Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Girl in the Flower Dress (1x05)
Cliche. That's the best word I can use to describe my problem with this episode. Cliche. Let's take a look at the plot.
So, a street magician in China (Chan Ho Yin) seems to have some pyrotechnic powers. He is visited by a mysterious girl named Raina, who is the "girl in the flower dress" mentioned in the title. Raina wants to help him turn into a real super hero. We find out that Chan is in contact with S.H.I.E.L.D. and they've been keeping an eye on him. When Chan doesn't make a meeting with his S.H.I.E.L.D. handler, they realize he's been taken.
Apparently, the reason Raina and her people were able to find Chan is that the Rising Tide leaked S.H.I.E.L.D. information. This points the finger of blame, initially, to Skye. She denies any involvement, but now she's in a tricky spot, because she does know the hacker responsible. His name is Miles, and he and Skye have a complicated history. Let's stop and look at a couple of problems. One, I don't understand why Coulson's team is even being brought in on this case in the first place. Clearly they have agents stationed in China... why couldn't they handle this one? Oh well. And also, we're starting to see Skye's conflict in the episode here, and it's a very tired and cliched one.
Basically, Skye warns Miles that S.H.I.E.L.D. is coming for him, because she has loyalty to him from back when they were both in really bad places in their lives. However, things aren't that straight forward. She knows that because of what Miles did, an innocent man is in danger. She also tells Miles that there are a lot of good people working for S.H.I.E.L.D., which makes her job complicated. According to Skye in this moment, she is still undercover and working for the Rising Tide. Things go wrong when May tracks Skye down and finds her with Miles, shortly after the two have had sex.
This is just so overdone. Skye is a traitor, but she really does like the team... and we're supposed to sympathize with Skye being torn apart by these two different sides. But really, was there anything new and original here? Even Fitzsimmons' reaction to it was bland... they basically just shrug and say they're not sure how to determine Skye's true allegiance. Things get even more cliche when we find out that Miles, supposedly an idealist, took money from Centipede to give up Chan's location, proving himself to be a total sellout.
So, back to Chan. The people "helping" him are associated with Project Centipede. Now this, I liked. I thought the pilot of this show was actually stronger than most of the episodes have been since, and I like the continuity and the unity provided by bringing back this villainous group. If Centipede is the primary villain of the season, that could be really interesting. So, although Chan was excited at first to be enhancing his powers, he quickly learns that Raina and the others are just using him as a lab rat.
By the time Coulson and May get to him, however, it's too late. Chan is now "Scorch," and he is powerful, unstable, and angry. Probably my favorite part of the episode was how everyone reacted to the name Scorch. There was a general exasperation from everyone, and a total acknowledgement of how stupid that name was. It was generally agreed by everyone that Chan wasn't important enough of a person to be considered a superhero with a fancy name. It felt a little bit like a meta reference to this show's own diminished importance in the face of the Marvel movie franchise. It was a solid joke.
Coulson and May have to make a tough call. With the help of Skye's friend Miles, they work Chan into a frenzy and he literally explodes. The others in the building get away, and the explosion is siphoned through the building and out the roof.
Miles is released, but under surveillance. I'm guessing that was Coulson's call, and not any of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s higher ups... but anyways, the episode ends on a cliched yet sort of effective note. It's a mixed bag, but basically what happens is that Coulson and Skye have a talk. Building upon their friendship from earlier episodes, I liked the total betrayal that Coulson felt, and you could tell that Skye felt genuinely guilty as well. The dialogue was serious, with none of the overdone wittiness that this show has been struggling with. So that was all good. But then, we get to the unimaginative part. We find out that Skye became a hacker in the first place because she is constantly trying to track down her parents. All she's been able to find? A redacted file from S.H.I.E.L.D. Apparently, therefore, Skye's family is some sort of big important mystery.
Am I the only one who finds this totally uninspired and boring? I'm sorry, but it's just not enticing to me at all. What does work about this, however, is that Coulson agrees to help. Skye gets to stay on with the team, but she has to wear a bracelet that will monitor her activity. I liked that they didn't totally trust her again. I also like that the audience is left unsure of her allegiance, too. Is there any part of her that's still loyal to the Rising Tide? Or is she entirely S.H.I.E.L.D.'s girl now?
So... that probably wasn't the most eloquent review I've ever written, but the bottom line is that this episode is a mixed bag. It wasn't terrible, but nothing original or surprising or unique really happened in it. I guess it could have been setting up some interesting possibilities for the future, but I don't trust this show not to mess it up, based on what I've seen so far.