This week’s episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. takes a turn even darker than lasts week’s entry. We’ve seen both a former agent on prowl and under duress, as well as a villain origin, a moment that will doubtlessly bear evil fruit down the line, but this week’s episode, “Girl in the Flower Dress” takes elements from both scenarios and unleashes another Marvel villain on the world.
Chan Ho Yin is a struggling street magician, entertaining patrons on the sidewalks of Hong Kong. When his card tricks don’t elicit the tips he hopes for, he resorts to displaying his pyrokinetic ability (manifestation and control of fire, for those playing the home game). Anyone with a casual knowledge of the Marvel Universe might see this individual as a mutant, mirroring the abilities of X-Men baddie Pyro. However, last week’s episode made it very clear that mutants don’t exist on this side of the Marvel media coin, so we’re clearly dealing with something else. Lab accident? Johnny Storm’s Chinese cousin? Regardless, Chan’s ability sparks the interest of Raina, a bystander who is WAY too into him to not be creepy. After luring him back to his own apartment, Raina summons her thugs to abduct Chan. And we’re off!
Back on the Bus, the burgeoning Ward/Skye relationship gets a boost from a friendly game of Battleship. As the pair revel in their peg-based naval warfare, Coulson and May look on, contemplating taking part in their own “team building excersise.” We’ve had a few hints that the pair of senior agents might have some history, but May’s suggestion of going a few rounds “like the old days” may have shed some new light on the situation. I’m curious who has the reach and who has the flexibility… But before any vigorous activities can come about, the team assembles for the obligatory briefing scene and is alerted to Chen’s abduction in China. Coulson wastes no time in answering the question about the origin of the pyrokinesis, dispelling the mutant theory with a flippant explanation that Chen lived near a nuclear plant that caught fire. So that’s all it takes these days? I remember back when you had to be bitten by radioactive arachnids or shot into space to absorb some cosmic rays to gain powers. I miss the Silver Age. The other little pearl of wisdom imparted during Coulson’s briefing is the existence of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Index, the master list of people and objects that make the Marvel Universe marvelous. There’s some great potential there, leaving the door wide open for more Marvel heroes and villains to ease their way into the series. Since Chen was in the Index, all eyes fall on Skye once again as the Rising Tide’s fingerprints are all over the information leak that exposed Chen.
Skye professes her innocence in the matter, citing her time with the team as reason for being unable to continue her hacktivities. Coulson is skeptical, but Ward, in a stunning display of trust, supports Skye, fully embracing her status as a team member. With the matter settled, she is tasked with finding out who actually is responsible for the hack and the leak.
Meanwhile, the mysterious Raina has convinced Chen to stop hiding and explore the potential of his “gift.” Giving him the name Scorch, a moniker familiar to Marvel fans, Raina’s employers are revealed as she doses Chen with the new Extremis/Centipede formula seen in the series pilot. Forgot about them, didn’t you?
The S.H.I.E.L.D. agents continue their investigation and Skye tracks down the guilty party, Miles Lydon, an infamous hacker with ties to the Rising Tide. Upon arriving in Texas to detain Lydon, the team loses him in a foot and car chase. Upon seeking refuge at his apartment, he is met by Skye. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for ever since Skye sent her mysterious text at the end of “0-8-4”: her sudden but inevitable betrayal. Unfortunately, Miles is just Skye’s friend with benefits, not the global network of cyber-villains we were expecting. Not only is it an early reveal, it’s also quite underwhelming. Follow that up with a gratuitous underwear scene, and we’ve come to a dead halt in the story. Luckily, Agent May quickly kicks things back up to the interesting level as she shows up in Lydon’s apartment. Busted!
We’ve never really seen Coulson angry. We’ve seen him serious and maybe a little goofy, but never angry. This made him angry. Skye can’t talk her way out of this one and is unceremoniously cuffed and escorted back to the Bus by Ward. Just when he had begun to truly open up to her, their shared trust is shattered.
As the Extremis experiments continue, we learn that Chen is merely a guinea pig to help stabilize the deadly serum. With the anti-combustible blood samples collected, Dr. Debbie and Raina have no need for Chen anymore, leaving him to die. Because screwing over the monster you created is always a good move.
Back on the Bus, an incarcerated Skye and Miles have a shouting match over the principles of the Rising Tide. She professes that because of Miles’s actions, an innocent man will die…for money. Compassion has clearly rubbed off on Skye in her time with the agents. Miles, however, is a lost soul who thought Skye was that which he was looking for in life. Clearly, this is no longer the case.
Once Centipede is located, Coulson and May take point. When confronted by Chen, now embracing the name Scorch, a literal firefight ensues. In a desperate move to bring down the Centipede computers, Ward releases Skye and follows Coulson and May into the facility. The team is also forced to rely on Miles’s hacking skills to complete Skye’s shutdown from the outside.
After completing their harvesting mission, Raina and Dr. Debbie, the Centipede scientist, attempt to flee. Another betrayal takes place (I’m sensing a theme) as Raina leaves Debbie to be killed by Chen. See what happens when you leave your monster run amuck? Too late to save Scorch’s victim, Coulson distracts him long enough to let May inject him with a paralyzing agent. This, of course, results in the Extremis buildup that eventually blows up Scorch and the lab.
Embers of Trust
Chen is dead, Centipede has a new version of Extremis, but there is still the matter of Skye’s betrayal. With the mission completed, Coulson offers her a choice: come clean or he’s done with her. He knows she has a secret and will not tolerate any more lies. It turns out that Skye’s big secret, the reason for her nefarious career as a hacker, is to dig up any and all information she can on her own past. She wants to find her birth parents, but all she was ever able to turn up was a redacted S.H.I.E.L.D. document. Now we have an entirely new mystery. What is so special about Skye’s family that even S.H.I.E.L.D. is keeping it under wraps? Coulson warns her she won’t like what she finds if she keeps searching, but Skye maintains that it wouldn’t be worse than what she’s already imagined. With a hint of trust still alive between them, Coulson offers to help.
The episode closes with an incredibly vague ending that raises even more questions. Raina visits a man in prison, asking him to “touch base with the clairvoyant.” Who is this guy? Who is the clairvoyant? What is Stage 3?! Damn you, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!!
I’ll admit, the reveal of Skye’s mysterious benefactor was an early letdown, but the series is starting to tie together its own growing mythology and attempting to shed the crutch of the films that came before. The references to Cap and Thor will doubtlessly continue, but with a nearly endless supply of characters and scenarios in the pipeline, AoS is on the path to cut its own swath across the MCU.
Check back in two weeks for our next recap from Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!