TV REVIEW: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Girl in the Flower Dress

Well that was much better wasn't it?

This week harks back to the show's pilot as the Centipede serum, designed for making super soldiers, makes a reappearance along with the Rising Tide and a blast from Skye's past. When a street magician Chan Ho Yin (Louis Ozawa Changchien) displays his ability to create fire in his hand and attracts the attention of both SHIELD and the titular girl in the flower dress, Reina (Ruth Negga). It's not long before things take a darker turn as Chan finds himself with Raina working to persuade him to become a superhero. What she is in fact doing is harnessing his power to improve the Extremis based serum.

Yet another vast improvement on the previous episode, Girl in the Flower Dress was the first episode where most aspects of the show came together to produce something worthy of the hype that the show received. Often the show has struggled with the central characters and whilst there is still little development outside of Skye's role, the team seem to have settled into an easy dynamic. Little moments like Skye and FitzSimmons waving at Agent Kwan whilst the other remain stoic highlight the age and professional differences and the Battleships scene had the kind of easygoing humour that SHIELD has been aiming for from the start. I also really liked the scene between May and Coulson as they fought with Chan; "Ah crap, they gave him a name" was great.

The episode also helped to further the relationships that have been building throughout the season so far, particularly Skye and Ward and then Skye and Coulson. Ward still may be a little bland but Brett Dalton has a nice chemistry with Chloe Bennet and the scene in which he discovers that she has been betraying them had a sense of disappointment that was almost palpable. In fact, it was this scene when the team are going through Miles' apartment that was probably the strongest we've had yet. I loved the quieter moment between Fitz and Simmons when the former can't quite comprehend why Skye has lied to them. Foundations for the paternal relationship between Coulson and Skye has been laid down from the start, but it was in this episode that it really found its feet. 

Clark Gregg's deadpan performance gave way to something more emotional, yet just as reserved here as he was faced with his possible mistake in recruiting the Rising Tide hacker. The final scene between the pair was an emotional payoff as we learn just why Skye has been digging around in SHIELD and not telling anyone about it. Parental motivations may be an age-old plot device but it felt much more satisfying than Skye babbling on about freedom of information or civil liberties, two things she was quick to dismiss once joining SHIELD. And now we have a reason why. With Skye still on the team, it's the perfect moment in which to start exploring the other characters. This episode was an excellent starting point, but now I want to know more about Ward in particular, but also FitzSimmons, who I just adore.

Elsewhere in the episode, the central narrative was another plus point, linking to the Extremis super soldier thread that has been building since the pilot. With the reappearance of Debbie, the scientist, and her subsequent fiery demise (a tad gory for a pre-watershed show maybe?), we now have Reina to take us through this narrative arc. Ruth Negga made a compelling presence in the episode, a quieter form of villain perhaps, but one whom carried the necessary gravitas to make the Scorch origin story convincing. The sting scene was also intriguing, not only hinting towards the idea of precognition (called that last week), but also a potential Big Bad for at least the mid-season finale if the super soldier serum is nearing readiness.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this episode though, was the moral ambiguities it explored in pitching Centipede versus SHIELD, both dealing with gifted people in remarkably different ways. For SHIELD, the method is containment, convincing these people not to use their powers but let them live a nearly normal life. Yet SHIELD's methods are called into question by Skye's ex Miles, another hacker who believes in freedom of information until someone offers him a nice fat cheque. Not only is the idea of information leaking prescient in this age of Wikileaks, but there is also the idea of prevention rather than punishment and how much control the state should have over the privacy of its citizens. This is something that the Captain America: The Winter Soldier trailer has hinted towards (a crossover is also rumoured) and has been an underlying theme in this series; just how far is too far when it comes to the protection of citizens?

This unit has been remarkably detached from the wider SHIELD agency so far and as such, the organisation still feels very much in the shadows, endlessly resourceful yet very much with its own agenda. If there is a crossover with Captain America, at least in theme, it would become a very interesting moral dilemma for our characters. Skye is seen constantly defending SHIELD in this episode, but what she's actually doing is defending the actions of her team, rather than what the rest of the agency is up to. We know they had something to do with bringing Coulson back from the apparent dead of course, but other than that, they remain as distant as they do in the cinematic branch of Marvel.

Right from the opening scenes, everything felt much more cohesive and balanced than it has done in previous weeks. Overall, an absolute scorcher of an episode (sorry...).

One more thing; writers, please stop trying to make 'hactivist' happen. It's not going to happen.

- Becky

You can read Becky's review of the previous episode here

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