New actions by Rising Tide bring rising tension to the team this week as Skye exposes both her disloyal tendencies and the reason she became a hacker intent on taking down SHIELD. The reason is the biggest cliché of all — the hope that they know who and where her parents are — but hopefully Joss Whedon has some tricks up his sleeve to improve upon the been-there-done-that motivation.
SHIELD’s case involves Chan, a street magician with pyrokinetic capabilities who has been recruited by a mysterious femme fatale named Raina. The “girl in the flower dress” (this episode’s title) wins him over by nicknaming the fireball wielder “Scorch” and promising him that her organization will let him show off his powers (unlike that party-pooper SHIELD agency that only lets Tony Stark fly around in a metal suit. Or bring Captain America back from the dead 70 years after drowning. Or allow Dr. Bruce Banner to become a snarling green fiend. They’re such jerks.).
Of course, SHIELD knows Chan’s information has been stolen from their files, so the first step is to find the hacker who did it. The culprit is Rising Tide member Miles, Skye’s hacking teacher — and past flame. After a car chase that would be a lot cooler and more successful if Coulson were captaining his Corvette “Lola” rather than a government-issue SUV, Miles escapes to his apartment where an irate but horny Skye awaits. Insert some sexy time that’s totally uncharacteristic of the program so far. Agent May finds them finishing up their tryst, and it’s off to the holding cell (again) for her and Hong Kong for all.
Ward reveals that Miles sold information about Chan’s whereabouts to the Centipede project, taking us back four episodes to the pilot. Their drug enhances his powers, but that’s not the reason the researchers need him. Before he can get all warm and cozy with his boosted flambéing skills, his captors drain him of the serum and of his fireproof blood platelets so they can fix the combustibility issue that reared its explosive head in LA. It’s all in the name of improving the Centipede serum. Of course, anyone who’s been given the name “Scorch” (which Coulson rolls his eyes at) isn’t going to take such ice-cold abuse — he re-injects himself with the drug so he can flash-cook his saviors, but that doesn’t do much to keep him from searing his own flesh in the process.
Even without buttering his burns, Chan is still a force to be reckoned with, so Coulson lets Skye out of her time-out corner so she can hack into Centipede’s security systems and let Ward loose on the lab. Miles also joins the effort of getting a very irate Scorch under control — a harder task now that he’s revealed his true nature as a super villain who likes to roast anyone working against him, be they with SHIELD or Centipede. May puts an end to the chaotic conflagration when she plunges two knives into his shoulders and the serum, still unstable like it was in LA, blows up a second Centipede lab. Whedon must really have something against illegal scientific research facilities.
Miles gets a mighty SHIELD finger wagged in his face, and the million dollars he made off Chan are donated to the deceased’s family. Skye redeems herself after Coulson gives her a pretty emotional scolding — note, “pretty emotional” for Coulson is the equivalent of “slightly more passionate than the act of picking up dry cleaning.” She hands over a digital storage card containing all the information she has on herself, including the single document about her parents that was redacted by SHIELD.
The whole exchange harkens back to a previous comment made by Coulson after Chan is brought down. “You can’t save someone from themselves, sir,” Ward tries to console his superior. “You can if you get to them early enough,” Coulson counters. It would seem that he’s gotten to Skye with plenty of time to spare.
He’s not as lucky when it comes to Centipede, as the episode’s stinger shows. Raina pays a visit to a former serum developer in prison who has access to “The Clairvoyant,” someone who can help give insights on the next stage of the project. What this means is a mystery, and will probably be left to stew in the back of SHIELD viewers’ heads for a few weeks before being picked up again.
In the meantime, here’s hoping that Skye’s Mommy-and-Daddy issues don’t take seasons to resolve (I’m looking at you, Hawaii Five-O and NCIS: LA), Lola gets more screen time next week and that we’ll soon get a Thor sighting (the next installment in the Avengers film franchise comes out November 8). As a whole, “Girl in the Flower Dress” shows the nascent series picking up speed and settling into its spot as a super-show with plenty of fires left to put out.
Kate Everson is a Chicago journalist and University of Missouri alumna. By day she is an associate editor for four HR industry magazines. By night, she reviews films, outlines fiction novels with tough female leads and dreams of being the first person to win two Oscars in the same night for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay. When her fingers aren’t getting exercise bouncing across her keyboard, she’s reading Palahniuk and Vonnegut, practicing her Batgirl skills in the dojo or waiting by the mailbox for her Hogwarts letter. As Katharine Hepburn said: “Life is to be lived. If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting.”