Agents of SHIELD has finally managed to get itself into higher gear with the Captain America story tie-in. Ever since episode 17 ‘Turn, turn, turn’ fans have been casually positive about what they perceive as a reboot. Before the tie-in I had an opportunity to rewatch all the episodes and I must say that I found some of my own criticism of the show unfounded. There are many subtle points I missed the first time watching and the writing staff deserve more credit. That said, the show is better than ever now that SHIELD has its back to the wall after Garret and Ward (Brett Dalton) were revealed as agents of HYDRA. All of this has been very hard on the team and agent Coulson in particular. He only had just figured out how Fury had managed to resurrect him after the Battle of New York and now he has to deal with a team that is skeptical of his mental health.
In this weeks episode Coulson is instead more the source of strength and steadiness as Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) deals with the fact that she no longer has the trust of Coulson. After Coulson, Fitz and Simmons depart their secret lair Providence to catch a dangerous criminal with superpowers she lingers on but ultimately decides to leave the team. By the end of the episode she has been picked by a woman who presumably is her mother. It is implied that she may take a similar change of job as Maria Hill (Cobie Smolders).
Meanwhile Ward and Skye remain behind at Providence. Ward’s orders from Hydra are to get Skye to decrypt the hard drive with the research into how Coulson was resurrected. Ward barely passes the lie-detector test set up by the caretaker of providence agent Koenig (Patton Oswalt). Skye suggests she be allowed to hack the NSA to take their satellite feed and determine how ‘The Fridge’ was overrun. Ward knows this will implicate him and kills Koenig before he has a chance to see the footage. Ward tries to further seduce Skye after their kiss in ‘Turn, turn, turn’ but she wants to slow down their relationship.
Skye (Chloe Bennet) quickly sets out to look for agent Koenig to watch the feed she took from the NSA, earlier on he showed her that the badges given by him to each team member allows him to track them. Skye determines to track down Koenig and finds him murdered on the supply room. Skye has a moment of absolute crisis as she knows that Ward is a HYDRA traitor. As Ward tries to find Skye he fears she has discovered the body but finds it undisturbed. Skye pretends nothing is amiss and suggests they try to use The Bus to reach the geographical location from where she can decrypt the hard drive. Both of them leave Providence leaving it abandoned.
Coulson (Clark Gregg), Fitz, Simmons and agent Triplett set out to apprehend Marcus Daniels, a physicist altered by a experiment gone wrong. Merely by touching people he can kill them. The hunt is made more difficult by the fact Daniels is infatuated by Audrey Nathan (Amy Acker), a cellist from Portland. Agents Coulson started a relationship with her after the previous apprehension of Daniels and she doesn’t know he was resurrected after Coulson’s death. Coulson seems intend on not telling her despite the urgings of Fitz (Iain De Caestecker). Simmons initially tries to reassure Audrey that they are CIA and Not SHIELD but she doesn’t believe it. She accepts that SHIELD is not responsible for all the mayhem HYDRA has caused. During the trap set for Daniels Coulson does not manage to remain completely hidden and Audrey manages to see a glimpse of him. She confronts the other agents but they insists she had not seen it correctly.
After Daniels is dead the team head back to Providence only to find it completely abandoned and the bus missing. The pursuit of Daniels seems to have been intended to act as the more meatier part of the episode but the opposite is true in reality. The little screen-time Ward and Skye get is far more interesting. In fact I think the pursuit of Daniels reminds me too much of the procedural aspect that were so disliked by fans during the early part of the season. The introduction of Amy Acker as Audrey Nathan seems a little bit underwhelming, a cellist with a stalker is not quite as exciting as a hacker with a thing for cosplay (Skye). I am still getting over seeing Amy Acker as anything else but the genius computer terrorist from Person of Interest. However, with the introduction of Audrey Nathan we can be sure that the storyline of Phil Coulson will be further explored. With the abandonment of Providence and the treason conducted by Ward out team have their backs pushed to the walls even further than before.
‘The Only Light in the Darkness’ is effective in many ways, each character gets enough screen-time to get them to deal with the fallout of the rise of HYDRA. It also continues Ward’s path down the dark side and there seems little room for redemption after he murdered agent Koenig. It show that this show has grown and won’t fall into the superhero trap of saving characters at the last moment. The procedural aspects however did not interest much and were included to just stretch out the story more.
For those hoping that Agents of SHIELD has been saved by the Captain America tie-in will be disappointed. No show can have the same highs with every episode, most episodes will have to lay the groundwork for others. The HYDRA storyline has stabilized ratings around a paltry 5.5 million which puts a second season in serious jeopardy.
Score; 8.4 / 10. A exciting episode of Agents of SHIELD but the Amy Acker introduction could have been better.
Source; www.agentsofshield.com (Agents of SHIELD S1Ep19 The Only Light in the Darkness Review)