Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Amy Acker Is Not “The Only Light In The Darkness” For Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. At The Turning Point!

The Good: Good banter, Decent acting, Pretty tight plot
The Bad: Lighter on character, No thematic resonance.
The Basics: “The Only Light In The Darkness” advances the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. plotline by bringing back Coulson’s girlfriend while putting Skye in the sensible danger she needs to be on her own with Ward!

It takes a pretty cool show to take a throwaway line in a movie to make an entire episode for the season from it. Back when Iron Man 2 (reviewed here!) appeared on the big screen, Agent Coulson was very much a background character. So, when Pepper Potts mentions that Coulson has a girlfriend and he mentions that she is a cellist, it was pretty much a throwaway at the time. With S.H.I.E.L.D. in shambles, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. decided to bring that cellist to the forefront. Picking up where “Providence” (reviewed here!) left off with a previously unknown supervillain being released from The Fridge and Agent Coulson determined to find him, “The Only Light In The Darkness” continues the Marvel Cinematic Universe storyline with mixed results.

“The Only Light In The Darkness” is yet another episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. that feels like a bridge episode that might be working toward something, but viewers have to take on faith will pay off. Given how Joss Whedon productions have a pretty long history of turning things around, the faith viewers have in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. might well be justified, but “The Only Light In The Darkness” is not a tremendous episode on its own. That said, it’s not bad and, in fact, at its worst “The Only Light In The Darkness” is struggling because it is treading where Alias went about a decade ago. In fact, if I had more time, I’d hunt down the episode of Alias that had a similar plot wherein one of the main characters barely evades the new double agent they’ve discovered. I bet I’d find at least three.

With Marcus Daniels out in the world, killing again (despite not having been seen in the series before now), Agent Coulson’s team is finally reunited and safe at Eric Koenig’s safehouse. With Ward patched up – and telling the team how he killed Garrett - Coulson is eager to go out and recover Daniels. Koenig, however, is not an idiot and he is determined to make sure that Coulson’s team is safe to be in Providence. Ward manages to pass Koenig’s foolproof lie detector test by skewing his answers and inflicting pain upon himself. Coulson becomes obsessed with recovering Daniels and he knows how to find her: apparently Daniels was obsessed with Audrey Nathans . . . who is the cellist that Coulson dated years prior.

At Providence, Skye figures out how to find Daniels using NSA satellites. Koenig is suspicious of Ward and tasks Skye with hacking the satellites. Simmons and Triplett debrief Audrey as she tells them about her prior contact with Daniels. May tells Ward she is leaving, with the Bus fixed and Coulson ostracizing her. With Ward making a move on Koenig to protect himself, Audrey practices at a public venue as a trap for Coulson and the rest of the team to capture Daniels. While Coulson’s team works to take out Blackout without Audrey seeing Coulson alive, Skye uncovers the truth about Ward (literally seconds after I told my wife “They can’t kill off Koenig; he’s an old friend of Nick Fury who’s in the comic books for years!”) and works to stay alive.

“The Only Light In The Darkness” does some things very right. On the character front, Simmons continues to develop her relationship with Triplett and Fitz is jealous of their budding relationship. The realism of that plays out well. Coulson is appropriately tormented by Audrey’s return to a point adjacent to his life. He is unwilling to have contact with her given how she is healing from his, apparent, death in New York City. She obviously did not know about his resurrection.

The continued character development of Koenig actually makes the episode watchable. Koenig is suspicious of Ward and he does not lose that suspicion. He clearly has an agenda and director Vincent Misiano smartly captures Patton Oswalt’s subtle eye motions that emote Koenig’s continued suspicion of the operative that plays out well.

Interestingly enough, “The Only Light In The Darkness” is the episode where I finally actually liked Skye. All along, Skye has been annoying and viewers have had to take it on faith that the character has something going for her that Coulson alone has seen up until this point. Actress Chloe Bennet has not brought a lot to the role, but in “The Only Light In The Darkness,” the character is finally smart enough to justify her presence on the show and on the S.H.I.E.L.D. team. Near the end of the episode, a penny has an important and prominent role; I know what Ward was doing with it the moment it first appeared. For the first time on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., it turns out Skye was up to speed with me. In fact, with May fleeing to an unlikely source, May is set up to be the next major character betrayed, but in “The Only Light In The Darkness” Skye is betrayed but is smart and professional enough to adapt to her dangerous circumstances. And Bennet lands it!

“The Only Light In The Darkness” is entertaining and it is clearly setting up the first season finale of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. for a big event (right now, we’re moving toward an episode where Skye is clearly about to be tortured for the location where the hard drive can be decrypted and an inevitable rescue attempt from the rest of the Agents), but on its own, it is not stellar television. It’s good entertainment, but it is hard to imagine having forty-five minutes to spare and picking out “The Only Light In The Darkness” as an episode to watch to fill that time.

For other works with Amy Acker, please visit my reviews of:
The Cabin In The Woods
Alias - Season 5

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season here!


For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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