It's not easy being super. While the "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." premiere was a Hulk smash in the ratings and earned Clark Gregg the kind of acclaim he's been long overdue for, it's fair to say that the first three episodes of ABC's high-concept action series have been a little uneven.
Episode 2 relied far too heavily on quotable banter and rushed action sequences instead of earned character moments, and Episode 3 -- while admittedly more focused and indicative of the team dynamic we've been hoping to see -- meandered through a story that probably sounded more thrilling on paper than it was in execution. These speedbumps are no surprise; the vast majority of new shows require several weeks to find their footing, with writers trying to recapture the particular alchemy that helped their pilot earn a series order, attempting to balance character development with laying the groundwork for the show's ongoing mythology.
Thankfully, the fourth episode of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is exactly what most of us likely envisioned when we heard the words "Joss Whedon, Marvel universe, TV show" in one sentence, making good on the promises put forth in the pilot. "Eye Spy" opens with cinematic flair in Sweden, where a gang of ominously masked men with identical clothing and silver briefcases march through the streets with single-minded intent.
What happens next (which you can see in the preview clip of the show's first three minutes below) sets up a story both thrilling and refreshingly personal for our agents; providing a gripping, well-crafted hour that demonstrates exactly how super "S.H.I.E.L.D." can be when it's firing on all cylinders.
Watch the opening sequence below and read on for five reasons why "Eye Spy" is worth your time.
1. Close To Home
As the episode promos have indicated, "Eye Spy" revolves around a rogue S.H.I.E.L.D. agent whom Coulson trained several years ago. Because of this, Phil is understandably invested in learning what happened to Agent Akela Amador (Pascale Armand) and figuring out how to bring her in without bloodshed. Sadly, she has other plans. Not only does the episode give us insight into another side of Coulson, it also probes further into the mystery of what happened to him after the events of "The Avengers."
2. May Day
We've seen hints of Melinda May's ass-kicking abilities before, but "Eye Spy" really gives Ming-Na Wen a chance to shine. Unlike Coulson, May is determined to take Amador out, especially when her activities put the rest of the team in jeopardy. The situation provides fascinating, organic conflict between the two senior members of the group, and offer a tantalizing tease into May's mysterious past.
3. There's No I In Team
Building on the groundwork that was laid in last week's episode, "Eye Spy" is the first installment in which the team truly seems to gel -- not just in terms of the actors settling into their characters and finding their rhythm with each other, but in the writers truly seeming confident about who these people are and how they relate to each other. There are some heartfelt and hilarious character beats between all six members of the team, with Skye (Chloe Bennet) truly finding her place amongst the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and the gang finally working together as a well-oiled, delightfully quippy machine.
4. The Devil You Know
Antagonists are always more effective when they share a personal connection with our heroes, and Amador's history with Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D. itself brings a fascinating tension to the episode, especially when that tension transfers to the rest of the team, who worry that Coulson is prioritizing an old wound over their new alliance. Armand is undeniably intimidating and a very credible threat against the team as Amador, but there are other flavors to her performance that are equally compelling.
The show has been hinting at the scope of the Marvel universe since the first episode, already exploring "Iron Man's" Extremis, the existence of H.Y.D.R.A. technology and the creation of the villain Graviton. "Eye Spy" continues that trend, teasing a much larger and more nefarious threat than the team realizes at the outset. The episode also doubles down on the amazing technology we've been seeing, adding more depth to the heightened world our heroes inhabit and setting up plenty more mysteries to be explored as the season progresses.
"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
What did you think of the first three episodes of "S.H.I.E.L.D."? What have been your favorite and least favorite aspects? Weigh in below!
Ming-Na Wen stars as Melinda May on ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
Brett Dalton stars as Grant Ward on ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
Chloe Bennet stars as Skye on ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
Iain De Caestecker stars as Leo Fitz on ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
Elizabeth Henstridge stars as Jemma Simmons on ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
Clark Gregg stars as Agent Phil Coulson on ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
Cobie Smulders ("How I Met Your Mother") will reprise her role as Agent Maria Hill from "Marvel's The Avengers" in the pilot episode of Marvel's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." set to premiere Tuesday, September 24 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
Cobie Smulders ("How I Met Your Mother") will reprise her role as Agent Maria Hill from "Marvel's The Avengers" in the pilot episode of Marvel's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." on ABC -- seen here reunited with Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson.
Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge star in Marvel's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." on ABC.
Clark Gregg, Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge star in Marvel's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." on ABC.
Chloe Bennett and Clark Gregg star in Marvel's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." on ABC.
Chloe Bennett and J. August Richards star in Marvel's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." on ABC.
Ming-Na Wen star in Marvel's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." on ABC.
Clark Gregg and Joss Whedon talk between scenes while shooting Marvel's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." for ABC.