Few things warm my heart like a new TV show starting to fulfill its potential. Okay, that's a slight exaggeration, but with this week's episode of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." ("The Asset"), the Whedon boys Joss and Zed are starting to deliver.
In Episode 3's cold open, an innocent looking trucker heads down the road with two SUVs around him. They are suddenly hurled into the air, followed soon behind by said truck. A group of armed men use some construction equipment to bust into the truck's rig, and quickly break in to bust out...a stocky balding man in glasses.
We jump to the Bus, where Agent Ward is training our favorite hacker Skye how to box. Over the course of some friendly ribbing, Ward reveals that the "truth serum" used on him in Episode 1 wasn't real. Before this info can be processed, Coulson calls the team together for their latest mission; find the "asset," Dr. Franklin Hall. Apparently he was doing work on a extremely rare element ("Gravitonium") that can distort gravity before he was kidnapped, using tiny machines that harness said element.
We quickly cut to the reveal of the mastermind; Ian Quinn, an old friend of Hall's, who's moved to a mansion in a country that hates S.H.I.E.L.D. and won't let them in. He's set up a place for Hall to work and create a big version of the small anti-gravity devices. Simultaneously, the team figures out that Quinn is the mastermind and tries to figure out how to get in, when Skye hacks her way in to get an Evite to his next party.
Despite MANY objections, Coulson and Fitz/Simmons outfit Skye and send her in to drop Quinn's laser fence (!? WANT), so they can break in and extract Hall. Skye does well, until Quinn catches her talking into her earpiece and sneaking around. She tosses her earpiece away and admits to him she's working for S.H.I.E.L.D. She tells him that it's all part of her plan to infiltrate them, until she puts down the compact/hacking device she brought. After the reveal she was double (triple?) crossing everyone, Coulson and Ward bust in.
Ward quickly dispatches Quinn's security and rescues Skye, while Coulson makes his way to the lab where Hall is working on the device. Hall reveals he leaked info to goad Quinn into taking him, so he could gather all the Gravitonium available, and use the the device to bury it so S.H.I.E.L.D., the organization that caused an alien invasion in "The Avengers," wouldn't get it. It turns out the machine can't be stopped unless something is introduced into it to stop the reaction, and Coulson shoots out the window to the main room. Hall is sucked into the machine, apparently killing him but stopping the reaction.
Coulson has the machine put in deep, deep storage in S.H.I.E.L.D., where it won't even be on record. Skye and Ward share another bonding moment over the punching bag, and in the post-credits scene, a hand sticks out of the Gravitonium in the vault. DUN DUN DUNNNNN
This may have been my favorite episode of the series so far. It didn't have the epic scope of the first episode, but the jokes weren't firing off constantly like the second one. Plus, props to Ian Hall for his portrayal of Franklin Hall, or the classic Avengers villain Graviton in the comics. He actually has a relatable position on everything that draws from the Marvel Cinematic Universe without seeming like fanservice. I hear a lot of complaints that they're not introducing a million and one obscure superheroes from Marvel Comics who won't ever get their own movies; I'd much rather have interesting villains to put against the characters already on the show. It'll keep things simpler and provide for a bunch of good character moments.
And now the random speculation. Predictions!
1. When the reveal that Skye is still involved with her Anonymous-analogue Rising Tide hits, Coulson will already know. The idea that she's a mole and was brought into SHIELD despite many, many objections is too cliched.
2. The mystery of how Coulson is still alive will reveal that this isn't the same Coulson from "The Avengers." It's either a clone, Life Model Decoy, or something else.
Make a note of these and come back if I turn out to be right, or come gloat if I'm wrong. Next week's episode is titled "Eye Spy," should be interesting to see what that means.