With Marvel’s announcement last week that they will be partnering with Netflix to produce four superhero based television shows, in the form of Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones respectively, has the once-palpable excitement for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. waned even further? This week, the group attempts to save Agents Ward and Fitz after their deployment on a “Level 8” mission. What makes a Level 8 mission more dangerous than a Level 7? Will the characters of the show be able to save their co-workers in time and what secrets await them? Hit the jump for our recap of “The Hub”.
The episode begins with Agent Coulson being led into a dark basement room in an “underground Siberian prison” which leads to pulling out an undercover agent named Shaw. In a scene reminiscent of Total Recall, a device is extricated from Shaw’s nose and the agents are informed that the mission has been bumped up to Level 8 (!). Skye is a little flustered that there even is a Level 8, which is understandable since Level 7 was portrayed as the end all be all in the show’s pilot. How many levels are there anyway? Regardless, this leads to the team making a trip to “The Hub,” a.k.a. S.H.I.E.L.D’s big meeting spot for agents, where they are introduced to Victoria Hand.
Hand, played by Saffron Burrows, has some notoriety in the comics. Her character was part of the storyline called “Dark Reign” that involved Norman Osborn – Spiderman’s Green Goblin – rising to power within the government and changing S.H.I.E.L.D to H.A.M.M.E.R. while creating his own “Dark Avengers” made up of psychotic supervillains who patrolled the world in superhero monikers. Hand acted as Osborn’s … right hand, pardon the pun, in running the espionage agency. In the episode, Hand delivers the mission to the agents that requires Ward and Fitz to go to Ossetia to disable a secret weapon/macguffin. She acts as a good straight man and, hopefully, we’ll see more of her in the future.
Readers may be familiar with my overall dislike with Fitz and Simmons, as I originally stated that they acted as the show’s version of “Q” and added bad puns along the way. In this episode, Fitz is one of the focal points and while I still find his very existence as a S.H.I.E.L.D. field agent a tad hard to believe, I’m glad to see that the show is attempting to promote him more as he and Ward are able to work off of one another in an Odd Couple scenario. The transition from the two being held at gunpoint to Fitz fixing their aggressors’ fuse box and being lovingly nicknamed “Mishka” (“Little Bear”) by one of his captives was a tad out of nowhere. It would have helped to emphasize their plight if the audience was given the chance to really sit with it. Ward, later on in the episode, taking out some guards with lightning speed while Fitz watched everything transpire on infrared got a chuckle out of me.
Skye’s a little all over the map this episode, in both character and in relation to the rest of the team. Coulson mentions that she isn’t even Level 1 clearance, so it seems odd that she’s allowed into the Hub considering she didn’t really have much to do there. Perhaps if they had her sneak her way into the Hub would have demonstrated more of her resourcefulness and exactly why she’s such a necessity to the team overall. Regardless, Skye’s skeptical of the mission overall and plans, with Simmons’ help, to learn more about it, and eventually, to throw a monkey wrench into it. I just didn’t see what they hoped to achieve by discovering the parameters of Fitz and Ward’s mission, at first in hacking into the agency’s files, as it wouldn’t really help them to achieve anything as S.H.I.E.L.D. has locked them out of the proceedings for those who don’t have clearance. This, again, all takes place after Skye was on thin ice for her previous betrayal.
In a particularly funny scene, Coulson talks with a silent Agent May, who is performing Tai Chi, and talks himself out of his moral quandary. Clark Gregg really is charming, and should really get as much screen time as possible as the man has chops. It made for a good scene between Skye and Coulson when he discovered her going behind his back once again to learn more about the mission. The relationship between Coulson and Hand, once the truth is discovered, was also played well by both actors, though bringing Coulson’s line about “trusting the system” back in his face was a tad heavy handed.
Ultimately, I felt this was a serviceable episode. It established a new protagonist/antagonist within the walls of S.H.I.E.L.D. and managed to only have one brief mention to The Avengers, as quoted below. I know that the Avengers and New York was a huge thing to happen in the world, but there’s a difference between affecting something and overshadowing it. Things in the episode moved a tad too fast for my liking and I wish they could figure out a place for Skye rather than just being a tool for drama relating to strife within the team/throw out a one liner here and there.
The final stinger of the episode, revealing to the audience that not even Coulson is aware of how he came back from the dead and is being denied access into the truth by his superiors, made for a good conclusion. Playing on the main mystery of the show that some, myself included, may have seen as redundant, but in turn supplying the audience with new information.
– “Don’t mean to alarm you, but I think you have a mold problem. That sink with the standing water seems especially concerning.”
– “Where are the dogs?” “Don’t be ridiculous.”
– “Didn’t realize Big Brother was this….big.”
– Nice nod to the Triskelion, which is the on the ground HQ of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the funny books.
– “It’s a magical…place?”
– “Slam and Cram”
– “Barton and Romanoff never have an extraction plan;” Ward and Fitz are definitely no Hawkeye and Black Widow.
– “I shot a superior officer in the chest!”
– “Dangerous waters.”