Dr Hall’s gravity device.
The Asset, the third episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., is the first to feel utterly unnecessary. Nothing truly significant takes place and nothing important is revealed. That’s not to say that the episode isn’t fun or exciting; merely that for the first time, the show feels like it is dragging its heels (problematic, considering the fact that we’re three episodes in).
The episode begins with a short and enticing sequence in which a truck is ripped off a lonely freeway and up into the sky by an unseen force. It transpires that the truck is secretly a S.H.I.E.L.D. transport vehicle carrying a brilliant scientist (Ian Hart) named Dr Hall. Because of Hall’s research into gravity manipulation, the S.H.I.E.L.D. team is dispatched to rescue him from the Malta-based home of a sinister magnate called Ian Quinn (David Conrad). Because of Quinn’s bureaucratic protection from international agencies, the team is forced to send the untrained Skye (Chloe Bennet) into Quinn’s home to find and to help rescue Dr Hall.
The entirety of the episode feels like a missed opportunity. Skye attempting to blend in at a garden party of wealthy socialites could have been comedic and provocative; given Skye’s previously-established egalitarian political views, her character is written with an odd level of comfortableness among the sort of characters she should disdain. Given the even-handed and subtle political debate in the last episode, it seems peculiar that Skye’s hot-headed personality is not brought to the forefront when surrounded by the wealthy and the powerful. Similarly wasted is any sense of tension in these garden party sequences. Skye is working as a spy yet there is no real sense of tension of threat in these scenes. She and the team are entirely in control of the situation until she decides to pursue her own strategy. A viewer cannot develop a sense of concern for her safety because she always appears to have the upper hand. In addition, the biggest waste by far is in the science fiction element of the story. Dr Hall’s kidnapping is due to his understanding of a rare element that can control gravity. A device that has been built beneath Quinn’s mansion is capable of dramatically altering gravity across a large area. This could have made for some amazing visuals- seeing the contents of a beautiful Malta mansion floating around as if in space would have made for unforgettable television. Yet the best we get is two actors standing in a small room that has been set-dressed to look like they’re standing on the ceiling.
Obviously, the television effects budget of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. prevents its creators from indulging in the kind of spectacle seen in its cinematic cousins (the Marvel superhero films), but considering that the program has featured flying cars and exploding superhumans, something a bit more visually interesting than an upside down room was surely possible. Dr Hall is apparently a character plucked from Marvel’s superhero comics so it seems likely that the character will reappear on the show in the future; perhaps at that point the real possibilities of a zero-gravity weapon will become better utilised. There are certainly positive aspects to this episode but they do not help to overcome the sense that this was the first totally redundant episode of the show. David Conrad equips himself well as the villainous Quinn (much more so than the dreadful performance by Leonor Valera in episode two) as does Ian Hart as the desperate and fanatical Dr Hall. For some reason, it is revealed that Dr Hall is a former teacher of Fitzsimmons (Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge); something that never becomes relevant in the episode as the three characters do not share a scene together.
Brett Dalton’s Grant Ward is given a more developed back-story, revealing the reasons for his abrasive personality. The mystery of Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) continues to evolve in interesting ways. It now seems very likely that the Coulson who appeared in The Avengers is not the same man currently leading the team. The best aspect of the episode is that the dialogue sounded a great deal more natural. For the most part the implausibly witty banter that made all of the characters sound so artificial has been cut back; the characters now talk to one another in a manner closer to that of real people rather than talking to each other in sound bites. The Asset is a disappointing episode because it really has no impact or importance other than to set up a possible villain for a future episode (Dr Hall). None of the interesting ideas put forward are developed and nothing of real substance happens. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to have no strong identity.
Image reproduced from comicbook.com
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