In “The Only Light In The Darkness”, Coulson must save his ex-girlfriend (Amy Acker) from a mentally unstable prisoner who recently escaped S.H.I.E.L.D.’s most secure base. Meanwhile, Skye uncovers an emotionally devastating betrayal.
Continue reading for a spoiler filled review of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Episode 19.
Let’s Discuss What Happened!
• The Only Light In The Darkness: Taking a serialized approach to the second half of this season has resulted in some episodes advancing the story further than others. While this week’s instalment is not in a holding pattern, the story involving an escaped prisoner from the Fridge felt like a bit of a sidetrack even though it’s directly connected to what happened in the last episode. After the reveal of Ward’s true loyalties in “Turn, Turn, Turn”, the build up to the events at Providence is the central story I’m most invested in.
• The difference between an egg and a rock: The lie detector is a fun story device to reinforce what we know about our agents. For viewers who have jumped in on the show post Winter Soldier, it’s a good summation of each character in a nutshell and how they differ from one another by the their answers. Plus, new tidbits are revealed, the most interesting of which is that Agent Triplett’s grandfather was a Howling Commando.
Despite Ward inflicting pain on himself to disrupt the lie detector’s baseline, it’s odd how after repeated questions about his connections to Hydra and purpose for arriving at the Providence base, Agent Koenig would let him off the hook so easily just because he truthfully answered, “Skye, I came back for her.” which hardly equates to “I’m not with Hydra.” It’s an oversight that cost Koenig, who’s usually uptight about protocol, his life.
• Turn On The Bright Lights: This episode’s B-story is reminiscent of the early episodes, serviceable but hardly gripping entertainment. Marcus Daniels (known in the comics as “Blackout”) functioned more like an obstacle for the agents and as a contrivance to get Coulson’s cellist ex-girlfriend into the story than as a proper villain of the week.
The bright light of this subplot is the introduction of Audrey, played by Amy Acker (Angel, Much Ado About Nothing). Acker’s solid performance conveyed her strong feelings for Coulson though the two characters didn’t interact with each other until the end, but even then she was in a daze from the dark force blast. Audrey and Coulson are each other’s light in the darkness, something that I’d be invested in exploring as the show moves forward. There are a number of similarities between Acker’s role as Fred (Winifred) in Joss Whedon’s Angel and Agent Simmons, I wouldn’t be surprised if the former served as a character blueprint for the latter.
In a similar way to how Coulson couldn’t reveal himself to Audrey, Fitz made a significant sacrifice of his own. It’s endearing how Fitz didn’t come forward with the whole truth to Simmons by putting her above his own desires – or least that’s I how interpreted it. As jealous as Fitz is about Triplett, he’s learning to accept change, more specifically he’s no longer the sole object of Simmon’s adoration.
• Mary Sue Poots vs Ward: The show’s two most polarizing characters carried the other major storyline of the episode. Had this occurred at the beginning of the season, I would have doubts if the writers could pull it off but the dynamic of their relationship has become more compelling to me since the Hydra twist. Ward is deceitful and deadly but he’s surprisingly truthful about his childhood and describing himself as a “bad man”. Ward is clearly manipulating and using Skye but at the same time, some of his feelings for her could be genuine for all I know. Skye’s moment of truth at discovering Ward’s betrayal is pretty gut-wrenching and its quick thinking how she quickly composed herself so she could turn the tables on Ward.
• Agent May: One of the reoccurring themes is where to draw the line between following orders and choosing between right and wrong. For Coulson, the damage caused by May’s betrayal is irreparable at this point, even if she was only carrying out Nick Fury’s orders. Coulson’s strong outburst at May felt true to his character after the turmoil he’s been through. This is a good direction rather than taking a quick, easy route to rebuilding his friendship with May.
Of all the agents, May might just have the most mysterious past. Will we get to meet her ex-husband who was hinted at earlier in the episode? What does she want with Maria Hill? Luckily, we can cross out killing Maria, though it’s kind of funny that May’s mother would need to ask. Speaking of May’s mother, played by Tsai Chin who previously worked with Ming-Na Wen in Joy Luck Club, how will she factor into all of this?
The Wrap Up
Escaped prisoner Marcus Daniels wasn’t a compelling character but this episode’s true villain – Agent Ward stepped up his game again by murdering poor, gullible Agent Koenig. The switch from Skye getting played by Ward to her pulling one over on her former supervising officer could potentially lead to some promising moments. The keyword is “potential”, it’s something that was difficult for many fans to envision in the early days of the show but these last run of episodes have set up what could be a terrific finale.
What do you think May is up to? What do you think about Coulson’s girlfriend?