The thing about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. so far is that it appears to be approximately fifteen minutes of a great show swaddled in 30 minutes of an extremely mediocre one. Last night there were funny, original moments– Coulson's team blowing a hole in their own plane, on purpose, in order to save it and themselves, and the little tag-along scene at the end end (“Yeah, we're going to have to nix the fish tank.”)– surrounded by a morass of lesser material.
The episode kicked off with last week's cliffhanger: there's an object of unknown origin buried in an archeological site somewhere in Peru, and the team is going to extract it. There they quickly run into various kinds of trouble, in the form of rebels captained by an old friend of Coulson's, Camilla Reyes (Leonor Varela), a woman whose role in the plot is to be sexy and then dangerous, and the object itself, which is a forgotten piece of HYDRA technology full of gamma rays. Or something. The show doesn't trouble itself too much about the object's origins or reason for being buried in a (presumably) Incan pyramid for hundreds of years. Mostly they just need it there so that when Camilla makes the turn from sexy to dangerous the titular Agents can use it to their advantage.
0-8-4 also does the same over-the-top broadcasting of its theme as the pilot: Skye and Grant (who is so boring, oh my god, so boring that I want to and perhaps will just call him Square Jaw, as the ninety-degree angles of his chin are far more memorable than anything he's done on the show so far) talk about how she's a hacker who believes in crowdsourcing, 100 people coming together eaching bearing 1% of the solution, while Grant has been trained to be the whole solution and to eliminate variables. Of course to function as a team the Agents have to learn to work together, which they do in short order when they're handcuffed in the cargo bay while Camilla takes over the ship. They get out by playing to each of their strengths in turn, blow a hole in the plane, incredibly improbably patch it up with an inflatable raft once all the bad guys have blown out, and live to fight another day.
The other disappointing element of the episode was Skye, who continues to make no sense in the show, serving as a hapless audience stand-in who's barely believable as the powerful anarchist hacker she's supposed to be. Perhaps it's on purpose– the episode ends with her in communication with someone else from Rising Tide, affirming her loyalty– but it's frustrating to watch a character who's supposed to have real skills get used for a last minute “bright idea” that defies the most basic laws of physics.