This week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. started out like a replay of the first episode, but it’s also the episode that establishes its identity at last. After five weeks, it’s developing the story structure similar to Buffy or Angel, including the main group becoming a family, and the presence of a Big Bad. More importantly, it finally reveals Skye’s true motives.
In “The Girl In A Flower Dress,” a street magician named Chan (Louis Ozawa Changchien) has the ability to produce fire from his hands. That gets the attention of Raina (Ruth Negga), a woman who promises him fame, and more powers. She also gives him a stage name, “Scorch.” He doesn’t have time to think the offer over because two people in fire-proof suits grab him.
S.H.I.E.L.D. already knows about Chan, and had him under surveillance. Skye’s surprised, wondering if the good guys actually do this to the public. It’s a reminder that S.H.I.E.L.D. may be upholding justice, but it has to make “hard calls” when necessary. It’s slightly evil, but necessary. She gets more upset when she’s accused of revealing his location. It’s surprising the crew still didn’t consider her part of the team, despite Coulson’s faith in her.
She helps them find out who really did it: a fellow Rising Tide hacker named Miles Lydon (Austin Nichols). They find him in Austin, Texas, and he gets away…with help from Skye. Apparently he recruited her for the Rising Tide, and they got really close. He also may have gotten her text from the end of episode two. It’s a nice twist, and explains a lot. Still, when it turns out May and Coulson were following her (how May tells Skye to get dressed is scarier than any mother), S.H.I.E.L.D. trusts Skye even less than when they met.
Meanwhile, Chan is turning out to be the next Mike Peterson. At a lab in Hong Kong, he’s given an Extremis serum to increase his fireballs. He thinks this will make him very famous. Helping Raina out is Dr. Debbie, the same doctor who turned Peterson into a hero in the pilot. It also looks like the evil group’s name is Centipede, at least for now. Apparently they’d rather kidnap subjects rather than ask them to volunteer.
As for Skye, the only thing that keeping her out of a S.H.I.E.L.D. containment unit is that Coulson thinks she’s hiding something. She still has that computer chip from the pilot. Miles also admits he was paid a million dollars to hack into S.H.I.E.L.D. and find Chan. It turns out he was also recruited by Reina, who claimed she was working for an ecological lab. Maybe his principles for exposing the truth can be adjusted, especially if it funds his manifesto.
One word about Raina: she is a good agent for Centipede, the semi-official name for the Big Bad. She can flatter people then turn on them a second later. She and Lilah Morgan could be best frenemies.
This episode is also great because Coulson shows he can take charge of a situation. He and May try to get Chan out of Centipede’s lab , but he refuses to be put under control by anyone. When his power threatens to kill them all, Skye and Miles help out with their hacking skills. Meanwhile, Debbie and Reina try to get away from Chan, but Raina, in a snarky fashion, beats Debbie to the elevator. Reina will be back, but Debbie won’t. She’s burned alive by Chan.
Ward and Skye get there, but Coulson makes another hard call: May injects serum into Chan to accelerate his fire-making skills, and it burns him up. While Mike Peterson could have been saved, Chan could not. Even Buffy learned the hard way she can’t save everyone, as Ward tells Coulson, “You can’t save someone from themselves.” Coulson responds, “You can if you get to them early enough.” And it’s no coincidence he’s looking at Skye.
So, this episode is just like the pilot, but it’s another incomplete victory. It also shows that S.H.I.E.L.D. does some bad things for the greater good, which some people will accept while others may not. That’s the fact that will make this show special. Besides, Centipede looks like it’ll be a formidable nemesis, and it will force good guys to do very grey things to win. That may be the reason why Skye is a good fit with the rest of the team… if it can trust her.
The issue of exposing the truth is revisited, with Miles insisting that the world must know what’s really going on. The fact that he’d expose someone for cash, and for a very convincing lie, undermines him a lot. He’ll have a long walk home, and limited access to electronics for a while thanks to a S.H.I.E.L.D. tracking device.
What about Skye? After Coulson reads her the riot act, she says the computer chip has everything about her…except who her parents are. Her adoption papers were redacted…by S.H.I.E.LD. This may hint that she thinks SHIELD owes her the truth, and Coulson agrees. She’s still under probation, and gets the same tracking device Miles got. While that’s happening, Raina’s asking a guy in prison to find “The Clairvoyant,” who apparently doesn’t like to be touched. Of course, she is wearing another flower dress.
One other suggestion: let’s have episodes that reveal the staff’s backstories, especially Ward and May. While the stories have been interesting, it’s about time the characters became compelling, too. It worked for Iron Man.
Ratings report: There was some panic among fans when it was revealed the show lost viewers again. However, it was a slight drop to nearly 7.4 million. ABC says it’s gaining a lot of male viewers, and it’s still a strong second in its time slot. The pilot will be rerun next week, and a new episode will be shown November 5th.