Episode 2 of Marvel's foray into live-action television suffers from many of the problems episode one did, if you read my previous review ( http://www.comicvine.com/agents-of-shield-101-pilot/4070-1/user-reviews/2200-39455 ). Again, most of this is due to bland characterization. Again, Coulson steals the show. And again, every one of the characters stays in their neat little character box, with very little moving beyond.
To be fair, this still could be much worse. I expected this show to be bad. I really, really liked episode one. And episode two, while not as good, is laying the ground work for what the series will be about. In all truth, I'd give it 3 1/2 stars if I could. It is better than average, but not quite up to "good" standards yet.
We see Coulson's newly formed team head to South America, to find some potential alien tech. All the while the team experiences the exact growing pains we expect, almost by the numbers. Ward is a lone wolf, he likes being the lone wolf. He is irritated that he needs to rely on other team members, especially two lab-rats and an anarchistic hacker. May is irritated she's been ordered back into the field. She fights well, and effectively, but has a chip on her shoulder about being there. The lab-rats (Fitz and Simmons) love the idea of being in the field, but are terrified of actual field work. They prefer the safety of their lab. Then there's Skye, who, like I felt while watching this, you wonder why she's there. Of course, there is going to be a reason, if not now eventually. Certainly, Skye is great to look at, but you know she will certainly be there for more than just eye candy.
Anyway, the team recovers the alien artifact in question, and saves some local military policy (the leader of which just so happens to be an old flame of Coulson's) and escapes with the artifact. Once aboard the SHIELD plane, of course, things go haywire. Again, in a very predictable fashion. I won't spoil it because it has some good moments, but again it is predictable.
I have more critiques of this episode than last, and some may consider them minor. First, I hate that essentially every character is forced into a stereotypical and cliché role. All of which I mentioned above. There is little to no character development. We see the team start to come together, and really the episode exists to show off these operative's potential when they work together. While impressive, it could have been done with more story. Perhaps the most character development comes from Agent May, who I don't quite like as a character yet but if they develop her a bit and break her archetype mold I could really get behind. We find out she is famously known throughout SHIELD through the call sign "Cavalry", which she apparently hates. And, unsurprisingly, she delivers on that name. Give her a little more personality and she would easily be my favorite character on the show...behind Coulson of course.
I find Ward draining. I hate how elite operatives in television shows are always lone wolves. Perhaps this is due to real-world experience on my part. No one wins alone, it is always a team. So when I hear characters brag about being able to handle "all the bad guys" by themselves, I find it draining.
Then there are the ways the combat scenes where choreographed (nit picking inbound hot here). First, there's the SHIELD field truck. No agency, especially not some super-secret-above-the-CIA-agency, drives around with their damn emblem emblazoned on all four sides of their vehicle. Also, their operatives don't wear uniforms, also with said emblem. Sorry, but you're asking for trouble and attention that way. Also, why is it everyone always TAKES cover to reload, but then BREAKS cover to engage the enemy? Who does that? You'd be cut down in a few heartbeats. It is TV, or movies, or what have you, but I can never suspend that disbelief. Again, chalk it up to real life experience, but it bothers me.
Then there's Skye. Some may call her annoying, some may say she's just eye candy, but I think she has potential. I like her angle. I like that she is out of place. What I don't like is how she was in limbo this whole episode. A lone wolf hacker is supposed to help a team of lone wolf operatives come together? Doesn't make sense. Also, we are only two episodes in and we already have the inevitable set-up of a relationship between her and Ward. We knew it would be coming down the road, but episode two? I still believe her character will expand, but I don't like that she already seems to be in a character holding pattern, bar the potential episode cliffhanger I suppose.
I still have hope for this show. It opened strong with its pilot. The actors, both pilot episode and in this one, seem to be legitimately having fun with their roles and aren't forcing it. This episode was weak, but in a way necessarily so. You need those groundwork episodes to show you why this team exists, what the need for it was. I think you could have had both that, and good character development, and if it did it would have easily been five stars. We are only two episodes in, though, and I believe things will pick up and hopefully move off the beaten path. Which is really the great potential of this show. This is about regular people living in a world filling with super-humans. There are no rules really. There is no reason color inside the lines. Hopefully the writers will realize this and through the clichéd action/drama playbook out the window and hit us with both barrels.