VOD TV review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Episode 19 (The Only Light in the Darkness)
James R | On 09, May 2014
“I’m not a good man.” “Yes you are.”
That’s Skye talking to Eric at S.H.I.E.L.D.’s secret-secret base, which Coulson dragged the team to last week. Hidden away under the Canadian snow, things are heating up between the two would-be lovers – despite the fact that he’s been sent back to infiltrate the team by The Clairvoyant (the still delightfully hammy Bill Paxton).
That’s the main driving force behind Episode 19 (The Only Light in the Darkness) of Marvel’s TV show and it’s a powerful one, playing on the franchise’s newfound focus upon uncertainty. The impact of Captain America: The Winter Soldier continues to reverberate throughout the Marvel universe, leaving Coulson clinging to the past, Fitz and Simmons hoping to cling to each other and Patton Oswalt’s straight-laced Eric clinging to his precious lanyards.
The security-conscious Eric provides the comic relief, but his obsession with trust directly taps into the programme’s undercurrent of doubt; he soon subjects everyone to a Nick Fury-designed lie detector test that makes Jeremy Kyle look like, well, Jeremy Kyle. The result, a montage of exposition, could have been clunky in other hands, but Agents is in fine form right now and judges the balance between silly, sweet and sinister with surprising agility. Even the dodgy CGI from last week has been replaced with solid effects.
Will Skye cotton on to her boyfriend’s real motives? Does May still have a place within S.H.I.E.L.D.? Will Eric give everyone a lanyard?
The group politics bubble along nicely, while a subplot involving Phil’s former flame provides emotional depth to keep you engaged; if Clark Gregg hasn’t always convinced as a tough-talking action hero, he certainly nails unrequited stoicism, crumpling like a live-action Kermit the Frog every time he has feelings. The damsel-in-distress scenario sees the series revert back to its former formula, but if there’s a touch of monster-of-the-week about the script, The Winter Soldier’s aftermath ensures that events stay streamlined. The Only Light in the Darkness? Patton Oswalt, who stops things getting too serious. If anything, you wish he had more screen-time to do so.
“I’m not a good man,” warns Eric, ominously. “Yes you are,” comes Skye’s wistful reply. As she finds herself increasingly less sure, Episode 19 leaves you certain about one thing: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has rarely been better.