Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Review 1.19 - 'The Only Light in the Dark'
Posted by Wyatt Beougher on 04.23.2014
Coulson takes a splinter team to track down a villain with a personal connection, while Ward tries to use Skye to his own ends. Plus, Koenig gives the team the ultimate lie detector test! 411's Wyatt Beougher checks in with his review of "The Only Light in the Dark"!
Previously on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Ward and Garrett led a team of Hydra agents to the Fridge, where they stole everything of value and released a slew of inmates. Meanwhile, Coulson and the team followed a set of coordinates in his S.H.I.E.L.D. badge that led them to a secret base Fury had set up for them in the Canadian wilderness. Garrett sent Ward back undercover to get Skye to decrypt the hard drive that contains all the files from the Bus.
Season 01, Episode 19: The Only Light in the Dark
One of the escapees from the Fridge walks along a dock, with lights snuffing out all around him. He approaches a fisherman and tells him he needs a ride, but when the fisherman refuses, he draws all of the power out of the fisherman’s truck, causing it to stall. He then touches the fisherman and draws all of the energy out of him, before getting in the truck and starting it up. His bracelet says Marcus Daniels, and he turns the radio to classical music before smiling and driving away. At Providence, Simmons is doctoring up Ward, who delivers his cover story about Hydra already overrunning the Fridge before he could get there. Ward claims to have “put two” in Garrett’s head after gaining the upper hand in a scuffle. Simmons says Ward has two cracked ribs and a zygomatic fracture, but when Fitz tries to explain the latter, Trip ends up joining him in the explanation, much to Fitz’ consternation. Simmons suggests Ward take some time to recover, and he says that there was a small victory, that the hard drive containing all of the files from the Bus didn’t fall into Hydra’s hands. He suggests Skye back it up, but Coulson wants her to do an evaluation of all the escapees first.
Skye tells Coulson that the situation is bad, and Coulson inquires about Daniels. Skye confirms that Daniels escaped, and Coulson tells her to cross-reference crime statistics with the escapees’ past whereabouts and look for upticks. He asks if the plane Ward flew in on is operational, but when Ward offers to pilot, Coulson shoots him down, telling him to recover while Coulson leads a splinter team to track down Daniels (and eventually the other inmates). May is worried splitting up the team is a bad idea and part of Hydra’s plan, and Coulson concedes that while they’re safe in the bunker, there are millions of people who aren’t so lucky. Koenig refuses to let Coulson leave, saying that no one can leave until they go through orientation. He reveals “THE Lie Detector”, which checks multiple variables to see if people are lying. Koenig puts the team through its paces, and he reveals that Triplett is the grandson of a Howling Commando. We also learn that Skye is a mononym, and that her last legal name was “Mary Sue Poots”. Koenig asks a mix of psychological questions and questions pertaining to the events of the The Winter Soldier, and after seemingly getting what he needs, he issues the team lanyards, leaving only Ward to go through Orientation. Ward takes his turn, with Koenig revealing that his injuries make it hard to get an accurate baseline.
Meanwhile, Coulson briefs the team on Daniels and his Darkforce powers, with Fitz again trying to explain them to Trip, only for Trip to already know. Daniels can absorb all types of energy, including the electrical impulses that control the brain and heart. Fitz is confident that they can build a delivery system to overload his absorption powers. Coulson asks Trip to be the pilot and specialist on this mission, and Trip agrees, much to Fitz’ chagrin. Koenig continues his interview with Ward, getting suspicious readings when he asks why Ward is there. Koenig draws a pistol and asks Ward if he’s associated with Hydra. Ward does his best Liar, Liar impression, attempting to answer factually without actually revealing his true allegiance, but Koenig presses the issue as he gets increasingly more signals that indicate that Ward is lying. Koenig cocks the pistol and levels it at Ward’s head, but Ward revealing that he’s there for Skye settles the machine and earns Koenig’s trust. Ward gets his lanyard, only to pull a sliver a metal out from under his thumbnail, which was likely interfering with the machine’s readings while he was hooked up to it. Fitz says he’d prefer Ward was going with them to Trip. Ward tells Fitz if there’s something he wants to tell Simmons, he should do it now. May wants to pilot the mission, but Coulson tells her to repair the Bus. She says Daniels is personal, but Coulson says they don’t do personal, not any more. Coulson is still angry with May for deceiving him, and he tells her that if she doesn’t want to follow his orders, she needs to find somewhere else to be. Coulson, Trip, and FitzSimmons leave, and Coulson briefs FitzSimmons on Daniels’ past obsession with a woman. Coulson puts a name to the woman, Audrey Nathan, and says that if they can find her, they’ll find Daniels.
