The third episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finally starts to give the audience a peak at what the series is going to look like now that the hype of the pilot episode has gone and after the first episode without a movie character appearing (other than Clark Gregg’s Coulson of course) in order to garner interest of excitement. Thankfully, whilst not perfect, ‘The Asset’ does give a good indicator as to how the show will be going forward.
It’s the first episode we have where the team is already established and they have their first real secret agent story. When scientist Franklin Hall (Ian Hart) is kidnapped from a S.H.I.E.L.D. convoy using mysterious gravity manipulating technology it’s down to Coulson and the gang to locate him and plan his rescue.
It’s a good spy story and in some ways it reminded me of early Alias, especially with the female agent infiltrating a swanky party, but luckily it has enough of its own identity and Marvel-ness to be different from other such espionage stories.
The episode in many ways feels more like a second pilot, using Skye (Chloe Bennet) as our introduction to a side of S.H.I.E.L.D. that we’ve not yet seen. She gets to see how they gather their intel, plan their operations, and ultimately is the ‘agent’ they send in to complete an important part of the mission.
Whilst Skye is a good vehicle for introducing the audience to this world as she’s as much in the dark about S.H.I.E.L.D. as the audience, it is something that is already running the danger of making her the central focus in what should be an ensemble show.
Thankfully, the rest of the team do get small moments to shine, even if they don’t get a chance to really do much. Ward (Brett Dalton) reveals some insight into his past when he tells Skye about his childhood and the cruelty of his older brother. Despite the future developments that will take place with Ward, this is actually a very honest look into the character’s past, an important event that massively shaped the man he is. It also gave the character some much needed depth, rather than just the snarky agent who doesn’t like working with a team.
‘The Asset’ also gave Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) some good moments too, with a few lines that stole the scenes they were in. Simmons calling out Coulson for repeatedly shouting Fitz’s name whilst he’s trying to bring down the security system – “Saying his name repeatedly does not increase productivity!” – is a fun little jab at what is a big television/film trope. Fitz also manages to get a few laughs, both when he turns up to listen in on the mission with a huge bowl of popcorn, and when trying to avoid what he really means when he stammers “she probably used her… uh… boobs”.
This episode will also go on to be massively important later down the line in season five, so if you’re not up to date jump ahead to the next paragraph to avoid spoilers. The inclusion of Franklin Hall, the comic book identity of super villain Graviton, had fans expecting this to be an origin story for that character, one that would give the series a super powered antagonist. Keeping it on the back burner for years, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would surprise viewers by not only bringing gravitonium back in season five, but making it a huge story component, and Graviton their finale villain. Having set this all up in episode three but waiting five seasons to use is a actually a pretty genius move, and feels like a lot more organic and real series of events, rather than falling into the television trope of setting things up in the same season they’re going to be used, or possibly the end of the season before.
‘The Asset’ isn’t a perfect episode, it still feels like it’s trying to push the humour too much for what feels natural and right for the tone, but it’s an episode that shows much more what the series can be than those that came before it. It’s fun, it has mystery and intrigue, it shows the characters outside of their comfort zones, and it has some crazy set pieces too. The first half of season one of the series was definitely a show that had ups and down, but this is very much one of the ups.