Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. "The Hub" Review: Knowledge Is Power

By Kaitlin Thomas

Nov 13, 2013

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S01E07: "The Hub"


For weeks I've been complaining about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s insistence on sticking with the same character pairings week in and week out. Since the premiere, it's essentially been May and Coulson, Skye and Handsome, and Fitz and Simmons. There's nothing inherently wrong with those match-ups, but keeping them so consistent doesn't allow for the character development that often comes with switching things up. Well, this week, all those fruit baskets I sent to Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen with little coded messages like "Pair up different characters or Snuffles gets it! XOXO" finally started to pay off (still no movement on the "What's Joss's garage door code? Pretty please, I promise I won't tell anyone else" front, but there are still plenty of episodes left this season, so I'm feeling pretty optimistic).

In "The Hub," Handsome went into the field with Fitz on a Level 8 (!) mission that involved disabling a device that produced sonic vibrations powerful enough to trigger weapons from a great distance. They didn't have specs on the thing, so they couldn't exactly teach Handsome or May how do to it—they'd need to send someone who could figure it out on-site. And that's the story of how Fitz was sent into the field, much to my delight. He's a by-the-book, follow-the-rules, science-makes-sense kind of guy, the type of character who's most comfortable staying put in his lab, because he can understand things in there. And so it made perfect sense to throw him into an unfamiliar situation. That's, like, Comedy 101 right there, and he far exceeded my expectations this week when he ventured out into the real world with his overpacked bag and Simmons' homemade sandwich. But if I had one complaint about the storyline, it's that it was very cliched—and, therefore, very predictable. 


Naturally, Handsome was not happy about being saddled with someone like Fitz, who'd struggled to win a fight against sliding glass doors earlier in the episode. But in the end, Fitz came through and saved the day several times by using his own special knowledge and skills, like being able to repair the generator in the bar. It feels silly to nitpick this sort of thing, because I enjoyed seeing Fitz and Handsome partnered up for a mission—Fitz's silliness played so well off Handsome's straight-man seriousness—but this type of plot has been done a million times on a million other series like this one, and despite there being no extraction team, I never really felt the urgency I should have. I knew Fitz would somehow become an asset in the field, and I knew Handsome would end up appreciating his presence, but I never felt like the two of them were in any real danger, which might be S.H.I.E.L.D.'s biggest problem at the moment. 

We know and expect our ragtag team to always win any fight they end up in, because otherwise there'd be no series. But in any case where you know that going in, you expect the show to find other ways to surprise you. That's exactly what S.H.I.E.L.D. did last week in "F.Z.Z.T.," and that's why it was so well done. Did I really think the show would write off Simmons in Episode 6? No, of course not. But the episode did a very good job of selling her helplessness and desperation. The writers created a dire situation, showed us how there was nothing anyone could do to prevent it, let us witness the same situation as it affected one of our beloved main characters, and then asked us to believe that they'd actually kill her. We know Simmons didn't die, but the show made us feel emotions and there were real stakes. With "The Hub," that wasn't the case.


While Handsome and Fitz were Odd Coupling it out in the dangerous wilderness, Skye's constant need to know what's going on had her teaming up with Simmons to break into the Hub's computer system. This was played for laughs quite well, and it mimicked the team in the field as Simmons was Fitz and Skye was the more experienced person like Handsome. Only instead of fists, Skye's talent was her quick thinking. Skye gives off the impression of being able to talk her way out of anything (and we saw her use that skill in "The Asset"), but Simmons is just plain terrible under pressure like that, which resulted in Simmons using the Night-Night Gun on an agent to get them out of a bad situation. But what Skye found once she was inside the system (after digging through the files relating to her parents, of course), was S.H.I.E.L.D.'s attempt at raising the stakes. Discovering that there was no extraction team still didn't feel all that dire, but it did provide the series with a way for Skye to confront Coulson about the importance of information and how much power it holds.

As it turned out, Coulson had been left in the dark regarding the fact there was no extraction planned for Handsome and Fitz. Which was a nice way of pointing out there's a lot of information that even Coulson doesn't know. For weeks, the series has been dropping hints that Coulson is becoming cognizant of the fact that there's something off about him. Between last week's physical and this week's attempt to retrieve his own death-and-recovery file, Coulson knows that something's up, and while I'm surprised that S.H.I.E.L.D. has already brought him this far (I didn't think this would happen until at least the mid-season break), I like that the series isn't just sitting on it. 


The main theme of "The Hub" was basically: Information Is Dangerous. And it was pounded into our heads again and again that S.H.I.E.L.D. is an organization built around different levels of knowledge and that not everyone is privy to everything. Fitz, Simmons, May, Handsome and Coulson have all bought into that. But Skye, our resident hacker, thinks it's total bullshit, and by episode's end, Coulson seemed to be be coming around to her way of thinking. Maybe he shouldn't be so trusting of S.H.I.E.L.D. 

