If I had to rank the first three episodes of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in order from best to not best, I'd rank them like this: 1. "Pilot," 2. "The Asset," and 3. "0-8-4." While I enjoyed the result of "0-8-4" and the way the team worked together to solve their crisis, this week's episode felt more like the show was really finding its groove. The characters are all settling into their respective roles, and if you're not on board with the show by now, you're probably never going to be.
With each passing week we're getting to know more about our team of agents (and Skye), and its nice to see that the show isn't forsaking the quieter character moments for the action and vice versa. The mission this week was to rescue Dr. Franklin Hall, an asset who'd been kidnapped. He was being held at Ian Quinn's mansion in Malta though, which meant S.H.I.E.L.D. was unable to go in with guns and gadgets blazin'. International law is kind of a pain in the ass sometimes, no?
Too bad for Quinn, because Skye isn't an official agent yet (though she's training with Agent Handsome as her superior officer), and was able to hack backdoor channels or something (I don't even know if those words are in the right order, also what's a computer?) to score an invite to the swanky shareholders party for Quinn Worldwide. This means she was the perfect person to infiltrate the party and make it possible for Agents Coulson and Handsome to get past the laser security wall (if only we had tiny monkeys!).
When she was compromised it looked as if Skye's true colors as a member of the Rising Tide were showing. She told Quinn the truth about S.H.I.E.L.D. listening in, how they'd offered her a job (something he'd also done moments before he found her snooping around his office), and how she was sent to gain access to his office. In the end, it was telling the truth that allowed Skye access to a nearby wireless connection for Fitz to take down the laser wall surrounding the compound for Coulson and Handsome, but this probably won't be the last time we see Skye go off on her own and have to talk her way in to or out of situations.
She's a smart girl who knows how to play people, which is a result of growing up in foster care and having been forced to raise herself, but she's still in an agent-in-training. Before reading the episode description for "The Asset," you'd never know the asset in question wasn't Skye at all, but she proved once again that she's a great addition to the team. She has committed herself to her training with Agent Handsome and is beginning to open up.
"Hoping for something and losing it," she said, "hurts more than never hoping for anything." And Skye really wants this it seems. It's possible that she's also playing Agent Handsome, and therefore playing us, but she looked and sounded sincere in that moment and we don't actually have a reason to not trust her right now. Handsome had played story hour with her earlier in order to get her to see the importance of her training and what it means to be an agent, and while I'm not really buying their instantaneous bond, nor do I care if they eventually wind up in a relationship (because that seems to be what all their scenes indicate), I don't think we should just assume that Skye is either S.H.I.E.L.D. or Rising Tide. Right now I think she actually wants to be both, but we'll probably have to wait to see how and when her allegiance is tested (I'm guessing mid-season or the end of the season).
Back to the asset, though. Dr. Hall was a mentor to Fitz and Simmons, and the roommate and bestie of Ian Quinn in college. Together they had designed a theoretical machine powered by a theoretical substance called gravatonium. Quinn continued to look for that substance on his path to world domination or something and he found it. According to FitzSimmons—in language even a high school drop out like Skye can understand—the substance distorts the gravity fields within it. Then some other science-y stuff happens and basically it creates rooms that look like they belong in Inception!
Quinn needed Hall to run point on this operation because he wasn't smart enough, I guess. But Hall recognized the danger of the situation and his bright idea to deal with it was to just level Quinn's compound, taking the machine, the gravatonium, and everyone inside the place with it as it sank to the bottom of the ocean. Seems good to me! Except Coulson wasn't really having it. There was a nice little moment in which Hall told Coulson that we have to live with the choices we make, but sometimes we have to die with them too. I will definitely not be subscribing to that life philosophy, but looks like Hall will, because in his last attempt to stop the machine, Coulson shot a hole in a window and Hall fell right into the gravatonium (remember the Inception-ized room!). And that, ladies and gentleman, is how villains are born. Dr. Frank Hall has for all intents and purposes become Graviton, but he's currently locked away in a super secret S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, unbeknownst, of course, to everyone since he's hanging out in the gravitonium right now.
— We learned a bit more about Agent Handsome's backstory that was only ever hinted at: he was beat up by his brother a lot growing up. That was pretty much a given though, as anyone with an older brother can attest, so maybe give us a little more next time?
— I know it might be annoying to many of you, but the mystery of Coulson was hinted at again this week. While we probably didn't need Coulson reminding us he saw plenty of action with the Avengers, or May reminding us he died there, the quiet moment at the end about muscle memory and him having difficulty with things was more subtle. The case for Coulson being a Life-Model Decoy is getting harder and harder to ignore. (And just check out the obvious implications from that photo above!)
— May is tired of driving the bus and being left behind, she wants to be back in action. So look forward to more Melinda May ass-kicking next week!
—"I thought I was joining S.H.I.E.L.D., not 24 Hour Fitness."
—"Every field agent has a defining moment when you have to make the hard call. When you dedicate yourself to this or curl up in a ball and run." / "How can you run if you're curled up in a ball?"
—"Skipper to Bravo. I've got eyes on Top Dog. The eagle is landing on it."