Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Episode 2: 0-8-4

This week the team travels to Peru and finds a box with blinking lights that turns out to be a weapon that everyone wants. A woman who may or may not be Coulson's ex betrays him in an effort to steal said box. The various team members argue to pad out the run time, they get captured, they blow a hole in side of the plane to defeat the bad guys, and they shoot the blinking box into the sun.

I'm very happy that we have a TV series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I really, really want to like this show, but… so far it's not wowing me. It's just kind of meh.

Take the 0-8-4 in this episode, for example. Supposedly that's S.H.I.E.L.D. code for an unknown, potentially dangerous object. The last time they used that code was when they found Thor's hammer in a crater in the desert at the end of Iron Man 2. So what does the 0-8-4 mean here? Ehh, just a blue box with lights on it, that might have been built by Hydra (the villains in the Captain America movie). Yawn.

They're going to need to step things up if they want this show to survive. I'm afraid that viewers are going to be expecting to see Iron Man and The Avengers level plot lines each week, but when they see stories about blinking boxes they're gonna start tuning out.

The characters aren't helping either. So far Coulson and Melinda May are the only interesting members of the team, and even then they're not exactly crackling with excitement. So far Grant's been a bland cypher, Fitz and Simmons are becoming annoying and Skye seems to serve no function whatsoever. If they can't make these characters more compelling, and soon, they need to torpedo them pronto and bring in someone more exciting.

Now that I think of it, this series reminds me a lot of Torchwood. Just like the BBC said, "Hey, let's do a Doctor Who show without the Doctor!," ABCs doing an Avengers show without the Avengers.

Peppering the script with shout-outs to Tony Stark and Thor ain't enough to keep people tuning in, guys. Plus it's never a good idea to remind people of something better they could be watching.

I hope this show succeeds, I really do. But they're gonna have to make some significant changes in order to make that happen.


• So last week Coulson assembles a team, but this week we find that only two of the five have been trained for or even seen combat. Does that seem like a good idea?

• Last week we got to see the team being assembled, so of course this week we get the obligatory "Team can't get along and bickers endlessly until there's a common threat and then they all pull together at the last minute" plot.

• I get that Melinda May is a crack pilot, but can she really fly what appears to be some kind of modified C4 plane all by herself? No copilot or navigator needed?

I suppose you could say S.H.I.E.L.D. installed some kind of souped-up autopilot in the plane so one person can fly it alone. I suppose you could say that, but I remain unconvinced.

• The explosive decompression scene was very, very similar to the one in Iron Man 3. Anything that reminds me that that awful film exists is double plus ungood in my book.

• Speaking of explosive decompression, how long do you suppose it lasts in the real world? Ten seconds, tops? All that's happening is the pressurized air inside the cabin is equalizing with the thin air outside. It shouldn't take very long for that to happen.

Here it went on for a good five minutes of screen time. Long after the explosion happened the Peruvian soldiers were somehow still being sucked out of the plane. There must have been a lot of pressure in that cabin!

• Likewise, once Skye tossed the rubber raft at the hole, it too was immediately sucked up against the inner hull, keeping the pressure in. Nope!  The decompression should have ended well before then. When she tossed it, it should have just plopped to the floor. 

But let's give them this one. Let's say the decompression is still somehow going on after five minutes. If the suction is powerful enough to pull a full grown man out through the hole, why wouldn't a rubber raft be pulled through as well?

I get that this is a comic book world full of people who can fly and turn into green monsters, but everything can't be exaggerated like this. You've got to ground some of it in reality if you want us to be amazed when the super stuff happens.

• At the end of the episode the team puts the blinking box into "The Slingshot," a rocket which will carry it into the sun and destroy it. They do this because the box is too powerful a weapon for any one person or nation to possess.

Fitz mentions that it'll take eight months for the rocket to reach the sun. That seems like a awfully long time. How much do you want to bet that a few episodes from now someone's going to intercept that rocket and snatch the blinking box out of it?

• So Skye's really some kind of spy who's infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D., eh? I honestly don't understand why she's on the team in the first place. Coulson and everyone else already knows she was the head of some kind of anarchist group. Why in the name of Aunt May's hair bun would you invite someone like that into your super spy organization?

• Holee. Crap! Samuel L. Jackson made a cameo appearance! That's amazing! And it almost made up for the meh-ness of the rest of the episode.

Has SLJ ever been on a TV series before? He's done a lot of voice work for various animated series (Afro Samurai, The Boondocks), but as far as I know this is the first time he's ever appeared in a live action show.

It was fun seeing Coulson reduced to the position of underling in the presence of his boss. Nice touch, whoever wrote that scene. See? You guys can write interesting stuff when you want to.

The most amazing thing about the whole deal is that ABC managed to keep it a secret, especially these days when people have to post photos of what they're eating for lunch. I'm honestly surprised, nay astonished, that ABC didn't run those annoying promos that take up the bottom third of the screen announcing the cameo for an entire week before it aired. The most I saw was a little spot telling viewers to stay tuned for a special appearance at the end of the episode. Whoever managed to keep the cameo on the down low, thank you for your superhuman restraint!

On the down side, I can't believe Nick Fury showed up so soon. It's only the second episode. Where are they gonna go from here? A cameo from Robert Downey Jr.?

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