Saturday, November 30, 2013

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 1.08: "The Well"

“You know, it would be nice, if for once, Thor and his people sent down the God of Cleaning Up After Yourself. They probably have a magic broom for this kind of thing.”
-Agent Coulson

“The Well” was publicized as a follow-up to the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Thor: The Dark World.” It wasn’t as closely tied-in as I thought it might be given the hype, but it was still a fun adventure that deepened the character of Agent Ward. I prefer episodes that focus on FitzSimmons, May, or Coulson (basically anybody but Ward and Skye), but if we had to have another Ward episode, this was a decent one. We got a little more of his backstory and learned about a reason why he’s so uptight all the time. The episode also deepened the mythology of Agent Coulson a bit. He’s still freaking out over what happened in Tahiti, even though everybody around him keeps telling him not to worry about it. Anyway, I do wish that this episode had been a bit more closely tied into the events of “Thor: The Dark World,” but I can understand why it was the way it was. The publicity was probably to shore up the ratings, and by the time they knew the ratings needed shoring up, there wasn’t time to put the same amount of money into this episode that you would put into a Marvel film. It is what it is, though, and it was an enjoyable enough hour.

The episode, as one might expect from all the publicity, begins in the aftermath of the events of “Thor: The Dark World.” Coulson’s team is helping clean up Greenwich University. Their job is to scan all the debris and confiscate anything of alien origin. It feels like they’re doing this because they’re afraid of public reaction to alien artifacts, but the public already knows of the existence of aliens. I’m not quite sure what the big deal would be. This is basically just a chance to get some character interaction between the team, as Simmons is afraid to call her parents since the events of “F.Z.Z.T.” We also see that the interaction between Ward and Simmons is a little strange since those events as well. At the moment, it feels like anybody on the team could end up sleeping with anybody else. If this follows the pattern of some other ABC shows I have watched (cough…Grey’s…cough), that will probably be the case before all is said and done.

We next go to Norway, specifically a remote forest with really, really old trees. A couple, Jakob and Petra (Petra is played by Erin Way, most well known for her role on “Alphas”) infiltrate the forest, much to the chagrin of the forest keeper, who is almost in tears at the idea of somebody defacing his forest. Anyway, Jakob and Petra find a tree they’re looking for, and Jakob breaks out a chainsaw. He saws through the tree and finds a staff with Asgardian runes inside the tree. When Petra takes up the staff, she is filled with rage, and she becomes a fighting machine. We later learn that Petra and Jakob are part of some sort of Norse Paganist cult (that is probably nothing like actual Norse Paganist communities). They are empowering their followers with the staff, and they’re wreaking havoc throughout Oslo. They seem to be upset about the Asgardians returning to Earth, and they keep saying that to defeat gods, they needs to become gods.

Coulson’s team needs to investigate the staff theft, of course, and FitzSimmons use some of their gadgets to make a 3-D model of the half of the staff impression that is still left inside the tree. It’s pretty obvious that this is only a piece of the full weapon. Also, something or someone had to lead Jacob and Petra to the right person. So the team heads to Seville to visit an acquaintance of Coulson who happens to be an expert in Norse mythology. His name is Dr. Elliott Randolph. Randolph immediately identifies the model as part of a Berserker staff, and he has a whole myth to go with it. Apparently there was once an Asgardian who was part of one of the Berserker units who so loved humanity that he decided to stay behind instead of go home with his unit. The Berserker staff calls up deep rage in the user, so this Asgardian wanted to hide his staff before settling into Earth life. He broke it into three pieces and hid each in a different place. The text Randolph is referring to has only vague, cryptic clues about the location of each piece.

The team decides to take both the vague clues and information about geographic locations with Viking ties to try and narrow down potential locations for the other two staff pieces. The best lead is a crypt right there in Seville. Apparently the Vikings sacked it twice back in the day. Ward and Skye head to the crypt to try and retrieve the second staff piece, but they’re beaten there by none other than Randolph. Ward chases Randolph through the crypt, but Randolph gets away. He doesn’t go far, though, before he runs into Jakob, Petra, and some of their followers. They use their super Berserker rage powers to take the second piece of the staff from Randolph. Coulson’s team is definitely not amused when they catch up to Randolph and realize what happened. They’ve got bigger problems than Randolph, though. In the middle of all the confusion, Ward reached out and touched a piece of the staff, and he went all Hulk rage-y. The staff made him flash back to an unpleasant memory of seeing his brother drown in a well. Fun times.

Back on the bus, Coulson starts interrogating Randolph (who keeps things vague and just talks about his general interest in Asgardian culture), and Ward has some tests run to figure out what the staff might have done to him. He’s very agitated and watching Coulson interrogate Randolph just makes him more so. It’s so bad that Simmons offers to sedate him at one point. May steps in, and after a little prompting, we next see Ward in Coulson’s office. He’s explaining about how he’s had to repress some traumatic memories in order to have the control he needs as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and the staff has made it difficult to do that. Inexplicably, Coulson decides that this recognition makes Ward trustworthy and offers Ward in on the interrogation. The interrogation is relatively professional until Ward pulls a knife and Randolph catches and bends it barehanded. Turns out that Randolph is actually the Asgardian who stayed behind.

The team wants to know the location of the third piece of the Berserker staff, and Randolph is a little reluctant to give it up. Locking the interrogation room and threatening to call Thor eventually does the trick, though, and the team is soon on their way to an Irish monastery. Randolph retrieves the piece of the staff, but the Paganists arrive and stab him in the heart with it almost immediately. Ward grabs the staff piece out of Randolph’s chest (holy bleed out, Batman) and starts fighting the Paganists with it. While the fighting is going on, Coulson and FitzSimmons attempt to keep Randolph alive long enough for his Asgardian super healing powers to do their thing. Ward regains consciousness from the whole hit of rage thing and sees all the Paganists strewn about the room. At that moment, Petra arrives, ready for a fight. May offers to take this fight on, and she rather easily picks up two pieces of the staff at the same time. And she takes down Petra, of course. Later, May explains that because she constantly relives her worst memory anyway, the staff didn’t do much damage to her.

In the aftermath, Simmons finally makes that call to her parents that she has been avoiding. Randolph also makes the decision to start his life over in a place that is more quiet and less interested in Norse mythology. Ward and Skye hit the bar, where Skye tries to sort of hit on Ward a bit (saying she doesn't mind a bit of Hulk rage now and then), but Ward doesn’t really bite. He sulks up to his room, and as he’s unlocking his door, he sees May unlocking her door. She’s carrying a large liquor bottle, and she leaves the door open behind her after giving Ward a very specific Look. Ward follows May into her room, and it’s not really clear what happens next. Did they get their Hulk rage on together? Did they just talk and cry and share sad memories? The world may never know. In more exciting news, the episode ends on Coulson dreaming about his time in Tahiti. There's a little shout-out to "Dollhouse," as Coulson asks a masseuse, "Did I fall asleep?" and she replies, "For a little while."

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