[Review] - Agents Of SHIELD, Season 1 Epsiode 5, "Girl in the Flower Dress"

Courtesy of Marvel Television Productions.
Did SHIELD just introduce mutants to the MCU? Scorch, a name held by multiple characters in the comics, has always traditionally been a mutant, and his abilities here are never given a definitive origin, beyond being a natural gift. And one that the team seems completely unfazed by. Despite Coulson's insistence that the list of powered individuals is a short list, those shown thus far have been distinctively man made. With the looming issue of explaining Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch in Age of Ultron, the choice had to be made whether to introduce the mutant concept, which to this point had been exclusively the purview of the X-Men films, or look for another explanation. And it looks like they've sided with the mutants.

That's a huge deal. It is the first element original to SHIELD that will have ramifications across the entire MCU, and opens up previously inaccessible characters and storylines, especially SHIELD, which as a series will burn through a lot more plots then the films ever will. It's a shame then that the episode that introduced this concept is as unimpressive as it is. Last week continues to be the high water mark of this first batch of episodes, but at least the writers are taking the series in new directions as they gear up for the long haul towards May.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that were a lot more trusting before they were stabbed too.

The biggest fault here was the dialogue. Alternating between clunky and cliche, there was nothing here that was remarkable or clever. You could reasonably guess what a character was going to say, because when they interacted, they didn't have a conversation, they played "duelling definitive statements." There were glimpses of wit, probably handed down editorially, like the "you named him" running gag, which was at least clever enough to poke fun at the absurdity of superhero naming conventions. And I'll admit to finding Skye and Grant's Battleship game endearing. But the rest of it was melodramatic or sounded like it was taken from direct to video spy films. And the overused the word "hack" far too often.

The plot was an odd one too, and coming after last week's excellent example of how to write a spy show, in terms of investigation and execution, this one just didn't have feet. Too much time was spent focusing on Skye's Rising Tide bed buddy, and the entire investigation of Scorch's location was eliminated by an off screen Google search. I'm not saying that every week should focus on the minutia of field work, but it should at least appear that the team has to actually work to do their jobs. In fact, between switching back and forth between Skye getting her rocks off, and the titular girl in the flower dress messing with Scorch's mind, there was little room left to explore either idea. Scorch eventually goes crazy with power, but did what we see of his manipulation really seem that convincing? The torture along might have pushed him over the edge, but between him and J. August Richards from the pilot, it seems that powered people in the MCU are very easily driven to psychopathy.

And that was another problem. Scorch's story was too similar to the first Centipede infectee, except without the depth of character, or interesting backstory, or general likability. Coulson was right, Chan was a bit of a tool. So, rather than looking at him as a tragic character like Richards', I was expecting him to go bad from the get go. Except, beyond being really angry that 1) SHIELD wouldn't let him use his ability to busk in the streets of Hong Kong and b) that Centipede stole his blood (and really, that's the reasonable one of the two), he didn't have any further motivation. He wasn't developed enough as a character beyond a general unlikable to be anything other than a MacGuffin. So when he exploded, I didn't care. And he didn't have to explode. In yet another plot contrivance, if May was able to get behind him like that, why didn't she just snap his neck and be done with him. Why choose to inject him with an overdose of a solution that has unknowable results event to the people who designed it, in the hopes that it would make him explode? Because it might look cool. And while that's a reason to do things, it's not a good one, and should never be reason one.

May came off the best of any character here, maybe because she is the least developed character on the show, and therefore any sign of life seems like a lot. She got to kick some ass, showcase her relationship with Coulson, and even laughed once. The sequence of she and Coulson infiltrating the Centipede facility, her with her combat tactics, Coulson with his matter of fact punching to the throat style, made a good team. Suddenly, I've very interested in exploring their relationship further. I want to know more about their past. They are clearly operating on a Mal/Zoe battle born mutual respect level here, expect we haven't seen any of that until now, and need to see more of immediately.

I won't go into Skye's story here, because the playing for both sides thing has been set up and beaten into the ground since day one, and despite the fact she's obviously part of the team and that any "betrayal" that happens will feel as empty as it did here, the writers also don't seem willing to play the long game on that storyline. Instead I'll focus on another problem affecting the show. Just as last week I commented on how cheap the show looks (which popped up again in this episode, during the car chase sequence), this week I will complain about how very pretty everyone on the show is. The sad and obvious fanservice scene aside, Skye's hacker friend was yet another example of how woefully cast the role was. That fellow, and Skye herself, do not scream hacker. 

And I'm not subscribing to any stereotypes here, or implying that all computer folk look like either Comic Book Guy or Gimili from Lord of the Rings. But they also don't look like Guess models. Whedon's other shows weren't filled with homely folk, but the cast was at least unconventionally attractive. Pretty they may be, but Seth Green and Alyson Hannigan weren't going to be on the cover of GQ. SHIELD's casting director apparently only sees auditions from people who conform to a very specific set of physical dimensions, and it's getting in the way of believing in the show. Yes, in comics, everyone is sculpted like pornographic deities, but this is live action. Maybe some real looking people could fill in the gaps.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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