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‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Review: “The Hub”

Agents of SHIELD Review The Hub
ABC

Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ assembles its seventh episode “The Hub,” as a classified Level 8 mission strands Ward and Fitz in enemy territory, while Skye struggles with the S.H.I.E.L.D. secrecy inherent to the organization, and Coulson comes to a disturbing realization.

Previous ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ episode “FZZT” saw the investigation of a mysterious Chitauri virus take a personal toll on Fitz and Simmons, while Coulson begins to investigate an unusual feeling he’s had since the near-death experience, so how does ABC’s ‘Avengers‘-adjacent series keep us marveling at its inaugural season?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s seventh episode, “The Hub!”

Coulson is dragged through an underground lair, making light of both the situation and his interrogator, before revealing the man as S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Shaw. Ward and May appear, taking out the other guards and leading the group out of the base, situated in an arctic locale. Back on the bus, Simmons manages to remove a capsule of intelligence from Shaw’s cranial cavity, as Coulson reveals they’ll be taking it to “The Hub.” Skye offers to decrypt the information, though Coulson quickly reveals the matter to require “Level 8” clearance, stunning Skye that the team so readily accepts the secrecy.

Arriving at the Hub, Skye quickly marvels at the sheer size and presence of the agents in operation (though not as large as the Triskelion, Simmons points out). While Skye faces restricted access, Coulson, May and Ward join Agents Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernandez) and Victoria Hand in a briefing room to discuss a mission involving separatists from Russia. Their weapon enables them to remotely activate any other weapons from a distance, for which Agent Hand proposes a two-man team of Ward and Fitz, the latter’s expertise needed for the enemy device.

Back on the bus, Simmons panics and helps Fitz prepare for his mission, while Skye remains upset about the details being kept from the team. A while later, Fitz and Ward drive to an isolated bar in the Caucasus mountains in search of Ward’s contact Uri, though the bar quickly turns unfriendly when the patrons reveal that Uri is dead. Skye and Simmons continually worry about their teammates, while Hand jokes to Coulson about his preferential treatment from Fury, getting sent to “Tahiti” for his injuries. Mention of the mere word elicits the same “it’s a magical place” once more, though this time Coulson catches himself on it.

Fitz and Ward find themselves interrogated by a woman named Marta, though when the power to the bar goes out at an opportune moment, Fitz manages to ingratiate himself to the group by fixing their power in time to get the game back on. Later, Fitz surprises Ward by revealing that he himself caused the blackout, before their convoy is overtaken by enemy guards, forcing the duo to take refuge in a nearby storm drain.

While Coulson consults a stoic May about the importance of keeping secrets, Skye sends a visibly nervous Simmons to access a restricted console nearby, which quickly becomes complicated once Agent Sitwell inquires about her actions. Simmons panics and uses the night-night gun on the agent, forcing them to expedite their plan. Meanwhile on the mission, Fitz goes to enjoy a sandwich Simmons prepared for him, before Ward throws it away, noting that the hunting dogs will track them down.

Skye finally gains access to the S.H.I.E.L.D. server, but finds herself without enough time to find the redacted document about her parents, instead researching Ward and Fitz’s mission to discover that no extraction point has been planned. After being caught, Skye refutes Coulson’s notions about secrets and the bureaucracy, asking if he knew that Ward and Fitz had been sent on the mission without an escape plan, but Coulson only responds that his knowledge is classified.

While Ward and Fitz arrive to the factory, infiltrating and taking out guards, Coulson asks Agent Hand why he wasn’t notified about the lack of escape plan. Hand point out that knowledge of the mission’s true danger would have compromised Fitz’s effectiveness, though Coulson fires back that the agents should have known what they signed up for. Meanwhile, Ward asks Fitz for the final instructions to disable the device, having realized that no extraction team will arrive, and hoping to spare the younger agent from being captured. Fitz insists on remaining with the mission, believing himself to be every bit the capable S.H.I.E.L.D. agent that Ward is, before removing the device and tripping the alarm.

