Agents of SHIELD: 119 “The Only Light in the Darkness” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
After a few game-changing episodes in a row, it was only a matter of time before Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fell back on something that felt more like a filler episode, and unfortunately “The Only Light in the Darkness” is that episode. But at this stage, even a filler episode of this show manages to be solid, entertaining viewing in its own right, with a nice little glimpse into Coulson’s pre-Avengers life brought about by a guest star who is the perfect fit for this Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The episode kicks off with the team being put through Koenig’s rigorous lie detector test, a machine which is supposedly the best in the world by combining elements of all other lie detectors to measure everything when a person is talking. There are some nice insights into the kinds of people the team are, and a nice little reference when Simmons says she would take a TARDIS to a desert island, but the test we are most concerned with, naturally, is Ward’s: after some extra prodding from Koenig, including straight-up asking Ward is he is part of HYDRA, Ward manages to narrowly beat the test and get his precious lanyard.
Soon afterwards, the team learn of a Fridge escapee by the name of Marcus Daniels (a villain named ‘Blackout’ in the comics), who is able to absorb energy and use something called the ‘Darkforce’, which everyone agrees isn’t likely to be a good thing. They also figure out that he is obsessed with a woman named Audrey Nathan, who happens to be not only a cellist, but the cellist as mentioned in The Avengers as Coulson’s former love interest. In any other show, this would be cause for a joyous reunion between the two, but considering the fact that last Audrey heard Coulson was dead, this outcome isn’t particularly likely for them.
Anyway, we meet Audrey, played by fantastic Whedon alumnus Amy Acker (Fred in Angel, Dr Saunders/Whiskey in Dollhouse, Dr Lin in The Cabin in the Woods and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, and that’s without mentioning her non-Whedon credits) as she is confronted by Daniels who manages to take out all the streetlights on her block. Fortunately though, she is saved by Fitz, Simmons and Triplett, all posing as CIA agents so as not to freak her out after all the palaver with S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA. However, she tells them that she doesn’t care what the news says, as she knew a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent once and he was the best man she’d ever known, revealing to the rest of the team that she and Coulson used to be together.
While keeping her safe, the team work out a plan to stop Daniels, who admitted during their previous encounter that the naughty scientists in the Fridge were actually working to make him stronger rather than removing his powers altogether, by overloading him with energy. But for the plan to work, they need to lure him out of hiding by getting Audrey to rehearse in a concert hall all by herself, which she agrees to: the plan works and Daniels does show up, but the three team members able to reveal themselves to Audrey can’t manage it by themselves as Daniels overpowers them. So Coulson, hiding behind a spotlight, comes out of the shadows and loads Daniels with so much energy that he explodes, knocking Audrey unconscious as he does: Coulson comforts her but disappears before she properly wakes up, leaving her believing that he was just a hallucination. He mentions to the rest of the team that he wants her to know that he is alive, but only when they are both ready. It’s a welcome appearance for Acker and a nice look into Coulson’s history, all without being too mushy and over-sentimental, something which wouldn’t feel right with the tone of this show.
Back at Providence, Skye and Koenig attempt to hack the NSA to get a glimpse at what happened at the Fridge, while Ward wanders around generally being brooding and conflicted over his feelings for Skye and May fixes up the Bus. However, when she is finished with the repairs, May leaves Providence and heads out on her own, tired of Coulson not trusting her and feeling that she could be of better use elsewhere.
Eventually Skye’s hack works, and Ward is forced to murder Koenig to keep his secret safe: he then goes and tries to seduce Skye to throw her off the scent, and she reciprocates until she goes into the store room and finds Koenig’s body stuffed into a vent, prompting her to realise that Ward is, in fact, working for HYDRA. She has a minor breakdown after receiving this news, but manages to pull herself together enough to play along with Ward as he tells her that Coulson needs them to bring the Bus out to them in the field and heads out into the big wide world with a man she knows is a terrorist and a murderer, even going so far as to hold hands with him. And that sound you’re hearing is a shudder running down the collective spine of all right-thinking people in the world.
In the final moments of the episode, May is picked up in Ontario by a woman who turns out to be not only a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, but also May’s mother: it is revealed that May, for reasons unknown to all but herself, is searching for Maria Hill, Nick Fury’s second-in-command last seen taking a job at Stark Industries in the closing moments of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
As I stated earlier, this is very much a filler episode, with no Garrett to be seen and no major developments in the S.H.I.E.L.D.-HYDRA conflict, but in this case it was not a bad thing to take a step back from the action and the major developments and focus on the characters for a moment before the last few rather busy-looking episodes of the season.