“The Hub” (Season 1, Episode 7)
I think what’s been missing from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is what has made other similar shows — Alias, The X-Files, Fringe — draw in audiences is an over-arching mythology. These shows managed week-to-week contained stories, but also developed dense backstories. Sure, the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe give the audience some sort of reference to the world of S.H.I.E.L.D., but it doesn’t seem like it has anything to call its own. That’s part of why Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn’t really gained any traction with me. Besides the Mission of the Week, we haven’t been given anything major that the show is moving toward, save almost weekly references to Coulson’s death and resurrection and now the mystery of Skye’s parents (which Coulson will be keeping secret probably until the season finale).
With “The Hub,” I’m starting to get a sense of what Marvel is trying to accomplish with the show — and I can’t decides if it’s ingenious or coldly calculated. The Mission of the Week isn’t particularly interesting, even by the show’s standards. Writers Rafe Judkins and Lauren LeFranc also don’t seem to come up with anything out of the ordinary by pairing Ward and Fitz together in the field on a potential suicide mission. (The mission involves a deadly device, hostile border crossing, and extreme separatists from South Ossetia. It’s quite dull really.)
What the episode does bring to the table is a S.H.I.E.L.D. station called The Hub, which isn’t headquarters but some classified outpost. Here it looks like Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows) is in charge. She assigns Ward and Fitz to this mission, without informing Coulson they’ll be without an extraction team. Even if they succeed in their mission, they may not get out alive. There’s plenty of talk in this episode about clearance levels, authorization, and ‘need-to-know-basis’ around operations and information. When Skye questions why her teammates blindly follow the S.H.I.E.L.D. rules and rarely show any curiosity about the information being kept from them, Coulson dutifully — and ominously — tells her to “trust the system.” In typical predictable fashion, Skye doesn’t trust the system and unlocks some classified secrets, which leads to the team bucking the system and saving Ward and Fitz.
Now, what this all appears to be starting to lead to is the questioning and distrust of S.H.I.E.L.D. By the episode’s end, Coulson begins to suspect something amiss with with his recovery in Tahiti; he’s even denied access to his own file. These not-so-subtle seeds being planted appear to have ties to what next spring’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier will deal with directly: S.H.I.E.L.D. as the enemy. I must say, I am kind of excited at this prospect. I mean, it’s mostly speculation on my part, but I’m just reading the signs on the road.
The rest of episode works fine as Tuesday night entertainment, if it’s not particularly memorable. The action scenes are handled well and while I don’t necessarily find Brett Dalton’s Ward or Ian De Caestecker’s Fitz engaging, their mismatched buddy scenes in the field did offer some good laughs and gags. I especially liked Fitz’s delivery of the line “ask them what beers they have on tap.”
I’m no more won over by Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. than last week, though I do like that the show seems to be narrowing in on what it wants to be about. Next week’s episode, “The Well,” ties-in with Thor: The Dark World. I’ve been waiting to see how the show will engage with the concurrently-released films — so this’ll be interesting.
- Wait, I’m not clear on this yet: Is Tahiti a magical place?
- I liked Coulson straightening his tie in the cold open — how very James Bond of him.
- The ‘nasal extraction’ made me want to watch Total Recall again.
- You just missed them: Hand says Black Widow and Hawkeye don’t need extraction teams. So there.
- Oh neat. Looks like William Riker is directing next week’s episode.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “The Hub.” Directed by Bobby Roth. Written by Rafe Judkins and Lauren LeFranc.