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Review: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D “0-8-4”: Raiders of the Lost Plot Device



“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” greatly surprised me with its fast-paced, action packed pilot. Episode 2, “0-8-4”, provided a lot more of the same, but at the same time, it felt different from the pilot, as it seems to be beginning to follow the standard television adventure-a-week formula compared to the pilot’s standalone nature.

Where the pilot was a definite spy affair with interrogations and secrets galore, “0-8-4” is a lot more in the spirit of classic adventure films like “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” complete with generic bad guys, daring escapes and a plotline involving a mysterious artifact of unimaginable power. While the show is definitely going in a different direction than its pilot suggested, this is not in any way a bad thing — it really works, with intense action, character development that showcases the cast’s compatibility with one another and improved plotting and dialogue, providing another rock-solid episode.

Picking up shortly after the end of the pilot, Skye (Chloe Bennett) has joined the agents as a consultant. Ward (Brett Dalton) is not at all happy about this, and he makes sure Coulson (Clark Gregg) knows it. Fitz (Ian de Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) are ecstatic, showing Skye to her new bunk on the Bus, a decked-out S.H.I.E.L.D. transport plane, while Skye gets accustomed to her new surroundings. Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) pilots the Bus, and is still peeved at having to get into action during the pilot.

The team flies out to Peru, where an 0-8-4 — code for an unidentified object of unknown origin (Coulson cites “a hammer” as an example) — has been uncovered by an archaeological excavation.  When they arrive, the agents discover the 0-8-4 to be an old weapon from the Nazi-offshoot organization HYDRA (name-dropping Captain America in the process). Before they can extract the weapon, though, Peruvian soldiers surround the dig, led by an old flame of Coulson’s, Camilla (Leonor Varela). They’re followed by a band of rebel freedom fighters that force the soldiers and agents to work side-by-side in order to survive.

The writing quality for this episode is pretty much the same as in the pilot. The cast trades zingers back and forth like they’re trying to win a competition. It’s good dialogue, to be sure, but they quip so much you wonder if they even leave room to breathe.

However, the show is starting to get better about not spelling things out too much for the audience (though there are a few scenes involving Coulson’s relationship with Camilla that still suffer from this issue). S.H.I.E.L.D. also heavily emphasises Coulson’s recovery in “Tahiti”, where he supposedly recovered after his brush with death in The Avengers. He specifically says-both in this episode and the pilot-that Tahiti is “a magical place,” as if in a trance. This — to be fair — is a lot more subtle an indicator that something is very off about Coulson than “he must never know,” the weak excuse for a hint the show dropped in the pilot.

The action is definitely ramped up in this episode, with mid-air fights inside the Bus and a gunfight outside the excavation site that finally shows off May’s skills after her lackluster scenes in the pilot.

Sure, it’s for all of ten seconds before she has to drop her guns, but they give her a much bigger and more entertaining set of scenes near the end of the episode.

As mentioned earlier, the episode felt like an extended tribute to adventure films, “Indiana Jones” in particular. During a car chase midway through the episode, I paused and muted it, playing it back with the Indiana Jones theme playing at the same time. The song fit perfectly, going with every shot and moment of action on the screen.

Gregg stepped back this episode to let the rest of the cast have the spotlight, but the writers gave the best moments of the show to him. It’s hard to imagine anyone on the set not bursting into laughter after the cameras stopped rolling.

The rapport between Bennett and Dalton is plain to see throughout the episode. The writers are obviously setting up a mentor-student relationship between the two. Little facial cues like smirks and frowns say a lot, and there’s no absence of those whenever these two are on screen together.

De Caestecker and Henstridge continue to have great chemistry. They almost seem more like newlyweds than just friends. Unfortunately, the show’s starting to treat them like typical TV science geeks, complete with complex scientific explanations that may or may not be actual science, followed by shouts of “In English, Fitz!” from Dalton.

As mentioned earlier, May gets to show off her fighting skills this episode. Wen plays her as someone who’s going through the motions of offense and defense, as if like clockwork. It’s made clear that, despite her retirement, she really enjoys getting into combat, with a definite eye for strategy and planning to go with her physical prowess.

Varela plays a solid counterpoint to Gregg. The pair’s interactions on-screen make the scenes where they have to fight off the rebels seem a lot more natural. The way they banter back and forth, you would think that the actors had been working together for years. This makes the scenes where the two negotiate over which side gets to keep the weapon a lot tenser.

“0-8-4” gets another A-. While it didn’t fix all the issues from the pilot, it delivered an entertaining story with great actor chemistry and gut-busting humor alongside tense, fast-paced action.

P.S.: Keep an eye out for a cameo from the Marvel movies at the very end of the episode.

“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” airs Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m. on ABC.

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