Previously, on Agents of SHIELD: “Pilot”
SO, after lots of pre-hype about a mysterious cameo in the end credits (just like your standard Marvel movie), episode 2 starts with a bang. A real bang, exploding the side out of a plane in flight and launching a guy at the camera. We quickly rewind in time to our agents gathering their things for a rendezvous with the mysterious “code 0-8-4”. The show does not hesitate to immediately start teasing at the identity of our impending special guest, name-dropping Tony Stark (Ooh, Downey? Cheadle? Paltrow?), as Couls argues with Ward and May regarding the addition of Skye as a consultant.
The agents spend some time making it clear that the composition of this group is not to their liking, in the process shooting down my assumption that the Rising Tide consisted only of Skye, as her “membership” in the hacker collective is brought up by Ward/Booth as an argument against her. Coulson swats down all the agents’ objections, telling them essentially to deal with it.
In the next scene, Coulson straps in for takeoff next to Skye, casually reminding her that she is not completely trusted yet, and in the way of providing some explanation of the mission, informs her that an 0-8-4 translates to “an object of unknown origin”, and with a knowing smirk, drops the fact that the last one he investigated was a hammer! (Hemsworth? Hiddleston? Hopkins?… Elba?)
Upon arriving in Peru, we are whisked away to an ancient Incan temple, where an archaeologist has discovered a glowy techno-whatsit half-buried in a wall in a hidden chamber. Skye questions why she has been brought along and is immediately conflicted when Coulson informs her that her purpose is to sow disinformation should they need to perform any cover-up of their activities. Outside, Agent Booth gets an icy stare from Agent May (Ming Na-Wen’s ice stare also makes her look like she’s about to crack up), when he refers to her offhandedly as “The Cavalry”, and references an event she was apparently involved with in Bahrain. There’s no time to elaborate, as the duo is attacked by camouflaged soldiers! After handily dealing with the first few, the pair is quickly outnumbered. Coulson arrives, calmly attempting to defuse the scenario, and is met by the leader of the National Police, Camilla Reyes, who is an old acquaintance of his… a very close acquaintance.
Skye and Ward have a snarky military vs. rebels argument, further highlighting her as the “odd-man out”, while Camilla and Coulson take a stroll. Before the two old pals can get too far, things start exploding! Camilla pegs it as a rebel attack, and she and Coulson respond in dance, breaking into the ancient (and very cinematic) Peruvian Gun Waltz. The rest of the team, minus Agent May, quickly begin to pack up their equipment. Agent Ward/Booth yanks the artifact from the wall, much to the chagrin of the nerds, and Skye gets in everyone’s way. The two groups meet at the temple exit, but Booth’s group gets pinned down. A glance passes between Ward and Coulson, and Coulson tells Camilla to order her men to get down. Booth pulls out (from a pocket, I guess) an object resembling a javelin (a deep pocket), and does an overly graceful dive and roll into the center of the gunfight. He stabs the javelin into the ground. The top of it separates and launches into the air, exploding into a bright blue energy blast that takes out the rebel gunmen.
The team uses the distraction to dive into Agent May’s waiting SUV, and along with Camilla, they haul ass towards the airfield. Driving straight up the open ramp of the waiting plane, followed closely by Camilla and her guards, they escape into the air. At this point, the nerds are finally allowed to explain what they have discovered about the artifact. Fitz reports that it is a Hydra device, fueled by Tesseract technology (the glowy blue cube from The Avengers and Captain America: The First Avenger), and is full of gamma radiation! Oh Noes! (but Chris Evans? Mark Ruffalo?)
The next many minutes are devoted to showing how no one likes each other, except maybe Fitz and Simmons. Fitz and Ward (who continues to make it clear that he’s using up his best material on Bones) have the standard jock/nerd argument, and Skye venture that maybe she should be in charge when she finally susses out that the team is brand new and can’t seem to get along. Coulson admits that there are kinks to be worked out, but insists that this is his team, and it will work.
Camilla’s team retires, asking where the bar is, and Coulson proceeds to give her the grand tour. Fitz and Simmons work out that the artifact is a terribly powerful beam weapon, while Skye and Booth join the commandos in the lounge for a heart-to-heart, during which they come around to seeing each other’s point of view with a quickness usually reserved for The Flash (Boom! That’s right, I’ll drop a DC reference smack in the middle of a Marvel story, and you can’t stop me!). Luckily, this doesn’t create so much drama that Ward doesn’t notice that the commandos, who were so eager to get to the drinks, don’t seem to be drinking theirs.
