Agents of SHIELD: 105 “The Girl in the Flower Dress” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
After last week’s super-spy extravaganza we’re back in the realm of superpowers and ongoing conspiracies with this week’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and judging by the strength of this episode the show seems to have found its footing after a slightly shaky start. Sure, it’s cheesier than a French picnic, but through some actual character development and the beginnings of some of the show’s many mysteries unfurling, it still manages to be an entertaining hour of television that also begins to push the show in some interesting directions.
The episode revolves around one Chan Ho Yin, a Hong Kong street magician who also happens to be a pyrokinetic (for those of you not familiar with superpower vernacular, that means he can generate and control fire), who is captured by some people working for the titular girl in the flower dress, played with sultry panache by Britain’s own Ruth Negga (who has superhero experience, having played teleporter Nikki in Misfits some years ago). Team Coulson decides to track him down and rescue him, which brings them into direct conflict with Rising Tide hacker and occasional Skye sex-partner Miles Lydon, an idealistic sort who is vehemently pro-freedom of information and extremely anti-S.H.I.E.L.D. As it turns out, he is the one Skye texted at the end of episode two, and the one who encouraged her to infiltrate the gang for the Rising Tide.
Anyway, without getting into too many squishy details, she does the horizontal monster mash with him, and as she is getting dressed the rest of the team turn up and Coulson gives her a stern talking to. After taking her and Miles into custody, it is revealed that Miles received a considerable amount of money to hack into a S.H.I.E.L.D. feed and give Chan’s whereabouts to a mysterious group running an ecological research facility that must be completely harmless because all they’re working on is centipedes.
Thus, it is revealed that it was the mysterious Project Centipede (remember them from the pilot?) who abducted Chan and is now attempting to turn him into a superhero called ‘Scorch’ by injecting him with something which increases his powers. However, it turns out that they’re injecting him with a variant of the Extremis formula, which he is resistant to because of the fireproof platelets in his blood. He soon discovers that their motives are not entirely harmless, though, as they knock him out and start to extract the platelets from his blood, rendering him far less fireproof than before, not to mention slightly more verging on dead than before. Naturally he escapes and incinerates the redheaded Project Centipede doctor from the pilot before going bonkers and setting a lot of stuff on fire.
With both Skye and Miles’ help, Coulson and Melinda manage to infiltrate Project Centipede’s base and ultimately take out Scorch-Chan by injecting him with all of the Extremis formula in the world and running away while he explodes. It’s an interesting moment, the first time Team Coulson has done something which can definitely be described as ‘morally grey’: while Scorch-Chan was dangerous to himself and others, it is the first time we’ve seen a member of the team outright kill someone. Could this be a turning point in the dynamic of the team? If anyone happened to see what May and Coulson did in this instance it could look very bad for the team, and S.H.I.E.L.D. as a whole, but we will see…
The episode does reasonably well in handling the whole ‘manufacturing a superhero’ thing: Marvel has made a decent effort in the past of allowing superhero names to originate fairly organically (‘Captain America’ essentially being a PR move during the war, ‘Iron Man’ being an invention of the press and so on), so giving Chan the name ‘Scorch’ came off extremely cheesy and ultimately slightly contrived. But the writers seemed aware of this, as the doctor makes a comment along the lines of ‘at least nobody will ever have to call him that’, echoing what we’re all thinking. Elsewhere, while Chan’s descent into madness happens rather quickly, it is well-motivated and makes complete sense within the context of his storyline.
Elsewhere, though, the main points of interest in the episode happen towards the end. Firstly, Coulson confronts Skye about her motives for joining and betraying the team, and she tearfully admits that it is all about her parents: she had spent her whole life trying to find them, and all she was left with was a single document with all the important information redacted by S.H.I.E.L.D. Seeing why she did what she did, Coulson offers to help her find out about her parents, and we finally have some movement on one of the running plot threads.
Well actually, we have some movement on two: the final moments of the episode see Raina, the girl in the flower dress, talking to a mystery man in prison about the outcome of the experiment, and she asks him to speak to the ‘Clairvoyant’ about the next stage of their plan. It’s nice to have an arc-heavy episode after a few standalone stories, but at this stage the episodic nature of the show means that Coulson’s team remain reactive rather than proactive when it comes to dealing with Project Centipede, and I’d like to see them go after the bad guys rather than waiting for them to do something sinister. Maybe now they’ve got some more information on the Project, that will happen soon, but I’m not holding my breath.
It’s no secret around these parts that when it comes to these long-running seasons, I’m a fan of an arc-heavy episode (see some of my Arrow reviews for evidence), and ‘The Girl in the Flower Dress’ did not disappoint in these terms. There’s still a great deal of room for improvement, of course, but this episode was a big step in the right direction for the show.