I enjoyed the pilot, which I thought was good but not great, and I liked this one too. Other than whatever they thought they were doing with Peruvian politics, which... no.
-People keep mentioning the production values, and it's possible I just don't care about that stuff at all. Too many years of watching low-budget Canadian sci-fi, I expect.
-Speaking of which, this episode had a bit of a Stargate feel to it. Team goes to foreign location, encounters alien weaponry buried in archeological ruins, involves themselves in a political conflict they know nothing about, technobabble abounds, and teamwork saves the day!
-The show also makes more sense to me if I think of it as being aggressively aimed at children and families, as a Disney/Marvel production that airs at 8pm on ABC. Gee-whiz adventure stories, mysterious glowy alien things, nifty gizmos, an excessive number of unrealistically-young geniuses - this just isn't (at the moment) a dark and serious look at SHIELD, the ethical issues involved in their work, and the consequences that work has on experienced agents like Coulson and May. Hopefully those themes will play a larger part over time, but the show's first priority is attracting a mainstream audience. That may or may not work, but if it means it doesn't get cancelled after half a season, I'll probably say it was worth it.
-Melinda May is the best! Mostly at this point because the actress is awesome, but I love her as the kickass grumpy veteran.
-I also really like Skye, who is a type of female character who I almost always like and who other people very often loathe, because she's young, attractive, talented and confident, and she's not nervous, apologetic or deferential about it, and we tend to be conditioned to find that combination off-putting, bitchy, and un-feminine. That's never 100% of why people don't like a character, of course - for any given actor, there are some audience members who just don't take to them. It's just predictable and depressing that I could watch the first episode and think, "oh, people are going to hate her" and have that pan out exactly as expected. If she were a guy with the same personality and skills, you'd have a flourishing slash fandom with her and Ward already.
-I wasn't sure, in the pilot, how well it worked having Coulson be the quippy guy out front, when a lot of his appeal in the movies is as the straight man in scenes with Tony Stark & co. I thought it felt a little more natural in this one as the other characters started to get more action. Also, the way he keeps saying "it's a magical place" in reference to Tahiti makes me think he knows more than he lets on about whatever actually happened to him.
-Fitz and Simmons are cute, although having them paired up doesn't really do them any favors in terms of establishing them as independent characters. I'm curious how they got to be so codependent that Simmons could drag Fitz out into the field with her when they're that young and work in different fields and can't have been with SHIELD for terribly long. But on the whole, I appreciate the fact that the show didn't go with the single stock Hollywood scientist who knows ALL THE SCIENCE, whether it's genetics or physics or engineering or code. Here they have three people who I'm sure will collectively know all the science, but hey, progress!
-Ward continues to be a bit of a blank slate/generic action hero. I don't actually dislike him, so I'm willing to see where that goes.