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“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” continues its more character-centric episodes while shining some light on the inner workings of S.H.I.E.L.D. with “The Hub”. There were a few notable guest stars, but it was mostly about Coulson’s crew, and served to move some of the subplots along. Also, I am no longer putting in the principal actors’ names, since if you watch the show you should know who these guys are now by now.
The episode begins with Agent Coulson captured and in trouble, but still cool as a cucumber. The mission, we learn, was an agent extraction, and with the arrival of Agents Ward and May, things heat up. The removal of stolen information by Agent Simmons, hidden by the undercover agent played out like that scene from “Total Recall” where Arnie had to pull the bug out his nose, except this agent got off easy compared to the former Governator, with his payload not being the size of a ping pong ball.
It’s at this point we learn some new information about the hierarchy of S.H.I.E.L.D., as Coulson takes the information to the control room, telling the team that the mission is above their access and is coded as Level 8! While we had assumed Level 7 was the highest access level, it’s now safe to assume there may be levels as high as 10 for all we know. Journeying to a S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ called The Hub, the team seems to be okay with the secretive nature of the new mission, all except Skye, of course. Not only is she not okay with secrets, but being this close to S.H.I.E.L.D. databanks and such has her itching to search for that redacted information on her parents. Coulson says he will look into it and reminds her she’s not even level 1 clearance.
It’s at this point we meet our guest stars — Maximilliano Hernadez reprising his role as Agent Jasper Sitwell, and Saffron Burrows appearing as Agent Victoria Hand. Hand is the straight and narrow type of agent — cold and strictly business. We’ve seen Fury be cold, but he seems to genuinely still care, and Coulson is just a good person.
The mission is set up as a Fitz-centric episode, which is fitting since last week was all about Simmons. Fitz and Ward (or is it Fitz/Ward) are tapped to take on this mission because they have the requisite skills — Ward’s former contacts and Fitz’ technical know how — to disarm some doomsday device. On the mission, Fitz actually does rather well, and gets them out of what could easily be a bad situation, even making some friends to boot. Though he has one slight setback involving a sandwich, he actually stays cool under pressure and saves the day a few times. What you think is his need to prove to Ward and Simmons that he’s an effective agent and an asset outside the lab, is actually his need to prove it to himself.
Meanwhile, Skye’s need to know everything has gotten the best of her better judgement, and she convinces an already worried Simmons to hack the S.H.I.E.L.D. network in order to find out what’s going on with Fitz/Ward’s mission. A hilarious encounter between Simmons and Sitwell ensues, and the Night Night gun is used. I love that name and I really wish they’d use it more. Anyways, Skye gets in and finds what she’s looking for, but she also finds the information on her parents, or where to start looking. But her good side wins out, and she finds Fitz/Ward and something about the mission that upsets her: there is no extraction plan.
Earlier during the mission briefing, Hand clearly stated there would be an extraction plan. So when Coulson finds out otherwise, he takes it up with Hand, arguing that Fitz/Ward should at least have been informed and allowed to make the decision on whether to go or not. Hand counters that Black Widow and Hawkeye never have extraction plans. Hand tells Coulson to trust the system. That’s not good enough for the girls, who, along with the Cavalry, plan to extract Fitz/Ward on their own. Coulson surprises them by already waiting in the plane.
Meanwhile, the plan for the boys goes south and Fitz constructs a device that can take out weapons using the core of the doomsday device. They are surrounded, but the Bus arrives in time to get them out. Hand and Sitwell are monitoring from the Hub, and Sitwell asks if Coulson’s team knew they didn’t have an extraction plan, to which her reply was, they didn’t need one, it was Coulson’s team.
The episode ends with Coulson telling Skye some of what he found out about her parents, that she was dropped off at an orphanage by a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, but doesn’t say more. He tells May that’s all Skye needs to know and some secrets need to stay secret. He then asks for her help looking into something that I can only assume is the mystery of his return from the dead.
The Crew and Coulson:
I am mixing these two this week as they go hand in hand, moreso than in previous episodes. Coulson really cares about his crew and it shows when he confronts Victoria Hand about the (lack of an) extraction plan. It also shows when he has a conversation with Agent May about how things work within the organization, and how he likes the autonomy of their group. It was a great scene, with May silently doing Tai Chi, answering only with looks. Their interactions are really fun, as she may not be his equal in rank, but she is in every other way. May also had some moments with the young ladies of the show, with Skye’s concern for Fitz/Ward’s safety and Simmons’ peace of mind getting the best of them.
Ward and Fitz also bonded a bit, and now have a healthier respect for one another. It was good to see them not just make Fitz completely incapable in the field. Fitz/Simmons also had a heart to heart, and it was nice to see that relationship outside of the lab. They truly care for one another and it’s obvious Fitz has feelings for Simmons, with this episode and the last one putting them both in harm’s way. Maybe the realization of their mortality will cause them to get together.
The Coulson and Skye interactions moved the subplot involving her family forward, but also showed that despite everything that has gone on, Skye does want to do what’s right, and surprisingly it’s Coulson who is spurring her on. Coulson remains the heart and soul of this team and this show, and this relationship and the one with Agent May puts that front and center.
Next week’s episode is the “Thor: The Dark World” tie-in, and I have a feeling it will tie-in a little more than the pilot did to “Iron Man 3”, with a more personal stake for the characters and the future of the show. I know the show isn’t doing great in the ratings, which saddens me because it’s not a bad show. It does need to pick up the pace a bit though, and make the dangers a bit more serious. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” needs some real stakes.
Until next week!