When Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. made its highly-anticipated debut, fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe were more than a bit surprised by the over-the-top, cookie cutter series that stood before them. Now 7 episodes in - and on a bit of an upswing - Agent Coulson and his elite S.H.I.E.L.D. team finally receive the pilot that they, as well as all the fans, deserve. But don’t call it a comeback – not just yet, at least!
In this week’s episode, “The Hub”, Chuck writing duo Rafe Judkins and Lauren LeFrance makes use of all the good will that Day Break creator Paul Zbyszewski instilled with last week’s episode, tapping into their previous spy/comedy experience to provide Marvel's TV series with a foundation it so desperately needed. Judkins and LeFrance elevated the series - as well as everyone and everything in it - to a level where fans can begin to slowly phase out the qualifiers needed to justify its existence. Most importantly, though, not a single outside element from Marvel’s vast catalog was required for this success, proving that, yes, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can stand alone, with all its “silliness”, if it so chooses.
No supervillains or Iron Man 3 Extremis leftovers here; instead, it’s a (relativity) simple separatists group with an “Overkill device” which, once activated, has the power to set off any weapon within range - essentially turning the world’s forces against themselves. The reason for what’s occurring is not as important as the conflicts it creates and their results - which in this case is the result of uprighting the entire series.
With a simple separatists group, Grant Ward is thrust into an actual case and becomes a real agent; Fitz and Simmons prove that they can earnestly be funny and useful; Skye allows the internal struggle of her past to surface, revealing the heart behind the hacker; and Coulson, well, he finally stepped up and became the leader he once was, disobeying orders and all.
In this week’s episode it was all about purpose, and each and every person on the team finally has one. The resource-wasting, globe-trotting episodes are gone and are now, instead, being replaced with tales that serve the series’ own grown - and not just that of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Tales of super heroics and fantastical technologies have proven that they can only take the series so far - and if audiences’ reactions to what has been aired proves anything, it’s that the superhero influence is not what they’re looking for here. But now that Coulson has been shown to be part of a system that he, himself, finds fault in, the much-required seeds for conflict have been planted, giving Coulson a much more impactful storyline for him to drive into the future – and without any coaxing from Melinda May.
That said, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. still has many obstacles ahead of it, and next week’s Thor: The Dark World tie-in episode will reveal more about the future of the series. Though the show, itself, has now began to take the steps needed to earn its early season pickup, it’s still inherently tied to a much more impressive world which it can never compare to. So as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. works its way through its own growing pains, there’s still a constant connection to the theatrical releases that must be maintained. Will Marvel’s first attempt at synergy be successful? Right now, it’s anyone’s guess – but for the sake of this television franchise, let’s hope so.
_____Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns next Tuesday with “The Well” @8pm on ABC. You can check out a preview of next week’s episode below: