Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S01E03: 'The Asset' Recap

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been a tough nut to crack these past two weeks. The first episode was promising, delivering both as a tie-in to the Marvel film universe and as its own, often funny, sci-fi action show. The second week was much more of a disappointment, with the fun elements stripped away in favour of a by-the-numbers plot involving a South American militia, and the disparate team coming together and learning that they could be more together than they are apart. Kiddie fare. All that to say, a lot was riding on this third week on a tone-setting level for the rest of the season. Did it deliver?

Yes. Also no. But I think mostly yes. That said, the show might be taking a huge detour from what we originally envisioned it as. Which might be okay.

This week’s plot involves Coulson’s team tracking down the origins of a mysterious device that is able to upend trucks with the greatest of ease. It was used in the abduction of scientist Franklin Hall (Ian Hart), and the team wants to find both him and the device before bad things happen.

We’re treated to some workout sessions with Agent Ward and Skye. He’s trying to get her field-ready. She’s cracking wise and not giving it her all.

The conflict isn’t particularly interesting. It’s partly because we’ve seen this all before, and better. It’s partly because the show seems determined to make Agent Ward the integral character to the series and Brett Dalton simply hasn’t found a way to make the role worthy of attention. Given the (continued) lack of character development, it’s almost forgivable. A couple of briefs moments in this episode verge on making the characters human, but a couple of moments do not a believable person make. Hopefully we get some more in the near future.

After Skye hacks her way in to a fancy party at the Malta home of Ian Quin (David Conrad), the billionaire who abducted Hall, Coulson and Ward make their way on to the island and prepare to infiltrate. They need Skye to get Fitz access to the computers on the island, so that he can take down the defenses and let Coulson and Ward in. She gets nabbed, she talks her way out of it, and the plan goes off nearly without a hitch.

Nearly. It turns out Hall wants to be there. He purposely got himself captured so that he could destroy Quin’s home and his work on what is revealed to be a giant gravity-field manipulator. Coulson tries to talk him down, fails, and shoots the glass floor, dropping the scientist into the gravity machine, killing him instantly.

The character moments? We discover that Skye, the loner hacker, has never really had a family, and desperately wants to belong. How that goes along with her likely betrayal of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team is yet to be seen. Most likely she’ll do it, regret it, help try to make things right, and then have to live with the suspicion of her teammates, but that’s getting ahead, maybe.

Ward is a tough guy because he had to defend his younger brother from an abusive older sibling. So he’s a guy with a dark past, who became tough out of necessity. Hardly original, but it’s a step beyond being a guy with a dark past, so we’ll call it progress.

Better is Agent May’s reaction to the whole episode’s goings on. She’s been adamant about not taking part in field work, so to see how she requests to go back in, seemingly out of nowhere, is interesting. There’s a chance we’ll get some cool, “addicted-to-dealing-death,” stuff out of this show. Hopefully it will hurry along.

Lastly, we discover that Agent Coulson is almost definitely not himself. Is he a clone? A Life-Model Decoy? A Skrull (definitely not)? We don’t know, but it’s clear there’s more going on than just a simple defibrillation.

Here’s where things get interesting. The post-credits scene (yes, the show has these, too) is of the gravity machine being locked away in a vault. As the agents are putting it away, the label is removed by an unknown man in a suit. More interesting than that? We see the hand of Franklin Hall reaching out from the depths of the Gravitonium (I know).

Fans of the Marvel show Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes might remember the villain from the very first episodes of the show being a man who could manipulate gravity. Graviton was the name he was referred to, though he started life with the name Franklin Hall. Yes, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has its first supervillain origin under its belt.

Keep in mind, though, that this is a character who can easily take on the entire Avengers team by himself (not necessarily win, but definitely put up a fight). How a team as outclassed as Coulson’s squad could handle that kind of threat is unknown. Maybe heroes will be introduced? At any rate, extreme superpowers are no longer being left to the movies. Whether or not that’s a good thing remains to be seen.

On that note, was this episode good? It’s very slow out of the gate, arguably boring until the team gets itself to the island. Once things start happening, the show does a lot better, and Coulson’s moment of badassery manages to be shocking, which is a nice surprise from this show. Points for finishing strong, giving us a potentially huge supervillain threat, and for reminding us to keep our eye on Coulson, but subtract a few for Agent Ward and the slow start.

It’s not quite as great as fans might like, but this episode was a lot better than last week, which is enough to keep the hope alive that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. might eventually reach its potential. It also might not, but if it keeps not being boring, that’s enough.

The Good

  • The show took a step towards establishing its own mythology.
  • The episode was more exciting than last week.

    The Bad

  • It still feels like the show is trying to find its voice.
  • Agent Ward is the most boring character of all time.

    Line of the night

  • Agent Coulson: I'll be honest, our strategy did not take into consideration your saying that.
  • Comments 2
    George Prax's picture

    Again, I think the problem here is managing expectations. No one said this wouldn't be sort of a government agency procedural adventure show, but a lot of people that are coming from the movies are watching and that's going to set expectations way too high for a show that has to put on 22 episodes a year and won't have Joss Whedon or people from the movies for all of them. Plus it's a new show, it needs time to, as you said, find its voice and establish mythologies. It'll get there and we just sort of have to buckle up and have fun on the ride as much as we can.

    Rob Cote's picture

    I'll give the episode a 10 next week if Ward dies.