Tonight on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” it might appear like it’s run of the mill espionage fare, but for anyone familiar with Marvel Comics, and especially the Avengers, this episode was much, much more. While it seemed like the agents merely had to rescue a kidnapped scientist from an opportunistic industrialist, what we were really witnessing was the secret origin of a super-villain. Join me after the jump for my review of “The Asset.”
Joss Whedon Strikes Again
Anyone who has been a fan or watched the work of show producer Joss Whedon knows, things are seldom what they seem in his work. Our opening scene has a tractor trailer plowing down the highway, a stereotypical trucker behind the wheel, and he’s jamming to some country and western and chatting on his CB radio. Guess again, it’s a S.H.I.E.L.D. transport and it’s carrying something valuable, as noted in the title of this episode, ‘the asset.’
The escort cars, as well as the truck itself, are lifted into the air by unseen forces and trashed like toys. An invisible monster possibly? Soon baddies come out of nowhere with a bulldozer and tear the truck open, to reveal a man. Yeah, it’s a kidnapping. And the man, Dr. Franklin Hall, played by one of my favorite actors, Ian Hart from “Dirt” and “Luck,” and he’s the asset.
Graviton in the Comics
Okay, those of you who are Avengers readers or fans out there are chomping at the bit right now. They know the name. Dr. Franklin Hall is better known in the comics as Graviton, a villain with the power of gravity manipulation. He dates back to the 1970s run of Jim Shooter stories in the original Avengers series, issues #158-159 to be exact. As an evil genius scientist turned costumed super-villain, he nearly defeated Earth’s Mightiest Heroes if not for the intervention of Thor. Yeah, that’s right, it took a god to take him down.
Later he fought many other Marvel superheroes, turning into a living black hole once. He clashed with the Fantastic Four, the Thunderbolts, even the Great Lakes Avengers, but his main claim to fame was being the baptism by fire against the then newly formed West Coast Avengers, foes he would face many more times in the years to come. Most recently Graviton has turned up in the secret leadership of A.I.M., perennial enemies of S.H.I.E.L.D. He remains a major villain in the Marvel Universe.
Graviton on TV
Here, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe however, Dr. Franklin Hall is a scientist specializing in, yeah, you guessed it, gravity. He’s kidnapped by old colleague Ian Quinn, an opportunist with a Wikileaks streak, wanting to skirt governments, and organizations like S.H.I.E.L.D., who want to keep regulations on certain technologies. Quinn, using Hall’s theories, has found an unstable element called gravitonium that destabilizes gravity. Quinn wants Hall to help him make it available to the world.
Hall has other ideas. Even though it was he himself who leaked his whereabouts to Quinn, Hall wanted access to the gravitonium so that he could destroy it, knowing the power was too dangerous for anyone to have, especially Quinn. What blew the truck off the road was a coin sized chunk of the stuff, Quinn has a twelve foot piece he’s working with. Yeah, things are going to get bad.
Character-wise, most of the episode weighed heavily on Skye. Last episode we found that she was playing double agent with the Rising Tide and S.H.I.E.L.D., and here, she seems to play her hand. Skye goes in as the inside (wo)man for the Agents’ infiltration into Quinn’s lair in Malta, and basically comes clean (or does she?) with Quinn.
Skye is good, and Chloe Bennet is turning out to be the breakout star of this show, even though Melinda May and Fitz and Simmons are still my favorite characters. Skye still is front and center here, and her relationship with Ward is growing. They have such great chemistry, it is going to be very messy when he finds out she’s playing both sides.
The Good Stuff
There were lots of things to like about this episode of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” I liked how easily S.H.I.E.L.D. tracked down Quinn as the kidnapper, and how Ward took down his goons. It is refreshing to see the good guys win after dealing with Captain America surrendering Earth to the bad guys in the comics last week.
I liked the addition to the Graviton mythos of the element gravitonium. It adds a more scientific, which means more believable, explanation to Graviton’s powers. In the combat/negotiation between Coulson and Hall, the spinning room technology to emulate gravity shifting was done well. However, Hall falling into the gravitonium however was just a bit too convenient. Mark my words, we’ve just witnessed the secret origin of Graviton. As we saw in the final moment of this week’s episode, he’ll be back, and it’ll be bad.