After some mixed fan reception and some fairly diminishing ratings, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. initiated a comeback last week with episode “Eye Spy”, an episode that while not great, was a solid and fun entry. That being said, this week’s installment, “Girl in the Flower Dress,” not only represented this ABC series as an overall solid show, but managed to elevate the series as a whole with perhaps its most exciting episode to date.
Written by Lost and Friday Night Lights alumni Brent Fletcher, it fires things up with the introduction of Renshu Tseng (Louis Changchien from Predators), a street magician turned pyrokinetic who is deceived and kidnapped by a shady group claiming to be The Rising Tide. Once Coulson’s Comrade Commandos (my new name for our band of heroes) discover this, they reveal that Tseng was under S.H.I.E.L.D. monitoring and immediately begin to suspect Skye (Chloe Bennet) due to her previous involvement with The Rising Tide. Things get even more dicey when an old colleague (and lover) of Skye’s appears and tests her conflicting loyalties between The Rising Tide and S.H.I.E.L.D. With both internal and external problems weighing heavily on their minds, Coulson’s crew must recover Tseng, discover the mystery behind his kidnappers, and discover once and for all which side Skye is truly on.
Above all else, “Girl in the Flower Dress” succeeds in its willingness to provide us with some answers, particularly in regards to Skye’s motivations and past. They’ve been teasing the duplicitous nature of her character since the pilot, and it’s good to finally get some clarification on both where she stands and what her stake is in all of this. Chloe Bennet’s scenes with Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Agent Ward (Brett Dalton) are particularly well-executed, as Coulson’s former trust in Skye gives way to doubt and Ward’s feelings of betrayal (juxtaposed with earlier scenes of friendly banter between) endow him with the emotional complexity that he had sorely lacked in previous episodes. I especially look forward to seeing how Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. handles the team’s perceptions of Skye in future episodes, as the prospect of some juicy internal conflict amongst the team members excites me.
Speaking of exciting, I found myself very entertained by the inclusion of Tseng and his kidnapping by the mysterious organization (revealed halfway through to be called Centipede) that I assume will play the part of this Season’s “Big Bad.” Firstly, it’s nice to finally get a name and some faces to identify as our antagonists, and their usage of the Extremis technology to experiment on Tseng is an intriguing connection to Michael Peterson in the original pilot episode. For another, I really enjoyed watching Louis Changchien playing Tseng, as he brought a lot of energy to the part and seemed to genuinely have fun with the material. Now of course that comes coupled with a somewhat odd villainous turn halfway through the episode (wherein he’s given the laughable supervillain name “Scorch”), but even that has the somewhat self-aware humor required to enjoy it regardless. On the off-chance it didn’t, his pyrokinetic displays of power with the wildly fun climax would still have been enough for me.
Now this episode is far from being a masterpiece, as there’s a couple of comedy moments that didn’t click for me and there’s a particular scene involving Skye in underwear that felt gratuitous and a bit unnecessary. But overall, this was a well-done and extremely entertaining episode that demonstrates how Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. seems to be finally mastering the balance between its comedy, action, and characters. For those of you who wrote this series off after its beginning episodes, “Girl in the Flower Dress” is the one to that’s persuasive enough to make you give this show a second chance.