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Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Review 1.08 - 'The Well'
Posted by Wyatt Beougher on 11.20.2013

Previously on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The team rebelled against “the system” when Fitz and Ward were sent on a secret mission with no extraction planned. Coulson finally realized that perhaps all was not right with Tahiti (or with himself), and he had to defend his methods to both members of his own team and other S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel.

Season 01, Episode 08: The Well

Simmons does a voiceover while clips from Thor and Thor 2 play. She, Ward, and Fitz are cleaning up debris left over from Thor’s most recent visit to Midgard, as are May, Skye, and Coulson. Cut to a preserve in Norway, where two park rangers are cleaning graffiti from a park sign; meanwhile, a couple cuts down a massive tree and finds a rune-covered metal staff inside it. The woman grabs the staff and runes light up on her hands while her eyes glow red. The man tells her to embrace the rage and she screams. Just as the rangers arrive, she hits one in the chest with a palm strike, sending him flying several yards backwards through the air. The team arrives to investigate, and Ward distracts Simmons so that she can climb the tree and scan the hollow where the staff had been held. Simmons sees through his banter, though she climbs the tree anyway. As the team investigates, the couple and their followers incite a riot in Oslo, leaving the words “We are gods” burning in the middle of the street.

Fitz shows off a 3D model of the staff and deduces that there are at least two other pieces. The team brainstorms how to find the remaining pieces, and Coulson suggests they go to Seville to visit a professor who helped him when they first found Mjolnir. The professor (Peter MacNichol), a slightly creepy fellow, informs them that it’s the Berzerker staff, filling them in on the associated mythology (that it gives the bearer the strength of twenty men and near-invulnerability) and giving them the relevant information about the possible locations of the remaining pieces. Back on the Bus, Skye has been doing research into the locations of the pieces of the staff, and one of them happens to be in Seville. As Ward and Skye investigate a subbasement beneath a church, Fitz and Coulson discuss the merits of a nap. Ward finds the professor with a piece of the staff, which he grabs.Ward falls to the ground while having a vision of a boy trapped in a well and he’s terrified when Skye finds him. As the professor attempts to escape with the staff, he is accosted by the couple from the preserve and their followers, who flip his car and take his piece of the staff.

On the Bus, Fitz and Simmons are observing Ward’s vitals, and he becomes increasingly aggravated when they, and Skye, try to talk to him. Ward silences them to listen to Coulson’s interrogation of the professor, who says he only wanted to study the staff to prove the berserkers were here. Ward’s levels start to spike, so Simmons shuts off the feed, and Ward flips out on the three of them before storming off when Simmons suggests giving him a sedative, making sure to insult Fitz and Skye before he leaves. Meanwhile, Coulson gets nowhere with the professor and Ward takes out his aggression on a punching bag while continuing to have visions of the boy in the well, crying out for help. May tries to intervene and Ward takes a swing at her, which she easily avoids. She offers to help him, but he just wants to stop the god wannabes, who are busy imbuing more people with the essence of the staff.

Ward confronts Coulson about not trusting himself and his regret for going off on his teammates, but Coulson assures Ward that by doubting himself, it only makes Coulson trust him more, before offering Ward the opportunity to take out his aggression on the professor. Ward goes after the professor with a knife, but he grabs the blade and bends it like it was tin foil, revealing himself to be an Asgardian, just as Coulson had assumed. As the interrogation continues, Fitz/Simmons/Skye talk about the professor and May locks Ward and Coulson in with him. He reveals that he told his story to a French girl and her brother turned it into a written story. The professor reveals that he only volunteered for combat duty because he wanted to get away from a life of breaking rocks as a mason. The professor won’t help find the last piece of the staff until Coulson blackmails him with the threat of revealing his true identity to Thor, which gets him to reveal that the last piece of the staff is in Ireland.

As the team preps for recovery of the last piece, Skye voices her doubts about Ward’s competency, but both Coulson and May vouch for him. At the church, the team tries to recover the final piece of the staff from the second floor of the church, but the “angry youths” (as the professor called them), have already arrived as well, and they impale the professor with a piece of the staff. Ward grabs that piece out of the professor’s chest, rages up, and grabs the male leader, tackling him to the floor below. Simmons can’t figure out how to save the professor, so Coulson sticks his hand in the man’s chest and follows Simmons’ cues as Ward struggles to fight off both his flashbacks and the leader of the bad guys. He does so successfully, but won’t release the staff when Skye and May want him to. Instead, he grabs the one from the fallen leader and goes to work on his followers. The boy in the well is Ward’s little brother, but when he tries to throw him a rope, his older brother threatens to throw him into the well also.Ward drops the two pieces of the staff and collapses to the ground, fallen opponents strewn throughout the church. As Skye checks on him, the female leader enters the church and looks to avenge her boyfriend. Ward tries to grab the staff again, but May again offers to help, and Ward allows her. May grabs both pieces of the staff and easily dismantles the remaining members of the cult before reassembling the staff and taking out the woman. As she drops the staff, the professor comes to, thanks to his increased Asgardian rate of healing.

