Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: The Asset (1×03)
Synopsis: After S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist Dr. Franklin Hall is kidnapped, Coulson’s team embarks on a rescue mission to save him with Skye on point. Grant tries to teach Skye how to be a field agent.
I have to admit, I didn’t quite enjoy this episode as much as ‘0-8-4,’ but I’m starting to feel that the show is really solidifying and figuring out what it wants to do. Just in time too, seeing that ABC has ordered a full season! Woohoo!
The episode starts with a convoy in the middle of delivery with trucker lingo included. However, it’s quickly revealed to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. convoy when some unseen force begins flipping the black SUVs and the one 18-wheeler. With the cars taken out, a group of mercenaries comes out and begins to hack open the cargo carrier. Here’s your big reveal for the cold open: the cargo is a geeky looking scientist. He asks if they’re there yet, in true Team Whedon fashion.
Cut to the newly repaired bus, where Ward has assumed the position as Skye’s SO. I’m sure that’s not the only position he wants to assume with her, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, he’s training her in boxing and gives her this spiel about having a moment where she decides whether she’s going to continue this or give up. She pries Ward for his “defining moment” and even threatens to break out the truth serum from the pilot. Ward tells her that he just overshared and that there was no truth serum. Yeah right, Ward. From Coulson’s reaction to this later in the episode, I think you’re a big liar who wants to make yourself look good in front of Skye.
May informs the team on the overhead speaker that they’re changing course for Colorado. Upstairs, Coulson informs them of the attack and that the asset taken was physicist Dr. Franklin Hall. FitzSimmons show their concern since Dr. Hall was one of their advisors during their training days. They ask if he can be rescued from his invisible attackers. Well, Coulson doesn’t reveal that the attack was invisible until after they ask about a rescue. Skye thinks that’s cool and Ward immediately shows his hate face.
The team touches down in Colorado and begins their investigation. The truck driver (named Agent Mack because terrible puns) tells them that whoever attacked them knew that they were coming, which means that someone inside S.H.I.E.L.D. sold them out. Right in that moment, Simmons makes a discovery of a small device that shifts a gravitational field when presented with an a change in electricity. No one knows what it is, but Coulson says it’s something big.
As the team starts digging for clues about what the device is and who could have revealed Dr. Hall’s location, Coulson and Ward head out to question someone who rented out his construction equipment to the team that broke into the truck. It gets super old west-y since the man is on a horse and tries to shoot Coulson with a shotgun and he reveals that he was paid in gold. I swear, between the team living on a plane and this scene, I think this show is just Team Whedon living out some of things they never got to do with Firefly. If Jed and Mo write a personality imprinting episode à la Dollhouse at some point, I’m going to lose it.
Using good old science to analyze the bars, the team figures out who the mastermind behind the kidnapping is: Ian Quinn, owner of Quinn Worldwide and someone I’m certain Tony Stark has gotten into a dick measuring contest with. Cut to Malta where it is revealed that, yes, he is the one who kidnapped Dr. Hall after intercepting a S.H.I.E.L.D. communication about his location. Quinn has located himself in Malta because there is little regulation and S.H.I.E.L.D. cannot track him there. (Basically, it’s Ron Swanson’s European paradise.) He’s also brought his old classmate (and source of many of his ideas) Dr. Hall in for one particular reason: gravitonium.
As FitzSimmons explains, gravitonium is an element that is constantly in a moving state. However, when electricity is applied, it solidifies and changes the gravitational field around it. The person with the most knowledge in the world about this dangerous little element is Dr. Hall. And Quinn wants Hall to tell him how to use it in a full-size, 12-foot generator. Yeah, this will end well.
The team begins contemplating how to rescue Dr. Hall. S.H.I.E.L.D. can’t attack directly due to how impossible it is to get in and how they have no jurisdiction in Malta. If just the team snuck in, they risk disavowal from S.H.I.E.L.D. and the show becomes a super powered version of Burn Notice. Fitz proposes sending in a trained monkey and Ward wants to do this specialist style which no one has time for. Finally, Skye speaks up and says she can do it since she’s technically a consultant and cannot be legally bullet ridden like everyone else on the team can. Everyone tries to tell her that she doesn’t have the skills to pull off being an inside woman, which she knows, but she just hacked her way into getting an invite to the annual shareholder’s meeting that’s happening that weekend. What are you going to do about that, Ward?
As Coulson picks out a new suit from his collection of identical suits, Ward expresses his concerns over if Skye will survive the mission or turn on them and that maybe Coulson is taking Director Fury’s kindness to him after his death (and destruction of his Captain America playing cards) too far on this one. After Coulson pries him a bit further, Ward reveals that Skye isn’t taking her agent training seriously and he doesn’t know what to do. Coulson tells him to go in with no strategy and act like a person around her. I know character development is a thing, but does he not remember the little poop with knives sticking out of it?
