Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Rising Into Continuity, “0-8-4” Is A Good Second Episode Of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

The Good: Good action, Decent character development, Generally good acting, SAMUEL L. JACKSON CAMEO!!!!!
The Bad: Chloe Bennet’s performance left me unimpressed, Somewhat light plot
The Basics: Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues with an action adventure story that plays into the larger Marvel Universe while also starting to flesh out the character of Melinda May.

Following the pilot of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. (reviewed here!), I will admit that I was not completely sold on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.. True enough, there are very few shows I’d give a positive verdict to after only one episode, but I had high hopes for Joss Whedon’s latest series. For the second episode, there was a feeling that Whedon and his co-executive producers have a decent idea what they want to do with the Marvel Universe outside the super hero realm.

The second episode is “0-8-4” and it supports the idea that the Marvel Universe is viable where the recognizable heroes are absent. Despite the episode’s reliance on Captain America: The First Avenger (reviewed here!) to truly land the concept (newbies are likely to not truly appreciate the magnitude of the object found in “0-8-4”), the episode actually works surprisingly well for a second episode. The serialized nature of “0-8-4” in relation to the “Pilot” implies that Marvel fans will have a lot to be thrilled about going forward.

Nineteen hours before a hull breach on the “bus,” Coulson assembles his agents and the giant airplane heads off on a 084 mission. A 084 is a find of unknown origin (which Coulson tells Skye what finding Thor’s hammer was defined as. In Peru, Coulson’s team runs into rebel forces and the Peruvian military, one of whom is an old friend of Coulson’s. The attacks come moments after Fitz and Simmons discover what appears to be a sentient (probably alien) device buried in the Peruvian ruins. The importance of the device is revealed almost instantly when it attacks . . . using tesseract technology.

Retreating with members of Camilla Reyes’s team, Coulson fights the urge to fall into old patterns with Reyes and he lets his subordinates figure out their own dynamic. Ward proves his usefulness when he notices Reyes’s team not drinking and when they highjack his plane, things go from bad to worse. While Coulson tries to talk Reyes into changing her tact, his team starts to work together in order to free themselves from the highjackers.

The “Pilot” for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. did not completely sell most viewers on the character mix and one of the most neglected characters in the first episode was Melinda May. While there was the insinuation that there was something more to Melinda May than just the fact that she was an exceptional pilot, her character was largely neglected in the “Pilot.” While director David Straiton seems obsessed with focusing on Chloe Bennet’s Skye, Melinda May is the real star of “0-8-4.” May reveals herself to be a real powerhouse and badass in the episode.

Actress Ming-Na Wen has decent range in “0-8-4” transferring from a virtual nonentity on screen to a legitimate action hero. “0-8-4” actually ties to Captain America well in that it is a pretty typical action adventure episode, much like that movie was. Ming-Na Wen might not have the celebrity of a Scarlett Johansson, but in “0-8-4” she proves that she can match her for the moves!

What is unfortunate on the acting front is Chloe Bennet. Bennet telegraphs most of her performance, so that the “big reversal” with Skye is anything but. Bennet comes across in “0-8-4” like a less adept version of Olivia Munn. She lacks both decent comic timing and genuine gravitas to sell Skye as a serious threat or a credible intelligence agent. Even the supporting scientists keep the viewer’s attention more than Skye, who the camera seems to love.

“0-8-4” also shows that Clark Gregg can have a bad day. Gregg is one of the great, understated, character actors of our time. Unfortunately, in “0-8-4,” Gregg has pretty terrible on-screen chemistry with Leonor Varela, who plays Camilla Reyes. Together, they fail to sell the viability of their alluded-to relationship. Gregg’s game is off enough that the brief cameo by Samuel L. Jackson in “0-8-4” easily outshines all of Gregg’s moments in the episode.

Still, “0-8-4” is not bad and it shows growth and some potential from the first episode, which is pretty much all we can ask for at this point!

For other works with Ming-Na Wen, please visit my reviews of:

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season here!


For other television reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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