After last week’s series premiere garnered positive reviews and unprecedented ratings, there were more than a few people concerned about the future of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. There were questions posed as to whether Joss Whedon was on to something, or whether the pilot was a fluke that could be not sustained over a television series. Well, after seeing last night’s “0-8-4,” I can assure that whenever Joss Whedon’s name is on the docket, it ain’t no fluke.
Whereas “Pilot” was about the reigning in of Coulson’s new task force, “0-8-4” is more concerned with forging these solo entities into a concrete team. Just after finishing the Michael Peterson debacle from last week, Coulson’s team investigates a titular “0-8-4” assignment: locating an object of mysterious origin (ex. Thor’s hammer) that must be either confiscated or dealt with. A trip to Peru and some internal grumblings later, the team identifies the artifact as a Gamma-emitting relic from HYDRA (Captain America’s old WWII nemeses) that boasts an impressive potential for destruction. Battling with foreign interests who are vying for the relic, our heroes must quickly resolve their differences in order to get the weapon out in one piece.
Now I’ll just come right out and say that the plot on its own is pretty standard and falls into the realm of what I was expecting from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. when it was first announced: smaller scale action stories involving a team of the “little guys” not in line for a movie spin-off. It’s competently executed and the action certainly delivers what fans are expecting, particularly with a couple of clever flourishes in the final climax, but it’s nothing really original and lumps itself into the “stop the one-shot MacGuffin from falling into the wrong hands” perhaps a bit too neatly.
That being said however, I found myself immensely entertained by its execution of the character relationships and humor. Unlike the last episode, the individual members of the team that aren’t Coulson are given more face-time with each other, and we get to see their individual quirks and skills appear at the forefront. Sure the team itself is still rough (who wouldn’t be after only two real missions together), but we get more of a demonstration of what makes these operatives special and a bit more insight into why Coulson picked them in the first place. The lovable “Fitzsimmons” duo (Ian De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge) in particular are great to watch, to the point that I’m having Xander and Willow flashbacks from the good ol’ Buffy days.
And also, like last week, this episode is just downright funny. In fact, I’d say the comedy has only improved with the more organic reference usage (Thor’s hammer being my favorite) in comparison to last week, and the greater commitment to the tongue-in-cheek humor I craved from this show. Naturally it goes without saying that Clark Gregg’s Coulson steals every scene, but the other main cast members step up a bit more and shine with enough earnest quipping and ribbing to keep things both consistently moving and nearly constantly funny. In particular (though I won’t spoil what happens) the final two minutes of the episode had me DYING I was laughing so hard, and was a great sign of what awesome routes the writers could take within the series’ future.
Honestly, I kind of see “0-8-4” as the second half of a two-part episode, as both episodes together introduce us to our heroes, thrust them together, and forge them into a fun team of operatives worth watching and rooting for. With that in mind, this is a very solid episode and only leaves me all the more ravenous for next week’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.