Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 1, Episode 5 of ABC's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," titled "Girl in the Flower Dress."
Somebody over at "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." has been listening. This week, we got some much-needed character development as well as a more substantial tease about our larger menace -- they even got a name! In fact, names were very important in this episode. They give something weight and meaning. And a name can turn a simple street performer into a power-hungry supervillain. What's in a name, indeed!
It was nice to see this elite S.H.I.E.L.D. team taking on a bona fide supervillain this week, even if he was somebody they already had on their "Index." That's a database they have of people and objects with powers. Don't worry, it's a short list ... for now. Apparently, S.H.I.E.L.D. assigned an agent to keep an eye on street magician Chan Ho Yin, and told him not to use his powers. This suppression approach seems likely to blow up in their faces down the road in a much larger way.
Chan was someone who was reasonably frustrated at being forced to hide who he truly was and what he was truly capable of. He's also probably representative of the frustration others on the "index" are feeling as well. This made him easy pickings for the alluring Raina -- portrayed by Ruth Negga, who purred every one of her lines. She lured Chan into a sense of comfort before packing him away to Centipede. That's probably not the organization's real name, but thanks to Skye's "hacktivist" boyfriend Miles, that's the name S.H.I.E.L.D. is now using for them.
Centipede got their hands on Chan's name, as well as details on his pyrokinetic abilities, because Skye's one-time mentor and lover, Miles, hacked the S.H.I.E.L.D. database and sold the information for a million dollars. He thought it was a benevolent and harmless eco-research lab that studied centipedes. In truth, "Centipede" is the organization behind the Extremis serum seen in the series premiere.
It turned out that Chan's blood platelets were fireproof, which is why he didn't burn when using his power. It also meant that his platelets could be used to stabilize Extremis so people would stop exploding. So, Raina and her doctor friend simply took them from Chan. By this point, the ruse was up. He was never going to be a superhero named "Scorch" like Raina had promised. He was never going to be famous like his idol, Harry Houdini. So he decided to settle for infamous, but wound up just dead.
It was a little odd how murderous he became. Maybe it was because it was S.H.I.E.L.D. who came to his rescue, and he had years of resentment built up toward them. Maybe it was the agony that using his power caused him now that his platelets had been stripped out. Whatever it was, Chan took it all out first on his S.H.I.E.L.D. handler, and then the doctor who'd extracted his platelets. Her death was a nice special effects moment, though gruesomely horrific at the same time. Raina managed a quick escape to purr again.
Coulson felt responsible for Chan's descent into madness -- this S.H.I.E.L.D. policy of power suppression is going to be trouble, I'm telling you! -- and yet he knew he was going to have to take him out. Chan was too far gone, and so they too him out. But maybe Skye isn't
Coulson knew that Skye was holding onto a secret, still, and so he had May follow her when they were initially trying to track the leak that had exposed Chan to Centipede. As such, May caught Skye when she tipped off Miles that S.H.I.E.L.D. was coming after him, and then slept with him. Don't shows usually do the extended underwear scene with their hot, young female lead in the first episode? "S.H.I.E.L.D" waited until Episode 5 to have Chloe Bennett walk around in her bra and panties for a ridiculous length of time. It seems like they saved a lot of stuff that should have been done sooner for Episode 5 -- like character development and "big bad" reveals.
That said, underwear scenes like this are nice and all for the younger male demographic this show is catering to, but even those males can see that this one was gratuitous. And it wasn't just for the fellas, either. Miles was in his underwear, though it was those black boxer briefs that every male on television seems to wear these days. At least his shirt was off. Ladies!
At least the underwear was a practical decision in one sense. We got to see that Skye keeps an SD card in her bra. That came back at the end of the hour when Coulson gave her one last chance to not get thrown off the plane. After betraying the team, she needed to come clean or she'd be dumped off in Hong Kong with her former lover. And so she told him what was on the SD card. It wasn't intel she'd gathered on S.H.I.E.L.D. It was intel she'd gathered on her parents.
Turns out a huge part of her motivation to join Rising Tide and target S.H.I.E.L.D. was to track down her parents. Her investigation into them came up blank, save for one document -- a document completely redacted by S.H.I.E.L.D. And so, Coulson agreed to help her, but regaining the trust of the team is going to take a little bit more time, which should be fun to watch.
This kind of friction within the team will be a good thing. Especially as the relationship between Ward and Skye is quickly becoming one of the strongest on the show. I'm sure the 'shippers in the world are already seeing them together, but I like the idea of him being more like a big brother to her. Their playful banter is wonderful as is. It humanizes Ward, which is desperately needed in most episodes, as well as giving Skye a personal reason to stick around. Well, after this week's reveal, I guess it's two personal reasons.
I was a little taken aback when Coulson gave Skye the same bracelet he'd given Miles, though. Coulson told Miles that it wouldn't allow him near electronics for awhile, and it would allow S.H.I.E.L.D. to keep an eye on him. I get the latter for Skye, but isn't electronics kind of her point for being on the team? Maybe hers is programmed differently. I'm sure she could hack it anyway if she really wanted to.
All in all, I was very encouraged by the developments this week. We got a few scenes with Rayna representing Centipede and making moves that our team doesn't know about. Giving the enemy both a name and a face, as well as hinting at their ultimate agenda, was just what "S.H.I.E.L.D." needed to do. Now, we know what they're up against in a more tangible sense -- and we even know a bit more than they do.
That said, there is a limit to how far you should go with the witty banter. I get that absolutely everyone in this universe is clever and full of quips, but they shouldn't be finishing each other's jokes.
"Either they're guarding the world's largest vacuum..." Agent Kwan said outside the Centipede facility. Coulson finished it for him, "...Or that's where Chan's being held."
No. Just, NO!
"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.