Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode 5 review: Girl In The Flower Dress

Review James Hunt 24 Oct 2013 - 07:06

Humour, character development, intrigue... James finds much to admire in this week's Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

This review contains spoilers.

1.5 Girl in the Flower Dress

Well, we knew it had to happen sooner or later. An episode of SHIELD that was actually, mostly, quite good, especially if you squint a little bit.

First things first: some of the dialogue on this show is still awful. To illustrate, allow us to quote Fitz: "Why would Skye do this to us? I thought she was our friend. We've been through so much together and she didn't even tell us she has a guy." – A line that sounds nothing like anything an actual human would speak. It's hard to believe that the people running this show previously worked on the subtext-rich Spartacus. Perhaps they should try leaving out the definite articles and see whether that forces them to be a bit less direct with their language.

Secondly, while I loved the fact that they kind of, sort of, dredged up an actual Marvel character to use in this episode (albeit one so obscure and minor that they could basically reinvent him from the ground up without upsetting even the most hardcore nerds) it was a shame that he too bore almost no resemblance to an actual person with his rapid-acting megalomaniacal disorder. Maybe his bizarre behaviour will make more sense once we learn a little more about Raina, the titular Girl in the Flower Dress, and the influence she clearly holds over others, but at least the character's transformation into a super-villain got the first genuine laugh out of the series (Coulson's exasperated "Oh no, they gave him a name.") See! It can be done!

But now for the good stuff!

The villains. Skye's hacker love interest was great, and her divided loyalties finally felt natural and character-driven rather than an artificial plot contrivance. Similarly, the idea that she's got her own agenda unrelated to Rising Tide and SHIELD answers a crucial question: what does this character want? Now we know, and that finally makes her relatable. And it gives us a good mystery to speculate over: which Marvel characters will her parents be?! At the very least, I'm assuming they were SHIELD agents, so hey, she might have something in common with Spider-Man.

Similarly, Ward et al actually displayed personality this time around, rather than simply exhibiting their sole assigned character trait. Okay, they were all just a bit hurt by Skye's keeping secrets from them, but one emotion is better than none.

And we finally, finally, finally got some exploration of the idea that SHIELD might actually be as bad as the people they're trying to fight. Miles the hacker might've just been a money-hungry tool who hid behind his philosophy, but when SHIELD smashed up his stuff, cuffed him such that he couldn't go near a computer again and admitted using over-zealous surveillance techniques, it actually felt like the show might be at least open to a dialogue about whether governments crossing lines to protect people is justified, even if this episode's engagement with the topic wasn't so much a thesis as it was a draft title. Still, it's like someone finally realised their show doesn't have to be completely dumb to be entertaining.

Speaking of mysteries, which I was earlier before I digressed, Reina herself was the closest thing this series has yet had to an original, interesting idea. If everything they came up with was so offbeat and unfamiliar, it'd be easier to forgive their reliance on new characters. It's hard to say right now who and what she is, but there's clearly something going on. Robot? Powers? We don't know yet. But for the first time this series, I actually want to know more, so that's got to be a good thing.

On the flip side, the back-breaking contortions they went through in order to not talk directly about "the clairvoyant" in the final scene (or, for that matter, reveal who the prisoner is) were painful to watch. Still, it's another mystery that at least gets you wracking your brain. If they're not saying the person's name, it's because it's someone we know, so start coming up with your guesses now. Once you discount mutants there are almost no precognitives in the Marvel Universe, though, so maybe we should be looking at the more magical end of the spectrum.

Unfortunately there's no new episode next week, so we're going to have a lot of time to chew over this one, but let's take heart in knowing that the series has been improving with each instalment. The next one should once again be the best yet, and if they can improve on this week's then I might even be convinced that Agents of SHIELD could actually become the show we all want it to be.

Read James' review of the previous episode, Eye-Spy, here.

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