TV Show Review

TV Review: AGENTS Of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 1, Episode 8: The Well [ABC]

Iain De Caestecker Clark Gregg Ming-na Wen Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

ABC‘s Agents of Shield  The Well TV Show Review. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 1, Episode 8: “The Well” served as a tie-in to Thor: The Dark World, but once again skirted the Marvel Joint Universe. Beyond the opening scene of post film clean-up (anyone else remember a Marvel comic called “Damage Control?” Memo to ABC….), The Dark World served only as a thematic backdrop for the main plot.

In a Norwegian wilderness park, a pair of Norse Pagans cut down a very old tree to retrieve one third of an Asgardian Berserker staff. With the power to grant superhuman qualities, by tapping into an individual’s source of rage, the artifact allowed the duo to overwhelm responding park Rangers, marshal Norway’s Pagan movement and launch a quest for the other two thirds of the staff. Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) called upon the expertise of Professor Elliot Randolph (Peter MacNicol), and set out to retrieve the remaining segments.

I’m not sure if there was any real understanding of what the term “Berserker” actually means, considering its contextual use for this episode. Every Norwegian spoke English, but I suppose asking viewers to read subtitles might have been a bit much. For some of the largest, hardiest  people on Earth, I would have expected their park Rangers to be… less wussy; but maybe that was the point of a joke I just didn’t catch.

Agent Ward (Brett Dalton), on the verge of retrieving the second segment, unexpectedly ran into Prof. Randolph, and accidentally exposed himself to the effects of the staff segment. This resulted in the Pagans getting the second segment, Prof. Randolph being detained and interrogated by Coulson, and revelations about Ward’s back story. It turns out that Ward had a rather traumatic childhood experience, that his service had kept buried. Surfaced by his empowerment, as his source of rage, those events may have been major enough to play a future role in the series.

I must admit, I could almost hear a collective “amen,” from viewers, over Ward’s rage fueled remarks about certain colleagues (I won’t say who) being all talk and no action. Agent May (Ming-na Wen) offered to help – suggesting she may have been uniquely qualified to do so – but Ward blew her off with the others. To his credit, Ward knew he was compromised, and came clean. While “The Well” managed to side-step the “I’ve-never-been-better” ‘roid rage convention, the team’s lack of muscle made for a good excuse to keep Ward-Hulk at the tip of the spear.

When Peter MacNicol shows up, it is usually as the creep, the culprit or the cuddly schlub. Here, he somehow managed to be all of the above. Prof. Randolph turned out to be the series’ first fully formed, Joint Universe tied, super being; albeit an unaffiliated, non-canon one.

A Thor cameo being ruled out, due to him being “off-grid,” might have come across as a cop-out to some viewers. Consider, however, that Coulson’s status (off the “Battle of New York” casualty list) was mentioned as classified to even The Avengers.

As powerful as the Pagans were supposed to be, they should not have been as much trouble for Ward as they were (which, admittedly, was not a whole lot), given his professional training and experience. With full control over the completed staff’s effects, I assume agent May (when she was finally allowed to help him) simply wasn’t taking her boss battle anymore seriously than a sparring match. Apparently, May subscribes to temperament control similar to Dr. Bruce (“I’m always angry”) Banner, and was, in fact, uniquely qualified to help Ward.

Agent May continued to impress as the series Dark Horse. Maybe it’s just me, but in her capacity as the team fireman (acting as cavalry, anchor and counselor) she has gained a noticeable level of influence over her team mates – including Coulson. The implying of a May-December tryst (I’d say no pun intended, but I might be lying if I did), at the episode’s end, bothered me a bit. Not because a flirty nightcap of alcohol, and possibly more, added a bit of (necessary) adult content to an ABC 8 p.m. time slot; but because it was May wielding expanded influence. Agent May is currently the least developed character of the series, and by that, I mean the most mysterious. When / if they ever get around to her back story, I expect some mitigation; but for now, I am kind of enjoying the bad vibes I have been getting from her.

There was a brief moment, after the action, where Coulson was clearly pondering exposing himself to the staff’s effect. Either through a reliving of his death (or, more specifically, the events just beyond it), or finding that the staff had nothing to work with, there were answers to be had. I might have been yelling at the screen for him to pick it up, at that point, but the episode’s closer provided more of a double-take moment.

Has the roller coaster ride, through hope and disappointment, left me a little loopy, or was there a Dollhouse reference in Coulson’s Tahiti flashback? Damned Whedons. If they’re going to jerk me around like this, there’d better be a satisfying ending….

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About the author

Sam Joseph

Sam is an Avid consumer/observer of Geek culture, and collector of Fanboy media from earliest memory. Armchair sociologist and futurist. Honest critic with satirical if not absurdist­­ wit with some experience in comics/ animation production.

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