ABC‘s Agents of Shield The Hub TV Show Review. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 1, Episode 7: The Hub could have been entitled “The Trust Test,” with characters (individually and in various pairings) getting a better sense of who/ what they could rely on in a pinch.
Beyond shades of the Black Widow interrogation, from The Avengers, “The Hub” started out as another “Man from U.N.C.L.E.” styled episode. Not much else would come of it, so what we were left with was a character driven story and an incremental advancement of two of the show’s subplots.
The episode’s title referred to a Command and Control center for the S.H.I.E.L.D. agency (and an apparent Disney Land for some of the team members). Its director, Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows), had a mission for agent Coulson’s (Clark Gregg) team that required both technical and tactical skills. That meant a mismatched buddy adventure for Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Ward (Brett Dalton). With Fitz heading into harm’s way, it was Simmon’s (Elizabeth Henstridge) turn to fawn. While some of that fawning came in the form of a signature sandwich (a Simmich?), their exchanges did acknowledge the previous episode’s nudges to their relationship. Skye (Chloe Bennet), despite being cyber-neutered (inhibitor bracelet and all), saw an opportunity to dig up information on her parents. Mindful of that, Coulson constantly called on her to “trust the system.” Skye placed her trust in Simmons to get around her handicap.
As a Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode, there were nifty gadgets on hand. Fitz’s ongoing pet project, the “nite-nite” gun, made a prominent appearance, the hand scanner get-around was a neat trick and the camouflage blind would be at the top of a lot of Christmas lists. I was left unsure about where the blind came from and went, though (it would have to have been super compressible, given Fitz and Ward’s light load). There was also the matter of the opening scene’s extraction. Dog-less sleds, operating by way of cargo plane ramp cables, were all well and good; but how did The Bus manage to touch down and offload directly atop a secure Siberian facility without being noticed (or at least engaged)?
Fitz and Ward did develop something of a begrudged chemistry, but their time together had its ups and downs. Upon finding Ward’s regional contact compromised, they were both detained for interrogation. A sudden power loss – interrupting an important televised match – gave away the outcome, however. Later, Ward took issue with Simmon’s sandwich, throwing it away because it would attract pursuing K9 patrols. I imagine resealing it would have made it less noticeable than sending it flying through the air (and not all that far away) into the open. By the time they got to their objective, however, they acknowledged not only their respective strengths, but the mutual oversight nature of the mission (courtesy of Coulson).
If Ward and Fitz traded cues well, Skye and Simmons did not. Simmons folded under pressure, resulting in an assault on agent Jasper Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernández). Agent Sitwell has yet to live up to his source character, but Saffron Burrows struck an imposing figure that made agent Hand worthy of the comic book original.
I also found it hard to believe that a battle-hardened band of Separatists, at a fortified location, would have no anti-aircraft capability at the ready. Their doomsday device was meant as a deterrent against large scale tactical action, true, but that would not have been the rank-and-file soldiers’ concern. Garrisons at Nuclear missile compounds brace for aerial assault, I would expect no less from a rogue military power operating in Vladamir Putin’s back yard.
Skye’s restless prying and disregard for protocol, while meant to be endearing, should really get her kicked off the team, if not “Gitmo’d.” The fact that she was already under probation should have resulted in some sort of fallout for her actions at The Hub. Coulson may have had a lot of pull with the larger organization, but the source character of Victoria Hand would likely not have been so trusting of his team handling.
In the end, however, Ward found that he could rely on Fitz (and vice-versa), while Skye and Simmons proved they did not make a good covert team. Agent May (Ming-na Wen) proved to be an “effective” consul to Coulson (in what was the best inter-personal moment of the episode). Skye and Coulson still had trust issues, but proved that they were each willing to go to the mat for the team. They went about it in different ways, however, with Coulson working through his trust in the system, and Skye intent on getting around and past it. Ultimately, they found common ground, over a coldly pragmatic detail of the Fitz-Ward mission, and rallied the team to the rescue. Unit loyalty, in rebuke of a larger organization, is never good for the hierarchy; but I suppose agent Hand overlooking it (given its contribution to the overall success) spoke to that cold pragmatism.
Coulson’s faith in “the system” seemed almost naive. A “rookie” view of things, perhaps? In any case, The Hub’s handling of his agents left him with some doubts. The matter of Skye’s primary motive regarding S.H.I.E.L.D. was reconsidered by Coulson and May. To that end, Coulson sought to exercise his clearance level privileges, only to find they did not extend as far as they should have. What that meant for his trust in the system remains to be seen.
There were further winks, nods and allusions to the “Coulson as LMD” theory that was nothing short of frustrating to me. As much as I hate the idea of false hope, however, such tidbits do serve to add kindling, little by little, to the hopes of something major to come. At the very least, Coulson was given a reason to re-examine his place in the organization, if not his loyalty to it. A promising step.