Well that was, I mean it, god what the meh was that. Literal and figurative meh, I mean this definitely is not the worst show of the fall by any stretch, but that drop off from first to second episode was noticeable to say the least. If anything S.H.I.E.L.D. suffers from one major flaw it has too much successful groundwork behind it to be this bland and cliched, especially considering just how many pieces of quality talent this series has going for it. S.H.I.E.L.D. should be better than this, it should be more creative than this, and we as an audience deserve a plot that is not so paint by numbers. For a team building episode “0-8-4” fell into a lot of flaws, they by no means destroyed the episode but they did effect the overall product to some varying extent.
Alright team building episodes are not uncommon, and usually appear around this point in a series run but there is one idea you do not do early in the series, the flash forward at the beginning of the episode. Yes the moment I saw that everything had already gone to shit, and then moments later saw “19 hours earlier” I knew there would be trouble. This episode would have been without that fact, the plot would have flowed appropriately and everything, but that move irked me. It felt as if the series is not confident that it can hold it’s own without some big stunt at the beginning of each episode, like this shock and awe beginning will be standard. If anything this tactic is the exact opposite that I have come to expect of Whedon or that the writers were trying to replicate something to early. By something I mean something cherished by the majority of Whedon fans “Out of Gas,” an episode which starts with our hero in a similarly dire situation and we are revealed to how that team came together. “0-8-4” however tried to force this unity and unfortunately I was not buying it.
These characters are given multiple chances to prove how they are unique, what will make us want to spend an hour each Tuesday night, but they just try to force the issue. A Whedon show’s greatest strengths have always come down to it’s willingness to take risks and how strong it’s dialogue is and from two episodes I can tell that someone or something is not letting Joss and his team be themselves. I don’t feel that threat or spark that comes every time I watch a Whedon show, instead I feel like I am watching a paint by the numbers or lesser form of Arrow meets Castle. I never at any point during the episode felt any sense of a threat or malice from our villain, that one of the team would be injured enough for them to learn a lesson, and that is a major problem when you are trying to build a team. What is great about Whedon is no one is supposed to be safe, but even when I saw Fitz being threatened with a knife to his throat I knew he would make it out alive. What I am trying to say is a plot without a true sense of danger or risk, especially on a show like this, is no plot at all.
Now that I have gotten all of that out, there were some merits and bright spots to the entire affair. The action was once again very well staged, with highlights being Ward and May’s beatdown on the military outside the temple as well as the brawl on the plane. It is clear that if anything the directors of the show have a very good eye on how to spot and shoot a very strong action scene. Similarly Fitz and Simmons were toned down enough to be bearable and dare I say even likable in terms of how they interacted with the team. Hopefully as the series moves along the other characters will continue to feel more human and less, fill in the blank. The tag with Nick Fury, Samuel “Muther Fucker” Jackson, was perhaps the most enjoyable and well written part of the entire episode, which is slightly disappointing. There were brief flashes of a Whedon produced show in that tag, which made the dialogue in the majority of the episode feel that much weaker. I don’t know if it was the fact that dialogue was being delivered by two great actors or that the dialogue itself was that much better than the rest of the script. All I know is that if the next episode even matches a tiny bit of the quality of that dialogue than there will still be home for S.H.I.E.L.D.
Overall a meh, with hopes for improvement.
Final Grade C
+Action is still enjoyable
+NIck “Muther Fucker” Fury
+Brief Flashes of Whedon
-Still heavily relying on the cinematic universe
-Cliched plot with no true threat to the team
-Characters still relatively bland.
-It’t just not the risky Whedon we have come to know and love.
-The show feels like it needs some out of left field soundtrack because the composed music is as paint by numbers as the dialogue.
-The show feels like it is taking itself to seriously, it should embrace it’s campiness like Sleepy Hollow. Campy but fun.
-The machines are named after the seven dwarfs, nice cross promotion Disney, I actually enjoyed that.