Again, I am happy the series is moving forward on the Coulson front. And I'm also happy the series is moving forward on Skye's season-long arc, too. Coulson looked into the redacted files regarding Skye's parents and told her that she was dropped off on S.H.I.E.L.D.'s doorstep by an agent. But in another reminder that knowledge sometimes does more harm than good, he didn't tell her everything. Skye's thirst for the truth is probably going to be her undoing this season, and I have a feeling that at some point, she'll come to regret wanting to know it, just as Coulson might once he discovers more information about his own life. 

"The Hub" was a good—but not necessarily great— episode that acted mainly as a humorous standalone installment intended to switch up some character pairs. It was predictable,  but it also continued to develop a few of the season's longer narrative arcs, like the mystery of Skye's parents, Coulson's trip to Tahiti, and Simmons and Fitz's friendship. But next week I'd like a bit more of the emotional stakes we experienced in "F.Z.Z.T.," mmmk? Oh, and don't forget about Joss's garage code, too.



DECLASSIFIED CASE FILES


– First mention of the Triskelion this week, and Victoria Hand's first appearance. Was this Agent Sitwell's first appearance as well? I can't remember, but he's shown up in the Marvel Universe before, in both Thor and The Avengers. And he's going to be in the upcoming Captain America movie, too.

– Why did the show force Saffron Burrows to speak in an American accent? Wouldn't it have been easier to cast someone else who was actually American? Because ouch, it was baaaad.

– I love Fitz and Simmons so much. I think they're my favorite characters.

– "No need to get started on one of your socialist riffs." This line really only works when you remember Fitz's face as he said it to Skye, but I chuckled so hard.

– "There are dogs tracking us, and you brought a prosciutto sandwich?"

– "Which non-expression is this?" OH BURNNNNN.

thekaitling:list:marvels-agents-of-shield-what-did-you-think-of-the-hub/

 

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  • 377221 Nov 17, 2013

    "It's a magical...place". Sounds like Coulson was really in Manchuria.

  • Morlunnis Nov 17, 2013

    I think that was the point he realized he was conditioned (brain-washed) to always reply the same thing. :)

  • 377221 Nov 18, 2013

    Like in The Manchurian Candidate. Whenever someone asks Frank Sinatra about Lawrence Harvey, who served with in in Korea, he always says what a great guy he is, but then he starts to realise he actually thinks he's a dick and what he thinks happened in Korea is nothing like what actually happened.

  • Morlunnis Nov 18, 2013

    Ah. Sorry, I didn't see that movie, and I completely missed the reference.

    I was thinking "what is magic about Manchuria? Maybe something to do with the Mandarin?" lol

  • sunfiretakesit Nov 16, 2013

    One thing that I couldn't understand about the episode was the last segment when they briefly show some photos dealing with the drop-off of the baby girl....Did they reveal anthing specific?

  • tnetennba Nov 16, 2013

    The show is getting better, but it still suffers a lot from being a procedural, from being too childish, from being too isolated from rest of SHIELD, from being too isolated from the rest of the Marvel universe, etc.

    The biggest change they've made in the right direction is to finally turn the science nerds into actual characters. The male nerd is now my favorite character. If he keeps this up, I may have to learn his name. Now if they could only do the same for May and agent handsome.

    I'm surprised that people are so positive about May. I find her really dull.

  • Morlunnis Nov 16, 2013

    Yeah. Keep watching a Joss Whedon show with the mindset "oh, they won't kill a character off." That usually works well. :)

  • sunfiretakesit Nov 16, 2013

    Do you mean that sarcastically or to indicate that you never know who might get killed off?

  • Morlunnis Nov 16, 2013

    Both. I meant that sarcastically because they will definitely kill someone off.

    No character is safe with Whedon. First he makes us like them, then he kills them off.

  • alcalde Jul 13, 2014

    &No; character is safe with Whedon.

    All characters are safe with Disney.

  • sunfiretakesit Nov 20, 2013

    That's one of the signs of a good writer....never knowing what's going to happen next and making the readers feel connected with even minor characters!....like Shakespeare!

  • shocker713 Nov 15, 2013

    I never really felt the sense of urgency either, probably because all I could think of was that prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella sandwich, with just a hint of pesto aioli.

  • Blooner Nov 15, 2013

    Agent Sitwell is also featured in the Marvel One-Shots "Item 47" and "The Consultant". (You can probably watch those on Youtube.)

    He is pretty awesome, which is why I had a slight nerdgasm seeing him being shot with the night-night gun by Simmons.

    There seemed to be some fore-shadowing with Skye mentioning that Coulson seemed like "a robot". Life Model Decoy anyone?

