ABC‘s Agents of SHIELD The Asset TV Show Review. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 1, Episode 3: The Asset may have been the first post-introductory episode of the season and a better gauge of where the show might be headed. More to the point, with the heroes of the cast established, some time may now be devoted to framing the world they will be operating in; then populating it in ways that gives them something worthwhile to do.
“The Asset” began inauspiciously in that regard. There was a noticeably more serious tone to it that exposed certain short comings concerning Agents‘ characters. First, without the quick-switch wit and double-take twists of the first two episodes, peripheral characters, like Fitz and Simmons (Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge respetively), seemed more like extras rather than core members; contributing to the plot by way of expertise, but not registering as actual individuals. Second, Skye (Chloe Bennet) just seemed irritating, her quips about as well-timed as bone-dry humor at a wake. Third, Skye started the episode with nothing to do; Ward (Brett Dalton), Fitz/Simmons, and May (Ming-Na Wen) did all the sleuthing, reducing her role to intern (May even handed her a stack of binders to sort through).
Fortunately, Skye’s under qualified status turned out to be useful both in and for the plot. After a major S.H.I.E.L.D. “asset” is taken, in a high tech hijacking of a cleverly disguised convoy, the culprit is tracked to the isle of Malta. With certain procedures in place, Skye offered herself up as a non-liability operative, leveraging her Rising Tide credentials to get close to the suspect, Ian Quinn (David Conrad). If the serious tone of the episode made Skye’s flipness out of place, it made Ward seem more comfortable. There was more of a genuine effort in his training of Skye, made easier by her having to take things more seriously. A little more of his background was also revealed, sobering her further.
The “asset” turned out to be scientist Dr. Franklin Hall (Ian Hart), not so much abducted as liberated by Quinn, in an effort to utilize his genius free of government oversight. Quinn, apparently, was not just another “Bond villain,” out to amass power through super science but a Libertarian out to promote free market innovation. He saw government and watch dogs like S.H.I.E.L.D. as oppressive and aimed to create a network of unaffiliated top tier talent. This was where Skye’s link to Rising Tide came in.
David Conrad Chloe Bennet Agents of Shield The Asset
Armed with a cyberlink and a slinky red dress, Skye bluffed her way through a high roller mixer at Quinn’s beach-front luxury fortress. Hardly necessary since Quinn already knew about her backdoor access to the guest list and was looking to recruit her. When caught trying to break into his office, however, she blew her own cover; her work for Rising Tide having neatly played on Quinn’s Libertarian ideals. Tensions, created by both Skye’s double agent dealings and Dr. Hall’s willing persuit of a massive gravity manipulation device under Quinn’s patronage, were broken by the arrival of Ward and Caulson (Clark Gregg).
Once the shooting started, Skye’s erstwhile uselessness came into its own. She blew her cover yet again and should have been killed but was presented with an opportunity to put some of her training to good use. Cliched, certainly, but her lack of experience and expertise inspired something rarely seen by heroes under these circumstances: fear driven common sense. Even with the upper hand, she made a break for it, ditching her heels in the process (honestly, why would any woman run for her life in heels?), and spared us the requisite quips for a genuine display of relief when Ward took back the action hero role.
Agent Caulson took to rescuing Dr. Hall but the good doctor had other plans. Avoiding the cliche of risking the future in the pursuit of science for the sake of science, Hall intended to take Quinn’s principal beyond freedom from government exploitation. He was going to see to it that no one exploited his work, including Quinn. It was then up to agent Caulson to save everyone in the area (possibly the entire island of Malta) from Dr. Hall.
Episode 3’s closing reveal: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s first super villain. Anyone unfamiliar with the source material should have something fairly major to look forward to; fans who are familiar will know what that something will be.
After what seemed like a lackluster start, “The Asset” turned out to be a solid episode and a step in the right direction. Chloe Bennet had demonstrated that there was more to Skye than one-liner eye-candy and Ward had finally gotten past the role of team straight-man. Their bonding over training suggested a love affair in the making, however, that I hope never comes to pass if only because such telegraphed plotting really shouldn’t be rewarded.
Both Quinn and Hall were allowed past stock roles and treated as idealists. Quinn, for sooner reasoning with Skye than just shooting her, and Hall, the “Einstein with balls,” that would sooner kill hundreds (if not thousands) to prevent the death of millions (if not billions) through the misuse of his work.
This episode further highlighted Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s ongoing efforts to balance realism with the super-sensational. Real world locales, like Malta, help ground the series; but also constrains it in ways that fictional settings like Madripoor or Genosha would avoid (geo-politically, for instance). Sure, the appearance of Gods, aliens, and monsters would up the game of Interpol-level villains, putting them on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s radar but that should still only be the entry level for the organization’s attention – particularly where Caulson’s skill set and experience is concerned. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. still needs something worthwhile for its cast to do, but “The Asset” may have solved that problem.