Plot: After receiving highly classified intel from a double agent, S.H.I.E.L.D. discovers that Russian separatists are building an Overkill device. Agents Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) and Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) are chosen to disarm the device and are sent in alone. Plans change however when Skye (Chloe Bennet) discovers that there is no extraction planned for her teammates on the ground.
If there is anything that is still a work in progress on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it’s the chemistry between particular duos on the team. Fitz and Agent Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) are basically connected at the hip and there’s definitely something going on between Skye and Ward, but other pairings still need some extensive work. Last night’s episode, titled “The Hub” set out to bring two odd couples together as a means to resolve the major issues of the week. Fitz and Ward, who don’t take each other seriously, are sent out into the field while the already chummy Skye and Simmons investigate what’s really going on. Skye not so secretly really wants to learn more about her parents while finding answers about the mission but Simmons is entirely concerned for Fitz’s safety. The product of this is an episode that still had great character/team development and humor despite some questionable moments and a relative lack of action.
As the episode title suggests, we were introduced to The Hub this week. We immediately know The Hub is a big deal because Simmons completely flips out when she hears about their destination. The Hub is essentially one of the main headquarters for anything S.H.I.E.L.D. related and it’s in a classified location. While this is the place for a lot of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to meet up and get debriefed on missions, it’s also where records are stored. As Simmons herself said, it still pales in comparison to the Triskelion, which was a nice comic shout out. This makes The Hub a top place for Skye to learn more about what happened to her parents. We also got to meet Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows), the director of The Hub. Hand’s addition to the show is really cool as her character was integral in the comics from Dark Reign onward. Even the ruthless Norman Osborne listened to her advice. While I’m sure no one was begging to see her represented on the small or big screen, it is that nice extra touch that should make comic fans smile.
The real story doesn’t get going until Fitz and Ward are assigned their mission. Their target is this Overkill device (the name was lost in translation) hiding in Russia and the duo is specifically chosen for their expertise. Fitz in particular knows how to disarm the device while Ward is there to make sure he doesn’t die. One of the major highlights last night revolved around this story as we got to see Fitz and Ward really iron out their friendship. They might be a team on paper but they have a ways to go before each member respects each other. Neither Fitz nor Ward really took the other seriously (Fitz especially was mocking Ward last week) but their pairing tonight changed everything.
Fitz really got a chance to prove himself by getting them out of more than one bad situation. If Ward ever questioned why Fitz was around before, he most certainly doesn’t now after Fitz blew up enemy weapons with a super gun and befriended irritable Russians by fixing their power. Similarly, Fitz couldn’t have done it without Ward as Ward is intimately familiar with field operations. I personally thought Ward was a total ass after throwing away the delicious sandwich Simmons made for Fitz, but trying to get their scent away from dogs made sense. There’s still some room for each member to grow, but after last night we now see a much more accepting Ward and a much braver Fitz. That means good times all around.
Simmons herself was thrown into her own “fish out of water story” when Skye enlisted her help in hacking the S.H.I.E.L.D. mainframe. Simmons isn’t one to break the rules but having her work on one of Skye’s “bad girl missions” for the sake of Fitz shows how much she cares about her partner. This is where most of last night’s humor came into play. To put it simply, it was hilarious watching the small in stature good girl Simmons break into a mainframe and knock out a top agent. Her difficulty at moving the unconscious Agent Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernández) was great, as was Skye stating that everything she did was absolutely wrong.
Skye actually getting into the S.H.I.E.L.D. system after Simmons totally bumbled her way through is where one of my biggest issues of this episode lies. A repeated message last night was to “Trust The System,” but as Skye herself proved to Coulson the system is the last thing you can trust. Can you really trust a system that can have its top documents hacked and read with almost embarrassing ease? No! Skye is able to break into the Level 8 documents to find out there was no extraction plan for Fitz and Ward within three minutes and she’s not even Level 1. Coulson himself can’t even get some Level 8 documents despite being that rank. Case in point, why even bother growing in S.H.I.E.L.D. if you can simply find out secrets yourself? S.H.I.E.L.D. has Tony Stark and Bruce Banner on their side, surely they can make better security that isn’t akin to leaving a folder on a computer desktop saying “Top Secret! Do Not Read!” Plus, how was she not punished for her blatant breach of security?
Also, I didn’t feel as much excitement this week as I have in episodes prior. Fitz and Ward moving their way through Russia did have some great moments but the action was noticeably slim compared to previous episodes. They didn’t replace it with intense emotion like last week either. I never once felt like the duo was in any real immediate danger and the big end episode fight for them was against a few armed soldiers. Yes that was cool and all, but right after we had them come face to face with an entire army only to have said army get blown down by jet propulsion. No “final stand” or anything, despite the two believing no extraction was coming. It all felt anticlimactic in the end.
“The Hub” was able to end on a high note though. At the very end, Coulson makes a call to investigate what really happened to him following his death. It speaks volumes when he hears that, despite being Level 8, he doesn’t have authorization to view this information. This basically means that Coulson’s revival is so top secret, it goes beyond Level 8 access. It might even be off the grid. We also learn that Skye was delivered to an orphanage by a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and the reasons behind that are unknown. The picture near the end leads me to believe her parents were both part of S.H.I.E.L.D. and murdered. Hopefully this means we can learn something concrete about both soon though. So with some solid humor, great development, and an intriguing look into Coulson and Skye’s truth, “The Hub” was able to be a solid episode, but it’s lack of excitement and jumps in logic held it back significantly.