Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen wrote their third straight episode, “The Asset.” Just like the pilot, it’s about what starts as a rescue but winds up something different. Skye is in the mix again, as the crew still wonders if she’s committed to being part of SHIELD
The crew responds to the kidnapping of Dr. Franklin Hall (Ian Hart), a scientist who’s one of SHIELD’s assets. He was traveling inside a big rig owned by SHIELD until some force tossed it 20 feet into the air.
Meanwhile, Skye is complaining about the physical training she’s had to do. Ward says it’s necessary if she wants to be part of the team. “Every field agent has a defining moment, ask Coulson,” he tells Skye, “when you make the hard call, when you dedicate yourself to this, or to curl up into a ball and run.”
After a nice shot of all six members in silhouette, Fitz and Simmons finds a small gizmo that can upset gravity in a small area. It contains Gravatonium, which is what Dr. Hall was researching. Somehow, whoever did it got Hall’s travel patterns from someone inside SHIELD.
They discover the kidnapping was set up by industrialist Ian Quinn (David Conrad), who exploits Malta’s laws that protect him from anyone investigating him. It’s where Dr. Hall is being “held,” where he can do his research with a much bigger Gravatonium generator.
So how does SHIELD get inside Quinn’s annual shareholders meeting at his house? Well, how about Skye? Not only is she a pretty face, she makes her own invitation with a smartphone.
However, Ward still has his doubts about whether Skye really wants to be committed to SHIELD. Coulson still believes in her, and how her skills can be helpful.
When Skye gets to Quinn’s party, it looks like she is overcome by his charming arguments for freedom, at least the freedom that benefits his company. She practically admits being in SHIELD. Once she uses her compact to disrupt Quinn’s security, and get Coulson and Ward inside, it finally proves whose side she’s on. The show is smart to resolve this quickly, although there are still some questions about Skye’s true background
When Coulson finds Dr. Hall, he tells the doc he shouldn’t give his gravity generator to Quinn. Hall agrees. He wants to destroy both. It leads to a massive bending of physics leading to both men fighting on the ceilings and walls. It forces Coulson to make the hard choice of stopping the generator by beaking through the floor and dropping Hall into the generator.
So, Coulson had to make a hard choice. With several shots, Dr. Hall falls into the gravity generator, trapped in Gravatonium.
Epilogue: the Gravatonium goo is locked in an unmarked SHIELD vault, but a hand emerges from it. That vault may not be enough to keep what’s inside.
It’s great the show makes references that demonstrate its connection to the Marvel movies, but the dialogue is also the snappiest around. When a cowboy asks what’s Coulson’s doing there, he calls himself “a concerned citizen who happened to be a member of a giant bureaucratic organization who’s tracking your every move.” The other great line is from Gemma Simmons as Fitz is trying to turn off Quinn’s force field: “Saying his name repeatedly does not increase productivity.”
However, it makes sure SHIELD isn’t completely without flaws. As the doc pointed out, it was looking for a new power source, and that led to the Chitauri showing up. It’s a familiar part of Joss Whedon’s shows, having flawed heroes who still try to do what’s right. There’s also some progress: Skye opens up to Ward about her past, while Agent May decides she wants to go back to the field.
Meanwhile, the mystery of Coulson’s resurrection continues. He keeps having problems with his gun, and wonders why that’s the case. Is he really a Life Model Decoy, or something else? Maybe he can’t know, but the fans sure do.
Ratings Report: ABC announced Thursday (10/10) the show earned a full 22 episode order. While the number of viewers dipped again to 7.86 million overall, it wound up as the #2 show in the 18-49 range, just behind The Voice. It’s also picking up viewers who see the show through DVR or online. People are already comparing SHIELD members to other Whedon characters, including comparing Skye to Faith.