Okay, before we dive into the latest episode of Agents of SHIELD, I first have to express my utter disappointment in the untimely murder of one Agent Eric Koenig. I might be more upset about this than the HYDRA infiltration in the first place.

How could someone as likable and funny as Patton Oswalt get the shaft after only a two-episode arc? And killed by Ward, no less, that traitor. There’s no redemption for you now, buddy. Even if you make a last-ditch effort and save Skye or Coulson or someone else on the team, you’re dead to me. I’ve said ever since his betrayal that Ward makes a much better bad guy with a whole extra layer of depth that wasn’t there when he was fighting for good, but man, did this one cross a line.

SHIELD pulls off a combo serial episode and plot advancement in “The Only Light in the Darkness,” introducing some characters we might know a little something about. But the side-story is more about further fracturing the team and teaching us a lesson about whether or not to speak out about love. 

Agents of SHIELD Mission Debrief: Coulson Keeps It Brief >>>

The Setup: Truth or Dare

Ward is back in Fury’s secret base, and he fools the team on his backstory by saying they were overwhelmed at the Fridge and there was nothing he could do to stop HYDRA from grabbing the gear and freeing the prisoners. Still, he managed to kill Garrett (wink, wink) and hang onto the hard drive. He wants to back up the files right away, but with all the supervillains now on the street, Coulson has another idea … and an ulterior motive. 

Before Koenig will let anyone have access to anything or even consider leaving (Coulson was the only one Fury said to let in), he first needs to vet them all and determine who is trustworthy. A montage shows everyone passing a Fury-created lie detector with various and sometimes comical answers to the same questions, so I guess that means there are no other HYDRA agents in our midst. And then comes Ward. 

His answers are so sketchy that Koenig pulls a gun on him while directly asking if he’s a member of HYDRA. Ward blames the inconsistent readings on the pain from his injuries before trying various evasive maneuvers and eventually succeeding when he says he’s really there for Skye. Because that’s not, in fact, a lie. And he is rewarded with a lanyard that also doubles as a secret tracking device. This will come in handy later, just not for Koenig. 

Then Ward pulls a metal pin from his finger — the real pain generator — and offers a jealous Fitzy some love advice about coming clean with Simmons. It is one of two times you hold out hope he might not be a total douche.

Blackout, the Cellist and the Darkforce

With the team members cleared, Coulson, FitzSimmons and Triplett head out to track Marcus Daniels, aka supervillain Blackout, who was, as a lab assistant, exposed to the powers of the Darkforce and can now absorb all forms of energy. May wants in on the mission, but Coulson chews her out something terrible in a “damn” moment and tells her to follow his orders or leave. She chooses the latter shortly after takeoff, making things much easier on Ward. 

Coulson knows exactly where Daniels is headed, as he was obsessed with a woman — a cellist — before he was locked up the first time. The fact that this woman is Coulson’s love interest who still believes he died in the Battle of New York might have been an aha moment had we not known this was coming for weeks. 

The only way to stop Blackout is to overwhelm him with energy by shining a bunch of lights on him, but the first attempt fails as Daniels reveals that instead of rehabilitating him at the Fridge, HYDRA strengthened him. 

Love and Redemption

The cellist, Audrey Nathan, calls out Tripp and Simmons as being SHIELD, then tells them the story of how her and Coulson came to be. He was the one who protected her from Daniels, and she trusted him. They were planning a trip together when he was killed, and she is finally starting to move on and get over him, though she still dreams about him. 

Watching in the next room, Fitz implores Coulson to reveal himself and have a chance at happiness, but he is unwilling to expose her to risk again. Fitz comes up with the idea of using Bruce Banner-developed technology that turns theater lights into gamma rays strong enough to stop Blackout, but they will need to use Audrey as bait. 

While she plays her cello in the concert hall, Daniels arrives and absorbs the brunt of three ray guns, shooting energy fields that knock Tripp and FitzSimmons down. As Blackout approaches his love, Coulson walks into the light and fires another ray gun. With Tripp’s help, they explode Blackout, and Coulson touches Audrey’s face and tells her he’s still watching over her before disappearing back into the darkness. 

