Monday, 27 January 2014

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: The Hub

"Not everyone gets sent to Tahiti."

"It's a magical.. place."

this episode may get the most James Bond opening yet, with a bit of skiing to freedom, but we're left feeling somewhat ambivalent about this organisation that our heroes work for. Not only are Ward and Fitz sent on a suicide mission to South Ossetia to zap some MacGuffin called the Overkill with no extraction plan, but it's clear that Skye is just being strung along with the false promise of finding stuff out about her parents. Coulson may be a little conscience-stricken about this (although he himself is not allowed to know, and furthermore there are definite parallels with his apparent resurrection in "Tahiti"- is he a robot or something, as Skye jokingly suggests?), but May doesn't. Still, at least he tells her what he knows: she was dropped off at her orphanage by a S.H.I.E.L.D agent. I bet her parents are people we old Marvel True Believers would have heard of.

At least Coulson is a bit more rebellious in that he leads the mission to rescue Fitz and Ward- although this, of course, could have been part of the organisation's plan. The show seems determined, nevertheless, to get us to like Coulson's little team while remaining suspicious about S.H.I.E.L.D in the wider sense.

There are some interesting character moments. Simmons makes  Fitz his favourite sandwiches to eat on the mission, but Ward soon puts paid to this: the sandwiches have to be disposed of as the smell will attract pursuit. This feels almost like a clash of genres- the sweet will-they-won't-they romance between Fitz and Simmons collides with the harsh, humourless world of espionage that Ward inhabits. On the other hand, when Ward breaks the news to Fitz that the extraction is not happening, Fitz stays. Is this his faith in his friends or something else?

We get to see the mysterious S.H.I.E.L.D Hub in West Africa here, yes, but it's an unsettling and morally compromised place. Some uncomfortable questions have been dredged up in this episode as the season's threads continue to develop.

All that said, this isn't the best of episodes and the overall quality seems to be worryingly average. I hope the series takes off soon.


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