I think three episodes in a row means we have a pattern starting to form. “Girl in the Flower Dress” goes along way in shoring up the glaring holes in SHIELD. I’m now far more interested in Skye as a character than I was a week ago. We get a hint of backstory and the ideas that she is on a quest, it is not much but just enough. Chloe Bennet as an actress, I am still far from sold on. But in her defense she was asked to and showed more range in this episode than anything before. Giving Skye a lot of work in a single episode instead of each character getting a little is the right call. WE aren’t being strung along by a matter of inches instead we feel like it’s a foot. IfSHIELD spends the next 2-4 episodes Digimon style focusing on character and getting them to “Champion” level the foundation could be set for an awesome back 9.
The largest complaint about Skye as a character (discounting Chloe Bennet the actress for a moment) has been her well kept appearance. It’s a bit of visual dissonance between what we imagine someone would look like who has lived in their van for 2 years. Her make up room hair doesn't fit the bill. Appearances aside, the complaint that has that she isn’t really a characters - save for her stock hacker features. Well now we get a bit more to chew on. She doesn't have a past. An orphan with no memory of her parents and the only thing she could find on them is a heavily redacted file from SHIELD. The type of thing that lead to deep seated distrust of law enforcement institutions. How can we and herself know who she is when she doesn't know where she came from? Yes, it is cliche but it functions well and makes her an empty vessel for Jed, Maurissa and Co. to fill up. NOTE: Brett Fletcher wrote tonights episode. It isn't much to go on, but it’s enough to pique my interest and get me to tune in next week.
Her final scene with Coulson, handing her the bracelet box, might be the best dramatic scene so far. The way the camera is hung back and shooting down slightly, clearly showing the box but not it’s contents (we already know what is in there). She just stands there for a couple of extra seconds until she takes it out and you hear the very loud clink. She’s now seemingly at the bottom and must earn back the trust (that was never really there in the first place). A prisoner to the institution she hates and guarded by the closest thing she has to a family.
“The Asset” pointed out that all large institutions, no matter how noble, eventually achieve a mass and bureaucracy that is no longer useful, instead detrimental to their cause. That it comes down to a few free radicals like the Magic School Bus to affect real change. “Girl in the Flower Dress” fall son the other side of the coin: you can’t trust the goodness of strangers or old friends you haven’t seen in a while. So who can you trust? Your family. Either blood or surrogate, it is the group of people that surround you on a daily basis. The Magic School Bus is on bigg surrogate family. You’ve got Pappa and Mamma Coulson and May, Annoying teenage brother and sister duo FitzSimmons, and the teenage wonderkids Ward and Skye. (that just made everything sound very incetuous). When they take Skye in Fitz is broken up that not only does it appear Skye betrayed them by helping a top suspect, but that the real stinger is that she didn’t tell them she had a boyfriend (used loosely) somewhere. That kind of closeted openness is a betrayal that should hit them and audiences more than it did. It doesn't really hurt because 1) we knew nothing of Skye at that point and 2) the writers haven’t really set up any moments of them interacting with each other outside of work or in some team building exercises. “O-8-4” made them work as a team by plot design but it’s something that needs to be renewed. Fitz does hit on the “after all we’ve been through” line which makes sense. there is a certain amount of work an episode simply as an experience can do to build a sense of connection within a team but only a little. There isn’t really a sense of friendship or comradery on the Magic School Bus. Skye has mainly been interacting with Ward and Coulson not FitzSimmons or May. Everyone else comes together come mission time, a time of function over character. The Surrogate family is a staple of Whedon shows so it’s very annoying to see Agents of SHIELDfumble this.
They are getting it right with Ward and Skye however. Contextualising the Ward Skye coupling as master and student and actually showing them work as such. Ward being Skye’s SO is meaningless comic book speak but it is an excuse to have them work together on things that doesn't beat you over head with THIS WILL BE #1 SHIP. This working dynamic also alleviates some of Dalton’s more wooden moments. That scene between them playing Battleship was playful in the best ways.
So, lets get to the titular Girl in the Flower Dress and Scorch. Thankfully Scorch, as he liked to be called in the end burned out. If he had stuck around, he’d be the first guest character I really did not find interesting. Some of it is their instance to have him go into megalomania in the end and have that narcissistic need to be known. His pyromancy did give me the briefest moments of hope that the group known as Centipede is really a division of A.I.M. Nope they are just men in fireproof suits. The actual SFX around the fire was pretty good even if it looks like they just put red LEDs in his hand as markers and a light source for post. Odds are still good that it’s Hydra and with the trailer for Captain America: The Winter Soldier dropping Thursday we might get confirmation the old organization is back. Man how bummed will I be if this isn’t A.I.M. or Hydra? Creating something new isn’t bad but this is a MCU show, you want and expect those kind of high level connections. Not just this remember the battle of New York talk.