Plot: Super villains are running rampant after their release from The Fridge. Upholding his belief that S.H.I.E.L.D. must protect the people, Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) takes a small team out to stop their first target. This time though, the mission is personal. At the secret base, Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) puts his plan to help Hydra in motion, but runs into unforeseen complications.
When Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. began last fall, it spent a lot of its time building the relationships between each of these team members. It mainly focused on stories with original characters to give our main cast appropriate time to shine before the real exciting stuff came later. Many people felt that this gave the show a really slow start. In contrast, the past several episodes have been nothing but excitement with awesome comic book/movie cameos, a killer tie in with The Winter Soldier, the effects of which are far reaching, and the growing Hydra threat. Interpersonal relationships still received some attention but they definitely took a backseat. In an excellent twist, “The Only Light in the Darkness” brought several relationships to the forefront for some hard analysis while providing the same material we have all come to love as of late, in a deft blending of “old” and “new.”
For the first time ever, Coulson’s mythical Cellist briefly mentioned in The Avengers made a formal appearance. I remember absolutely loving Coulson’s offhand mention of her to Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) in Stark Tower. Bringing her into the show and giving her an official name, Audrey Nathan (Amy Acker), was an incredibly wise move. She has been mentioned briefly in previous episodes and Coulson’s inability to talk to her clearly torments him. That turmoil is put on the spotlight when the team has to save her from Marcus Daniels/Blackout (Patrick Brennan). It really is tragic to watch Coulson not being able to talk to the woman he clearly loves. His may have gotten his life back, but he can’t exactly live the way he did before. I really hope Audrey returns so these two can find some resolution.
The episode also rightfully focused on Ward and Skye (Chloe Bennet). It really had to after all the revelations last week. We’ve seen Ward and Skye dance around their relationship for a while, but last night the concept developed a terrifying tone after Hydra’s uprising. I am now as anti-Ward/Skye as I can possibly be. Ward is developing into a truly scary villain, and now everyone we’ve grown to care about is in danger. We already got our first victim with Eric Koenig (Patton Oswalt) too marking a sudden and upsetting end to Oswalt’s tenure on this program. However, Koenig’s dead body is exactly what tips Skye off at Ward’s true identity, giving their relationship a real predator/prey dynamic. Now Skye is on her own personal mission to stop Ward. I am honestly a fan of how their relationship has evolved. Definitely much more exciting than “happy fun time.”
The relationship between Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) has really gotten better as of late too. Who would have thought Antoine Triplett (B.J. Britt) would be the one to alter this dynamic? It’s hardly a secret by this point that Fitz has feelings for Simmons. Even Ward calls him out on it. Yet the incredibly shy scientist has never taken the necessary step to actually solidify their obvious feelings for each other. The jealousy he feels toward Triplett is appropriately palpable. I was upset though that Fitz didn’t take any opportunity to actually convey his feelings towards Simmons last night. There was a perfect moment for that and it didn’t happen. Just take these two characters to the next level already.
Coulson’s fractured relationship with Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) really came to an unexpected tipping point. After May is cleared of all Hydra involvement thanks to a super high-tech lie detector, she’s reprimanded by Coulson even further for keeping T.A.H.I.T.I. a secret. Coulson learns at the end that he should forgive May for her actions but it was too little too late. May has now left the base and is traveling with her mother in Ontario. Apparently May’s mother is a retired agent as well. The episode ended with them talking about Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), which fits perfectly with her big return to the show next week. I’m already really excited for that. I’m also happy that Coulson had his little epiphany too regarding his trust in May. Their constant bickering was really starting to wear thin. Let’s get these two friends back together soon okay?
While the detailed focus on these relationships was a great addition, “The Only Light in the Darkness” was able to deliver some appropriately tense moments too, such as anytime Ward and Skye were together. Koenig interrogating Ward was another standout scene as our former hero failed several questions regarding Hydra. Why Koenig suddenly dropped all suspicion of Ward after that is completely beyond me though. Would you really do that after so many red flags? While Koenig’s inaction lead to his death, it at least revealed the truth to Skye later on. The inclusion of lesser known comic villain Blackout was great as well, especially since this team didn’t have their infinite S.H.I.E.L.D. resources at their disposal. It truly does make their battles against super villains that much more dire.
What I absolutely love is how unpredictable Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has become as of late. I honestly cannot say with certainty what is going to happen next week. Will Skye survive in her struggle against Ward? What exactly is May’s objective meeting up with her mother? Now that Coulson has operated under the damaged S.H.I.E.L.D. banner, how will the world view his actions? There are only three episodes left and it’s going to be a wild wide as all the answers come to light.