'Agents of SHIELD' Recap: 5 Things We Learned from '0-8-4'

So, how did the second episode of Joss Whedon's "Avengers" brand extension hold up?
ABC/Justin Lubin
Clark Gregg

So, what did we take away from the second adventure of Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and his team as they retrieved a tesseract-y relic from Peru and repelled a band of skyjackers?

Skye's the Limit

No, seriously, Agents of SHIELD will succeed or fail because of her. As this episode and everyone in it made abundantly clear, Skye (Chloe Bennet) has no real reason for being on Agent Coulson's team, taking up space in "The Bus." Ward (Brett Dalton) says it, May (Ming-Na Wen) says it, Hottie McRebel (Leonor Varela) says it -- even Nick Fury says it. And what does the woman who "hacked SHIELD with a laptop" bring to the table? So far, precious little hacking. Instead, she tosses off sayings that other people remember and mistake for a plan of action. She notices things and can read. This show needs to figure her out, and fast. And simply dropping wee sinister hints — "I'm in," she texts to a faceless fellow Rising Tider — isn't gonna get it done.

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Dancing Around Melinda May

Ming-Na Wen is, clearly, this show's secretive weapon. She works the total-badass role in a way that likely makes Papa Whedon proud. But the producers are going to have to find a way to make her more than her shadowy backstory. There are but so many times dropping lines like "If I ever need a gun, I'll take one" and referring to her as "the cavalry" can work. She needs to be a bit more like Firefly's Shepherd Book — possessed of a mysterious past but not entirely defined by it. She actually needs to be a character...not just the absence of one.

Agents of SHIELD Doesn't Look Small …

There was a refreshing sense of scale to this episode — the Peruvian section looked big and widescreen and not like it was filmed in a section of a park with jungle trees brought in. Sure, it eventually became a bit of a bottle show, with the last half-hour confined to their standing sets, but it came out of the gate like a blockbuster.

… But It Isn't Thinking Big (Yet)

Shouldn't this show be, well, nuttier? Second episode out of the gate, and we're dealing with a shiny box and South American rebels. I know we're not going to be repelling invasions of alien ice goblins or joining Dr. Strange for a tour of magical dimensions, but if the premise of the show is that, in the wake of Marvel's heroes appearing the world is getting weird, shouldn't the things this team encounters be weirder than an old gun that just blows big holes in stuff? Agents of SHIELD needs to unhinge itself, but good, and not just be a procedural.

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Nick Fury Cameo. Good Thing or Bad?

Seeing Samuel L. Jackson in the ol' eye patch was a nice little button to the episode — it gave the whole thing a charge that, in truth, it didn't really earn. And Agents of SHIELD will have to work to be more than a place where you might see a movie star. It needs to make those cameos — and we're likely to have a bunch more before this first season is over, given that Thor: The Dark World is coming in a month and Captain America: The Winter Soldier hits theaters right in the middle of May 2014 sweeps — icing on an already delicious cake.

Okay, pop back over in a few hours for the Great and Powerful Jim Steranko's take.

E-mail: Marc.Bernardin@THR.com
Twitter: @marcbernardin