Friday, October 11, 2013

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 1.03: "The Asset"

“Everything powerful is dangerous.”
-Ian Quinn

“The Asset” was another solid attempt by Team Whedon to show us what “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is going to be like on a week-to-week basis. The formula definitely seems to include fun international action adventures, and I definitely approve of that. It’s a nice bit of diversity in my heavily women-in-their-early-30s sitcom diet. What was especially cool about this episode was that it served as a supervillain origin story. Now I know I sometimes compare things on other, non-genre shows to supervillain origin stories, but this was a literal one. What seemed at first like a pretty standard S.H.I.E.L.D. rescue story turned into the origin of Graviton, a legit villain in the already established Marvel universe. I’m pretty new to the Marvel universe, so disabuse me of my ignorance with some of this stuff. Would you rather have another person discovering this world and starting to get enthusiastic about a fandom, even if it’s a learning process?

There are some pretty sweet special effects early in the episode. A convoy is heading down a pretty deserted road, when all of a sudden one of the SUVs protecting a tractor trailer just plain flips in the air. The truck driver is understandably freaked out, and he starts radioing for help. Help doesn’t come, though. Soon enough, the truck is flipped through the air, too. Once it lands, a team of commandos approaches the mangled vehicle. Inside is an older, rather unassuming scientist. This scientist, we will later learn, is Dr. Franklin Hall, a very important S.H.I.E.L.D. asset. He doesn’t seem all that perturbed at being taken away by shady commandos, surprisingly enough. S.H.I.E.L.D., however, is not at all happy about it, so of course Coulson’s team is going to be sent on a rescue mission.

Agent Ward is working on training Skye when the call comes in. He has her working with a punching bag, and she’s not really enjoying it at all. I guess she thought S.H.I.E.L.D. was going to be all fun adventure stuff, but this type of training isn’t what she had in mind. Anyway, FitzSimmons happen to know Dr. Hall, so they are especially unhappy about the news of his abduction. He was one of their professors back in the day, and they both had a soft spot for him. Simmons starts doing some experiments right away, and she has a breakthrough when she causes a reaction similar to what threw the tractor trailer. And she also finds a small metal ring in the middle of it all. This will obviously be an important clue later in the episode.

The team really gets to work with almost too much efficiency for this early in the series. I think there should still be some friction and inefficiency as a new team is trying to figure out how to work together. Coulson tracks down the supplier of the backhoe that was used to pry open the truck and get to Hall. The guy is super shady, but eventually Coulson learns that the backhoe was paid for in gold. It’s a very particular type of gold, and the team manages to track down the source. The owner of the mine is none other than Ian Quinn. Quinn is a sort of rival physicist to Dr. Hall. WE see their friendly-ish rivalry throughout the episode. The S.H.I.E.L.D. team is not at all wrong in their deduction. When we next see Hall, he’s waking up in Malta, in the home of Quinn. Quinn has renounced his American citizenship and moved to Malta so he can live in what he considers an unregulated paradise of unfettered capitalism. Not my kind of place, but to each his own, I suppose.

With Hall firmly in his possession, Quinn gets into a bit of an info dump/evil speech of evil. He’s got machines of the type that caused the S.H.I.E.L.D. vehicles to crash. The secret is an element called gravitonium. Any fans know if this is a real thing in the Marvel universe, or is it just the next Team Whedon created vaguely superhero-ish word? The next wonderflonium, if you will. The S.H.I.E.L.D. team has a plan in place to rescue Hall and secure any gravitonium. Skye is going to use an evite she got to one of Quinn’s parties to deactivate a security fence around Quinn’s compound so the rest of the team can mount the real rescue.

While some of the team (mainly Ward) was skeptical about putting Skye in danger, Skye actually starts out to be quite good at this new job. She charms Quinn enough that he takes her to a back room. He’s impressed that she’s part of the Rising Tide, given his own anarchist streak. Quinn eventually catches Skye snooping, though, and she has to save the mission by giving up that she’s been bugged by S.H.I.E.L.D. This results in Skye destroying her earpiece, which makes the rest of the team nervous, to say the least. Skye’s got to deactivate the fence if Coulson and Ward are going to do what they need to do, and it takes just a little too long for comfort. Skye does eventually get the job done, though,

Once in the compound, Coulson pays a visit to Hall, and all is definitely not as it seemed. It turns out Hall sort of arranged for the abduction. He claims to want to destroy the gravitonium machines that Quinn has all over the place. Hall fires up the biggest machine, though, and it starts messing with the gravity all throughout Quinn’s building. Elsewhere, Skye is found out by Quinn, and he calls security on her. She uses a move Agent Ward taught her, though, and she manages to escape out a window. It’s pretty impressive, really. I think this might indicate that even though Skye seemed to sympathize with Quinn’s anarchist bent a bit, she’s loyal to S.H.I.E.L.D. For now, at least.

Hall wants to destroy the whole building because he believes that no one should have the power of gravitonium. Not Ian Quinn. Not S.H.I.E.L.D. Coulson obviously can’t let his whole team die, though. A comment from FitzSimmons that the machine needs a catalyst to stop gives Coulson his out. He blasts the floor near Hall, sending Hall right into the middle of the machine. Hall becomes the catalyst, is kind of liquefied in the process, and all the shaking stops. The machine is then moved to the deepest levels of S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, and no one is allowed to know where it is. As it is locked away by agents, we see a liquefied hand push out from the center of the catalyst. Hall is clearly still alive in some form.

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