Wednesday, October 23, 2013

In Which I Review Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (1x5)

I debated not doing a blog for this episode. "The Girl in the Flower Dress" was a bit long and drawn out and frankly played on themes already replete in the season so far: trust, loyalty, can Skye really work for SHIELD, and Coulson's trust in people to do the right thing (whatever that means). At some point the writers need to understand that I get it: Skye has torn loyalties between her liberal ideology regarding freedom of information and the fact that SHIELD is the first place that has felt like home to the computer hacking orphan. We saw this two weeks ago in "The Asset" and we saw it in the premiere pilot episode. However, once I realized that this was a mythology based episode, I knew I had to blog it. What exactly is a mythology based episode? In other words, non-filler. It is not "moral of the week" (though this show seems determined to trot out a moral agenda by varying degrees every week) and while it is another "superhero of the week" episode, it returns the audience to what was established in the pilot, namely Centipede. Quick refresher since it had been a few episodes. Centipede is an incredibly well funded, super secret, high tech, scientific organization that has been turning people into superheros. They have developed a serum that has the nasty side effect of making people into living bombs. The serum for some reason causes them to burn from the inside out. We have no idea who is behind Centipede but their ultimate end game seems to be making "little toy soliders" to do with as they please. 

One of the reoccurring themes this episode was the idea of illusions: things are not what they appear to be. A street performer has superhero powers that he might use for cheap tricks. A girl in a pretty flower dress is secretly working for a covert organization that wants to take your power. A reformed computer hacker may not be that reformed. A ideologue might be willing to compromise his integrity for the right price.  "Girl in the Flower Dress" was all about stripping (maybe burning would be a better word) the layers to reveal the truth.

Our story opens in Hong Kong where a street performer is having a rather lackluster performance. Everyone is polite but from the looks of his empty coffers, they aren't overly impressed. Sensing that he isn't about to make much money tonight, the street performer pulls out a show stopping number in which he appears to throw fire balls into the crowd, while a pretty girl in a flower dress looks on approvingly. Raina, our titular girl in the flower dress, would very much like to see the street performer, Chan, do his magic again. He hesitates and in the intervening moments takes the time to give us his story. The ability to make fire in his palms started a few years ago but the truly remarkable thing is that he feels no pain when he conjures the fire. And then men in flame retardant suits kidnap him. Like ya do.

Chan is taken to a secret lab where he is offered the chance to be a superstar! No more Mr. Ignoble, but instead Scorch, the newest superhero up there with the likes of Captain America (because his next movie is coming out really soon and hello free advertising!) It's an offer that is hard to refuse and the idea gets played on a few times during the episode. Raina states that "everyone wants to be remembered" (this is especially true when you have some sort of super human ability or power. I'm looking at you Mr. Achilles) and later Coulson laments "ah crap. They gave him a name," when Chan refuses to stand down, suggesting that Coulson understands that taking on a superhero name changes that person's character, makes them something different. Hal Jordan is just a guy, but give him a ring and a name and he's a different person. Clark Kent is a nerdy farm boy, but call him Superman and the Kent persona is almost washed away.

So what does Centipede want with Chan--I'm sorry. Scorch. Chan's unique ability isn't that he can throw fireballs; it's that he can do it without feeling any kind of pain. His blood platelets are essentially fire resistant. He can burn from the inside out and not be destroyed by it. Sound familiar? It should because it's Centipede's biggest problem in making their own superhero army. The plan? Remove Chan's platelets, essentially stripping him of his ability to create fire pain free (but he can still create fire) and then leave him neither super nor a hero.

Meanwhile, back on the plane (Side note: why are they always on the plane? Do they not have a base somewhere? Do they just randomly fly through the sky until they are told of a mission? I know the plane is impressive but wouldn't this wear on the body after awhile?) Skye and Ward continue to grow closer as mentor and protege. And I continue to be bored by both of them. Ward had potential in the pilot but he's severely lacking in charisma and charm. The team is told of the mission and the first big question they must answer is how Centipede found Chan, who was being kept under surveillance by SHIELD agents. Skye quickly puts her skills to use and discovers it was a fellow Rising Tide hacker named Miles. With whom she is rather...close. Cue the sexy time music. To demonstrate her divided loyalties, Skye alerts Miles to SHIELD and then proceeds to spend the afternoon with him discussing how SHIELD is really not the belly of the beast, how they are good people. This is interrupted when the team walks in on Skye and Miles post hay roll and her duplicitous nature is now out in the open. Skye then spends the rest of the episode trying to prove that she is loyal to SHIELD and has forsaken the Rising Tide. Of course there is more to this story, but we'll get to that.

Chan, having been stripped of his blood platelets, goes slightly Hulk like and decides to SMASH and BURN everything, including the Doctor we met in the pilot episode. Turns out she's not all that important but the Girl in the Flower Dress is. Hence, the title. The SHIELD team do manage to minimize the damage though they cannot save Chan. But now SHIELD knows that Centipede has the ability to inject the serum without causing their subjects to explode.

And then it's a Coulson/Skye showdown. Skye has one chance to explain her actions or she's done. Let's take a step back: during her afternoon delight party with Miles we saw that Skye keeps a very tiny microchip in her bra. She hands this over to Coulson and reveals that it contains all the information she has on her parents, missing or dead she's not sure. But their entire lives were wiped away clean, except for one document that was classified by SHIELD. She wants SHIELD's help to find her parents or at least what happened to them. And because sad orphans are sad, she is marginally forgiven.

And then there is some extra scene where the Girl in the Flower Dress is talking to a prisoner who tells her to move on to stage two by using "The Clairvoyant." Cue the dramatic music.

Miscellaneous Notes from Girl in the Flower Dress.

--Loved that after a rapid Chinese exchange between May and Chan, Coulson's only response is "So we're good right?"

--Place your bets on Skye's parents. Alive or dead (mother alive, father dead) and the chances that they are working for Centipede (high).

--May got to fight a little but she's still really under utilized though I did appreciate that they let Ming-Na use her native tongue in this episode.

--Do the science brainy duo do anything? And which one is which? It's a statement of how your show is going if I can't distinguish between people and don't care enough to look them up. 

--No SHIELD for another two weeks. When we come back, I suspect we'll see the return of Dr. Hill as our new villain and the hunt for Skye's parents gets under way. 

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