Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S1 Ep07 – The Hub

Agents-of-SHIELD-s1-ep07-Fitz-and-Ward-reacting-to-something-off-screen

Trust the system, that’s the catchphrase of the episode. Except what we learned is not to trust the system. Ever since the show started, there has been some haziness about which side S.H.I.E.L.D. is on—are they the good guys or the bad guys? Skye, as a “hacktivist,” started off thinking they were the bad guys, the shady government organization that stops truth, supposedly to protect the public. We’ve seen a lot of characters who have been against S.H.I.E.L.D., and with good reason. For instance, Chan Ho Yin saw them as the enemy because they were holding him back from using his own powers. Also, S.H.I.E.L.D. has a habit of kidnapping people in order to get information from them. Their moral ambiguity so far has been less gray and more charcoal. This episode forced us to finally face the question: is S.H.I.E.L.D. good or bad? The answer, however, isn’t clear yet.

Agents of SHIELD, s1 ep07--Fitz and Ward in a bagThe dynamics were switched up a bit. The characters were taken out of their comfort zones, when Fitz went on a mission with Ward, which prompted some fun yet typical nerdy-scientist-proves-his-worth-to-burly-co-worker antics. Fitz saved the day by shorting out the electricity of the people about to kill them, and then conveniently being able to fix it so the scary people spared them and helped them out. And then Ward threw away Fitz’s special sandwich. Very important bonding here. Actually, I liked watching the two of them having to work together. Usually there’s the buffer of Simmons being around whenever Ward has to deal with Fitz, so it was nice to see something different. It’s a good idea to shake up the dynamics every now and then to see how the characters work together and where the best chemistry lies. Unfortunately, having chemistry with Ward is like having chemistry with a brick wall. At least May’s stoniness is part of her charm—her “non-expressions,” as Skye put it, are some of the best acting on the show—but Ward’s just makes him seem bland and boring. Yet with Fitz around, I could almost tolerate him. Fitz had to save his ass after Ward landed them in trouble, and it’s always refreshing to see Ward fail at being perfect.

And without Fitz and Ward around, Skye and Simmons teamed up to figure out what went wrong with the mission. This team up was less of a change because we’ve seen Skye interact with Fitz and Simmons plenty of times, and she seems to consider Simmons a good friend, judging by the hug she gave her at the end of the last episode. But it was fun to see Simmons completely failing at espionage, despite the fact she’s been in the shady government organization longer than Skye has. Coulson and May had no switching around in their dynamic, but since I love their little “talks” (really, it’s just Coulson talking) I didn’t mind that. They have chemistry, and clearly a history, so their scenes together are always good. Also, Coulson did get taken out of his comfort zone by seeing his access blocked, something I’ll get to later.

But this switching around had a purpose. Skye the hacker, the “rebel” of the group, was teamed up with Simmons, who loves to follow rules because it’s “nice.” Skye managed to get Simmons to break a few of those rules in the name of helping Fitz—of course, Skye also abused the situation to look for that redacted file on her parents, which I think shows less that she’s self-centered and more that she has been searching for so long that she was willing to risk anything to find out something.

This initial rebellion later led to the rest of the team, including Coulson, joining in to save Fitz and Ward, despite the orders of S.H.I.E.L.D. Fitz and Ward had no extraction set up, so they were basically left to die (and there was another reference to the movie-verse by mentioning that Barton and Romanoff never have extraction teams—but those two can get out on their own). To save their team members, Coulson’s ragtag bunch of highly trained and specialized misfits went against S.H.I.E.L.D.’s protocol, breaking the rules. After all the ambiguity, all the attempts at making S.H.I.E.L.D. look like good guys even as time and time again they are framed as something darker, we have a moment when S.H.I.E.L.D. is truly seen for what it is, and by Coulson no less. Coulson’s response to this was to go rogue, albeit only temporarily.

Agents of SHIELD, s1 ep07--Victoria Hand and Coulson

Give her a hand…

The ambiguity of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s true loyalties is underlined in this episode by the appearance of Victoria Hand, who Marvel comic fans will know as a suspicious member of S.H.I.E.L.D; you never know which side she’s on. And S.H.I.E.L.D. is definitely framed as a machine against which to rage here. Trust the system? Coulson used to, but he doesn’t any more. He even tripped on what has to be a trained/programmed response to his time in “Tahiti” (It’s a magical place). With the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier being touted as a political thriller, it’s looking more and more like S.H.I.E.L.D. is going to come out on the darker side, at least for now. After this episode it makes me wonder if Coulson’s team is going to go fully rogue, on the run from the organization they formerly served, using Skye’s knowledge and connections to stay one step ahead. If that is where this is going, then this season could turn around from being only so-so to something amazing.

S.H.I.E.L.D.’s shadiness as a government entity also came through in the two mysteries of the season that were furthered: Coulson’s return from the dead and the identity of Skye’s parents. Coulson tried to find out about what happened to him, but he’s not allowed access to his file. Coulson is one of the highest-level people we’ve met, how can he not have access? The final scene showed a major shift in Coulson’s outlook—and Clark Gregg was brilliant at it. As for Skye, Coulson found her file and told her a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent left her at an orphanage. What he didn’t mention was why. It looks like Skye’s mother was murdered, probably in connection to S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s only a tiny step into the light, and I’m more invested in Coulson’s mystery than Skye’s, but it’s interesting to speculate on what happened. Who is Skye? Who were her parents? Those familiar with the comics no doubt have plenty of theories, while those of us who are mostly only familiar with the movies and some Wiki articles have to wait and see.

This was possibly my favorite episode so far, maybe in a tie with last week’s “F.Z.Z.T.” It’s still lacking in the character department, because Skye and Ward have not magically turned interesting, but this was a good episode in many respects. Here’s hoping they keep it up.

Next week, the agents crossover with Thor: The Dark World when they help clean up after the events of the film. So if you haven’t seen it yet, get on that!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2xw3ckWo6o&w=640&h=360