Reyes have a history.

FitzSimmons are doing some tests on the 0-8-4 while the scuffle is brewing outside, and they discover that the object has its own power source. This probably isn’t a good thing. Outside, Coulson and Camilla have a little argument over who gets to keep the object. Camilla wants it, probably because it could be useful to stop Peruvian rebels, but Coulson says that S.H.I.E.L.D.’s 0-8-4 designation trumps everything. They don’t really have much time to argue about it, though. The aforementioned Peruvian rebels blow something up right near the pyramid site, and all Hell breaks loose. Ward makes the rather dumb choice to just yank to object out of where it was lodged in the wall, and the whole team (plus as many of the Peruvian military as survive the attack) hightail it to Coulson’s plane.

As I’ve said, this was a fun adventure story, but it also really tried to do some work on establishing character relationships. Skye has officially joined the team as a consultant. Given her former status as a member of the Rising Tide, she earns a little suspicion from the rest of the team, especially Agent Ward. He’s a super rule follower, and the idea of having a only recently former terrorist hacker on the team causes his blood pressure to go up. It also doesn’t help that he and Agent May are the only members of the team with combat experience. FitzSimmons and Skye are all pretty useless in a battle. FitzSimmons, of course, spend most of the episode uttering adorable Jossian banter. As they do. Ward and Skye also have an interesting conversation, where Skye tries to explain the philosophy behind Rising Tide. The idea is that if everyone just does a little bit, it can create something bigger. This idea will come into play later in the episode.

While most of the crew makes it safely back to the plane, things unravel fast once they get there. The team figures out that the artifact is actually tesseract based, so it could go splodey pretty easily. In an enclosed place like Coulson’s plane, that could go very badly very quickly. Camilla still wants the device, so she tries to distract Coulson with a little flirting while her troops disarm Coulson’s team. This whole situation forces the team to work together to regain control of the plane. They have to free themselves from imprisonment, then, once they’re free, they have to fight the Peruvians. Each member of the team has a bit of a contribution to the effort, reflecting what Skye told Ward about Rising Tide. Ward even points that out at one point, showing his increasing acceptance of Skye.

The actual battle where the S.H.I.E.L.D. team retakes the plane from the Peruvians is pretty epic for television. I guess all that Marvel money was put to good use. There’s plenty of hand-to-hand combat (Ward, May, and Coulson are the best at that, of course), and the whole thing culminates in a hole being blown in the side of the plane. This starts to cause rapid depressurization, and Ward is about to be sucked right out of the plane. Ward’s life is saved by some quick thinking on the part of Skye. She manages to plug the whole in the plane with a big, inflatable life raft. The plane is seriously damaged, but the team lives to fight another day. We get a short appearance from one Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury (the S.H.I.E.L.D. head honcho) near the end of the episode where he yells at Coulson for all the damage that has been done to the plane. Coulson promises to fix it up just like it was before the fight.

The episode ends with the team starting to be more of a cohesive unit. They all watch as the 0-8-4 is shot into the sun, where it will be destroyed. Kind of a severe measure, but I guess the tesseract was really really dangerous? There’s more respect for Agent May now (they all thought she was just transpo, and now they know she can fight). There’s also more acceptance of Skye. That acceptance may be misplaced, and in his conversation with Nick Fury, Coulson admits that. He’s willing to take her work for as long as she’s willing to give it, though. While the team is all watching the tesseract launch, Skye gets a Rising Tide related text, and she replies that she’s all in for whatever they have planned next (after only a slight hesitation). It’s going to take some work for sure to keep her on the team.

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