A promising second episode. Here's what I'll say upfront about this show. It's still early days. It's hard to be too critical of something that's still just learning to walk on its own, and while Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is not up to masterpiece standards, I think about the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I know that sometimes true art takes a while to emerge. I trust these actors and especially this creative team to give me a quality product. It's just not quite there yet.
In this installment, the team has been ordered to retrieve an 0-8-4, which is basically an unidentified object. They arrive in Peru and find something weird and alien looking shoved into the wall. Fitzsimmons and Skye take a look at it. Ward is a bit annoyed at Skye's presence on the team. Already, Fitzsimmons aren't trained for combat, and now Skye is yet another liability. He is having a particularly hard time adjusting to working with other people.
Ward and Melinda May are outside of the temple when suddenly they find themselves surrounded by a bunch of military looking people. They disarm them like total badasses, and when Coulson arrives on the scene to see what's happening, he sees Camilla Reyes, a woman he used to work with. And sleep with. Which is quite obvious within two seconds of them sharing the screen. Reyes is the commander of the soldiers, and she tells them to stand down.
Suddenly, local rebels begin attacking. Ward goes to get Fitzsimmons and Skye, and he takes the 0-8-4 out of the wall, ignoring Fitz's protests that the artifact appears to be "alive" and has a potentially dangerous power source. The whole team, including Reyes and some of her men, manage to make it aboard the plane and avoid the rebel attack. (Side note: I love what's happening with the plane here. The team calls it "the bus," and I'm already getting the vibe that it's going to be our place of comfort amid a crazy changing world, much like Serenity is to Firefly.)
So, now that they've got the 0-8-4 aboard, Fitz reveals that it's fueled by Tesseract technology, and thus is extremely dangerous. They need to take it to a secure S.H.I.E.L.D. location immediately. And along with the potentially dangerous object aboard the plane, personal problems start cropping up. The team can't stop arguing, and Skye is shocked to discover that they only just started working together. Ward and Skye have a conversation about their differing views about the world. Basically, Ward is all about working alone, and coming up with the whole solution by himself. Skye thinks it's really important to have a collaborative effort. She says that that's what the Rising Tide is all about - coming up with the answers as a collective.
So, while Reyes and Coulson are flirting it up, we begin to sense that something bigger might be going on. Suddenly, Reyes' men are attacking! Coulson figures it out before it happens: he realizes that Reyes wants the mysterious device, which turns out to be a weapon, and she needs to divert the plane away from S.H.I.E.L.D. jurisdiction to have any chance of getting to it. That means getting to the pilot: May. Ward does a decent job of being totally bad ass, but in the end Reyes' men overpower them. Coulson is forced to give the ship up when Fitz' life is threatened.
The team (minus Coulson) is tied up in the cargo hold. They don't know how to get out, but Fitzsimmons is relieved when they learn that May is in fact the legendary "Cavalry" that everyone apparently knows about. May doesn't like being called that anymore, as she has put her past (whatever that might be) behind her. Regardless, she is totally and extremely bad ass, and she breaks her wrist to get out of her bonds, then takes down the guard and frees the rest of them. They determine that the only way to get free is to blow a hole in the ship using the device, thus destabilizing the plane's pressure or something like that. (It was a bit of a confusing plan, to be honest, but the basic picture was that if they blew a hole in the plane, they could get the control back).
The team all works together to succeed, and Coulson helps as well. May takes out the pilot and resumes control of the plane, stopping Reyes from getting to the device. All is well. Back on solid ground, the team sits around enjoying their victory and watching as the 0-8-4 is destroyed. Skye receives a message from the Rising Tide. She responds to it, confirming that her allegiance is still with them.
At the very end, we get a brief cameo from Agent Nick Fury (Ahhhh!!!) he is not happy with Coulson, since he already managed to destroy his brand new plane. Fury tells him to be sure not to make any adjustments to the plane when repairing it, like adding a fish tank or whatever other shenanigans Fitzsimmons could come up with. As Fury walks away, still angry, Coulson quickly puts a phone to his ear and says "yeah, we're gonna have to kill the fish tank."
So. The ending was hilarious, which is self evident. The rest of the episode? Pretty good. They're going for this whole team-building thing where all the different people are struggling to find a good balance and work together. It's coming across a little... weak. There's a lot of heart, but it's hard to totally buy the sincerity of all these relationships just yet.
You might notice that I used the words "bad ass" a lot in this review, and that was definitely a positive element: watching Ward and May take people out like it was nothing... it was pretty hot, to tell the truth. And it offers a nice contrast to the militantly untrained characters of Fitzsimmons and Skye. I'd love to see more of this contrast and its implications in the future.
Furthermore, I do love Coulson's character. Even though he's the head of the team, he's not a stuck up bureaucratic type of guy. He's a pretty casual, joking kind of person. If anything, May and Ward are both a lot more stoic and serious than he is. However, Fitzsimmons is probably thus far my favorite element of the show. They're so adorable together, and I love the fact that Simmons pressured Fitz into taking a position with field work, and how they're both struggling to adjust. I hope to see more development into their relationship very soon.
Other intriguing elements: May's back story. I don't know what happened with this whole Cavalry thing, but I'm excited to find out. Coulson's "Tahiti" thing. What really happened after Loki killed him? The Rising Tide - are we going to meet more people from this organization?
While still not there yet in terms of a totally polished project, this episode was strong enough to keep me interested in what's coming next.