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There's nothing quite like a great group dynamic. A fine recent example of that is The Avengers, or of we want to go further back, pick just about any Joss Whedon show. Whedon is the master of the ensemble, but if there's one thing that's proven to be the case for pretty much every one of his ensemble projects, it's that it takes a little while for that group dynamic to really warm up. Whether it's Buffy the Vampire Slayer's "Scoobies," the Avengers or the people aboard Firefly's Serenity, a great ensemble isn't something that comes together overnight, and its strength is enhanced with each trial. With that in mind, tonight's episode of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. felt practically meta, as though it needed to be addressed that this group is not yet a group. They're held together by the thread that is Coulson's belief in their greatness, individually or as a whole. WIth that said, Coulson's thread of faith s a mighty one, as evidenced by The Avengers.
Spoilers if you haven't seen Episode 2 ("0-8-4") of SHIELD!
Tonight's episode had the newly formed group of agents, teamed up with Coulson to cruise on down to Peru to investigate and collect an object of unknown origin, aka an 0-8-4. Thor's Hammer apparently falls into this category, though the thing they collected was something else and probably more dangerous, considering it can be lifted (and stolen) by anyone who wants it badly enough. After an Indiana Jones-like action sequence involving tombs and rebels, the group made their escape with the device, and some bad guys involved looking to take advantage of Coulson's ragtag group of untested agents.
It took some motivation, inner confidence and the realization that Melinda May's actually a part of the group to realize that they could best the baddies and reclaim Coulson's recently remodeled and more recently destroyed plane, but the group pulled it off, capping off their victory with a few cold ones and some tech-talk courtesy of Fitz-Simmons. The ordeal gave us a sampling of what everyone has to offer, whether it's Grant's strength, Melinda's kick-assery, Skye's resourcefulness or Fitz & Simmons' brainy genius. On paper, they're as amazing as Coulson knows they can be. In reality, Coulson's right, they need time.
It seemed almost necessary to push this group into their first test tonight in the series' second episode. I referenced other Whedon shows earlier, but in every one of those cases, team spirit was optional from the start. The Scoobies formed naturally, as did Angel's team and the Serenity crew (more or less). Even the Avengers required a very emotional catalyst to pull them together as a group of heroes who merged their skills to be stronger than the sum of their parts. In the case of Coulson's agents, they're a professional group. It's their job to work together, despite their quirks and differences. For it to happen instantly wouldn't be believable, but at the same time, they don't have the luxury of taking their time finding their chemistry, and neither does the series really. Ok, SHIELD rocked its premiere ratings and signs point to things being A-OK for this show right now (fingers crossed for tonight's ratings!) but with Firefly and Dollhouse in mind, I can't help but think about the wasted potential of past Whedon series that struggled to hold an audience in their occasionally awkward freshman seasons. His shows take time to mature. Unlike some series that show their best work in their earlier seasons, Buffy and Angel improved with age, and i think a big part of that was letting the group dynamic settle in. As the characters developed, the group came together and we came to appreciate what that dynamic meant for the series. Hopefully the same will be the case for SHIELD.
The lesson of the episode is obviously team spirit, but we can also add reading the plane's safety pamphlet as a helpful tip to frequent flyers. If you ever need to seal off a giant hole in the side of the plane to keep from getting sucked out, be sure to know where the flotation devices are.
Also - Skye's a mole? That's the conclusion I'm drawing by that text. So this newly formed group is already severely fractured. But she could switch her loyalty, hopefully before she does too much damage to SHIELD.
And - Coulson called Tahiti magical again.
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