In a park, a woman is stretching before beginning her jog. She puts in headphones and begins to run, but lights cut out, followed by her music. She turns and sees Daniels and takes off at a faster pace. Simmons and Trip pull up and Audrey (Amy Acker) gets into the car and they speed off, just as Fitz and Coulson pull up in a second car. Fitz deploys his drones to shine light on Daniels, which temporarily disorients him, but when he recognizes Coulson, he reveals that S.H.I.E.L.D. scientists experimented on him to make him stronger, shortly before he overloads the drones and attacks Fitz and Coulson with DarkForce energy. Skye and Koenig are analyzing crime statistics, when Skye realizes that the lanyards are actually tracking devices. Skye suggests getting images of all of the escapees to find out where they are, but Koenig says S.H.I.E.L.D. satellite surveillance is dark. Skye suggests hacking the NSA’s satellites to get the information that they need. Koenig resists, so Skye tries to enlists Ward’s assistance in convincing Koenig. Ward agrees with her and suggests that he upload the contents of the hard drive to see what weapons they might be carrying, only for Skye to reveal that not only is she the only one who can decrypt the data, but also that it can only be done from a specific location. This impresses Koenig enough that he’s willing to let her hack the NSA. Skye says she’ll need an hour and leaves Ward with Koenig. In what appears to be a safehouse, Audrey quickly figures out that Simmons and Trip are S.H.I.E.L.D., before revealing that she trusts S.H.I.E.L.D. in spite of all of the recent bad press because they saved her from Daniels, who was stalking her. She says that she trusted the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who came to her door immediately, and that they got close, eventually revealing that her S.H.I.E.L.D. agent was Coulson and that she is, in fact, her cellist. Audrey doesn’t know that Coulson is still alive, and she’s pretty clearly still in love with him. Fitz, projecting his own issues onto Coulson, suggests that Coulson go and talk to her. Coulson, channeling Fitz, refuses, so Fitz reveals that he has a potential solution to trapping Daniels, but that it requires using Audrey for bait. Coulson is immediately resistant, but Fitz convinces him that it’s the only way to stop Daniels.
On the Bus, Ward has grabbed a pistol and he goes to talk to May. She reveals that the Bus is fixed and has a range of roughly 10,000 miles. Ward prepares to shoot her, but May grabs a duffel bag and says she’s leaving because Coulson doesn’t trust her, and she says that the price for following orders was too high because she lost Coulson. May exits into the Canadian wilderness and the bunker seals behind her. Ward joins Koenig, who is overjoyed with Skye’s success in hacking into the NSA’s satellite feeds. With the images clearly up and Ward’s cover about to be blown, he slides the door shut behind him to deal with Koenig. Back in Portland, Trip and Simmons explain the plan to Audrey, which is for her to play her cello until Daniels gets to the stage. Audrey is concerned because last time, it took two teams of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to bring Daniels down, but Simmons assures her that their two best agents are in what appears to be a projection booth. Fitz cobbled together something from the jet’s propulsion system to supercharge some of the theater’s spotlights. Coulson is equal parts worried and angry that S.H.I.E.L.D. supercharged Daniels instead of rehabilitating him, and he’s even more worried by the fact that they’re relying on technology developed by Bruce Banner to try to catch him.