Skye talks to Fitz and Simmons about Coulson sticking his hand in the professor’s chest and Simmons says she froze. Fitz comforts her, and she doesn’t avoid her parents’ phone call like she did earlier in the episode. Ward is incredulous that May was able to hold all three pieces of the staff while seeing her worst memory, and she tells him that she sees it every day. Coulson considers reaching for the staff, but the professor talks him out of it by pointing out that he could be haunted by the vision of his death and return. In exchange, Coulson turns him on to Portland, Oregon in a nice call-back to The Avengers. Skye talks to Ward in the hotel bar and he apologizes and admits that his memory was about his brother, although he won’t get into any more details. As Ward heads to bed, he sees May doing the same, carrying a liquor bottle, and she leaves the door open for him, an invitation that he accepts. Coulson is back on the beach getting a rubdown in a grass hut, and his masseuse reveals that he fell asleep,which is a sign that he’s relaxed. He says Tahiti’s too good to be true, but when she says “It’s a magical place”, he awakes with a start.

Weekly Whedon-isms

“Still, this is definitely the type of work a monkey could do.” “You’re our little monkey.”

“I can’t think of a single time when anything alien in human hands ended well.” “I wouldn’t mind getting my human hands on Thor; he’s so dreamy.” “Sure, he’s handsome, but…” “No, he’s dreamy.”

“Let’s see what we can dig up. See what I did there?”

“I’ve spent some one-on-one time with aliens before - it didn’t work out too well - cases like this are personal to me.”

“Good thing, or that would’ve been awful embarrassing.”

“Oh sure, I spent all my days palling around with the future king of Asgard.”

“Is that the old Ward or the new, angrier Ward? I can’t tell.”

Theory of the Week

I’ve got nothing. I’m so intrigued by the May stuff that I haven’t really given a lot of thought to any of the other angles. Some quick-hitters I’ve read this week:

-Ward’s older brother will show up down the road as a supervillain (alternately, it’ll be his younger brother, who took revenge on their older brother)
-May’s “I see it every day” line is in reference to her shared past with Coulson
-Tahiti is a memory implanted in Coulson’s head (Weapon X style) to keep him from remembering exactly what happened to him after Loki speared him


I don’t know - I really enjoyed this episode. Maybe I watch too much professional wrestling, but when characters actually reference continuity (Simmons more hesitant because of her parachute-less jump out of the Bus, Ward looking like he wants to trust Skye but not being able to do it because of her betrayal), it really makes me happy. (Yes, I loved those little editorial boxes in Marvel comics when I was kid that called back to whatever they might’ve been talking about in a particular issue. Invaluable when jumping into the Fantastic Four as a five-year-old. -Ed) Also, the flashback with Ward’s younger brother trapped in a well and Ward made powerless to help him by his older brother certainly explains why he’s so driven to protect the rest of the team. His dismissive reply to Skye when she saw he was shot in episode two now seems less like him being “generic tough guy” and more like him being “protective older brother who doesn’t want his younger siblings to worry about him”. And sure, they didn’t really take any time to flesh out the antagonists in this episode, but “Scandinavian Mayhem Cult” - how much more motivation do you need? It also probably doesn’t hurt that I really enjoy Peter MacNichol (Ghostbusters 2, y’all) and I think he was the perfect actor to play an amorous Asgardian who gave up a life of breaking rocks to bed earth women. I will admit that I was momentarily disappointed that they didn’t go to Erik Selvig, but with the way that the story played out, I’m actually really glad that they didn’t.

If I have one complaint about this episode (and really, the series as a whole), it’s that we haven’t gotten more of A.I.M. or Centipede or some similar organization. They have that post-main story scene every episode, and it continues to focus on Coulson, which is cool, as Clark Gregg is the star of the show, but would it kill them to alternate weeks? Show Coulson’s reaction to their latest discovery one week, and then the following week, show some ominous scientist or administrator revealing their involvement in the week’s plot. S.H.I.E.L.D. is an international espionage agency, yet we really haven’t gotten the requisite tension to convey that yet. There should be an organization as massive and well-funded as S.H.I.E.L.D. is, working to counter purposes, so that each episode feels like there are actual stakes beyond just the team itself.

Still, though, eight episodes into the show and our characters are getting deeper, our plots haven’t gotten completely corny, they tied into Thor 2: The Dark World without cheapening the events of that film or feeling forced, and we got callbacks to both The Avengers (Coulson revealing to Pepper that his cellist girlfriend moved to Portland and then recommending Portland to the professor because of their orchestra) and the first episode of this show (Ward and Coulson using subterfuge during an interrogation to get information out of their prisoner). Plus, Ward ostensibly went to bed with May - I can’t be the only one who’s jealous of him for that. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out, especially since it seems like there’s a history between May and Coulson and that May is/was Ward’s supervising officer.

The 411: While this episode’s villains could’ve done with some more fleshing out, Peter MacNichol was sublime in his guest role as an Asgardian professor. Plus, we saw more of Ward’s backstory and his motivations behind protecting the entire team, and CONTINUITY~!
Final Score:  8.4   [ Very Good ]  legend


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