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TV Review: Agents of SHIELD, “Hub” (S1/EP7)

Posted on the 13 November 2013 by Weminoredinfilm.com @WeMinoredInFilm

Agents of SHIELD – “The Hub” (S1/EP7)


So, basically, there is bad weapon out there in a war-torn country, and SHIELD needs to send a 2 man team to disarm said weapon ahead of a full-on assault.  This operation and its related intel are so important and top-secret (only Coulson has the proper security clearance) that our team has to go to the Hub, which is sort of like the Ministry of Magic from Harry Potter but with SHIELD agents instead of wizards.  There we meet Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows), an equal to Coulson who will clearly mean trouble for him and his team for multiple episodes to come.  She selects Grant and Fitz to go on the mission, Grant because he has connections in the area in question and Fitz because his expertise will be required to disarm the weapon.  Obviously, they accomplish their mission, but not before having almost every possible thing go wrong.  Fitz gets a mixed grade as a field agent, his never-shutting-up and “but what about my sandwich?” don’t help but his technical skills and friendliness do.

While Grant and Fitz go off on their little adventure, Simmons shrivels away from worry with alarming haste, and Skye just can’t stand it.  They can’t even check in to see what’s happening because both lack the necessary security level to even be kept updated as to the progress of the mission; Melinda May won’t tell them.  So, Skye talks Simmons into some covert ops to hack SHIELD.  It turns out, Hand has actually sent Grant and Fitz on a suicide mission without telling them, for as soon as their task is complete they will be left on their own with no extraction team on the way as they believed.   Coulson catches Skye in the act, but walks away even angrier with Hand since she left him in the dark (he had no idea it was a suicide mission) even though they’re on equal footing in rank.  He confronts her; she doesn’t back down while rather accurately summarizing why his team is kind of a joke (chief culptrit of her overall low opinion of them: Skye).

Agents Shield Web

So, Team Coulson just take their freaking plane and go save Grant and Ftiz.

For Skye’s treachery and refusal to follow orders, she is rewarded with Coulson giving her a summary of the redacted file about her parents, which he says state that a female SHIEILD agent dropped Skye off for adoption.  He’ll try to find out more.  Skye hugs him, unaware that he is lying and that there is more in her file than he’s let on.  In fact, he’s going to have Melinda May try and find out more as something smells awfully fishy here.  After that’s all taken of, Coulson checks in with SHIELD to verify that he did in fact rehab at Tahiti after dying in The Avengers.  Even though he has the necessary security level, he is denied access to this information.  He puts on his best confused/worry face, and we cut to the end credits.


They broke from formula and actually did a cold open (scene before the opening title card) that didn’t introduce the villain of the week, but instead featured half of the show’s regular cast.  Plus, they delayed the exposition info-dump (where early in the episode they explain the mission/villain of the week).

Agents Shield Hub Soldiers

I am still not completely connecting with the character of Fitz as there is something with Ian De Caestecker’s performance that does not yet feel fully-formed.  Moreover, he is supposed to be a source of humor, yet I have yet to ever really find him funny.  Pairing him in a storyline with Grant seemed tailor-made for a tough man makes serious faces while funny guy quips and looks nervous.  There was certainly a fair deal of that, but they didn’t go as far with it as they could have.  As such, the pairing proved more entertaining than expected, though I have my doubts about Coulson ever having talked to Fitz about looking out for Grant.  I suspect Fitz was just startled at how transparently his actions were motivated by having felt emasculated the prior week when Grant saved Simmons.  Grant pointed it out pretty quickly so he just improvised a better explanation that made him seem even manlier.   


I have my reservations about its resolution and would listen to arguments that it was too over-the-top, but the sequence involving Skye and Simmons on their covert-ops mission was generally amusing.  Simmons is so dreadful under such pressure without Fitz around to anchor her that it might do her a disservice in the long run, but her attempt to flirt with Agent Sitwell (everytime I write that name I think of Arrested Development) was pretty great. Simmons unknowingly transitioning into simply finishing all of Skye’s sentences just as she would with Fitz was a nice touch.  Last week I wasn’t sure but after this week it’s seems perfectly clear that they are now building to a “more than just friends” relationship with Fitz and Simmons.

“Little bear?”  - “I like to watch him work.”


Why make it a mystery?  One of the big questions SHIELD invited upon itself the second they announced Agent Coulson as the show’s central character is how the heck he’s still alive after the events of The Avengers.  Their decision has been to kick that answer down the road in favor of establishing a likely half if not longer season length mystery as to the new nature of Coulson’s existence.  However, this is a show which mostly assumes all of its viewers have seen The Avengers, understandably so since it made over $1 billion at the box office.  What this means is we all know Coulson died in The Avengers, and so does the show.  As such, as they have made progress over the past two weeks on this front each new “oh, Coulson suspects something is off about him” moment fails to carry the intended weight because….we all already know something is not right.  We’ve known since the pilot.  You want your TV show to feel two steps ahead of you, and although we don’t know what the ultimate answer to this mystery is going to be it sure as hell as feels as if they’re barely even a step ahead of us with this.

