TV Review: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Episode 8 / November 19, 2013)
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EPISODE 8: "The Well"
SYNOPSIS: In the aftermath of Thor's battle with Malekith in Greenwich, Coulson and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pick up the pieces -- one of which threatens to destroy a member of the team.
BREAKDOWN: (The following column contains MAJOR SPOILERS, so I don't recommend reading this if you haven't watched this episode).
Last week, the S.H.I.E.L.D. team finally came together in an episode that seemed to be the non-Marvel Cinematic Universe dependent template for things to come. The inner-workings of S.H.I.E.L.D. came to the forefront as the subplots for Coulson, Skye, Fitz, and Simmons all began to solidify. The need for asides about the big screen adventures of Marvel's elite seemed to be on their way out. Until this week.
This episode opened with a brief montage of scenes from THOR and THOR: THE DARK WORLD before taking us to Greenwich University and the S.H.I.E.L.D. clean-up crew tasked with the aftermath of Thor and Malekith's battle. The requisite mentions of how attractive Thor is, how superheroes never clean up their messes, and a brief recap of who Asgardians are, and we are right back to the Chitauri episode from a few weeks ago. Sigh.
The team visits the site at a Scandinavian forest preserve where a tree is cut down to reveal an Asgardian staff that appears to give the person who holds it a superhuman strength. Coulson decides to visit an expert on Norse mythology he consulted during the events of THOR and for a moment I was hoping for a Stellan Skarsgard cameo. Instead we get Peter MacNicol explaning that the staff in the tree is the Berserker Staff and sets the team on the path to find the other two pieces.
Ward feeling the effects of the Berserker staff triggers a flashback to someone stuck at the bottom of a well very reminiscent of THE RING. His anger brings out a nice outburst against Skye, Fitz, and Simmons where he chastizes them for constantly talking with no action. Finally, the writers are listening to the feedback from those of us watching the show! I still think Ward is a waste of a character but it was nice to see him cut loose from his very cardboard Clark Kent persona.
Using Ward, the team discovers that the Professor is actually an Asgardian living in secret on Earth and he explains how the staff channels power in those who possess it. MacNicol doesn't come across as the type of Asgardian we have come to see in Thor, Odin, Loki, or the other warriors. Partially it feels like a cheat that this is how they pass off the connection to the Marvel Universe at large, but it is about par for the course on this show.
Ward's flashback comes into focus as he grabs hold of all parts of the staff and we learn he was not the boy in the well but actually the one at the top, prevented from throwing a rope to save the kid at the bottom. Ward makes the worst rage face I have seen on any show in years as he battles through to save the day. Melinda May joins in as well and explains to Ward after the battle that she doesn't succumb to the anger because she sees it every day.
The episode ends with Skye putting herself out there for Ward and it seems for a moment that the seed of a romance is growing there, as we all have expected since the pilot. But, then something odd happens. Ward turns her down and heads up to his room when he makes eye contact with Melinda May down the hall. She gives him a knowing look and we see a bottle of liquor in her hand and she leaves her room door open. Ward walks in and closes it. I am going to assume the two banged all night in keeping with S.H.I.E.L.D. protocol for such matters, but it still came across as a surprise as I was expecting Coulson and May to get together.
MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE REFERENCES:
Are you kidding? The entire episode centers around THOR: THE DARK WORLD and Asgard in general. Coulson also makes mention that Thor is on Earth but off the grid, a reference to the closing scenes of the new movie.
"Did the math: One, you are not the first Asgardian I have had in custody. You guys don't flinch or panic in captivity. Two, a Waterfield 44 on a lit professor's salary? I don't think so. And lastly, when I tell someone that I have had some one on one time with an alien, they tend to be a little curious." - When asked how Coulson figured out the Professor was an Asgardian.
Coulson shoving his hand into the Professor's chest cavity to try and keep him alive long enough for his Asgardian regeneration to kick in was just perfect.
DO WE KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO COULSON YET?
Coulson explains that he has no memory of being revived after his encounter with Loki and ponders taking the Berzerker Staff to see what happened to him when he was brought back to life. The final scene shows Coulson in Tahiti getting a massage only to wake up in a cold sweat aboard the plane. Something is going on and we need to find out soon!
EPISODE CLEARANCE LEVEL: 7/10
Better than I expected it to be as a THOR: THE DARK WORLD tie-in, the episode does not rely on that film and does work as a standalone episode while giving nice insight into Ward's back story. I would have given the episode an 8 but I have to dock a point for Ward's awful rage face.
NEXT ON MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.:
"Repairs" - Coulson and his team are haunted by a mysterious force that threatens to destroy them all, and only a secret fromMay's past can save them
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