TV Review: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1 Episode 19
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EPISODE 19: "The Only Light in the Darkness"
SYNOPSIS: With their world turned upside down, Coulson races to save the life of his one true love as the mystery of 'The Cellist,' which began in Marvel's THE AVENGERS is finally revealed.
BREAKDOWN: (The following column contains MAJOR SPOILERS, so I don't recommend reading this if you haven't watched this episode).
With last week's episode revealing that Ward has been a sleeper agent since the very beginning and then concluding with him infiltrating one of the last secure S.H.I.E.L.D. bases, where can the season go with only 3 episodes left to cram everything in? Tonight's episode opens with Marcus Daniels, one of the prisoners at The Fridge freed by Garrett (Bill Paxton) last week as he kills a man by simply touching him. Who is this mysterious superhuman? None other than obscure Marvel Comics villain Blackout. Unless you are familiar with the Thunderbolts comics or recent Ghost Rider, you likely have never heard of Blackout, but Agent Coulson certainly has.
Back at Providence, Ward regales the team with his heroics in fighting Garrett at The Fridge but not before every prisoner is released. Ward claims he killed Garrett to which the team breathes a sigh of relief. As they analyze who was freed from The Fridge, Coulson asks if Daniels is among them and decides to take a team to go after him. Agent Koenig (Patton Oswalt) refuses to let them leave without first undergoing "orientation". Using an incredibly high tech lie detector test designed by Nick Fury, Koenig will ensure everyone is a valid S.H.I.E.L.D. ally, which worries Ward. As they undergo the exams, they are asked numerous questions, both S.H.I.E.L.D. related and non. Ward's exam begins to show signs he may be lying and Koenig presses him at gunpoint. Ward finally reveals his secret motive is to get Skye, under the guise of romantic intentions. Koenig passes Ward.
While Ward undergoes his test, the team learns about Blackout and how he was created. Conventional weapons do not work on him and they must find a way to harness the power of light to bring him down. Coulson tells Ward and May to stay back while the rest go to find Daniels as Coulson thinks he knows where to find the villain. May confronts Coulson who still doesn't trust her after learning of her surveillance of him. In midair, Coulson reveals Daniels is going after a woman named Audrey Nathan (Amy Acker) whom Daniels calls his "only light in the darkness". When the team finds him they use drones to contain him. Daniels then reveals that while in The Fridge, HYDRA experimented on him, making him stronger. He then uses the Darkforce energy to escape.
Audrey Nathan shares her story with Simmons and Triplett about her first confrontation with Daniels and how she met Agent Coulson. Under the impression that Coulson is dead, the team listens as Audrey talks about missing him. Fitz thinks he has a way to stop Daniels, but it requires using Audrey as bait. Coulson is reluctant, but agrees. Meanwhile, May decides to leave the base since Coulson doesn't trust her. As Skye almost finishes hacking into the NSA satellite to see who broke into The Fridge, Ward kills Agent Koenig.
Ward confides in Skye his "true" feelings for her, playing up the fact that he is not a good man, but Skye insists he is and they proceed to kiss passionately. Skye finds Koenig's blood on Ward's neck and he runs quickly to clean it. During that time, Skye finds Koenig's surveillance tablet tracking their ID badges and discovers his body, learning that Ward is HYDRA. Frantically trying to find a way to escape, Skye instead pretends that she doesn't know Ward's secret and continues to seduce him. Ward then presses Skye to leave with him and she agrees reluctantly.
As Audrey plays her cello, the lights go out, signalling Daniels' arrival at the theater. As he gets closer to the stage, the team use the light guns made by Fitz but Daniels is too powerful. As he approaches her, they regroup and take him down. He explodes and a beam of Darkforce hits Audrey. Coulson runs to her side, kisses her, but leaves before she opens her eyes. On the plane back, Coulson tells Fitz he will someday tell Audrey the truth while also vowing to forgive May. At Coulson's urging, Fitz almost tells Simmons about his feelings for her but backs out at the last minute.
As the team returns to Providence, they discover The Bus and everyone gone. Aboard the plane, Skye asks where they are going and Ward directs them to the location where the hard drive can be decrypted. The closing scene finds May walking down a road in Ontario where she is picked up by an old woman who turns out to be May's mother and a former member of another spy agency. She provides May with contact information to reach Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders).
MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE REFERENCES:
Agent Koenig references Nick Fury's lie detector machine which he claims was designed so even Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) couldn't beat it. During his interrogation, Agent Triplett reveals his grandfather was a member of the Howling Commandos, Steve Rogers squad from CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER. While it is not revealed who, it is safe to assume it was Gabriel Jones (Derek Luke). The agents are also asked if they know about Project Insight or Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford). Audrey Nathan is the cellist mentioned as Coulson's love interest in THE AVENGERS. The weapon Fitz builds to stop Daniels is based on technology developed by Bruce Banner. May is revealed to be looking for Maria Hill.
"Marcus Daniels worked as an assistant at a physics lab trying to harness the electrical power of something called Darkforce. And nothing bad ever happens when you work with something called Darkforce." - Agent Coulson
Skye's cat and mouse with Ward intercut with Coulson and the team confronting Blackout may have been one of the tensest scenes in the series to date.
DO WE (REALLY) KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO COULSON YET? OR WHAT SKYE'S POWER IS?
OR WHO THE CLAIRVOYANT IS?
No new headway is made on any of these but we do learn more of Coulson's background and Skye's abilities as an agent.
EPISODE CLEARANCE LEVEL: 9/10
The complaints we have had leading up to the latest run of episodes continues to be a non-factor as the showrunners have found a good balance between standalone episodes while still keeping the overall mythology of the show progressing forward. Blackout seems like a waste of a villain here, but giving us more backstory on Coulson while at the same time building the S.H.I.E.L.D. versus HYDRA arc is done very well. Not the best episode of the season but still a very good episode.
NEXT ON MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.:
Episode 20 "Nothing Personal" - Just when there's no one left to trust, Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) - from THE AVENGERS and CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER - returns to team up with Coulson as S.H.I.E.L.D. is being destroyed around them.
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