EPISODE REVIEW: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D – Girl in the Flower Dress
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD continues to deliver intrigue with its ragtag team of mismatched operatives and their superpowered adventures. This week sees the group investigating the disappearance of street magician Chan Ho Yin in Hong Kong.
Chan has an uncanny ability to create fire with his hands without burning himself. Raina, a mysterious woman, spots his talent and goes to see him privately, leading him to believe she wants to help him get noticed for his powers. Sadly, she doesn’t really want to help, rather taking the opportunity to kidnap Chan. Back over at SHIELD, it’s revealed that Chan was on a SHIELD list of people with superpowers. But seemingly their monitoring of these people goes beyond just taking names, as Chan gripes about them not letting him use his power to its fullest, and even for imposing ‘power protocols’.
On their way to rescue Chan, SHIELD come across Miles, one of Skye’s contacts from her former ‘hacktivist’ group, Rising Tide. There’s some obvious history between the two, not least implied by them ending up in bed together. However, the team thought Skye was no longer in contact with the Rising Tide, so everyone else gets all uppity and they lock the pair away for a bit, partly for releasing information that led to Chan’s capture.
Meanwhile, Chan, now calling himself Scorch, is working with his captors to develop his powers using a series of injections. Eventually, it turns out that the captors are working for Project Centipede, a direct enemy of SHIELD. They inject Scorch with the Extremis substance, previously featured in the first episode. Their true motives are unveiled when they remove Scorch’s immunity to the flames in order to use his ability for their own purposes.
Finally, SHIELD turn up to try and free Chan, but he rejects them, accusing them of holding him back in the first place. Reluctantly, Agent Coulson has to have the rampaging Chan killed (by igniting the Extremis). In the aftermath, Coulson questions Skye about her involvement with Rising Tide and SHIELD, where she reveals that she’s been searching for information about her parents.
So the good news is there’s still some character development going on each episode, even if it is just minimal chunks of backstory. We’re finally given a bit more insight into Skye’s pre-Rising Tide past, and her motives for joining SHIELD. Although in spite of this, Skye seems to be the only character who’s getting any meaningful development so far. Compare with Fitz and Simmons who actually seem to have had their roles reduced, and still only exist to provide irritating counter points to everything everyone says.
Along with this continuing issue, the dialogue is still utterly horrible at times. Aside from the exasperating banter, most of what these adult agents have to say is either bland or puerile. In particular, wise team leader Coulson seems to talk like an 18-year-old at times. The target audience may be teenagers, but that doesn’t mean it needs to sound like it was written by teenagers.
The series’ continuity finally gets some expansion beyond the core team, as this episode features the returns of the seemingly evil ‘Centipede’ group that acts as an enigmatic enemy for SHIELD, and the Extremis serum that gives normal people superpowers, both of which featured in the first episode. The end of this episode featured a mysterious epilogue in which Raina visits an unnamed man in prison, discusses moving Project Centipede into stage 3, and asks him to get in touch with someone called ‘the Clairvoyant’. Hopefully the show will build on this interesting setup later on in the season, and maybe SHIELD and Centipede will come to a direct confrontation.
Another of this episode’s interesting developments is the parallels between hacktivist group Rising Tide and similar real-life groups like Wikileaks. Miles mentions several current affairs figures like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, who’ve been involved in whistleblowing and government espionage issues. On top of this, the mentions of SHIELD’s list of powered people and implementation of ‘power protocols’ draws comparisons between SHIELD and the US government, mixing the show’s fantasy with cultural relevancy.
As with the first and third episodes, the focus is a sort of tragic character – someone who possesses amazing power, but has their downfall due to their decisions and the involvement of others. In a change from the first episode though, this character wants to be known for his powers, and eventually that leads to his death. This exploration of the darker sides of superpowers is intriguing enough on its own, while also keeping the show within the style of the successful Marvel films.
So once again, Agents of SHIELD has brought some interesting elements to the table through its mysterious plots, fascinating one-off characters and villains, and its teasing at later stories. But the problems with the main cast are still way too present. The show seems to want to focus more on the friendships and relationships between the quirky titular agents, rather than the actual exciting things that they should be investigating more. More importantly, the childish dialogue and attempts at banter are downright painful at times. With 17 episodes to go though, there’s still hope all these problems will be refined.