Back at Providence, Skye comes looking for Koenig, but Ward says he’s busy sending out all of the footage Skye found to various organizations as a sign of good faith. He then reveals that May left, which throws Skye off. She asks Ward if he felt anything for May, and he proceeds to lay on the charm, offering her a drink. Coulson again refuses to talk to Audrey because he’s afraid to hurt her again, and he puts his team members in position. Ward continues to flirt with Skye, and he tells her that he’s not a good person, but she dismisses his claims. Ward reveals that his older brother actually made him beat up their younger brother, and that their parents just didn’t care, and then they share a kiss. Skye pulls her hand away from Ward to reveal blood, and Ward hurries off to clean it up, insisting it must be from one of his cuts. In Portland, Audrey begins to play, while back at Providence, Skye uses Koenig’s tablet to try to locate Koenig. As Audrey continues to play, Ward attempts to wash up blood from an area where he’s clearly not cut, and then he washes blood off of a garrote. Audrey stops playing when she sees Daniels, but he urges her to keep playing because she is the only one who can save him. She resumes playing, and Daniels comes towards her. Skye arrives at the room that Koenig is in, only for a penny to drop from the door jamb when she opens it. She can’t find Koenig in the room, but when several droplets of blood land on the tablet screen, she looks up and sees his body. She sees Ward closing in and panics, while Coulson’s team shoots their modified lights at Daniels. Daniels overpowers them with DarkForce, but Coulson recovers before he can reach Audrey and that busy Trip enough time to help Coulson overload Daniels, who explodes into a cloud of DarkForce particles.
Skye locks herself in the bathroom and freaks out as Ward gets ever closer. She tries to deal with the realization that Ward is Hydra while Coulson checks on Audrey, who was knocked unconscious when Daniels exploded. He kisses Audrey’s forehead and tells her that she’s safe, but she wakes up to Simmons instead. Audrey rationalizes it as hearing what she wanted to hear. Meanwhile, Ward checks the room where he left Koenig’s body, only for the penny to drop into his hand. Skye tells Ward that him opening up and kissing her scared him, and she moves in close and kisses him again. They work the long con on each other, and Ward tells her that Coulson wants them in the air. Skye says she needs to grab a couple of things, but Ward tells her they have to leave immediately, and she acquiesces. On the transport jet, Coulson confides in Fitz, saying that he lied to Audrey and that he needs to make things right with May. Simmons walks in and Coulson excuses himself. Simmons wants to talk to Fitz, and she says that Trip is worried that he’s offended Fitz. Fitz seems like he’s going to confess his feelings, but instead says that he doesn’t like change. They arrive a Providence, only to find it deserted. On the Bus, Ward tells Skye that Fitz needs the specs for the 0-8-4 from Peru from the hard drive, and that she’s in charge of where they go next, which draws a slight smile from Skye.
An SUV with Pennsylvania plates picks May up in Ontario, Canada, and we meet May’s mother, who is apparently a retired operative for an organization other than S.H.I.E.L.D. and that she’s the only person who May trusts. May’s mother is worried that May is going to take out whoever she asked for intel on, but May insists she only wants to talk, and May’s mother reveals that “she always liked Maria”.
“One for me, one for you.” “I would’ve emptied the mag.”
“No, you are not. Absolutely not. You can’t leave - there are protocols.” “Considering the entire agency has pretty much collapsed, maybe now’s not the time to stand on protocol.”
“What’s in that box, Simmons?” “That’s a hard one. Let me think...the Tardis.”
“Sir, I’ll be whatever you want me to be.” “That’s what I was hoping you were going to say.”
“He’s insufferable isn’t he?” “Trip? I think the guy’s okay.” “I know, he’s terrible. He’s a horrible person.”
“Maybe Simmons should check you again for a head injury, cause that’s not the Ward I know.” “You know what? Do whatever you want - I don’t care.” “Good to have you back.”
“That’s almost romantic...almost.”
“She says the guy appeared out of nowhere, and just disappeared into thin air.” “You just described every mugging, ever.”
“Why poke the bear? The big, scary, waterboarding bear?”
“So what should I tell him? Whatever you want - he won’t hear it.”
