Let’s just skip past the first hour of show and go to the important part here—the post-credit reel where we caught our first glimpse at another Marvel staple, Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. The Marvel icon steps in at the last minute possible—as expected—to chew out Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). It’s after Coulson’s successfully (although sort of sloppily) led a mission stacked with explosions, gunfire, ex-love interests and unidentifiable objects. So, yes, our SHIELD hero maybe had a little too much fun.
The damage starts with a rushed trip to Peru to investigate an “0-8-4,” which refers to an “object of unknown origin.” For nerd points, the last 0-8-4 discovery was a certain hammer that brought us to a certain God-like Avenger, but again, SHIELD’s strength lies in dropping eggs like this without turning off new viewers. The same goes for the Gamma-powered device we find later, a hat-tip to the ever-angry, sometimes green Avenger.
This mission quickly introduces the team as a rough-around-the-edges jigsaw that’s in dire need of assembling, which is most clear with Skye (Chloe Bennet) butting heads with about every pro on the team, namely her sure-to-be-love-interest Agent Ward. If last episode saw Coulson piecing his team together bit by bit, this one explored the complications of making the rogue bits glue together.
After discovering the super-object (and letting the FitzSimmons duo do what they do best in hilarious, encyclopedic science banter), the team is attacked by a Peru task force, which quickly steps down after it’s discovered that Coulson’s ex-flame Camilla Reyes is heading up the team. In the conflict, it’s clear why many are on the team—Melinda May, who traded her combat boots for a desk job, is the most bad-ass here, diffusing a situation shortly after piloting SHIELD’s ship into Peru. Ward shows similar qualities, but as established in the pilot, is extremely uneasy about accounting for anyone other than himself. Skye, while promising, hangs back like any unsure first-day employee does until she discovers that this team is far from established. In the first half of the show, the Coulson-assembled crew is absolutely less than the sum of their parts. As Coulson said at a near breaking point, “Simmons, you have two PhDs in fields I can’t pronounce. Fitz, you are a rocket scientist. So work it out.” Like Fury inspiring The Avengers with Coulson’s death, the leader’s inspiration here is more situational than hands-on—and the experience he’s looking for is right around the corner.
After a mid-episode betrayal from Reyes, we see these pieces falling into place due to the common enemy. And, as we’d hoped, Coulson’s intuition was right, with the team winding together in time to blow a hole in the side of its own ship, sucking the baddies right out into the air. It’s a gutsy move, but one that Coulson applauds later on. After all, they got the job down the only way they could.
I understand that this episode was probably necessary in order to work the kinks of the team out, but with the door-kicking grandeur that was the pilot in the rear-view, it’s hard to not feel a little disappointed. The action was certainly there, as was the Marvel tone and writing that I expect will set up many good episodes in the future. But what was lost in Peru is a certain sense of wonder we saw in the pilot, whether it was Mike Peterson scaling a fiery building for a rescue or Coulson taking off in that car/ship of his. Instead, we got a team investigating a mysterious object in a setting and conflict we could have seen anywhere else, and that’s what separated the pilot from its weeknight counterparts. But we also get a few things in exchange: the early rumblings of a sharp team and an expectation of the true dynamic we’ll see once it comes together.
As any good show will prove, there’s some early-on hurdles to jump, and this set-up episode might have been one of them. With as much promise as SHIELD has shown in the pilot—not to mention an appearance by Fury himself—we think there’s plenty more to look forward to in weeks to come.