There’s a lot of power in a name. The prospect of an unknown menace is unsettling, but the prospect of a known, named evil is much scarier stuff. Remember Voldemort? There’s a reason they called him He Who Shall Remain Nameless. Giving a name to something gives it power, and in Tuesday’s episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “Girl in the Flower Dress,” we see just how much power a name can wield. It isn’t just that our long-term villain got a name – Centipede, the fine folks trying to refine Extremis for their own nefarious purposes – but we saw how giving someone a name can transform a meek, mild-mannered street magician into a bombastic, murderous supervillain.
Seeing our ragtag band of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents go toe to toe with a legitimate supervillain was exactly the kind of challenge I’d been hoping for them to face. Granted, it was a “registered gifted” that they already had on their “Index,” a database of people and objects imbued with extranormal powers, but still — a superpowered villain! Coulson reassures us that it’s a short list, but nonetheless, Hong Kong street performer Chan Ho Yin was on it, meaning that S.H.I.E.L.D. assigned him an agent to act as a power parole officer and told him not to use his abilities. Based on this episode alone, trying to get these people to suppress their powers is something that can have explosive results.
As someone with pyrokinetic abilities, you can imagine why Chan would have been frustrated at not being able to include them in his magic act. Hell, anyone who was forced to hide their true self or suppress their potential would be understandably frustrated. It’s difficult to imagine that Chan isn’t somewhat indicative of how others on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Index feel as well, which is exactly what lead him to follow Raina (the flower dress-clad Ruth Negga) like a sexy Pied Piper all the way to Centipede. Hopefully Centipede isn’t the official name for this evil organization, especially given that Hydra and A.I.M. would both make way better, canonical candidates, but that’s what S.H.I.E.L.D. is calling them for now. At least they’re not referring to their experiments as Human Centipedes because come on.
Just how did Centipede track down Chan? Well, it’s quite simple, you see – Skye’s secret hacktivist boyfriend/mentor/lover/certified douchenozzle Miles hacked into the S.H.I.E.L.D. database and sold the information for – cue Doctor Evil voice – one million dollars. But it’s not his fault, you guys. He thought that it was just an ecological research firm that studied the most terrifying hundred-legged insects on Earth. Little did he realize that Centipede is the cabal of evil scientists behind the Extremis serum that popped up in the very first episode.
As it turns out, they were not a benevolent ecological research firm trying to make horrorbugs more palatable and friendlier for you and me. They merely wanted to harvest Chan’s blood platelets, which are fireproof, thus preventing him from self-immolating every time he used his power. They also have the convenient side effect of stabilizing the notably volatile Extremis serum, which would prevent test subjects from, well, exploding all the damn time. So, Raina and her hot doctor friend harvested his platelets after convincing him that he was going to get so much more. Unfortunately for Chan, he won’t be more famous than Harry Houdini. He won’t be a renowned superhero named Scorch (thank goodness). What he will be is an uncontrollable ball of arson and rage and, eventually, another casualty.
When the S.H.I.E.L.D. crew finally shows up to break Chan out of the worst lab on Earth, they’re met with a surprise. He doesn’t want to be rescued, and he lets them know fairly definitively by shooting a fireball through Agent Kwan’s chest. At this point, Chan is a man beyond reason. He wants revenge on Centipede for betraying him and trying to kill him, and he does take out his anger on the unfortunate doctor who gets even hotter in a nice bit of special FX work. He also wants revenge on S.H.I.E.L.D. for keeping him from realizing his true potential all these years. It doesn’t matter that they’re there to save him; he can only see red, and unfortunately that leads to Coulson giving the kill order and May stabbing him with two syringes of Extremis, a surefire recipe for spontaneous combustion. Unfortunately for everyone, Raina is long gone by the time they make it out of the building.
The episode also puts to bed the matter of “Is Skye a double agent or not?” As she reveals to Coulson, she has hacked into classified S.H.I.E.L.D. servers, she’s done things for the Rising Tide (and people – we’re lookin’ at you, unnecessary Miles sex scene!), and she’s hidden SD cards in her bra. Yes, you read that right – she’s hidden SD cards in her bra and infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. for what it contains. She’s trying to track down her parents. Her investigation was mostly fruitless, save for a single document that had black highlighter applied liberally after it was nearly completely redacted by S.H.I.E.L.D. Ever the softie, Agent Coulson agrees to help Skye on her parent quest, but she is going to have to earn back the trust of her teammates after getting caught quite literally sleeping with the enemy. This is the kind of friction that, hopefully, will serve the show well going forward, now that it has laid to rest any suspicions that Skye isn’t serving the team’s best interests. Outfitted with a specialized monitoring bracelet and receiving the cold shoulder from her emergent big brother figure/love interest Ward, it’s going to be an uphill battle for Skye going forward, but a victory for viewers like me who are craving more character development than we’ve had thus far. “Girl in the Flower Dress” isn’t the best episode yet, but it makes some smart game moves that will further the interests of the show in future episodes.
Odds and Ends
– Usually, I’d advise against hooking up with a street magician, but in this case it seems that he should have avoided the girl that would hook up with a street magician.
– “Body probes? That’s ridiculous. S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t do that. Do they?” “Methods vary.” Fitz and Coulson
– “English isn’t my first language, but that word means something different than you think.”
– No one messes with Coulson’s Finger of Silence
– “No matter what you do, I’ll never stop looking.” “You might not like what you find.” Oh, Coulson, you always know just what to say.
– Who is the Clairvoyant?! If it were AIM, they could work in MODOK, perhaps, which would be pretty baller in my book.
– “I like your dress.” “I know.” Creepy.
– “Say it, Ward. Say it.” “You sank my battleship.”
What do you think of “Girl in the Flower Dress”? Let us know in the comments below or tell me yourself on Twitter.