“Who did you say created this technology again?” “Bruce Banner.” “Oh, then I’m sure it’ll go off without a hitch.”
No direct quotes this week, as both discussions I’d like to highlight carried over into several comments, so I think it’ll be easier just to summarize. First up, our own Jeffrey Harris started the ball rolling about Franklin Hall coming back as Graviton, which prompted Kyatollah to wonder if he’d be portrays as frighteningly in this show as he was in Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, considering Hall was a fairly meek man. Jack Revenge theorized that Hall wouldn’t be quite on that level yet, as in this universe, he’s still just developing his powers. Kyatollah suggested that Hall would be driven insane by being trapped inside the Gravitonium, which Jack and I both seem to agree with.
The second discussion was between Tom Hyberger and myself, because Tom thought that Koenig knowing Fury was alive but not knowing that it was Ward who broke into the Fridge was a plot hole. I offered a suggestion for how that was possible, and Joshua agreed with me, and I was pleasantly surprised to see them touch on it this week, as well as having Skye try to rectify the situation.
Theory of the Week
I’m still not completely convinced that Trip isn’t Garrett’s ace in the hole; however, with them adding in the backstory of his grandfather being a Howling Commando and him being a legacy and all, it would certainly make his betrayal all that more stinging to what’s left of S.H.I.E.L.D. Of course, with him apparently being an amalgamation of Fitz and Ward, he could also very easily fill both roles on the team if Fitz dies (and, it being a Whedon show, I’m still convinced someone is going to). I’m also curious as to why May’s mother would’ve worried about her trying to kill Maria Hill, and which organization she works/worked for, as the Pennsylvania plates really didn’t tell me much. The fact that she drove 500 miles to Toronto would suggest Philadelphia, though.
Rumor Round-Up (WARNING: THIS SECTION MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS - READ AT YOUR OWN RISK)
Even less this week than last, as I haven’t seen any new casting announcements or rumors as to what’s going to happen in the final three episodes, besides Hill, Fury, Talbot, and Deathlok all showing up.
This was a very solid episode, and even though they basically went back to the “Villain of the Week” format that was common in the first half of the season, there was still enough overall storyline development this week to maintain the higher standard of quality of the second half of the season. Skye’s discovery of Ward’s true allegiance and her quick thinking that allowed her to prevent him from finding out were perhaps her best character development thus far this season - instead of just telling us she qualified to be an agent, she finally started to act like one. Plus, May giving up on Coulson just as Coulson realizes how much he needs May? Sure, it’s every bit as cliched as some of the worst stuff on this show, but in this instance, it just worked.
My biggest complaint was that the special effects for Blackout’s powers were more or less awful (by today’s standards - if this was the Generation X special from the 90s, they would’ve been BOSS), and the character itself, along with his backstory vis a vis Coulson’s cellist, deserved more time. I wish they’d have used one of the other escapees for this episode’s villain and devoted a few minutes this week to Blackout’s attempts to find the cellist, and then paid it off next week. With such a personal storyline, especially with a character who was known in the early days of the MCU for being so impersonal when it came to his work, I think what was already an emotionally charged moment (when Coulson vowed to protect Audrey) would’ve been even better had it had some time to marinate.
Overall, though, the character work this episode was great, with Ward alternating between S.H.I.E.L.D. Ward and Hydra Ward, and him killing Patton Oswalt’s Koenig will certainly make him the biggest villain on the show amongst internet denizens. Fitz being torn between confessing his feelings for Simmons and risking rejection or playing it safe and ultimately bottling up his dislike of Triplett was well-done also. Plus, the little winks to fans (Koenig going all fanboy on Trip for being a Howling Commando legacy when Koenig himself was a Howling Commando in the comics, and Skye’s orphanage name being Mary Sue when she’s been accused of being exactly that particular trope) were superb.
The 411: This was a very solid episode, well-acted and emotionally charged, but it still lacked some of the pizazz of the last few episodes. Still, though, right there in the higher-quality run the second half of the season has been on, and it didn’t slow down the momentum for the end of the season at all.