Since the first announcement of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the fanboys and fangirls have been wondering how strongly and frequently the show will pull from the Marvel comics. We already knew that the show would tie in to the Cinematic Universe, and we’ve already had references to pretty much every character from The Avengers, not to mention specific plot connections to Iron Man 3 and Captain America: The First Avenger. But what comic fans were really hoping for was something aimed at them. The early rumors were that J. August Richards’ character from the first episode would turn out to be Luke Cage, and there was quite the outcry when he turned out not to be, crushing the hopes of a direct connection with the comics. However, the fans’ prayers might have been answered a bit tonight, as SHIELD encountered a character straight from Marvel’s pages. But let’s take it from the top before we get ahead of ourselves.
A stereotypical trucker drives down a country road, singing along to the radio, before he gets a call on his CB radio. It sounds a bit like normal trucker chatter, discussing the last weigh station he passed through, but it’s a bit too codey for a truck driver’s conversation. An official looking black SUV pulls alongside and passes the truck, with another behind, and it becomes clear that they’re there to protect the truck and not for some more nefarious purpose. Out of nowhere, the lead SUV is launched into the air, as if by magic. The trucker gets on the radio calling SHIELD, asking for assistance, while he pulls up an alternate route on a high-tech display that appears on his windshield. The other SUV is taken out in a similar manner, and then the semi-truck itself is lifted into the air. SHIELD asks for a report and the driver replies, “Oh hell… I can’t explain,” before everything crashes back down to Earth.
After the crash, some military types arrive, along with some heavy equipment, and they break into the truck. Hidden behind a normal cargo of office supplies is a vault-like door with SHIELD’s logo on it. The troops cut through the door to reveal a geeky-looking scientist (Ian Hart, known to audiences everywhere as Professor Quirrell from the Harry Potter film series), who calmly asks what took them so long.
Meanwhile aboard the Bus, Skye is late for physical training with Ward, aka “Mr. Fun Machine”. He’s taking his part as her supervising officer very seriously, telling her that next time she’s late she’ll have to do pushups for every minute he has to wait. She objects to having to be trained for muscle work, as it has no interest to her and Ward’s strict and forceful training style rubs her the wrong way. He offers her the chance to change specialization, asking FitzSimmons what their scientific training was like. They answer by reminiscing about their testing during training, and Skye concedes Ward’s point. He tells her that everyone has a “defining moment”, where they realize what they’re called to be and why. She asks what his was, but he doesn’t answer. She threatens him with the truth serum that made him open up to her and helped her decide to join the team. Ward just smiles and tells her that there is no truth serum, implying that everything he told her was an act to gain her trust.
The team joins for a briefing, where Coulson fills them in on the capture of the mysterious man from the truck. His name is Dr. Franklin Hall, a scientist deemed by SHIELD to be “priority red”, kept constantly under guard and on the move for his protection. Coulson tells the crew that the truck was damaged by “invisible attackers”, which Skye thinks is, “Cool!… but terrible.” Once on site, Simmons discovers a mysterious device that is causing some debris to hover in the air and fly around, seemingly what caused the destruction of the vehicles. Coulson and May think there are two possibilities: either SHIELD’s transmissions were intercepted, or there’s a mole inside SHIELD who leaked Dr. Hall’s route.
Back on the Bus, Skye confronts Coulson about Ward’s admission that there was no truth serum, but Coulson only replies with “interesting”. Sky offers up her expertise in solving the leak, but instead of hacking she’s given a giant stack of transmission logs by May, clearly not what she had in mind. Coulson goes to question the man who sold the heavy equipment to the kidnappers, but the cowboyish man pulls a shotgun when Coulson tells him that he came from a “giant bureaucratic organization that’s tracking your every move.” He’s quickly subdued by Ward, and reveals that he never met the people who bought the equipment and was paid in gold bar.
FitzSimmons are able to determine the mine that the gold came from based on its impurities, and that leads them to the company Quinn Worldwide and its CEO Ian Quinn. We see Quinn at his mansion in Malta, where it’s confirmed that he’s the one who had Hall kidnapped, except that he views it more as a rescue. The two have a history together, and Quinn says that when he intercepted a transmission about Hall he knew he had to set him free from SHIELD. He chose Malta as the location for his base of operations, due to the country’s refusal to work with SHIELD and its favorable views on freedom of information and laws favoring new research without limits. Quinn reveals that he created the mysterious devices based on Hall’s research, and that he’s created a much bigger one and he needs Hall to help him stabilize it. At Quinn’s base they will be able to “play” with Hall’s invention.
FitzSimmons explain to the crew (and “high school dropout” Skye) that Hall was the discoverer of Gravitonium, an element that has the ability to affect gravity in unpredictable ways when energized. The start to plan an attack, except that a full SHIELD force is out due to the political climate of Malta. A small strike group is out because they wouldn’t be able to get through Quinn’s laser fence. Fitz says, “If we had a monkey,” it could go through the fence and disable it, but clearly that idea is out. Simmons says she doesn’t want to be “shot to death with bullets… legally” by trying to infiltrate the compound.