In Coulson’s office, he is geeking out, showing Camilla his toys, but Camilla has other activities on her mind… like hijacking the plane! Booth and Coulson separately (but at the same time! Spooky!) latch onto the commandos’ plans, and both begin trying their best to foil those plans with punches and kicks! It’s too late though, as Agent May is taken out with a sleeping gas, and Fitz is held hostage with a knife to his throat. Couls, incensed, queries Camilla as to why she would turn her back on their history, and she informs him that she couldn’t resits it when she saw how weak his team was. (Noticing a theme, yet?)
The commandos are forced to keep Coulson alive so that he can verify them with the authorities when they change course, and they are forced to keep the rest of the team alive in order to force Coulson to do so. Wisely, they put the whole team in the same room, ostensibly so Camilla can threaten to dump them all into the air, but really it’s so the team will have ample opportunity to come up with a plot to foil the plot. Which they immediately begin to ponder, building off Booth and Skye’s previous bit of team-building. In a bit of an aside, Ward reveals to the rest of the team that Agent May is actually a SHIELD legend known only as “The Cavalry”.
Camilla fills Coulson in on the artifact’s history. It is a weapon, developed by Hydra/Nazi scientist after they defected to Peru following WWII (Maybe Hugo Weaving? Maybe Hitler?) It belongs to her country… It will save her people… and other pre-dictatorial blah blah blah blah.
Back in the cargo bay, the waiting is finally over and here comes the teamwork. Luckily, the team has done all the planning during the commercial break, so we just get to watch it unfold. Agent May takes out the lone guard and rams the SUV through the locked doors into the main portion of the plane. Fitz makes for the lab, cranks up Sleepy (one of his flying robots), and launches it up the ventilation shaft that Simmons just opened (Tah-day! Teamwork!). Fitz flies the robot into the cabin where the Hydra weapon is currently resting and uses a pulse from the robot to set it off. And deja vu! We’re right back where we started, as the weapon blasts a hole in the side of the plane, and one of the commandos goes flying out straight at the camera. Coulson grabs the ropes he was about to escape from and barely manages to keep from flying out as well.
The resulting loss in cabin pressure forces the internal doors to unlock, allowing the team access to the rest of the plane. Agent Booth does some more punchy-kicky while the rest of the team make their way around the room using the cargo rope to retrieve the Hydra weapon. Camilla loses her hold, and Coulson grabs her just in time, tying her to the same pole he was tied to, in order to save her life (and to be able to take her to jail later). Meanwhile, in the pilot’s cabin, Agent May beats the mortal shit out of the commando pilot, sending the plant into a nose dive and then saving it from a nose dive, and then beating the shit out of him some more. (Agent Booth/Ward has some work to do to compete with May’s action sequences. She is just a bad ass.) And then Skye finally does the only useful thing she’s done all episode (besides filling out a shirt), pulling the rip cord on a survival raft, thusly plugging the hole in the plane and saving everyone’s bacon.
And that’s how the Bradys became a happy family, everybody. Well, almost…
As the team watches a rocket launch the weapon into space (SHIELD protocol) where no one mean can get their hands on it (except maybe Thanos, the Skrulls, the Kree, the Brood, the Chitauri, Loki again, or half a hundred other Marvel baddies. Come to think of it, this is a terrible protocol). Skye gets a text on her phone from the Rising Tide, asking about her status. Aw, she’ll delete it, right, because of her new buddies? Nope. She respons “I’m in.” And the plot thickens…
And now, with no further ado, we open on Coulson’s face, with none other than the angry voice of everybody’s favorite Director of SHIELD, Nick Fury, AKA Samuel L. Jackson coming from off-camera. Sam is less than pleased with the state of his airplane and yells at Coulson for a couple of minutes in the soothing way that only a one-eyed master spy can, making his exit only after he’s made Coulson aware that he also knows that Skye is a risk.
So, after a first episode filled with awesome, how could there not be a bit of a letdown? I was a bit disappointed after the first viewing, but on a second watch, I believe I changed my mind. Skye and Boothward should have cornered Sam for some acting lessons, but the action was high, and it was still overall entertaining. I dearly hope these characters gain some depth soon, but I’m not giving up on them, yet.