ABC‘s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 0-8-4 TV Show Review. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 1, Episode 2: 0-8-4, began with the baby being thrown out with the bathwater. It then took viewers back to see how the baby, the tub, the water, and the one with the loofah all came together.
The introductory episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ended with an alert and a scramble over an 0-8-4 level threat. That threat turned out to be a device with potentially devastating energy properties. It was around the discovery, retrieval, and transportation of this device, then, that the episode built on this week’s theme of personal dynamics and group cohesion.
The remote Latin American location of the device brought the new team to a low-intensity guerilla war setting. That backdrop served to introduce the group brains (Skye (Chloe Bennet), Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge))to a real fire fight, the group muscle (Ward (Brett Dalton) and May (Ming-Na Wen)) to their new roles as being protectors and team players, and a glimpse of Caulson’s (Clark Gregg) past.
Like most “men of mystery,” that past came in the form of a beautiful woman, Camilla Reyes (Leonor Varela)- only, this woman was the head of a commando unit. While the device served to illustrate key differences, in outlook and approach, between the team members, it allowed for some flirtatious negotiating and reminiscing between Caulson and Camilla. When the shooting started, courtesy of the local revolutionaries, those dynamics were underscored and amplified; the common threat clearly illustrating the agents’ limitations as a team, while bringing Camilla and her team into the fold.
Along the way, viewers were allowed more insights into the show’s central characters. Ward, introduced as the over-achiever, resentful of having to play with under classmen, turned out to be merely insecure in any role beyond total self-reliance. Fitz and Simmons, the overly eager lab coats with everything to prove, had been trying to square being a liability in the field with maintaining both their shared and individual sense of worth. May, her beef with Caulson putting her back into violent circumstance made plain, was revealed to be part of (what I can only assume to be) an elite detachment called “The Cavalry.” That left Skye and Caulson, so far, the series’ center.
Skye, as the only team member without official credentials, got the opportunity to prove her worth as both a thinker and a doer but also began to fill the role of the bridge, between geek-speak, spec-ops speak, and the audience. Caulson’s softer, charming side was on full display (the side that put him on a first name basis with Pepper Potts, no less), but this interaction with Camilla was mostly to lull the audience. Caulson the spy was not lulled and as it turned out, after having chided his team for their disharmony, was on top of a situation that presented them with a second, more insidious, common threat; one that now brought them together.
His trust in his team was as well founded as their opponents’ initial assessments were premature. When they did come together (back at the episode’s opening action), it did not seem contrived, or that much of a stretch of reality. Caulson expertly managed multiple strong personalities, confined in high altitude flight, involved in inversed dynamics that were dramatically reversed when things came to a head, and resulting in a forced dissolution of one of those relationships. Loofah, bathtub, water, baby.
Both the action and production values of this outing again suggested a much lower key than, say, Firefly, with relatively bloodless shoot-outs and an apparent rationing of SFX gadgetry. The 0-8-4 was something of a let down, if only because I was expecting more of a super being; but the pilot episode not revolving around Luke Cage should have lowered that expectation. Camilla Reyes might have seemed way too pretty to be the head of a Latin American commando squad, to some; but think of how good an operative she would have to be, to get there, and how her charms were put to use (at least she showed up in cammies, and not a skin-tight cat-suit, as she would in most comics). The 0-8-4 made for a useful tool in bringing the cast together, making for a more rounded cast of heroes but Whedon and co. have yet to present us with any real villains.
Caulson, for all his subtle subterfuge, has not presented the dark side, typical of Whedon’s authority figures. With the revelation that she was only a part of Rising Tide and still an active member, it is Skye that has filled the role of the serpent in the garden. If Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. could maintain at least this level of storyline arcing, eventually granting us worthy counterparts to its still fresh-faced cast, this may turn out to be an understatedly satisfying season, if not series. It took multiple episodes to set up individual seasons of past series like Buffy or Angel. I am prepared to give Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. the time it needs to build momentum, and I think “0-8-4” is a step in that direction.
On a side note: the teaser, at the end of the pilot, said not to miss the end of a single episode. If the end of “0-8-4” was any indication, I’d say it was advice worth heeding.