While Coulson and the others mount up to form their own rescue mission, Ward and Fitz do their best to handle advancing guards, Ward taking them out physically while Fitz disables their weaponry using the extracted device. S.H.I.E.L.D. begins their attack on the compound, while Ward and Fitz barely manage to make it outside, May thankfully piloting the bus overhead to take out a small force advancing on the pair. Back at the Hub, Victoria Hand smirks at the fact that Coulson’s team didn’t end up needing an official extraction after all, taking care of themselves as he’d said earlier.

The threat abated, Ward and Fitz return to the bus, Simmons reservedly showing her relief to Fitz. That night, Coulson visits Skye to reveal he looked into the redacted document about her history, which revealed little other than that a female S.H.I.E.L.D. agent was the one to bring her to an orphanage. Skye thanks him for the scrap of information, though when Coulson meets with May upstairs, the pair realize a larger mystery looms around the mysterious agent, who ended up dead after dropping Skye off.

After the credits, Coulson puts in a call to access information about his own death and recovery report, though the receptionist finds that Coulson doesn’t have clearance for the file, even if he should. The agent offers to put in a request to Director Fury, but Coulson declines.

OUR REVIEW:

See, now this was the S.H.I.E.L.D.-centric series we’d been hoping for all along. It didn’t need any major superhero cameos or a tremendous bit of flexing on Marvel’s part to incorporate any recognizable names (though Agent Sitwell, the integration of Agent Victoria Hand and even a name-drop of the Triskelion certainly helped), but rather presented a smart, character-centric story to explore the dynamics of its leads without leaning too heavily on their incompetence for comedic effect.

Perhaps best of all, we’d been overdue to explore the notion of S.H.I.E.L.D. as an actual agency, rather than a collection of Coulson’s outliers. Our six leads certainly felt a bit out of place in the larger action and setting of “The Hub,” though even smaller tips of the hat like bringing out Agent Sitwell to interact with Simmons go a long way toward making the team feel more integrated with the Marvel universe we’ve come to know. The appearance of comic agent Victoria Hand ended up a bit superfluous to Coulson’s actual concerns about the mission he’d sent his team on, but hopefully we’ll be able to revisit the character with more depth later on.

That, in and of itself lends to our appreciation of “The Hub,” in that it seems the series has a much better handle on balancing its namesake with a more personal dynamic between teammates, tonight explored between Fitz and Ward, and to a lesser extent, Skye and Simmons. A sense of real continuity with “FZZT” permeated the hour, both in Simmons’ slow-burn affection for her lab partner, and in revisiting that Ward was the one to actually save the day last week, while Fitz had been prepared to leap out of the plane himself. The initial hours of the series lent too much time to the comic quirks of both Fitz and Simmons as an amorphous entity, whereas the most recent episodes have gone a long way toward establishing their true dedication, and surprising bravery in the face of difficult obstacles.

Of course, Coulson and May still present something of an unusual link between the more organized S.H.I.E.L.D. aspects of the show, and the more youthful elements of its active team, though their humorous exchanges and willingness to tow the bottom line with one another enrich the overall team dynamic. We’re seeing a bit of progress on the front of Coulson’s resurrection as well, Coulson himself taking a much more active role in investigating his new tics, though that only goes so far toward ‘Agents’ serialization, while the “Centipede” investigation remains at bay. Skye too remains something of a weak link, her only apparent role tonight to once more sabotage the team for her own ends, but we’ll keep an open mind that the mystery of her adoption can tie into the stronger aspects of the series, rather than present another dead end.

Overall, continually strong improvement on the fronts that many were quick to tear into during the inaugural weeks, and very likely a promising sign of things to come. Now, to see how the series handles its first major integration of the latest Marvel cinematic ventures…

Well, what say you? Did ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s latest outing “The Hub” sell you on the series?  What did you think about the much larger S.H.I.E.L.D. involvement? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and join us again next week for another all-new recap of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s latest episode, ‘Thor: The Dark World‘-centric “The Well” on ABC!

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