I found The Girl in the Flower Dress to be boring and a struggle to get through without becoming distracted, and when I was fully paying attention, I was rolling my eyes or groaning a majority of the time. The script buckles under the weight of the corny dialogue that often breaks the elementary rule of ‘show don’t tell’. While it has potential to be a fun, fast paced, romp through Hong Kong, sadly the heavy handed cliches and scenery-chewing acting tip it over the edge from okay, to the wrong side of passable.
To get one thing straight though, I think it’s important to point out that before I write my reviews, I always ensure I’ve watched the episode at least twice. Often I can be affected by having a bad day (or the opposite), or I might just not be in the mood for the show when it’s straight out of the box. I watched the pilot three times before I realised I genuinely disliked it, and The Girl in the Flower Dress has had a similar treatment.
That’s not to say that everything about this episode is awful. There are some good moments, and some decent dialogue. Unfortunately the good points are all but drowned out by the bad.
Opening with a sweeping shot of Chinese lanterns, with a background of generic Asian music, isn’t a great start. The freak of the week is Chan Ho Yin, a street performer with the power of pyrokinesis. Considering the dynamic nature of his profession, an opening like last week’s Eye Spy would have been far more appropriate. A background of some C-Pop rather than the tired Oriental Riff would have grabbed my attention, instead of inducing the first eye roll of the episode.
This is also the moment where the titular ‘Girl in the Flower Dress’ appears. I think it’s clear from the get-go that, while the creative team was aiming for the potential romantic interest vibe, they missed the mark, instead hitting sinister a little prematurely. This means a moment which is clearly supposed to be a jump-scare loses its impact. Once again, Project Centipede is the main baddie, and they’re tinkering with Extremis again, gasp! Could they be a new incarnation of AIM? Ehhh seeing as a bunch of people have suggested this on tumblr, it’s probably likely. If it’s one thing this show consistently is, it’s predictable – not that that’s necessarily always a bad thing.
In regards to the team, there are some insights into Coulson and May’s relationship pre-stabbing, but otherwise there’s not really anything new here.
Skye and Ward’s dynamic as SO and trainee is awkward and filled with all the wrong kind of tension. As you would expect, seeing as they start out playing battleship and snarking at each other at the beginning of the episode, one of them is going to do something to screw up the tentative friendship. That’s in the form of Skye doing something stupid with an old hacker buddy (you can guess what that is already, can’t you?) without seemingly considering the super-spy nature of her colleagues. There’s also some gratuitous and unnecessary underwear shots, that would be okay if they were somehow tasteful.
Fitz and Simmons finally make the leap from being a bit of light relief in a team of serious operators, to irritating. So far no writer has really made an attempt at separating the two characters, instead continuing to play on the idea that they’re two halves of a whole. I’m sure one of these days we’ll get an episode that suggests they may have their own brains, but this is not it.
Writer Brent Fletcher crams this episode with Whedonisms that drop like a sack of bricks. He also seems to forgo any sense of logic in many places – a world renowned hacker who honestly doesn’t consider someone having nefarious purposes, travel seeming to happen in the blink of an eye, Agent Cardboard acting like the most obvious spy on the planet (do I need to go back to that line about Black Widow from the pilot to express my disbelief here?) – those kind of plot points that have you shouting come on, how could you be so stupid? at your screen. While the silly suspension of disbelief moments were fine in previous episodes, I really grew tired of them here.
The development of Chan’s story is pretty predictable, his anger and disillusionment feeding his ego. The climax involves some laughable CG, and some extreme overacting on just about everyone’s part. Ruth Negga’s character Raina (flower dress girl), is clearly being set up as a big bad for the show, and this is reinforced with the after credits scene. If we’re going to see more of Raina, I hope she tones down the acting a bit, because while she certainly succeeds in being sinister, she’s also brilliant at laying it on so thick I’m afraid she’s going to suffocate herself.
While over all I disliked this episode, I really did enjoy some parts. May’s role was once again expanded, and I enjoy seeing her in action whether it’s physical or not. Despite Skye being written pretty horribly, Chloe Bennet’s acting is improving every week, and I’m actually starting to enjoy watching her on screen. She also has an important moment of character development at the end that had me breathing a sigh of relief, although it could be a big fake out. There are some interesting themes in the story, mostly surrounding doing things for the greater good – the lives of one over the lives of many, that kind of thing – but they are handled in such a heavy-handed way that it doesn’t really work.
The Girl in the Flower Dress is the kind of episode I can see being enjoyed by many, but for me, it fell pretty flat.