Thursday, April 24, 2014

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Episode 19: The Only Light In The Darkness

Another solid episode this week, as we get more of Evil Ward, an actual super villain from the comics, an unexpected death and at long last the appearance of Coulson's ex! Oh, and Skye becomes somewhat likable. Amazing!


The Plot:
After Garrett frees all the prisoners from the Fridge, super powered inmate Marcus Daniels (aka Blackout) travels to Portland to reconnect with his old flame Audrey Nathan. The same Audrey Nathan who just happens to be Coulson's long talked-about old flame. Coulson splits up the Team and takes FitzSimmons and Triplett to Portland to save Audrey from Daniels.

Meanwhile back at the secret Providence Base, Ward kills Agent Koenig, and Skye discovers he's working for HYDRA.

• Dang it! I really liked Agent Koenig! Or I guess I should say I liked Patton Oswalt, as he was pretty much playing himself here. I can't believe they offed him after just two episodes. Surely his voice-over work on The Goldbergs doesn't take up that much of his time.

By the way, Koenig was an obscure character from the comics.

• It looks like there's no question now that Ward is a full-fledged HYDRA agent. A few weeks ago I thought maybe he was being mind controlled, or Nick Fury had given him some top secret deep cover HYDRA infiltration mission, but every dead body he leaves in his wake makes that seem less likely. I don't see any way for him to ever rejoin the Team at this point. 

Do not be surprised if in the season finale he takes a shot at redemption by scarifying himself for Skye or something like that.

By the way, now that we know Ward's an evil killer, we could say he's now Psycho Ward. Eh? Get it? Com-O-Dee!

• Agent Koenig forces everyone on the Team to take a souped-up S.H.I.E.L.D. lie detector test before he'll trust them. The test gave us lots of insight into the various characters. We learn that May was married, and Triplett's grandpaw was one of the Howling Commandos (presumably Gabe Jones). And Simmons is a big Doctor Who fan!

During Skye's test she reveals she her orphanage named her "Mary Sue Poots." Ha! I've been saying all season that Skye's pretty much a Mary Sue (an audience surrogate character who never has to work for their wild success). Was this name the creator's way of admitting they're guilty as charged, or just a coincidence?

• During the lie detector test, Koenig asks everyone if they've ever had contact with Alexander Pierce or heard of Project Insight. Those are both references from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Pierce was the HYDRA leader played by Robert Redford, and Project Insight was the plan to kill "undesirables" with a fleet of helicarriers.

• Speaking of references, Black Widow gets yet another name drop this week, as does Bruce Banner.

• This week's episode was rife with coincidence, the crutch of the lay writer. Daniels just happens to get released and immediately heads for his ex, who just happens to be Coulson's girlfriend. Ward needs to decrypt the S.H.I.E.L.D. hard drive, and the only person who can do it is his crush Skye. Coulson just happens to split up the Team, leaving Skye and Koenig alone with Evil Ward. And on and on.

• It's cool that we finally got an honest-to-Thor super villain on this show, but...Blackout seemed more like a bad guy who wandered off the Smallville or Supernatural sets. 

I get that it might have been a bit jarring if Blackout showed up wearing his comic book costume, but cheezus… surely they could have done a bit better than a guy in a trench coat.

By the way, there are two Blackouts in the Marvel Universe. The second was a Ghost Rider villain, who was a half-demon albino who could generate a light absorbing field.

• Blackout had a visually interesting power; too bad we didn't get to see him use it very often. I guess there just wasn't enoguh money in the budget for more Darkforce rays. 

The way his powers worked were also a bit vague. In the teaser he kills a guy by… I don't know. Sucking the light out of him? Absorbing his life force? Who knows? Whatever he did, it established him as a very dangerous entity who could kill with but a touch. Yet later in the show he shoots purplish black rays at Coulson and the others, and all it seems to do is knock them on their asses.  

• After Ward kills Koenig, he sets a penny on top of the storage room door as a makeshift intruder alert, so he'll know if Skye's been snooping. After tripping his detector, she's smart enough to replace the penny so Ward doesn't know she's discovered his treachery.

I'll admit it took me a while to figure out what the whole penny thing was all about. Koenig's body was stashed in the ceiling, so for a minute I just thought change was raining from his pockets every time someone opened the door!
• Coulson uses Audrey as bait to capture Daniels, by having her play her cello in an abandoned theater. Do cellists really sit like that when they play? Especially lady cellists? I suppose there's no other way to hold one, but seeing her squatting behind her cello with her legs splayed wide open was the least attractive thing I've seen in quite a while.

• Speaking of Audrey, Coulson's been talking about her ever since The Avengers, and then when we finally get to see her they have absolutely zero interaction. It seems odd that after all this buildup the two don't even get to speak to one another.

• There's no reason I can think of for Coulson to not let Audrey know he's still alive. He gives a weak excuse that she needs more time to heal or something, but it's pretty obvious that they don't want to waste this big revelation on the TV show and are saving it up for The Avengers 2.

It strains credulity though that none of the Avengers know he's really alive. Jeez, Captain America and Black Widow both work for S.H.I.E.L.D.; you'd think at some point during the past two years they'd have passed Coulson in the hall.

• I can't believe I'm saying this, but Skye came perilously close to being likable in this episode. I've been ragging on her character all season, but I'll admit I was actually worried for her safety this week. I know I'm not the only one who actively dislikes the character-- have the writers finally heard our complaints and taken steps to make her less annoying?

Three more episodes to go!

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