Happy Earth Day, readers! SHIELD is back with another dynamite episode! Last week we watched as Ward and Garrett emptied the Fridge, while Coulson and company chased some mysterious coordinates to Fury’s secret bunker, Providence. Tonight’s episode introduced us to a couple new characters, all while taking another big step along the “who can we trust?” boardgame. Things are really starting to build towards the season finale in a few weeks, so let’s jump right into “The Only Light in the Darkness,” written by Monica Owusu-Breen and directed by Vincent Misiano.
Tonight’s episode opens with one of the inmates (played by Patrick Brennan) whom Garrett and Ward sprung from the Fridge. We follow him as he walks along the docks, before approaching a man loading his empty traps into his pickup truck. (The man is listening to the radio, and on it we hear a familiar sounding political debate which turns out to be a discussion of whether the President is responsible for HYDRA’s infiltration of SHIELD and whether the opposing party could have stopped it.) The inmate asks for a ride to Portland, but the fisherman isn’t particularly interested in driving 200 miles just to give the guy a ride. The inmate raises his hand and the man’s truck instantly shuts off. The fisherman is curious until the inmate touches him and the fisherman instantly shuts off, for good. He climbs into the truck and starts the engine, and as he does we see that he’s wearing an ID bracelet with the name Marcus Daniels on it. He tunes the radio to a classical music station and drives away.
At Providence, Simmons works on patching up Ward’s wounds. She says he’ll be all right eventually, but he might end up with a scar on his face, which Skye thinks will look badass. Ward lies to everyone and tells them that when they arrived at the Fridge it was already overrun with HYDRA soldiers, but when he saw that he decided to kill Garrett with two shots to the back of the head (one for Ward and one for Trip). Everything else he tells them is true, however, including that HYDRA stole all of the weapons and technology from the Fridge and released all of the prisoners. He then reveals that he still has Skye’s hard drive backup of all of their research, which he suggests Skye make a duplicate of in case something happens to it. Coulson’s not interested in that, however, and he wants Skye to start searching for the escaped Fridge prisoners. All the while, Fitz tries to one-up Trip by explaining Simmons diagnosis of Ward, only for Trip to show off his equal knowledge base.
Skye is scared that Ian Quinn escaped, considering that he shot her in the stomach and he’s not even the most scary prisoner at the Fridge. Some of them even have special powers that makes them an extra threat. Out of nowhere, Coulson asks if Marcus Daniels is on the list. Skye pulls up his bio as Ward and May exchange ominous looks. Coulson wants her to start trying to track down the escapees based on any matching information she can find, but she says she’ll need access to Koenig’s hardware as all she’s got is a laptop.
In the meantime, Coulson wants to take a team in Ward’s small plane to start rounding up the escaped prisoners, starting with Daniels as Coulson knows where he might be heading. May doesn’t think it’s smart to split up the team, which might even by HYDRA’s plan, and Skye agrees, especially since they’re safe where they are. Coulson acknowledges that they’re safe, “but what about everyone else? People who don’t happen to have access to a top secret underground shelter? What about them? I don’t know if it’s wise, but it’s right. I’m taking a team and that’s the end of it.”
“No you’re not. Absolutely not,” is Koenig’s reply. There are protocols that have to be observed. Coulson calls BS on that, considering that the whole agency has collapsed, but Koenig doesn’t care. “What part of secret base don’t you get?” he asks. He’s pissed that Coulson showed up with a bunch of people whose loyalty is unproven. Coulson gives a speech about how he still feels like its his duty to be the shield that protects the innocent people out there, and while Koenig is moved by it, he refuses to let anyone leave until they go through orientation.
Unfortunately orientation doesn’t mean getting a map of the building, filling out some paperwork, and signing up for classes. Instead, it means taking a lie detector test, or in this case THE lie detector test, designed by Fury himself to be something that not even the famous Natasha Romanoff could beat (though mum’s the word on whether or not she did). What follows is one of those really creative interview sequences that are always a great source of humor but also sometimes a unique insight into our characters. It’s a technique that’s been used on other Joss Whedon shows like Buffy and Firefly, but even in things like Muppets Most Wanted.
We watch as Koenig asks all of the agents a few “psychoanalytic non-sequitur questions” while the machine measures 96 different variables. We learn that May was married once before, that Trip is the grandson of one of the Howling Commandos who fought alongside Captain America against HYDRA, and that Skye doesn’t have a last name and in fact chose her own name as a replacement for the one the orphanage gave her, Mary-sue Poots. He asks them what the difference is between an egg and a rock, and May gives the most obvious answer while Fitz and Simmons simultaneously explain that there are countless differences. None of the group have ever heard of Project Insight, but a few had some distant encounters with Alexander Pierce.
Then comes perhaps the highlight of the episode as Koenig asks them to imagine being trapped on an island with a box and wants them to tell him what’s in the box. “Machete,” May replies (though it’s unclear if she means the tool or the character played by Danny Trejo). Trip would have a cell phone so he could call someone to rescue him. Fitz wants to know how big the box is, and when he’s told to just pick the first thing that comes to mind he answers “Simmons.” (All together now…. “Awwww.”) Simmons, on the other hand, would pick the Tardis, which is brilliant. Skye would choose a laptop with a full charge, although she acknowledges that that’s silly since there wouldn’t be wi-fi. He then asks why they’re all still here if SHIELD no longer exists. Simmons isn’t exactly sure, Fitz believes they have to stick together, Trip wants to live up to his grandfather’s legacy, May simply replies, “Coulson,” while Skye says it’s the only home she’s ever known. They all pass, and are given their very own special SHIELD lanyards. Of course, we’ve yet to see the traitorous Ward go through the test, but Skye comforts him on her way out by saying that it’s fine as long as you don’t mind talking about yourself, so of course he’ll hate it.