Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has made plenty of references to its big-screen brethren over the course of the last 7 episodes, ranging from appearances by Nick Fury and Maria Hill to less-then-subtle Iron Man and Captain America name drops. However, this week’s episode, “The Well”, takes it to a whole new level as a direct follow-up to Thor: The Dark World, the latest Marvel adventure to grace movie theaters.
Clean Up on Aisle Midgard
After a brief Dark World recap for the handful of viewers who didn’t make it to theaters, we find Coulson’s team literally picking up the pieces at Greenwich University after the showdown between Thor and Malekith. After the events of “FZZT”, leftover alien artifacts clearly pose a potential threat, so everything needs to be identified and appropriately disposed of. The agents lead a charmed life, to say the least. While on cleanup duty, Simmons receives a call from her parents, which she promptly ignores, citing that she does not have the answers to their questions about what has transpired. As the cleanup continues, Fitz picks up a piece of the rubble that promptly begins to beep. Ward is quick to act, snatching the object spraying it with an unknown substance, and locking it away in a case. Totally had a Warehouse 13 flashback with that one.
Meanwhile, in the Trillemarka National Park in Norway, a couple makes their way through the woods, suddenly stopping when they come to a tree that matches the description in their guide. With their trusty chainsaw, they bring down the tree and open it up to reveal a metal rod. Upon taking hold of the object, the girl Hulks out and attacks the two park rangers who have come to investigate. May I present your villain for the evening!
Naturally, the agents arrive on the scene to investigate. Simmons identifies the surrounding tree to be over 9,000 years old, making the artifact in question just as ancient since it is feasible that the tree grew around it. Through the joint efforts of Fitz-Simmons, it is confirmed that the object is alien in origin and also matches readings taken from Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, making it an Asgardian relic.
The team has no trouble locating the couple in question as they appear on TV terrorizing Oslo and burning the words “We Are Gods” in the streets for all to see. This helps the team identify the couple as Jakob Nystrom and girlfriend Petra Larsson, the leaders of a Norse Paganist hate group.
You Have Great Rage In Your Heart
As Fitz further examines the digital reconstruction of the Asgardian staff, he determines that the staff has been broken into at least three pieces, indicating that the rage twins are doubtlessly on the hunt for the remaining two pieces. The race is on! Thankfully, Coulson has an ace in the hole – Professor Elliott Randolph, an expert in Norse mythology and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s go-to guy when it comes to all things Asgardian.
In Seville, Spain, the team meets with Randolph (Peter MacNicol) to pick his brain about the broken staff. The professor believes it to be a Berserker staff, belonging to the Asgardian warriors of the same name, and explains that fighting with the staff would put the warrior into a state of uncontrolled rage, hence Petra’s reaction to clutching the staff in the woods. Randolph goes on to tell the legend of one warrior who came to Earth to fight, but he ended up falling in love, and when his army returned to Asgard, he chose to stay behind. To prevent his staff from falling into the wrong hands, the warrior broke it into three pieces and hid them across the world. Naturally, bring an expert in the field, Randolph knows the clues that will lead them to pieces and Coulson springs into action.
The first clue leads the team to the catacombs below Il Divino Nino, a church right there in Seville. Ward and Skye actually do something and take to the caverns in pursuit of the staff piece while Fitz and Coulson monitor their progress from street level. While underground, Ward and Skye locate the piece…as Professor Randolph tries to make off with it. During a brief scuffle, Ward touches the staff and gets a dose of rageahol, causing a flashback from his childhood. In the confusion, Randolph escapes to the surface only to bump into Jakob Nystro and his followers. Following yet another scuffle, they get away with the piece leaving Randolph to be apprehended by Coulson.
While Coulson interrogates Randolph, Ward struggles with the rage swelling within him. Ever the scientist, Simmons is convinced it’s something physiological, which can be corrected, but Skye makes the effort to calm him down, asking about the memory he saw. Pushing aside the offer, Ward takes his frustration out on a punching bag, nearly taking out May in the process. She too attempts to help, but it’s Coulson in whom Ward eventually confides. Acknowledging his incapacitation at the hands of this alien relic proves to Coulson that Ward can indeed be trusted and puts his current state to good use.