What they are attempting calls for patience.  Coulson is a man who died believing in The Avengers, and in the notion of heroes.  They are tying his discovery of his own nature and Skye’s background with his gradual realization as to how much misplaced trust he might have in SHIELD.  This is a continuation of The Avengers, which went a long way toward arguing how Nick Fury’s secrets meant The Avengers couldn’t completely trust him.  Coulson is now learning that lesson, but after we saw Captain American go through that already it feels like all to familiar territory.  We know from the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier that SHIELD itself will become an antagonist in the narrative.  Agents of SHIELD is tasked with laying some of the groundwork for that, and in the form of these past two episodes is now setting Coulson and his team up as potential rebels against the established order.

Agents Shield Hub Sitwell

Simmons tasered a superior officer.  How did she not get punished for that, even with Coulson’s claim that he’d handle it internally?  BTW, it was nice seeing Sitwell again.  I just watched his Marvel One-Shot with Agent Coulson on The Thor Blu-Ray, having completely forgotten about it until now.

Skye has a ticking clock dictating her action, and for all she knows Grant and Fitz’ lives hang in the balance.  So, what’s the first thing she does?  Looks up the redacted files because she doesn’t trust that Coulson will even though he repeatedly said he would.  It ultimately worked out because she came to her senses, and uncovered information which did lead to Grant and Fitz’ rescue.  However, last week Simmons threw herself out of the plane as part of what she thought was self-sacrifice, and to keep up his authority Coulson scolded her harshly before throwing her (not literally) out of his office.  Skye, instead, gets an update on what became of her birth parents, and a hug (which, to be fair, she initiates).


The long game SHIELD has been playing with Skye’s search for answers and Coulson’s gradual realization he needs some answers of his own just got a little bit shorter.  These two story elements both now appear to tie in with the show’s larger arc of pitting our Agents of SHIELD against the entire SHIELD organization.  Plus, for the second week in a row we got new character pairings (Fitz and Grant, Skye and Simmons) and met a SHIELD character from the past, this time Agent Sitwell.  The shape of the season and the directing it is heading has really drawn into focus these past two weeks, and they’ve introduced potential romantic entanglements for Fitz and Simmons.  Really, there was a lot accomplished with “The Hub.”  I just wish I’d enjoyed it a bit more, with my reservations mostly relegated to the overall storyline decisions and not performance or execution.


1. Comic Book 101: Victoria Hand

First Appearance: 2008

Background: She started out as an accountant with SHIELD before voicing her displeasure with Director Nick Fury’s leadership, thus earning her a transfer and a general “good luck getting a promotion for as long as Fury is around” vibe.  Funny, thing, not too long after that Fury and Tony Stark were forced out of SHIELD, replaced by Norman Osborn.  Of course, Osborn basically turned SHIELD evil (heck, the organization was re-named HAMMER), and appointed Hand to a position of leadership based upon her previously stated displeasure with Fury.  After some major battles went down with HAMMER on the losing side, Hand repented and was awarded with a lateral move into a leadership position with Captain America’s The New Avengers.  Pretty much none of them trusted her other than Captain America, then they kind of did, then they didn’t, then it turned out she was a triple agent, etc.  The main takeaway is that shortly thereafter when she died in the line of duty she went out a good guy, even if for most of the time only Captain America knew that for sure.

Victoria Hand is being played on Agents of SHIELD by Saffron Burrows, who is most known for suffering the indignity of stripping down to her underwear for no good reason while escaping a shark in Deep Blue Sea (a movie also starring Nick Fury himself, Samuel L. Jackson).

2. Agent Coulson Hint(s) of the Week

Every time someone has mentioned Tahiti to this point Coulson has involuntarily referred to it as “a magical place.”  This week it happened again during his conversation with Victoria Hand, except here he paused slightly before he finished the phrase.  Is the conditioning wearing off?  Is he starting to realize that he says that in response to mentions to Tahiti without even meaning to?

Also, at one point Skye refers to Coulson as acting like a robot-version of himself, which is not far off from what a lot of fans have speculated Coulson actually is.

3. Have You Looked at the Ratings Lately?

We’re just talking about overnight ratings here, but last week’s total of 7.15 million viewers was a new series low for Agents of SHIELD.  The problem?  Every single episode since the pilot has technically set a new series low in ratings for the show because the ratings have fallen off with every subsequent episode.  There has been no leveling off or brief uptick.  To put it into perspective, ABC recently canceled the sitcom Back in the Game because its viewership was shrinking every week, dropping from 8 million viewers to 6.11.  SHIELD has been renewed for a full season; there’s no need to worry about that.  However, at some point something is going to have to give if the ratings continue to drop every single week.  If they do, as many people could be watching SHIELD as watched Back in the Game, a far cheaper show whose level of viewership was such that ABC canceled it.


What did you think?  Like it?  Hate it?  Let us know in the comments section.

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