Agents of SHIELD TV Reviews

TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “Girl in the Flower Dress” (S1,E5) -Skye’s Secret Is Out, But Do We Care?

To read our other Agents of SHIELD episode reviews please go here.

  • Original Airdate: 10/22/2013
  • Director: Jesse Bochco (Dallas, Nip/Tuck, Prison Break, The Closer)
  • Writer: Brent Fletcher (Lost, Friday Night Lights)

After last week’s brief detour into a version of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. that is not completely centered around Skye, this week’s episode again returns focus to the plucky little hacker whose infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. has effectively made every character on the show except maybe Melinda May seem incredibly stupid.  Luckily, that stupidity has finally been exposed as “Girl in the Flower Dress” brought Skye’s deception into the light, and now our poor heroes are left to wonder, like spurned lovers, if they can ever trust anyone ever again while Skye cries, “I’m sorry, baby.  It’ll never happen again, I promise.”  However, “Girl in the Flower Dress” was not content to simply point a finger and yell out “J’accuse!”.  No, we got a return visit from the people behind the Centipede super soldier/extremis serum from the pilot, and were introduced to a presumably new recurring villain in the process.

For the most part, it all worked remarkably well, following last week’s “Eye Spy” in presenting a version of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. that is not necessarily great but is at least competent.  As discussed last week, at this point in its run S.H.I.E.L.D. follows a clear episode formula:  a cool, action-y cold open, title card, exposition where Coulson informs the agents on the plane what happened in the cold open, agents investigate, action sequence, plot twist, action sequences, resolution, characters share one-on-ones back on plane, pre-closing credits stinger.  So, here’s the plot of “Girl in the Flower Dress” according to that formula:

–>Plot Recap

The cold open? A street magician (Louis Changchien) in Hong Kong pawns off his actual natural pyrokinetic ability to produce fireballs from his hands as a magic trick.  Bad idea.  It attracts the attention of Rayna (Ruth Negga), an attractive, mysterious woman in a flower-patterned dress who invites herself back to the guy’s room as a way of isolating him before guys in flame-resistant suits show up to abduct him.   That poor magician probably just thought she wanted to hook-up.

The case? Turns out the street magicians’ name is Renshu Tseng, and he is part of a small list of individuals with superhuman abilities that SHIELD knows about and monitors closely.  When Tseng went missing, his SHIELD handler based in Hong Kong noticed, and now Coulson & Pals are being called in to investigate.  One big problem, though – it looks like someone from the Rising Tide hacked SHIELD’s system and gave away Tseng’s location to whoever took him.  Let’s all turn accusatory glances at Skye in 3, 2, 1…

The investigation/action sequence? Skye claims her innocence, with everyone seemingly giving her the benefit of the doubt except a sneering Melinda May.  Skye tracks the hacker who gave away Tseng’s location (as Fitz just stands, serving no real purpose):

Agents-of-S-H-I-E-L-D-1-05-Girl-in-the-Flower-Dress-Promotional-Photos-agents-of-shield-35785106-500-333
Shut up, Fitz. I’m Skye, super-hacker. I’ve got this. Just stand there and watch and mostly do nothing the whole episode.

The team heads to Austin, TX to bring the guy in which leads to a car chase scene after Grant’s incognito skills apparently suck so much he’s made the second the hacker sees him on the street.  The hacker gets away, but actually….

The plot twist? …it’s because Skye tipped him off since the two are lovers who rendezvous back at his place for a game of “What were you thinking hacking SHIELD while I’m there?”/”You look so pretty, and it’s been so long”?”/”I’m still mad, but now I’m mostly just mad that your shirt is still on.  Let’s have some pre-commercial break sex.”  Except Coulson’s not a complete idiot and had Melinda follow Skye, although exactly how much of the sweet love making Melinda overheard is left unsaid.  Skye and her tall, handsome boytoy hacker boyfriend are busted, both of them returned to the plane as prisoners.

The character drama? Skye repeatedly plays the “it’s not what it looks like” card, Fitz and Simmons bicker over how angry to be, Grant approximates the closest facial expression he has to anger, and Coulson’s confidence is shaken as he reasons with Melinda (who appears to agree) that the old, pre-Loki him would have never fallen for Skye’s ruse.

The plot twist?…Actually, this week had another plot twist up its sleeve.  The people who abducted Tseng are actually the same organization behind the Centipede device featured in the pilot, and have tricked Tseng into believing they aim to enhance his powers and even give him a comic book villain name, Scorch.  In fact, they’re merely using him to develop an antidote to the explosive side effects of extremis.  Skye’s boyfriend was duped by the organization into hacking the location of Tseng in exchange for a million bucks.

Agents-of-S-H-I-E-L-D-Episode-1-05-Girl-in-the-Flower-Dress-Promotional-Photos-agents-of-shield-35785108-595-396
Rayna really has little to no problem convincing Tseng to go dark side on us.

