Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season One, episode 2: “0-8-4”
Directed by David Straiton
Written by Jeffrey Bell, Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen
Original air date: October 1st, 2013
Airs Tuesdays at 8:00 PM on ABC
The series premiere of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. scored impressive ratings: 12.1 million people tuned in to watch the premiere last Tuesday. Another 3.7 million watched it on DVR later in the week, and another 4.7 million watched the show’s repeat on Thursday evening. Add on another 1.6 million who streamed the pilot online (and who knows how many others pirated the episode), and we’re looking at a minimum of 22.1 million viewers (and climbing). Yet despite the ratings, the pilot was also met with a decidedly mixed reception from fans and critics alike.
I was pretty forgiving of the many misgivings the pilot offered. After all, pilots are rarely great, and Whedon has a track record for writing and directing some pretty disappointing ones (minus maybe Firefly). The show’s first episode was far from perfect, but then again, first episodes are rarely the most memorable. It will definitely take time for show-runners Jed Whedon (brother to Joss) and Jed’s wife Maurissa Tancharoen to find their footing, but how long will we have to wait. Episode 2, titled “0-8-4”, was incredibly disappointing, and almost bad enough to make me lose all hope that this series can in anyway be groundbreaking. In following the billion-dollar success of both The Avengers and Iron Man 3, the television spin-off of the Marvel Cinematic Universe feels far too safe and cute. Disney, ABC and Marvel clearly want the series to be a huge success, but wouldn’t it be nice if they took some risks and made some bold choices? This is after all, an ultra-secret espionage organization; so why not give us a show with more espionage edge to it?
While tales of espionage do come in all shapes and sizes, the spy story is definitely a subset of the crime and mystery genre. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. however, seems less interested in mystery and crime, than it is in trying to emulate the high-fantasy action and adventure of Avengers, minus the superheroes and big-screen budget.
This week, Coulson and his crew travel to Peru to investigate an object of unknown origin, codenamed 0-8-4. (S.H.I.E.L.D lingo for “we have no idea what to expect”). They quickly realize the 0-8-4 is actually a piece of equipment that uses machinery which emits gamma radiation. Before they have time to fully investigate the lethal object, the group is intercepted by both the Peruvian army (led by Camilla Reyes played by actress Leonor Varela), and later, a team of local rebels. They escape the trigger-happy rebellion with the aid of Reyes and her squad, only Reyes later betrays our protagonists while onboard their super-powered jet (nicknamed The Bus). S.H.I.E.L.D. is forced to work together as a team after bickering for the first half of the mission, while Coulson and Reyes spark up old memories of the affair they once had. Some pretty forgettable actions pursues and the episode ends with the agents sharing some beers after taking down their assailants. Also, Samuel L. Jackson happens to show up in the post-credits stinger as Nick Fury.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to connect the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the small screen, but has yet to inform us of anything we don’t already know. We also still have a huge problem with a member of the cast, Agent Ward (Brett Dalton). Dalton could very well be one of the worst casting choices in the history of television. If he had a superhero name, it would be Captain Bland. Thankfully we have Clark Gregg who is without a doubt the glue holding both the show and team together. “0-8-4” is an episode with a very narrow focus, letting us know that although this team has assembled, they have a lot of growing to do. The same can be said for the actual series.