Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S1 Ep05 – Girl in the Flower Dress

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This episode delved back into the overarching mythology plotline, for which I am grateful. At the moment, this show is stronger in terms of plot than character, and so the one-off, episodic procedural setup they’ve had going for the past few episodes has fallen short of the hopes I’d had. I like the show, and I think that it could become something awesome, but as regular readers of my reviews will already know (and may be tired of me saying it), I just am not that interested in some of the characters.

Possibly the best critique I’ve seen for the show so far is from Film Crit Hulk on twitter, where a recent tweet read: “S.H.I.E.L.D. NEEDS TO STOP HINTING AT BACKSTORIES AND START TELLING STORIES.” Now I have to say that I love the little hints about Coulson that are being dropped like one ton anvils every episode because I like the mystery, but Hulk has point: we don’t know enough about the characters right now to care about them, so these hints at backstories feel more like the show’s mocking us. They have the characters planned out, but they won’t let us in on it, so all we have are shallow cliches to go on.

Agents of SHIELD s1 ep05--Skye playing Battleship

Has anyone made a Dark Skye pun yet?

That being said, they did try a bit more in the character department by going further into Skye’s characterization than the cute hacker girl trope. Skye’s looking for her parents, and the only evidence she has of them is a document redacted by S.H.I.E.L.D. So, who were her parents? Why would S.H.I.E.L.D. redact a document like that? Could Skye’s true identity be a threat? Now this is another good character mystery, but I don’t see why it wasn’t introduced from the get-go. I guess maybe the writers had hoped we’d get to know Skye a bit more before they dropped the bombshell, but over the past few episodes we really haven’t gotten to know her, or anyone for that matter. So this didn’t come as perhaps the huge shocker they had intended because Skye has been nothing but a surface character that has not made me care about her at all.

I also think there were a lot of missed chances for character development and interaction in this episode. As much as I think Ward is a piece of cardboard, I still wanted to see his reaction to Skye’s betrayal. They have been setting up a relationship between these two characters, one of reluctant respect, liking, and gradual trust, and all of that was broken in this episode. I was actually hoping that this might give Ward something interesting to finally do, uncovering a hidden personality, like a layer of spicy mustard beneath a slice of white bread. But no, he just cardboarded on, looking mildly more constipated than usual. This plotline of Skye being a double agent was one I was worried about because I didn’t know where they’d go with it. So little of it has been developed since that second episode, and her being discovered this early in the season makes it seem almost pointless. I had hoped that at the very least we could have gotten some decent character moments out of it, and though we did get some good ones from Coulson, there were other characters that needed the development more—Ward really could have come out of his stereotype-shell here, but they didn’t give him a chance.

Agents of SHIELD s1 ep05--Chan Ho Yin with burned arms

Centipede Serum: go from tool to homicidal in 60 seconds.

Characters aside, I did like the plot of this episode. It’s nice to see Centipede back in action; they make a good villainous organization. And it looks like that serum they’re developing has an unfortunate side-effect of homicidal tendencies, because this is the second non-evil character turned crazy by it. If they ever work out the kinks, I don’t think it’s superheroes they’ll be developing. And that part at the end—what clairvoyant do they have working for them? S.H.I.E.L.D. is unaware of the existence of psychic powers, but every Marvel fan knows that they exist in this universe. Is this clairvoyant someone we’ve heard of? (Don’t get your hopes up for one of the X-Men—wrong studio.) I wish they would focus more on this story than going with the case-of-the-week format, but that’s just one of many issues this show needs to work out.

There’s also a weird theme that is becoming more and more evident. When Chan started attacking Coulson and May, you had to admit that he had good reason. S.H.I.E.L.D. is that shadowy government organization covering things up that in most shows would actually be the villain. I remember back when The X-Files and Stargate: SG-1 were on at the same time, I would go from hoping Mulder would uncover the government conspiracy hiding the truth about aliens to hoping that the SGC would manage to keep the truth about aliens away from the public. But those were two different shows, so that sort of pendulum swing in priorities worked for me because each show had a way to justify the side it was on. But in S.H.I.E.L.D, it feels like they’re trying to have it both ways. Maybe it’s an attempt at putting the viewer in Skye’s place, forcing us to see both sides of the argument, but if we’re supposed to be on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s side at the end of the day, they’re not quite doing it right.

There’s not much else I have to say about this episode. There’s still plenty of fun, snappy dialogue, but there are also some awkward dialogue parts that I think were meant to come off as clever but didn’t. Kind of like how Whedon wrote the “toad struck by lightning” line in X-Men, but Halle Berry delivered it in too dramatic a fashion. This episode was an improvement because it gave us more of the myth-arc and some much needed character development, but it still hasn’t quite captured my attention. Come on, S.H.I.E.L.D., we’re rooting for you!

Next episode won’t be for another two weeks, so I’ll see you on the other side of the hiatus!

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