With the introductions out of the way, it’s time to start getting to know our Agents. Skye is first with an episode that, while not wholly focusing on her, devotes a lot of time to asking and answering the question of Skye’s commitment to the team.
Of all the team members, Skye has the least reason to be here; as the episode demonstrates, Fitz is capable enough around a computer to hack a security system (made of lasers!), and her spycraft is still pretty rudimentary, as Ward tries warning everyone in the episode at every chance he gets—I understand that he’s worried about her safety, but at some point he crosses the line from “concerned” to “naggy.” Why, then, is Skye so driven to be a contributing member of Coulson’s Angels? Like any good Whedon character, she’s looking for a place she belongs. She and Ward swap background trauma stories, both confessing that the weaknesses and insecurities they had as children drive them to become the best agents they can be.
And for her first outing (both as a focus character and as an operative), Sky acquits herself adequately. Heck, she does all right; obtaining an invitation to the home of island technocrat Ian Quinn after he kidnaps S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist/asset Franklin Hall. Quinn wants Hall’s expert knowledge of Gravitonium, the ludicrously-named and terrifyingly-powerful element that, when harnessed, will give Quinn mastery over gravity. When Skye is found out, she calls an audible, playing off her recent recruitment by S.H.I.E.L.D. as a means of gaining access for the Rising Tide. Her creative spin on the truth distracts Quinn long enough for Coulson to slip in and confront Hall while Ward retrieves her from monologue-followed-by-certain-death.
Hall represents an exciting aspect of Agents: a good man who recognizes that S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t as squeaky clean or noble as it likes to believe. When he confronts Coulson with this truth, even our favorite stone-faced agent is forced to acknowledge the point. S.H.I.E.L.D. would put Hall’s gravity technology to different uses than would Quinn, but in the long run, they probably wouldn’t be any less devastating. That’s why Hall is willing to sink himself and Quinn’s opulent fortress into the ground to keep his science out of the world’s hands.
Until now, Coulson has been a man of words: in the first episode, he disarms Peterson with a speech about humanity in the dawn of super powers; in the second episode, he’s content to trust his team to find the solution to their hijacking. Here, though, his speech fails. Hall knows how empty Coulson’s words are, and knows what’s right. He makes a choice, forcing Coulson to do the same. And Coulson’s choice is to throw Hall into his own machine in the hopes that it will stop the reaction.
The weightless Gravitonium looks about as good as you could expect from network television special effects. Much more impressive are the wild camera angles and tumbling objects of the laboratory in gravitational flux: Coulson and Hall hold their epic debate on the ceiling, staggering with each new twist of gravity. Hall pouring his drink sideways was a funny, clever way of demonstrating just how weird the Marvel Cinematic Universe can get, and how a willingness to adapt to that weirdness is the key to success. Coulson may be slower to adapt—and rusty to boot—but he wins in the end, and honors Hall’s wishes by locking the Gravitonium deep in an unmarked S.H.I.E.L.D. vault where it will never see the light of day again (until it doesn’t).
Fitz-Simmons, for all their talk of personal experience with Hall, don’t see a lot of action this episode. I was surprised when they didn’t have any scenes with Hall whatsoever, not even a word in edgewise via comms. May is likewise put out of the action, refusing the call of fieldwork due to her hesitation. I’m extremely pleased that her waffling is done and she’s ready to get into the thick of things fulltime; Skye isn’t ready to play spy for real-real anytime soon, and Coulson has trouble getting his gun to work (an issue with his “muscle memory”).
As to Skye’s fake-out betrayal, it failed to hold any weight if only because we know Skye is sticking around for the remainder of the season. But it’s interesting as well, because she’s already poised to betray the team to Rising Tide, as seen at the end of the previous episode. She tells Ward how badly she wants to belong with them. What might she want even more badly?
- Whoever is stealing the truck has the power to lift it into the air like magic, but they need a digger to open the door?
- S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t have truth serum, apparently. Or does it? Coulson isn’t telling.
- Invisible attackers: cool…but terrible.
- “Who the hell are you?” “A concerned citizen…who happens to be part of a gigantic bureaucratic organization that’s tracking your every move.”
- Gravitonium: still a better name than Unobtainium.
- In Marvel comics, Dr. Franklin Hall is a mad scientist whose horrendous lab accident turns him into Graviton, a villain with gravity powers. He also regularly takes on the A-list Avengers, which means that our titular Agents might be a little outclassed if/when he returns.
- “I know Director Fury felt like he owed you after you sacrificed yourself.” “And my card collection.”
- Even on an aquatic approach, Coulson still wears his suit. The man is classy if nothing else.
- The effects in the gravity lab are pretty neat. I like Hall’s drink pouring sideways.
- Coulson’s muscle memory is failing him. Maybe they aren’t his original muscles? Eh? Eh? HE’S A MAGIC CLONE!
- “Hoping for something and losing it hurts more than never wanting anything.
- Apologies for the week-late review. You can jump ahead to the next review by clicking HERE.