[This is a REVIEW of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Episode 18. There WILL be SPOILERS.]

It’s now been three weeks since the Captain America: The Winter Solider tie-in and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. still shows no signs of slowing down from its much-needed push. In fact, this week’s episode perfectly balances the recently established cinematic universe with the need to touch upon some of Marvel’s TV-cleared characters, while at the same time tying it all together with a successful love story which taps into the heart of Coulson (Clark Gregg).

In this week’s episode, “The Only Light in the Darkness,” written by Monica Owusu-Breen, Agent Phillip Coulson goes after the recently-released Blackout (Patrick Brennan), which leads him back to his beloved cellist, Audrey (Amy Acker). Elsewhere, Ward (Brent Dalton) continues to attack S.H.I.E.L.D. from within, while May (Ming-Na Wen) ditches the group in order to track down someone more “in the know.” As Skye (Chloe Bennet) turns secret agent on her dastardly beau, Coulson reunites with his lost love one last time – but not before showing Blackout “the light.”

When fans say that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been getting better, it’s absolutely the truth. However, when a forceful push from a hit film gives a reason for the series to now exist, it can become difficult to judge whether or not this experiment is simply riding the waves of its theatrical sister. Fortunately, at the heart of this episode lies the true form that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can take, where overarching stories are paired with an immediate threat, and the strength and personality of the cast is able to carry the weight during the episode’s weaker moments.

It is with a heavy heart that we bid farewell to Patton Oswalt, who has helped this series find its 8pm, family-friendly heart and charm. Although, before he left, a line of questioning and a reminder of security protocol helped propel the story forward, while at the same time allowing a Doctor Who reference to slip in because, you know, “the kids.” Skye may have been Ward’s loophole during this extensive lie detector test, but it at least allowed viewers to see the logic that’s driving the face-shooting, S.H.I.E.L.D. slayer.

Skye and Ward, Ward and Skye – two would-be secret agents, as least in the beginning. Ward has made a complete turnaround and now is one of the more fun characters to watch on-screen, so it’s not surprising that producers are looking to use Ward as a way to elevate Skye, as HYDRA elevated Ward. Skye’s transformation into spy-Skye was off-putting at first, like most new things, but anyone would be lying if they didn’t say her newfound strength and confidence didn’t immediately change the character for the better.

Blackout’s use in this episode was an excuse to get back to Coulson’s love story, if we’re all being honest. That’s not to say his appearance wasn’t worthwhile – it was, in the sense that viewers were able to follow along Coulson’s emotional journey, as we’ve known about his love interest for quite some time now. However, Blackout, Deathlok and every other super-powered entity drawn from Marvel comics continue to feel as if they’re a part of the show that producers are still working on, unfortunately. Their inclusion is interesting, if anything, yet there’s never a real reason to care about them outside of being able to put specific characters at specific locations for a specific reason.

Outside of the acknowledged awkwardness of the super-powered, Coulson’s hidden reunion with Audrey is as successful as one could have expected from any series, let alone one still finding its way. It was profound without being over the top, and Clark Gregg carried himself as one would have expected of Coulson, which includes his painful reactions when hearing her speak of him. Sure, it could have been more – and perhaps it will be in the future – but for a series still wondering about a second season, they made great use of one of the few “aces” they have up their sleeve.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t perfect, and it likely will never be. After all, fans will remember that Fringe was anything but perfect. What Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has now, though, is a reason to exist, and after this week’s episode revealed what an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series will look like long term, there’s a very good chance that the series’ ever-growing heart will be enough to carry itself into the future.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns next Tuesday with “Nothing Personal” @8pm on ABC. You can check out a preview of next week’s episode below: