by Thom Yee
1×05: “Girl in the Flower Dress”
“So whoever took him knew about his power.”
That’s an innocuous enough statement, but you don’t know how much I appreciated hearing it. You don’t know how much I really started to hate Heroes and every time they would call them abilities or gifts in an attempt to stay just this side of realistic. Just call them what they are! They’re f*cking powers!
I know this show isn’t Heroes. And I know that, even at this early stage, it’s probably never going to get that bad (even if by this point in its first season I was a Heroes devotee whereas I’m mildly disappointed in Agents). But one thing Heroes and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have in common is that they both have Jeph Loeb in the production chair. Comicbook fans may hold much of Loeb’s writing work in high regard (see: Superman: For All Seasons and Batman: The Long Halloween), but TV watchers in the know mostly remember him for helping to ruin Lost before totally ruining Heroes before becoming Marvel’s Executive Vice President, Head of Television. I don’t know why his name in the credits stood out to me more in this episode than any other, but I will say this about Loeb: he’s an amazing writer (his DC work from the early 2000s)… but not usually (everything he’s done for Marvel since 2006).
So for this episode, Chan Ho Yin, a Hong-Kong-based street magician is abducted by newcomer Raina and the [counter-agents of] Centipede — the mysterious organization seen in the pilot. You see, while Yin ekes out a humble existence, he’s also hiding his power: he can generate fire from his hands. Just another entry on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s list of notable (though unimportant) superhuman beings, S.H.I.E.L.D. has thus far forced Yin to hide his ability, and though he seems even-tempered enough, by the end of the episode, he murders his S.H.I.E.L.D. handler and becomes the supervillain, Scorch. For all of five minutes. Before our Agents take him out.
I think what this episode illustrates is the inherent instability of a concept like superhuman powers. Some would use their powers for the common good. Some exclusively for self-satisfaction. Many more for glory and attention. But few will handle them right. While Centipede did screw with Scorch née Chan Ho Yin, messing with his powers for their own ends, Scorch is the type of ticking-time-bomb character that would’ve exploded eventually. In this case, Scorch’s own need to be recognized as something special grew into resentment for his handlers and led directly to his eventual megalomaniacal actions.
Meanwhile in the B story, through the various machinations of the episode, we find out that Skye’s big secret is that she’s been pursuing S.H.I.E.L.D. because they’re her only clue as to the identity of her parents. I don’t think this part of the episode was handled particularly well, but the revelation is a strong character hook. It’s enough to make us care. If only we could feel the same way about Grant or the Fitzsimmons duo (I forget which one is which again).
“Girl in the Flower Dress” was an overall unusually strong episode, if a bit clumsy. It showed us a real superhuman threat, had important character developments, and, in its show-ending bumper, further established a mysterious threat in Raina and Centipede that can linger around the background of following episodes. It reminded me of what Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is trying to be as opposed to what it is: an amazing show (… but not usually).
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “Girl in the Flower Dress” final score: 7.5
Items of Note:
-It took a while to track down info on the actor who played Yin, but it was worth it. I knew that Chinese accent sounded fake.
-A SIM card? That’s a weird, impractical place to store non-GSM data.