Even though there was one less beam on Daniels, I think we are supposed to believe that Coulson somehow willed his to be stronger, likely with love. It’s known to explode people.

Back in Providence

Skye and Koenig are searching the world for escapees, brainstorming a better way to figure out who they are looking for, when Skye decides to hack the NSA satellite system so they can just watch what happened at the Fridge and see for themselves. This is obviously an unsettling development for Ward, so it’s time to put his plan into motion. He offers to decode the hard drive while Skye does the hacking, and she reveals that it can only be decrypted at a specific offsite location. Ouch. 

After reaching for his gun but not having to kill May (that’s where I would’ve started, too), he takes out Koenig right as the poor guy is talking about how being sneaky and taking a risk is finally paying off. Then he warms up to Skye over that promised drink, opening up about the truths of his past and the awful family life that we assume Garrett rescued him from. He says some baloney about not being a good man before she kisses him (hopeful time #2), which leads to a steamy make-out session before Koenig’s blood drips onto Ward’s arm and ruins the embrace.

Skye Gets Wise

While Ward cleans up, Skye uses the lanyard tracker to look for Koenig, who she finds in a storeroom, eyes open. Sad face. Then she checks the iPad and sees Ward making a beeline for her location. In one fell swoop, it dawns on her that Ward is HYDRA and that she is on her own. She locks herself in a storage closet and, after searching the shelves for anything other than toilet paper, decides what she has to do — play it cool.

She makes up a story about getting spooked by the passionate kiss and tender moment, but that she’s decided she wants this and that they should get it on. But no time for romps, as he claims to have received a message from Fitz that help is needed. So he steals fuels up the Bus and forces her to leave with him immediately, and they walk out hand in hand.

In flight, she asks if they’re going to Portland (where Audrey is), and Ward tells her they need to decode specs to the alien device they found in Peru so that Fitz can recreate it. So all he needs are the coordinates of where the hard drive can be decrypted, and Skye hesitates as she debates her choices. On the bright side, he probably can’t kill her. She has info he needs. But torture isn’t fun, either.

On the Way Home

As the team flies back to Providence, Fitz asks Coulson why he didn’t reveal his resurrection to the cellist and confess his feelings. He says he will someday, but only when there is a chance she’ll understand. Then he vows to patch things up with May, wondering how he could expect Audrey to forgive him for lying when he won’t do the same. 

Simmons then questions Fitz as to why he’s been acting so strangely and being a sourpuss to Tripp, and he takes Coulson’s advice and chalks it up to how he just doesn’t handle change well. They arrive back at the base to find the Bus and fellow agents nowhere in sight.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Canada, May gets into an SUV that pulls up next to her on the highway. It’s her mother, who is an ex-agent herself. And off they go to track down Maria Hill. 

The Takeaway

A lot of this episode seemed to go on longer than it actually did, and I was surprised 30 minutes in that it wasn’t almost over. But the last 10 minutes or so, as Skye realized Ward’s allegiance and scrambled to figure out what to do, all while Blackout descended on Audrey, were pretty intense and sucked me right back in.

At the end of the day, with only a few episodes left in the season, this is all about building to the dramatic finale. So I expect some serial plots to further develop the characters mixed in, though I’m very interested to see what happens to Ward. The popular consensus is that he will die, likely in an act of redemption. But personally, I’d prefer to see him survive and be a recurring villain in future season(s), as I’m loving his calculating and deliciously evil alter-ego.

What do you think will happen? Are you hoping for Ward to come back from the Dark Side? Will he survive the season? And what kind of landscape will we be left with after the finale? Can SHIELD be resurrected, and will Agent Hill be the catalyst to do it?

You can watch Agents of SHIELD every Tuesday at 8pm on ABC. 

(Image courtesy of ABC)

Bill King

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Emmy-winning news producer & former BuddyTV blogger. Lover of Philly sports, Ned, Zoe, Liam and Delaine…not in that order