‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Review – ‘The Well’
Agent Ward loses his cool in this week’s episode of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
As I watched this week’s episode with “Thor: The Dark World” still fresh in my mind, a whole lot of opinions and thoughts came up for me regarding this show and its place in the world established by the movies. So I decided, since this episode is a good example of bridging two pieces of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, to forgo the recap that I normally write for “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” and try something a bit different, like talking about the show and this episode in slightly broader, more examine-y terms (as the Whedon parlance goes). So, here goes…
I for one, was excited to hear that this week’s episode was to tie into the aftermath of“Thor: The Dark World.” It makes sense. If you’re going to set this show within the same universe as the movies, you might as well deal with some of the consequences leftover from those movies. While other episodes tried this tactic before, I felt like this episode brought something new to that particular table, at least for this show.
I always wondered, like I’m sure a lot of people do, who cleans up the mess after one of these epic throw downs in the climax of all of these blockbuster superhero movies. In the comics, it was Damage Control: “a construction company which specializes in repairing the property damage caused by conflicts between superheroes and super-villains,” but we haven’t seen this particular issue dealt with in either the films or the show… yet.
Which is where this week’s episode begins, in Greenwich University in London, the setting for the climax of Thor’s latest cinematic adventure. We open on Coulson’s team, sifting through the debris for any signs of alien technology. This was a great scene, especially Coulson complaining about how Thor never sends down “the god of cleaning up after yourself.” S.H.I.E.L.D. always seems to know so much, and this is how they know. They do the research. First and foremost, that’s what this show is about, the human side of the equation and how it interacts with that world, more so than the super-powered extravaganzas that are the movies. Notice, there was only a single Asgardian in the whole episode, and not even one of the good ones. But that’s fine, because the episode didn’t need that.
What the episode did need was an original story that could still exist believably in that world, which is what I think we got this week. My one qualm with the episode is that I wish the main focal point of the story, the Asgardian staff, was even remotely related to the opening scene at Greenwich and the aftermath of the fight between Thor and Malekith. Instead, it’s completely coincidental that it just so happens to be Asgardian in nature. Perhaps the battle of Greenwich reinvigorated the Norse Paganist hate group in finding the weapon they were looking for, but the ties aren’t exactly direct.
While this episode didn’t spend as much time crossing over with “Thor: The Dark World” as I’m sure most people expected or hoped it would, I’m actually glad that it didn’t. For one, I’m afraid that shows like “Arrow” and even “Smallville” in its later seasons have spoiled us with these comic book characters popping up just about every week. I’m a little behind on “Arrow,” but I just watched an episode from earlier this season and counted no less than 9 characters in the show that were from the comics. That’s insane!
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE when those other shows bring in comic characters, but it has a negative effect whenever I’m watching something else set within a comic book world, like “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” I spend the entire time watching the show like a little kid going, “Ooo, what if Thor shows up?” or “Ooo, Bruce Banner could be in this one, because they mentioned the same adrenaline-related stuff he was researching in the pilot of ‘The Incredible Hulk’ TV show.” However, the cost of those things happening in this show is just too high. I have a feeling some of these characters (and their expensive actor counterparts) are probably going to crossover later down the line when the show’s a bit more established, but I’m perfectly fine with them not showing up just yet.
So far, I prefer when this show’s storyline doesn’t just repackage certain story points from the movies. They tried that early on, in the “Pilot” with the Extremis virus from “Iron Man 3,” but that didn’t really work for me. It was cool the first time we saw it, but not the second or third. Show me something new. That’s what this episode did. There was an entirely new plot device in the Asgardian staff. Sure, it’s kinda like Thor’s hammer, but this is a weapon that humans can actually wield and it gives them powers to boot, providing new villains-of-the-week, in the form of Jakob Nystrom and Petra Larson (played by Erin Way, who I loved on “Alphas”).
The staff also provided some great character exploration for Agent Grant, whose buried memories of a horrible childhood were brought to the forefront of his mind. He’s mentioned his past briefly before, but this is the first time we’ve actually seen proof, in the scenes of a young Ward watching his little brother struggle to stay afloat in a well while his cruel older brother keeps him from helping him. It’s moments like this that gives more definition to a character that can be pretty robotic at times.
Speaking of robotic, the episode glossed over the chance to do this same type of thing with Agent May. She touched the staff, so she definitely experienced similar rage-inspiring memories, but she was easily able to keep her cool. With all this build-up, I’d have to say that whatever happened in May’s past, it needs to be pretty epic, or else it’s going to be very disappointing. I think that’s one of the questions that I most want answered, right after Coulson’s return from his little vacation in Tahiti (that pre-credits tag dream sequence was slightly eerie) and just before the mystery of Skye’s parents.
I thought the twist (I don’t know if any of you saw it coming, but I didn’t) of Professor Elliot Randolph actually being an Asgardian was interesting. It was also cool that he was added into the continuity of the films, by being the expert in Norse Mythology that Coulson consulted with when Thor’s hammer touched down in New Mexico. Randolph was the also one that split the staff into thirds and spread the pieces out, because like all of the good guys, he knows that it is too much power for someone to wield.
Randolph was quite correct in his assumption that the power granted by the staff just wasn’t right for some people. Ward, like Randolph, didn’t like what it did to him, and he almost lost himself in it. May, on the other hand, took out Petra and her goons in seconds flat, and then set the staff down as if nothing had happened. Nothing fazes her. On the topic of Ward and May, another thing that completely took me by surprise was that last moment when Ward, after speaking with Skye at the bar, follows May into her hotel room. I didn’t see that coming at all. I’m curious to see what direction that takes us in the future. Everybody is in love with everybody in this show. Simmons seems to like Fitz, who likes Skye, who likes Ward, who likes May. It’s a full-on love pentagon!
Overall, I’d have to say that, in my opinion, “The Well” was one of the best episodes yet. The directing was awesome, thanks to Jonathan Frakes (who some might know more for his on-camera work as Commander Riker on a little show called “Star Trek: The Next Generation”). I thought it was probably one of the better-directed episodes of the show so far. The acting was solid. It was an especially nice change of pace to see Ward a little less stiff that usual. That guy’s got a lot of built up rage, so it was thoughtful of the writers to let him get some of that out. Speaking of the writers, I thought the story and the writing were both pretty good, although, again, the one thing that annoyed me a bit was the disconnect between the “Thor: The Dark World” aftermath and the almost completely unrelated story with Randolph and the Asgardian staff. All that said, I hope to see more episodes of this quality in the weeks to come.-By Jeff Grantz