Tonight’s “The Well,” the eighth episode of “Agents of SHIELD,” tried and mostly accomplished its latest delicate task: Tying into the big-screen Marvel universe.
“The Well” was billed as a follow-up to “Thor: The Dark World,” but really the plot that drove the episode wasn’t so much a continuation of the current “Thor” sequel but a variation on the idea of humans coming into contact with Asgardian (alien) technology we’ve seen before.
That’s not to say “The Well” wasn’t entertaining – most episodes of the series are; they’re just … underwhelming – but its most interesting element was a little more exploration of the show’s least appealing character, the gruff and ultra-competent Agent Grant Ward.
In the episode, the team is in England, picking up the pieces (literally) left over from Thor’s battle in the current movie. Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) consults with a Norse legends expert in Spain (played by Peter MacNicol) and unwittingly sets off a chase to recover portions of an Asgardian staff.
The staff – the weapon of an Asgardian berserker that’s been on Earth for centuries; so the Thor aftermath stuff is really only a way to get the expert involved – has been broken into three pieces. Each piece has the power to tap into the rage of the person holding it, increasing their strength.
A group of Nordic hate mongers (just go with it) gets first one, then two pieces and the race is on to stop them from getting the third and completing the berserker staff.
In the process, Ward (Brett Dalton) gets “infected” by touching the staff. Normally a slightly edgy, even standoffish guy, touching the piece of staff lets Ward’s rage turn him into a hostile bully. One important point, though: Ward recognizes the change and offers to bench himself. And Coulson – much like he’s given hacker Skye more than a few chances – keeps Ward in play.
The episode ends with a surprising encounter between Ward and Agent May (Ming Na Wen) and a Tahiti flashback for Coulson.
A couple of thoughts:
The show still isn’t as engaging as “Sleepy Hollow” or “The Blacklist,” but I’m enjoying it a bit more each week.
I’m ready for some real developments with Coulson’s resurrection.
I’m wondering how SHIELD itself will be portrayed by the end of this first season. By the time “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” comes out next spring, I’m wondering if SHIELD won’t be the bad guy in the whole Marvel universe picture and the agents we’ve (hopefully by then) come to care about will be like the “Angel” gang in Joss Whedon’s series of the same name, who were working for good in the evil law firm Wolfram and Hart.