“0-8-4” (Season 1, Episode 2)
Wasting no time pondering on the events of last week, the episode beings with Coulson’s team being sent to Peru to investigate an ‘0-8-4,’ which is S.H.I.E.L.D. code for an object of unknown origin. The team is to determine if this object is of use to S.H.I.E.L.D. or a threat. In Peru — where there’s a been a rash of rebel uprisings as of late — Coulson and crew encounter the local military police lead by Camilla Reyes (Leonor Varela — Blade II, Arrested Development), who just happens to be Coulson’s old flame. The 0-8-4, by the way, turns out to be a WWII-era Hydra weapon of some sort that’s powered by the Tesseract and apparently very, very dangerous.
After a very strong start last week, “0-8-4” registers as a hefty disappointment. Actually, this episode is the perfect example of the show I feared Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would end up being. While the pilot upset generic convention with its abundance of plot and subsequent twists, “0-8-4” is nothing if not wholly predictable. It’s shouldn’t come as a surprise when it’s revealed that Reyes isn’t looking to work with Coulson, but wants the weapon for herself. That plot point isn’t the only paint-by-numbers element: threads of a potential romance are introduced as Ward and Skye bond over a drink while the music begins to swell. The team, too, butts heads over roles and responsibilities and why they’re there in the first place. It’s like there’s an unwritten rule that all teams must have friction when they form. So viewers could probably guess that when this ragtag group of misfits are held captive after Reyes’ sudden but inevitable betrayal, they’ll have to put aside their differences and work together as team and apply their heavily-specialized skills to escape.
Everything in this episode feels clichéd, lazily playing into rote conventions, from the cold open — which involves a hole being blown in the side of plane and then a jump back to “19 hours earlier” — to the guest appearance from Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury at the end. Though, the scene with Fury gives the episode it’s best moment, when Coulson says to Fitz “Lose the fish tank.”
At least, though, the episode offers some pretty cool action scenes and there’s a lot this week. Stylistically the show hasn’t come into its own yet; “0-8-4” doesn’t have the sheen of the Whedon-directed (and presumably higher-budgeted) pilot, but the close-quarters combat fights on the plane are handled really well — I like how the show employs interesting, low and wide angles for a variety of perspectives during the fights.
I realize I’m coming across a little harsh on this episode, after all the show’s still trying to find its feet. Yet, as I mentioned in last week’s review, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is playing primarily to an audience that has seen all of the films from which this show has been spun and ostensibly knows this universe well, so it best find a way to capture the interest of the audience. The show can’t compete with the Marvel films in terms of scale and scope; it has to offer viewers something unique so it doesn’t just exist in their collective shadows. “0-8-4” is just a reminder that there’s a bigger, brighter, and craftier world just outside (and returning to cinemas in November).
You just missed him — references to people too busy to appear on TV
- Like Skye, technically Tony Stark is a consultant for S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Thor’s hammer was the last 0-8-4 Coulson investigated.
- It’s a Hydra weapon! You know, “like Captain America and all that,” according to Fitz.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “0-8-4.” Directed by David Straiton. Written by Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon, Jeffrey Bell.