The action sequence(s)? Some fancy computer hacking reveals the location where the organization is holding Tseng.  Coulson and May go in, but again fail to anticipate the hostage they aim to rescue turning out to be a villain (Coulson made the same exact mistake in “The Asset”).  Tseng was left for dead, but upon SHIELD’s arrival he loads up on serum behind their back and blows a lot of hot air (literally and figuratively) as he cries about no longer wanting to be chained or held back.  Coulson and May are stuck in a room with him, Skye hacks the security on-site to open the doors with Grant escorting her, and Tseng eventually overloads but not before taking out the lady scientist (the same one from the pilot) who experimented on him.  Rayna escapes.

The one-on-ones? Basically, Skye’s position is that since her now ex-boyfriend took money for hacking he is dead to her.  Coulson drops the guy with no money in Hong Kong, and finds out from Skye that the real reason she joined SHIELD was to track down her parents since the only evidence she has about them is a document redacted by SHIELD.  He offers to help her with that, but is still mad about the whole thing, placing a probationary bracelet around her wrist that will prevent her from doing anything unlawful or go anywhere near electronics for a while.

The pre-credits stinger? Raina visits a man in prison for some standard enigmatic villain talk, making references to a need to get in touch with “the clairvoyant.”

–>End Plot Recap

In the end, the episode is meant to do away with the subterfuge surrounding Skye while adding even more mystery by giving us a little more of the seasons’ big bad, Centipede, but keeping the details so few as to create more confusion.  There was a poor attempt to parallel Tseng’s descent into madness with Skye’s obsessive need to find her parents, arguing that Coulson keeps Skye around to prevent her from becoming Tseng-like dangerous to herself and others.  Plus, Fitz and Simmons barely even register to the plot.  They were the B in a how we get from point A (Skye’s hacker boyfriend gave away Tseng’s location) to point C (the people who took Tseng are behind Centipede) equation for the writers.  However, they felt even less essential than that.  “Eye Spy,” last week’s episode, had a better grasp for utilizing all of the characters effectively.

That’s not the only criticism you could make of “Girl in a Flower Dress.”  Tseng’s transition from lowly street magician to a man willing to kill people in cold blood while referring to himself as Scorch was not completely believable. They do clearly at least try to explain it by painting him as having an oversized ego which Raina manipulates.

So, no, this was not a perfect episode, but it was an incredibly enjoyable one with a fantastic sense for pacing and rather welcome amount of screen time devoted to the bad guys.  I may not be fond of the big “this is what Skye is really up to” reveal, but I’m glad the reveal has happened so the show can move forward.

NOTES

1. Am I The Only One Who Initially Had No Idea Who That Female Doctor Was?

Agents of Shield Girl Flower 1
Dr. Debbie from the Pilot

She pulls into frame alongside Raina, and the scene is filmed as if her arrival is meant to mean something.  However, for a minute I actually thought it was Simmons, delighted that my joke-y theory last week about her being a secret bad guy had come true.  It actually wasn’t until dialogue referring to her prior patients who blew up that I realized she was the same character from the pilot.

2. Full Disclosure: I Know Way More About DC Comic Book Canon Than Marvel.

Arrow City of Heroes 4 

I can watch Arrow and pick up on the comic book stuff (like an easter egg-ish appearance from Bethany Snow); not nearly as much with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  As a result, tonight’s episode is the first time I’ve ever heard the character names Raina and Scorch, and I have no clue who the unidentified man in prison at the end of the episode is supposed to be.  My quick research indicates that while Raina and Scorch are actually the names of Marvel comic book characters, the versions depicted in “Girl in the Flower Dress” are almost entirely unique creations of the show.

3. Wouldn’t It Have Been Awkward-Funny if Skye Accidentally Said Grant’s Name While Getting Down with Her Boyfriend? 

Or not.

4. “When Someone Breaks Into My House I Don’t Invite Them to Stay for Dinner.”

BRETT DALTON, MING-NA WEN

Idea for Melinda May spin-off: she is the writer of an advice column in which she mostly criticizes everyone in incredibly awesome and succinct ways, like the way she pretty well nutshelled why she objected to Coulson’s decision to take Skye onto the team in the first place.

5. Is “I’m Looking for My Parents” An Acceptable Explanation for Skye’s Deception?  

This show has thus far been almost entirely about Skye.  So, of course they are going to want to make her sympathetic.  Through the course of this episode she is depicted as having a superior moral code than her Rising Tide boyfriend, and her big secret turns out not to be devious at all.  However, when she pulled out the “I’m looking for my parents” bit I couldn’t help but roll my eyes, wishing Coulson to retort, “Seriously, you’re going to play the ‘But I’m an orphan’ card to get out of this?  Plus, don’t you get it – I’m your surrogate father figure, and Melinda is like your less approving mother who hates what I let you get away with.”

“Next Week on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.“:

Reaction: Holy crap, are they going to kill off Simmons?  Probably not.

What did you think?  Like it?  Hate it?  Let us know in the comments section.

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