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Marvel's Agents of SHIELD episode 3 review: Origins of a super-villain

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One problem that Marvel's Agents of SHIELD faces when transferring comic book heroics to television is that the likes of Tom Hiddleston - so memorable on the big screen - won't be available to appear in a weekly series.

So it's a smart move for the plucky sibling of the Marvel cinematic universe to take B-grade villains - characters that the casual fan might not have previously been aware of - and attempt to do something fresh and original with them, as in its third episode 'The Asset'.

Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson in 'Agents of SHIELD' S01E03: 'The Asset'

© Channel 4

Phil Coulson in 'Agents of SHIELD'



When a SHIELD asset, the genius physicist Dr Franklin Hall, is spectacularly snatched, Coulson (Clark Gregg) and his team set about recovering him. Their mission leads them to slimy CEO Ian Quinn - Hall's old Cambridge chum and apparent captor, but all is not as it appears...

For all its strengths, Marvel's Agents of SHIELD is perhaps not the most subtle of shows, so from the moment we hear Agent Ward (Brett Dalton) tell Skye (Chloe Bennet) that "every field agent has a defining moment", it's pretty clear that hers is coming this week.

But on the positive side, that means Skye takes focus this week, as she goes undercover to infiltrate Quinn's operation. I'm still failing to understand some critics' problem with the character or the performer who brings her to life - Bennett is charismatic, funny and attractive. In short, the perfect lead for a fun romp of a comic book drama.

That said, it's a pity that she ultimately has to be rescued from her tricky predicament by a gallant, fist-flinging Ward - I appreciate that 'The Asset' is trying to make the point that she's not yet a fully-fledged SHIELD agent, but it doesn't feel very Whedonesque to have her dash, soaking wet, into her square-jawed colleague's muscular arms.

Chloe Bennett as Skye and David Conrad as Ian Quinn in 'Agents of SHIELD' S01E03: 'The Asset'

© Channel 4

Skye and Ian Quinn in 'Agents of SHIELD'



Coulson thankfully plays a more satisfying part in proceedings - cast as the mentor to a ragtag band of plucky young things, it would be easily to relegate Clark Gregg's SHIELD vet to an advisory role, always on the sidelines...

Here though, the fan favourite is right at the heart of 'The Asset's action-packed climax - as Phil himself reminds us, he's seen plenty of action in his time and let's hope that he continues to see plenty more.

Our hero's quarry Hall is played by the supremely talented Ian Hart, who it has said to be said goes rather under-utilised here, which makes me all the more hopeful that he'll return, on full-blown supervillain form, later this season.

Ian Hart as Dr. Franklin Hall in 'Agents of SHIELD' S01E03: 'The Asset'

© ABC

Dr. Franklin Hall in 'Agents of SHIELD'



The end of 'The Asset' hints at such a resurgence. I'm a fan of SHIELD's pre-end-credits teasers - they give each episode a satisfactory sting in the tail, whether it's a fan-pleasing cameo or - as here - a hint at a future threat. Has Coulson unwittingly created a monster?

In week three, Agents of SHIELD settles further into procedural territory - but it's still a smart and witty procedural, with all of the added fun that Marvel's comic book trappings bring.



Make Mine Marvel! - A couple of nods to the events of The Avengers (and Coulson's card collection!) here, but - the presence of Hall aside - 'The Asset' relies a little less heavily on geeky comic mythology.

Coulson lives! - The point of Coulson's "rusty" muscle memory feels rather laboured - surely another clue to how he might've been resurrected?

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