103 then, “The Asset”, and the first proper delving into the Marvel universe. Another decent effort following on from the improved showing last week, that fleshes out some of the main characters and does some acceptable set-up for future episodes. Thoughts:
-The plot was actually fairly standard, again, but that’s not automatically a bad thing. The team have to try to save one of their number, but discover some harsh truths in the process, mostly about the motivations and aims of certain characters. It manages to wrap a central theme and elaboration of Skye as a person around a larger plot.
-And our first supervillain. Franklin Hall/Graviton is a decent one to go for I think, there is a lot of potential there, though I was somewhat disappointed with the fairly mediocre way that Hall was handled. He has such little screentime before he’s ranting about saving the world, I struggled to really buy him as a three dimensional participant in the process.
-A good opening scene, that offered something a little different, while getting us into the meat and bones of the entire “gravity” focus fairly quickly.
-The Skye/Ward relationship, which will inevitably turn romantic, sees some decent evolution in this episode, with the exchanging of background stories adding seriousness, and a genuine concern emerging from Ward for a person that he initially despised. They had humour, with the “truth serum” stuff as well, that worked pretty well for me. Growth is important, and they are showing it.
-You got the feeling that, after Ward took out the goons at the end, Skye was going to run up and kiss him, but this was suddenly negated. I liked that scene, it was like she suddenly came to her senses.
-Quinn, on the basis of this episode, seems like your dime-store billionaire philanthropist villain, so I hope they get to do some better stuff with him before too long.
-Like I said, Hall was a little under developed for my tastes, just a few lines here and there to emphasise that he’s a particular kind of genius. They’ve set up a connection with the science team, so I assume they’ll be exploiting that later on.
-Um, Hall and Quinn are the same age? Really?
-Skye as the spy, again, offers her the opportunity to actually do something that isn’t just Hollywood hacking, even if the whole thing had a sting of unreality to it.
-They are really hammering on the idea that the Rising Tide is basically Wikileaks, only, perhaps, slightly more evil. Not sure I like that.
-Skye’s apparent turn was an interesting plot twist to go for, after last week’s ending, adding a nice bit of tension and spice to proceedings. I suppose you never really thought that she was actually going to turn on the team wholesale, but we’re still question her motives, which is good TV.
-Hall’s turn was just as interesting, and would have worked a bit better if he had just been fleshed out better beforehand. It was, maybe, over-stated a bit by the end, with much of the scene between him and Coulson superfluous. Still, it made Hall temporarily intriguing, and I’m looking forward to seeing him again in his new persona.
-Pretty dumb that the disarming trick that Ward teaches Skye is something she gets to use flawlessly.
-I really liked Coulson’s moment of decision, even if Gregg’s delivery was as bland as ever. Because he remains, as ever, a total plank. Keanu Reeves is a better at emoting.
-Brett Dalton isn’t doing much better in this episode. His monologue on his childhood lacked a little something, that Chloe Bennet was able to offer with hers.
-David Conrad did fine as Quinn, and I generally liked Ian Hart as Hall, he had the right kind of voice and dweebish outlook.
-The whole thing with the monkey lines was very jarring and weird. A reversion to some of the worst stuff from the pilot.
-And a return of the technobabble. And the classic “In English” line. That’s getting tiring fast.
-While the delivery wasn’t stellar, I really liked the brother monologue from Ward, it explained a bit about him and his personality.
-Ian Hart gets the best line of the series so far: “We have to live by the choices we make…and sometimes we have to die with them too.”
-The stuff with the truck was a decent visual effect, for a TV show. Generally Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is doing quite well with CGI, with the limited (compared to the movies) resources that it has.
-Oh God, that shot of the team walking on the airstrip was dumb as hell. No group of people walks like that.
-One of the things that might become an issue, visually, is the interior of the plane. Whedon shows have generally done a good job of making their main sets look lived in and real. The Library from Sunnydale High, the Magic Shop, the Hyperion Hotel, Serenity, etc. They all looked like actual places that people lived and worked in, they had the little touches. The “Bus”, so far, does not have that. It looks too clean, too sterile, too much like a first class plane.
-I’m getting the feeling that Coulson’s suits, and how he is never seen wearing anything else, is going to be this running joke that will become beyond irritating after a time. They actually hung a lamp on it here, barely three episodes into the show, which is a terrible sign. Seeing him perform an amphibious landing in that immaculate get-up was laughable (and were they shooting at Maltese police after?).
-Bennet is a very attractive actress, and they did a good job with her dress in this episode, which marked her out from the crowd in a very noticeable way, which was just what the role of spy called for.
-Some good CGI work for the gravity device, and for the Graviton origin, which looked suitably scarring and horrific. Seeing Hall’s inevitable breakout from the S.H.I.E.L.D. holding facility should be a treat.
-In terms of theme, you could say that “The Asset” is all about the moment of decision, in the missions and in lives. The characters all face, or have faced, some singular moment when they had to make a life-altering decision, and then live – or die – with the consequences. “The Asset” is nominally about Franklin Hall’s moment, but we also see Skye risking it all on her spy job, Coulson sending Hall to his (apparent) death, Melinda re-applying for combat duty, they’re all important moments of decision. I thought “The Asset” managed to show those moments in as effective a manner as possible, given the limited running time.
So, another good outing. While the show might be bleeding viewers (having lost around 40% of its initial audience already), it’s still worth watching, despite many still self-evident flaws.
To read my thoughts on other episodes of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D, click here to go to the index.