  • ionee24 Nov 15, 2013

    I was thrilled when I hear Simmons tell Fitz he was their superior officer, Sitwell has climbed a few ranks since Thor's hammer.

  • LukCPL Nov 15, 2013

    So the episode starts, and withing 3 seconds I know Coulson isn't in any danger, and of course quickly a few 'agents' take down all the 'incompetent' Russians and make their getaway with the use of some terrible CGI.

    After that opener I knew it would be another mediocre episode, of the highly disappointing show. I shouldn't have watcher Thor 2 (great movie btw). Sure, I always knew AoS wouldn't be a match for the Marvel cinematic universe, but right now it's pretty much the worst Joss Whedon show!!!

    Agent May and maybe Coulson are the only characters that are remotely interesting. Without their awesome scenes together I would probably fall asleep during most episodes.

    So what if we get to see more of SHIELD. It's stil underwhelming, and they make the agents look highly unprofessional and untrained yet again! Sure lets make Skye hack everything in 5 seconds with a calculator lol Also, were the scenes between Skye and Simmons supposed to be funny ?!?!?!!?

    Fitz and Ward pointless discussions didn't work either! Fitz character development (or character jump lol) came from nowhere (Not buying the impact of the Simmons situation from last ep). Don't even get me started with the 'invissible' bag and other silly gadgets :/

    And of course they had another pointless movie reference. Stop it, unless something from the movies will actually come into play!!

    Also the bad fight scenes and lol worthy untrained enemies problem was not adressed at all!!!

    The show has so many problems and plotholes that it's hard to enjoy it.

    So yeah, I still don't know that much about the characters (Skye 'backstory' is another thing that came out of nowhere. That is not the way you do character development!!!!), so I don't care for them either way. The actors aren't that good either.

    5/10

    I'll give it 3 more episodes before I'm out!

    Arrow is so much better!!

  • sunfiretakesit Nov 16, 2013

    It isn't fair to compare the show to the movies....what you have to compare it to is other TV shows, especially those on the same network. Of course the effects are going to be less spectacular when you consider they have to make them on one-thousandth of the budget in one-hundredth of the time! I think it's a well-written series in any case and will give you much more bang for your buck once you see how everything has been building over the entire season!

  • LukCPL Nov 17, 2013

    I did not compare the two. I did write:

    "Sure, I always knew AoS wouldn't be a match for the Marvel cinematic universe, but right now it's pretty much the worst Joss Whedon show!!!"

    That is the main problem. Joss Whedon made better shows on a much smaller budget than Agents of SHIELD ;)

  • sunfiretakesit Nov 20, 2013

    I guess we have to agree to disagree....I think the show is laying lots of groundwork for the future....

  • chrelle66 Nov 15, 2013

    Simmons was positively delightful. I love smart girls, especially when they get all flustred.

  • EightBitShik Nov 15, 2013

    Great episode, this is what I want to see each week. They need some kind of pat on the back so they know this episode is exactly what they need to do.

  • csinner Nov 15, 2013

    Totally agree!

  • gmanBegins Nov 15, 2013

    The Good=Comedy was tight
    The Bland=Is this show in the Marvel Universe?? Sometimes i don't know.
    The Bugged Me=Yet another light weight adventure that barely advances any issues. Side Bar (1) The Coulson thing intrigues me. (2) The Skye thing does not.Unless she was born a mutant or is Mays' love child,its just not that compelling.
    The Hope=The events from Thor 2 spill over into the show!! I hope they BRING THE HEAT!!

  • csinner Nov 15, 2013

    May's love child. That would be kind of hilarious. But far too soapy!

  • ionee24 Nov 15, 2013

    The Agent that Simmons shot with the Night-Night-Gun inside the Hub? He's from the first Thor movie (you can see him talking to Coulson right before Hawkeye asks Coulson permission shot neat the hammer).

    This is definitely in the Marvel Universe.

  • tnetennba Nov 16, 2013

    We know that it IS the Marvel universe, but it still doesn't feel like it. The name-dropping and the occasional recognizable character isn't enough. (And this guy was only recognizable to a very small fraction of the audience).

  • ionee24 Nov 16, 2013

    No matter how big, the superheroes are not the Marvel Universe, Agent sitwell, Eric Selving, Agent Hill, Dr. Banner, Barton & Romanoff are.

    What makes it believable its the support that lends credibility to the superheroes that live within this universe. The people whose jobs are affected by their very existance like Coulson, the ones that are as thrilled by it as Pepper or Darcy, people like Fitz and Ward.

  • gmanBegins Nov 17, 2013

    I still feel this show needs to kick it up notch or three! I can't think of one episode so far that made me think.. I have got to watch NEXT WEEK! The show Scandal can give me shocking revelations and Cliffhangers in a fictional Washington DC.. But this show just slugs along in Comic Book World!!! C'mon Man!!

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