Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (2013) season 1, episode 19
"The Only Light in the Darkness"
WRITER: MONICA OWUSU-BREEN
DIRECTOR: VINCENT MISIANO
AIR DATE: April 22 2014
As the first season of the series heads towards its ending, becoming increasingly a serialized plotline, this new episode advances the mythology of the series against the backdrop of what else has happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The series has already been dealing with the fallout from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which has ended with S.H.I.E.L.D. in disarray, many of its members exposed as members of HYDRA. Those members include one of the regulars of the series, Agent Ward, whose loyalties to his former trainer John Garrett (Bill Paxton) and the terrorist organization have overridden any loyalties to his former colleagues. This episode has the team still trying to find their place in a brand new world, with Agent Eric Koenig, a Fury loyalist, as their only ally (even as he employs lie detectors to try to determine their agendas). There's also a more personal angle to the story.
Agent Coulson's past comes back to the surface, in the form of an ex-girlfriend, a classical cellist who believes him to be dead. Audrey (Amy Acker, a Joss Whedon regular from the Angel series), is under threat from a man obsessed with her, Marcus Daniels, aka Blackout, another nice touch from the comics universe, as the character has a lot of history and might not otherwise warrant an appearance in a movie role. Daniels is played here by Patrick Brennan, looking utterly ordinary and unremarkable until his powers get to work. He's able to make use of "darkforce" matter as an offensive weapon, and he's psychotic. He represents for the team a serious threat, particularly now that they don't have the backup of an actual agency behind them anymore.
The episode continues to build on late season strength. Brett Dalton's still the weakest member of the cast, but now that he's been liberated from the role of being the hero operative and we're seeing his true intentions (or are we?) as a HYDRA loyalist, he's at least becoming more interesting. In fact, the tensest moment of the episode comes from him being subjected to the lie detector, and we must wonder if Koenig's system will catch him in his lies. Chloe Bennet's Skye is putting herself more and more into the agent's mindset in her performance, conveying the sense of someone who's figuring things out for herself as she goes along, and hiding her horror at a realization she comes to. BJ Britt, now playing Agent Triplett more or less as a regular, shows us something more of his background and a reason we can trust him - I find myself wondering if he'll be officially on the regular cast next season. Clark Gregg has to play things close to the vest in this episode. The audience is aware of the Cellist, as we've thought of her, a girlfriend first introduced in Avengers, and it's only gradually in the episode that the rest of the team with him start to see how involved he once was with her. There's a melancholy about his performance this time out, and the audience is left to wonder why he doesn't just reveal himself to the woman he obviously still cares deeply about. Amy Acker's guest turn is very welcome. The actress has a strong sense of being likeable throughout her career already, so we automatically sympathize with her whatever her role might be. In this case, having to deal with an obsessive stalker with powers makes that sympathy all the more pronounced. We get to learn more about her ties with Coulson in not so direct ways, and even though they don't quite have interaction, we get a strong sense of their relationship and their history. Having her around this time out was inspired casting.
In the lie detector
The series has had a few ups and downs, but now as we're getting late into the series, it's growing in momentum and in terms of quality episodes. Capitalizing on events of the Cinematic Universe has been ideal for the series. Now that they are a team without an agency, and with the threats of their world still out there, we're left to wonder what will become of these people. Who can they trust? What will be left of them by season's end, particularly with how this episode ends?
... and will Coulson ever admit that his dad might have been Tommy Lee Jones?