Agents of SHIELD’s sophomore episode starts ten minutes after the last one ended. Skye’s first day as an official member brings her onto SHIELD’s plane with a box in her arms and wide-eyed look on her face. The rest of Phil Coulson’s team isn’t happy about her recruitment, but there’s little time for griping. They’re wheels up and headed to an Incan ruin to react to a 0-8-4, which “means we don’t know what it means,” Coulson says. The last one they dealt with? Thor’s hammer.
This time, it’s a bit tougher to figure out what they’re looking at lodged in one of the temple’s walls. One fight sequence introducing Coulson’s ex-partner Camila later, and the mysterious object — which turns out to run on tessaract gamma ray power from Project Hydra (Captain America reference, anyone?) — is safe in SHIELD’s on-board lab.
Without Bruce Banner to help (Mark Ruffalo must have been busy this week), labbies Fitz and Simmons are given the job of examining the 0-8-4. Skye realizes that she’s not the only newbie on the team, Ward mocks Fitz and Simons’ scientific vocabulary and the scientists retaliate with “Who do you think makes your weapons?” Coulson, who has clearly been here before when Stark, Banner and Captain America quarreled in The Avengers, calmly watches before telling them to simply “work it out.”
With things a little cooler in the lab, Fitz and Simmons determine that the artifact is a high-powered laser. Meanwhile, Camila and her crew — saved by Coulson and brought aboard in an act of reminiscent good faith — want the weapon just as badly as SHIELD does.
As Coulson insists to Camila in a separate room that they need to revisit their days of being partners and work together, that’s exactly what his five hostage SHIELD agents are doing in the cargo hold. Camila has given them a common enemy, Coulson explains, and the rehashing of The Avengers’ plot continues, right down to the destruction of the plane in an explosive climax that includes Fitz and Simmons blowing a hole in its side with their newfound tessaract laser. Chaos ensues, in which Skye proves herself worthy of being a consultant — perhaps more — for SHIELD by patching the hole with an inflatable emergency raft. “Told you they were good,” Coulson smirks at Camila.
The 0-8-4 gets rocketed up to the sun for destruction in a process aptly called “the sling shot,” Ward aggress to be Skye’s commanding officer, and there’s not a scratch left on Coulson’s beloved car, Lola. Everything is Hulky-dory (see what I did there?) until Skye gets a text from her old organization, Rising Tide, asking if the plan to overtake SHIELD is still a go. “I’m in,” she texts back on a mobile screen more akin to a Macintosh prototype than a Tony Stark-era mobile phone.
Whedon provides SHIELD viewers with the obligatory cliché episode of “disjointed team starts cooperating” found in other primetime crime dramas. The story as a whole does little more than expound on the power of teamwork and introduce a few back stories, but provides more action and references to the Avengers universe than its predecessor.
The reward for such a predictable storyline comes in the traditional Marvel-style stinger, where everyone’s favorite eye-patched, Samuel L. Jackson-played SHIELD director returns to yell at Coulson. Nick Fury’s rant and lamentation over the destroyed aircraft that “had a bar — a really nice bar” closes the show with the same wink-and-a-smirk that viewers wait for at the end of each movie. Instead of promoting a sequel, however, it teases its audience to tune in next week. And Lydia will be there, come rain or tessaract-laser-fed shine.
Kate Everson is a Chicago journalist and University of Missouri alumna. By day she is an associate editor for four HR industry magazines. By night, she reviews films, outlines fiction novels with tough female leads and dreams of being the first person to win two Oscars in the same night for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay. When her fingers aren’t getting exercise bouncing across her keyboard, she’s reading Palahniuk and Vonnegut, practicing her Batgirl skills in the dojo or waiting by the mailbox for her Hogwarts letter. As Katharine Hepburn said: “Life is to be lived. If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting.”