In the interrogation room, Ward demands that the Randolph shares what he is not telling them. Reaching his newly lowered boiling point, Ward attacks the professor, but receives a startling surprise when Randolph stops Ward’s knife and mangles it with his bare hands. This confirms Coulson’s suspicions that the humble professor is an Asgardian, but not just an Asgardian – the warrior who came to Earth and stayed. TWIST!
The Asgardian Code
The professor divulges the location of the last piece of the staff, which leads the team to a monastery in Ireland where he lived many centuries ago. Naturally, Nystrom shows up at the monastery. How he learned the location of the last piece is anyone’s guess. He then attacks Randolph, stabbing him in the chest with the staff piece he possess. Ward, still on edge, picks up the red ring third piece and lets the rage take over.
While the bash brothers battle, Coulson and Fitz-Simmons struggle to keep Randolph alive. Since no one is familiar with Asgardian anatomy, Coulson makes the desperate move of jamming his hand into Randolph’s chest to slow his heart, giving his body more time to heal.
As Ward continues to beat the crap out of Nystrom and his cronies, he grabs the second piece of the staff and his visions get clearer and clearer, forcing him to relive the painful memory of his drowning brother. The full recall of the memory prompts Ward to finally drop both pieces of the staff and fall to the ground. With two bad guys left, including Larsson, May steps up and takes over the fight. With the fully assembled staff, May enters beast mode and takes down Larsson effortlessly. May’s evident control over the surging rage makes for a great fight, but also says something about her character. We’ve received some clues about her dark past, but this moment indicates that she has experienced enough anger in her life to come to some sort of understanding with it. I’m really looking forward to the episode that delves into May’s past.
As the dust settles, Randolph manages to recover and Simmons finally takes the call from her parents. She was beating herself up for freezing under pressure when Randolph was injured, so this time she chooses to jump right in. Randolph and Coulson, sharing their own experiences of being stabbed in the heart, determine that with the world’s newfound fascination with Asgardian, the professor should find a place to lay low for a while.
Back on the Bus, Ward retreats to the bottle to help calm himself. Skye joins him and he apologizes to her for his behavior after touching the staff, maintaining that he is not that guy. He then shares the story of his brother’s death, proving not only that he trusts Skye, but that that trust has been restored between them after her betrayal several weeks ago.
As Ward returns to his room, he sees May carrying a bottle of wine as she enters her own room across the hall. Rather than closing the door behind her, she leaves it open as a very clear invitation to Ward. He pauses for a moment but eventually decides to walk through the door and close it behind him. Having shared a very unique experience through their exposure to the staff, each other’s company is probably what they each need right now.
As the episode wraps, we find Coulson getting a massage on a beach in Tahiti. As they converse, he admits to her that Tahiti seems too good to be true. As expected, she replies by stating that it is (all together now) a magical place. As they words echo from her mouth, Coulson is jarred from his dream, ominously panicking in the dark. Like the proverbial carrot on a stick, this one will be dangled before the viewers for weeks to come. The faster we admit that, the easier it will be to cope.
“The Well” gets 4 out of 5 S.H.I.E.L.D. Badges. The episode could have been an obnoxiously heavy-handed promo for Thor: The Dark World, but wound up using the film as a spring board and not a crutch. It was also interesting to get a look into Ward’s past, proving that he’s not just a 2-dimensional life-sized G.I. Joe. Professor Randolph told him that some effects of the staff would last for decades, so I’m curious if we witnessed a character shift for Ward that will stick with him for some time. Also, While I understand the power of a good tease, the repetative hints about Coulson’s mystery and May’s shadowy past are dragging out a but too much. Throw us a bone bigger than a brief moment of self-awareness. Oh, and “The Well” does get bonus points for being directed by Commander Riker himself, Jonathan Frakes.
Check back next week for our next recap of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!