For those worrying early on what Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. might become post-pilot, the show’s most recent episode should be a great indication that it’s time to kick back, relax and just enjoy it. After an evening of quick-paced adventure, mystery surrounding even the good characters and a pretty bad-ass new baddie, I can say the latest “The Girl in the Flower Dress” is S.H.I.E.L.D. as I expected it—and at its most comfortable.
The elements were there from the start, foreshadowing an episode packed to the brim with humor, action (for me, at least, “The Girl in the Flower Dress” had the coolest fight scenes) and insight into our budding team. Ward brought the chuckles after getting served in a game of Battleship, and we caught our first glimpse at a fiery-handed performer in Hong Kong (who is later given a look at immortality with a new name, Scorch. But more on that later).
After a S.H.I.E.L.D. hack brings a mysterious woman (in, you guessed it, a floral-print dress) to the fire-gifted magician, it’s up to Skye to trace the source, one that she’ll find is a little closer to home than expected. Miles, a former colleague in The Rising Tide, is pegged as the information leaker, and Skye sets out on a mission to see where, exactly, this info has gone. Most significantly, we’re back to not trusting Skye again after she has a steamy encounter with Miles, not really handing out any confidential S.H.I.E.L.D. info, but not really cementing our trust, either. She’s tight-lipped, true to her organization, but there’s nothing like banging the enemy that makes your teammates kinda wonder where your heart is. So far, she’s been placed in situations that have pegged her as our shifty wild-card, but this week presents a fork in the road: S.H.I.E.L.D. or her tumultuous (yet chiseled, handsome) past?
In the meantime, the man now referred to as Scorch is now in negotiations with this mysterious “Girl in the Flower Dress,” someone who we discover paid Miles $1 million for info on the guy. Miles might have the looks, but his judgment isn’t totally there, expecting this “fan” of the rising tide to spend a cool million on what she says is harmless, useless info. She’s a seductress on more than one front, offering our street magician security beyond any cash value. With her help, and taking on a “Scorch” alter-ego, he’ll be able to use his powers to be remembered forever—something the rotten folks over at S.H.I.E.L.D. wouldn’t allow. Intense body tests are given—you know the ones, with our subject hooked to an oxygen mask on a treadmill—and Scorch is pumped to get this ball rolling on being a super-fire-dude after encouragement from the flower-dressed vixen, who we now know is named Raina. That is, until he’s stripped of his body’s immunity to the very fire he’s producing, his powers to be used and analyzed by the organization. (I think it was Bukowski who said something like “A good woman’ll tear you apart, she’ll render your flame-resistant blood platelets useless.”)
Anyway, S.H.I.E.L.D. at this point has traced Raina back to Centipede, a project we first saw taking place in the show’s pilot episode. In a similar self-destruct-type scenario to what we saw in the first episode, S.H.I.E.L.D. has to deal with our rampaging individual, who’s now affected by the highly explosive Extremis material and losing his own skin with every flaming blow he throws at S.H.I.E.L.D.
There’s a Coulson talkdown once again with the villain, but this one doesn’t end with smiles. With a little tech help from Miles, the team uses the digital wiring of the lab to seclude an explosion, and lives are saved in the process. Coulson, who has technically succeeded in eliminating the threat, is markedly disappointed at the loss.
“You can’t save someone from themselves,” Ward tells the disappointed leader.
“You can if you get to them early enough.” It’s a clear nod to the maybe-defecting Skye, a character who, unbeknownst to Coulson, has made what seems like a definite decision to remain loyal to S.H.I.E.L.D. And after a disappointed dad-style talking to from Coulson, we’ve learned more about Skye in a few minutes than the remainder of the show. The whereabouts (and fate) of her parents are completely unknown—past a classified S.H.I.E.L.D. document that she wasn’t able to hack on her own. It gives a definite “why” to her involvement with S.H.I.E.L.D., but had we discovered it any sooner, we wouldn’t have seen her come around to her new family, a place she genuinely feels she belongs now.
Again—from S.H.I.E.L.D., I feel like this is all we can ask for in an episode. Past the first few post-pilot clips, which were decent but felt a little aimless, “The Girl in the Flower Dress” hits a comfortable stride in character development, action and sheer geekery. It’s the first episode after the pilot that doesn’t have me coming back out of sheer curiosity of what will happen next, but a hope that I see a repeat of the last week’s magic.