Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, The Asset

Agents of S.H.I.L.E.D, the joint Marvel/ABC superhero espionage procedural continues to be an exercise basic network adequacy. Tonight’s episode, (the third episode of the first season entitled “The Asset”) follows Skye in her first field mission as the team plots to retrieve a captured S.H.I.E.L.D scientist who may not actually be a hostage. Fitz, Simmons and Melinda May take a backseat this episode as we are granted further insight into Skye and Agent Ward through their handler/asset dynamic. We also see that Agent Coulson is still rather rusty at field work, executed with a suitably foreboding air further alluding to the dubious circumstances under which he returned from the apparent death he suffered in Marvel’s The Avengers. All the actors seen to be assimilating nicely into their characters, although Chloe Bennet/Skye’s comic relief is still laid on a little thick, though not nearly as much as in the pilot. Brett Dalton still seems to be the least interesting member of the cast, though I can’t entirely blame the actor as this often happens when a character is relegated to the stoic straight man archetype.
Ian hart guest starred as “captured scientist” Franklin Hall, an expert in the research of the fictional element known as gravitonium (which does exactly what it sounds like it does). He is ultimately revealed to one of the antagonists of the episode, and to the writers credit they do a good job of transcending the 2-dimensional mad scientist trope by giving him a martyr complex in his crusade to keep the power of gravitonium out of the hands of shadowy organization like S.H.I.E.L.D and his supposed kidnappers. This ultimately results in his apparent death by way of falling into the core of his gravity warping doomsday device, thus merging with a floating mass of gravitonium. The anti-gravity effects throughout the episode are executed rather well, resulting in particular scene featuring Coulson and Hall traversing a room as it rotates around them that is simply cool to watch. That perfectly captures both the tone and grade of quality to the show: it’s just cool. The writing and characters are not particularly profound or deep but they are at least competently handled which, along with the cool sci fi elements throughout, make for a fun, enjoyable hour of programming, at least thus far.

Oh, and make sure you stay tuned until the VERY end of the episode, it is a Marvel production after all.

Legend of Korra, The Peacekeepers

I have to be to be frank, I am loving this new season of Legend of Korra. It is not without it’s flaw, but what it’s doing right I feel it is doing VERY right. In tonight’s episode, “the peacekeepers,” we continue to see the prominent aspect of this show that distances Legend of Korra from it’s predecessor The Last Airbender: the emphasis on the politics of the progressing world of Avatar. While TLA was a grand fantasy epic following a messianic figure and his friends fight an oppressive empire, LOK shows the modernized world that followed and the politics of varying parties struggling to maintain the peace Aang (the previous avatar) worked so hard to establish.
Korra seeks the aid of the President of the United forces hoping to enlist the UF army, led by General Iroh, in the Southern Water Tribe’s war on the North. He declines, as he does not wish to get involved in an internal struggle between the water tribes. Mako finds himself torn between his duties as a Republic City police officer (and subsequent loyalties to the President of the United Forces) and his loyalty to Korra. Bolin continues to be mentored in the easy of comic relief by Varrick, who continues to be a tremendously entertaining new addition as Republic City’s resident Howard Hughes, while he and Asami make a business deal to have her father’s Mecha suits sold to the southern water tribe. Lin Bei Fong finally returns to the show to butt heads with Korra, accompanied by General Iroh, if only to briefly offer his support Korra’s cause only to be shut down by the President by threat of Court Marshal. Meanwhile Unalaq has dispatched his children Eska and Desna to bring Korra back by force, revealing that he does in fact still need her to open the North Pole Spirit gate. Eska continues to be a personal favorite of mine. Her distraught rage over losing Bolin is surprisingly endearing, and almost makes her sympathetic.
Tenzin’s Plot line of teaching his son Meelo how to train his pet lemur seemed a bit extraneous, as it had absolutely nothing to do with any other plot line, either directly or thematically, but it still granted us, as an audience, some thoughtful insight into Tenzin’s mentality as a leader and the sole Airbending master in the world and why he feels the need to be as strict as he is with his students. One thing I did find a distracting was the teen drama between Korra and Mako in the form of their break up towards the end of the episode. It seemed out of place in the grand scheme of what is going on in the show. Korra in general came off as frustratingly hard-headed and a little dense in this episode. I sincerely hope that the writers are building up a massive change in her attitude by the season’s end because as of now it’s starting to become difficult to route for such an irrational, misguided character.
What stole the episode for me, however, was Varrick’s proposed series of moving pictures, set to star Bolin as a scantily clad Southern Water tribe warrior accompanied by stock footage taken of the Northern Tribes forces taking siege of the harbor. The obvious parallels and allusions to WWII (i.e war propaganda films made to stir support for a war effort coupled with the United Force’s hesitation to get involved) is absolutely brilliant. The cliffhanger ending (a recurring motif this season) also proved thrilling, with Korra racing to the fire nation on Varrick’s speed boat to seek help only for Eska and Desna to finally catch up with her leading to a very well executed fight scene on the surface of the ocean. Things go from bad to worse for Korra when she is attacked by a massive dark water spirit and is dragged down into the depths right before the credits role. Whatever the writers have in store for Korra, I cannot wait to see it next week (though I certainly hope it knocks some sense into her).

Agents of s.h.i.e.l.d, 0-8-4

The second episode of ABC’s new superhero adventure series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D sets a good tone for what I hope the rest series will have in store us. The episode “0-8-4” started off with the team extracting some unfriendly seeming technology from an Incan pyramid before being attacked by Peruvian rebels forcing back onto “the bus” (their plane) with a group of Peruvian soldiers. What begins as a fun “Raider of the Lost Ark” vibe eventually spirals into an tense “Air Force One” scenario for a substantial chunk of the episode. Honestly I hope to see more the former in future episode, with the team exploring exotic locations, but I understand that the show is on a network TV budget thus limiting the available settings a bit. The character work was pretty standard, mostly consisting of the team butting heads and eventually learning to work together under lethal circumstances. Skye reels in the sass a bit and become quite relatable as the audience surrogate through whom we experience the strange happenings of the day in the life of a S.H.I.E.L.D agent. Agent ward has some good scenes as he learns to work in a group dynamic whole we get some more insight into Melinda May’s backstory. Coulson was charismatic as usual while Fitz and Simmons were kind of just there for a episode. Hey weren’t bad but they are definitely going to need and episode to themselves so as to stand out to the audience. All in all a fun second episode that while it fails to tread new ground will undoubtedly entertain superhero fans, and aforementioned fans will definitely want to make sure they watch until the very end of the time slot for some classic marvel cameo shenanigans.