This leads to a moment in the cargo bay where Ward is trying to teach Skye about how to take a gun away from her attacker and she’s just not into it, saying it doesn’t come naturally to her. This is where Ward makes a dramatic reveal: his “moment” was learning how to protect himself and his younger brother from their abusive older brother. This didn’t come naturally to him. He had to scrape to get to be the broody, lack of social skills specialist he is today! Skye apologizes for pushing the subject and they resume their lesson with Ward saying, “Getting the gun is one thing. Pulling the trigger is another.”
The team goes over the plan with May looking mostly uncomfortable the entire time. As they disperse, May tells Coulson that she’s already gotten more combat than she’s bargained for and that she doesn’t want to be a part of the extraction team. Coulson tells her that he’s the one going and assures her with the fact that he’s seen plenty of action with the Avengers. To which May responds with, “And you died.” She’s got a point there, Phil. You DID get stabbed through the heart by Loki as a result of “seeing action” in an action as cold as the time the Reavers impaled Wash.
Skye makes her way into the party and after getting a little too happy on the stereotypical action movie lingo, she introduces herself to Quinn. He’s definitely impressed with her and The Rising Tide (who seem to be the MCU’s version of Anonymous) and even shows interest in hiring her to work for him. And hits on her because he’s bad at subtlety.
Quinn gives his shareholder’s speech as Skye sneaks off to find Quinn’s office, Hall starts working on the gravitonium generator, and Coulson and Ward make their way onto the beach to wait for Skye to help them disable the force field (there’s another word for it used in the show, but it’s basically a force field) surrounding Quinn’s compound. As Skye looks for a way into his office, she’s caught by Quinn, who begins questioning her. In a move of brilliance, Skye writes “SHIELD IS LISTENING” on a piece of paper as they talk, automatically gaining his trust.
She drops her earpiece into a glass of champagne and explains who she is to Quinn, freaking out the team since they can no longer hear what she’s saying. Quinn still works on hiring her, even poking at the sore wound of no family. When Quinn asks her what S.H.I.E.L.D. sent her for, Skye just comes up with some BS excuse while she uses the compact given to her by Fitz to find wireless access to the compound so he can reset the force field. Just in time too, because Coulson and Ward are already under fire for taking out some of the guards. Also, Coulson can’t take apart a gun. I feel like this might be an important detail later this season.
Ward and Coulson split off as word makes it to Quinn that there’s been a security breech. He sees that Skye was the one who helped and pulls a gun on her, mirroring her practices with Ward. She successfully manages to take the gun away from him after he threatens her, but decides that she doesn’t have what it takes to pull the trigger and jumps out the window into the pool. LIKE A BOSS. It’s at this point the gravity on the compound starts going weird and Quinn makes the call to evacuate, but still has some of his team chase Skye down. They catch up to the wet hacker, but she’s rescued in time by Ward.
Meanwhile, Coulson makes it to Hall and tells him that he’s there to rescue him, but Hall says he’s exactly where he needs to be to make sure no one gets their hands on the gravitonium generator. Coulson and May have the exact same realization at the same time: Hall was the one who leaked his location in order to get Quinn to bring him here. The only way to make sure it doesn’t harm anyone though is to put it on full blast and sink the compound, killing everyone there. Coulson decides he’s going to try and talk him down in an Inception-like room turn. Hall exposits on how Quinn and S.H.I.E.L.D. would only exploit the element, so he has to do this. Coulson tries to cut the power, but it doesn’t work and FitzSimmons tells him that he needs a catalyst to shut it off. After Hall talks about living and dying with the choices you make, Coulson makes the hard call: he shoots the glass window out from under them and sends Hall tumbling into the generator. This kills Hall, but successfully stops the generator.
Back on the Bus, Coulson assigns the generator to be hidden away in the deepest, darkest corners of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s archives and for any record of it being there to be destroyed. As Coulson tries to figure out why he can’t take apart a gun, May comes into his office and tells him that she’s tired of the close calls. Coulson asks if she wants off the plane, but she tells him that she wants in and that the next time combat is needed, she’s reporting in. Phil asks if she’s committed to the cause or just looking out for him. May says it is the same thing. This makes me wonder if she knows something is up with Coulson, but mostly I’m excited to see character development for the two of them. Mostly Melinda. Because Melinda May is wonderful.
In the cargo bay, Skye is training as Ward walks in, making it her turn to reveal family drama. Or lack thereof. It turns out Skye was an orphan who was rejected from several foster families growing up. Ward assures her that they won’t turn their back on her, but she’s made up her mind: she’s going to be a field agent.
In the stinger this week, there’s no Director Fury to be had, but something with just as much anticipation behind it. The S.H.I.E.L.D. team shuts the generator away in a heavy vault that no one can get to. As the camera pans over the generator, we see a hand reach out from the gravitonium and then sink its way back in. Is this the origin story for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s first supervillian?
As I said before, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the previous episode. In fact, it was kind of boring in comparison. However, it was still a solid episode that’s really starting to set a course for where the show is going. The mystery of Coulson still continues along with Skye becoming an agent while still working for The Rising Tide, May returning to combat, and the curiosity of what really happened to Dr. Hall when he fell into the gravitonium. Only time and future episodes will tell, but I’m already strapped in for the ride.