The Digimon plotting continues as Leo Fitz gets a chance to be “Mr. Save the Day” in “The Hub”. An episode that packs a couple nice homages to various spy thrillers and hints at morally gray or at least opaque institutions. There’s also a couple more hints towards Skye’s past. It’s just hampered tonally by Agents of SHIELD attempts to have its PG-13 cake and eat it too. Something it really hasn’t earned.
So is Fitz and Simmons supposed to really be FitzSimmons? The show keeps hinting at and treating the Magic School Bus scientists as a relationship unit. Until it comes time to actually act on said relationship status and the kiddy gloves come on. I loath will they won’t they BS. Almost as much as the half measures this show is taking to be non committal on the subject. Either make them just friends or make the more. This is 2013 and seeing the nerd equivalent of Ricky and Lucy in separate beds makes no sense.
Despite the name, it wouldn’t be surprising that you’d forgotten this is a show about spies. Literal men in black. Having Ward and Fitz go off on a spy mission to disable some McGuffin WMD made for a fun plot. Non descript mountain setting aside. “The Hub” ‘A’ plot packed plenty of homages, like the removal of the microchip, hitting plenty of spy buttons along the way. Brett Dalton has grown on me a bit more but is still most entertaining when he is being Mr. Save the Day. His wooden expressions contrast nicely with the broken ones of the nondescript henchmen he beats.
NCIS, the shows closest analogue on multiple level, has their characters finely calibrated and done right. When you see that show on TV, you don’t watch it for the riveting plots the characters must deal with (not that it doesn't have a couple stand outs). The long running CBS procedural has you watching for how the characters react to the plot. Something the first couple of episodes of SHIELD had in reversed. The show was/is very much about the plot and not the characters dealing with plot. Now the majority of SHIELD’s cast of misfit toys are no where near as fleshed out or archetypically watchable as NCIS. For multiple reasons chief among them a lack of time. “The Hub” goes in the right directions to fix this. Putting Ward-Fitz and Skye-Simmons together and reacting to the plot around them made for entertaining scenes as the show clearly tries to save money for other things. Fitz and Ward have a nice rapport. Simmons shooting Sitwell with the Nite-Nite (or is it Night-Night?) Gun was hot garbage in the best ways possible.
“Fun” and “light” both excellent adjectives that describe the tone of Agents of SHIELD. I’d also add “eighties as hell” to the list. These aren’t supposed to be derogatory terms, the show has a really fun vibe. Something I rather enjoy after having to trudge through the nihilistic pulp sludge that is Sons of Anarchy. Those terms also create a tonal problem when SHIELD has to put on the “serious” and “dramatic” gloves. Now most of these dramatic moments are centered around how identity affects the team, which is the right kind of drama for this type of show.
When it comes to dealing with the idea that SHIELD might be just as corrupt and bad as any other bureaucratic institution, not so much. This isn’t anything new for drama or this show (see: “The Asset”). They just can’t go all the way in painting the employer of our protagonists in killer red paint. Ineffectual and corrupt institutions isn’t very kosher for ABC 8pm programing.
Episode scribes Rafe Judkins & Lauren LeFranc instead reframe the institutional behemoth in religious terms. “You’ve Gotta Have Faith”subtextually rings through every tine Coulson or any the many SHIELD stooges tell Skye and the team to “trust the system” Skye has little faith. She is basically agnostic in the cult of SHIELD. Simmons on the other hand is your typical church school girl, who is being slowly corrupted by Skye. “The Hub” does overplay and remind the audience about her hacking predilection a bit too much. Her running against the wall of SHIELD should continue to be worthy plot to go to.
Faith and trust are two key concepts at the heart of any good spy thriller so what does the Magic School Bus have faith in? Answer: each other.
“The Hub” marked the debut of two characters. First there is Agent Jasper Sitwell from prior Marvel One Shots "The Consultant" and "Item 47,". Sitwell is a recognizable face but doesn't really do much. His presence seems to be there just to remind us that this is in the MCU. Not that they’d let you forget with the talk of how Romanov and Barton go in without extraction plans. The other new character introduced is Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows), you might recognize her from the comics. She seems like a decent bureaucratic, by the book, antagonist for Coulson to brush up against. The comments Sitwell and Hand share towards the end of the episode were a bit perplexing.
Man, for a couple of seconds there I was ready for the reveal that Skye is the love child of Coulson and May....or just May’s kid. Likely for the better, those expectations were not met. Instead it is strongly hinted that May, instead, killed Skye’s parents before dropping her off at the orphanage. This new bit of information though doesn't really do anything positive or negative for me. Skye using the past as a way to build identity isn’t all that interesting for a character who has no past. Her using SHIELD to do that job, now that’s a bit more interesting.
The Bits At The End.
The red highlights in Burrows hair were really out of place.
Man I really hope the rumors that Drew Goddard(Cabin in the Woods) will write the Dare Devil mini series for Netflix are true. Him writing and directing a couple episodes would be nice.
I want the recipe to FitzSimmons sandwich. Give it to me.
If for some reason you made it down here know that Michael Mazzacane can be found many places on the internet but mainly onTwitter@MaZZM and on Tumblr weekntv.com where he links to TV stuff and maybe posts a GiF