Sooo… did you see Thor The Dark World yet? If not, get a quick primer from JP Fallavollita’s review here on Biff Bam Pop!. You may need it because this week’s episode of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is sort of a sequel to it. What all the fanboys and fangirls have been clamoring for, a more direct connection to the Marvel movies, is finally here. Maybe. Join me after the jump, for my thoughts on “The Well.”
Thor The Dark World
In case you did miss Thor The Dark World, here’s what happened in a nutshell, here be spoilers, obviously.
A long long time ago, the Asgardians fought the Dark Elves, using some nasty powerful ethereal ooze called The Aether. They were stopped and they ran. Cut to now, and Thor’s Earth girlfriend Jane Foster releases The Aether, and summons the Dark Elves, led by Malekith back to war on the Nine Worlds. Using the weird space warping technology of The Aether, the forces of good and the forces of evil went to war again. In the process, much of Greenwich in London was trashed by the battle.
You can bet that some god (or alien) has left their goodies lying around. The Agents have to clean up. We get a really nice opening that apes the Anthony Hopkins voiceover beginning of Thor The Dark World, followed by Simmons commenting on how they have to clean up their mess, with Coulson commenting how useful a Norse god of cleaning up would be. But that is just about that.
We Are Gods
The Greenwich scenes were shot on the same set, which was a nice touch, if nothing else. Coulson and Skye discuss the Thor and Asgard situation, and the insistence that they are aliens, only perceived to be gods. It is a distinction the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made from the start, and not a bad one actually. It is agreed however by the team that any tech, be it alien or god, is dangerous in the hands of man. It’s SHIELD’s job to keep them separate, thus the cleaning of Greenwich.
Meanwhile a couple in Norway find a silver runed staff, inside a live tree trunk that they seem to have prior knowledge of. The woman gained strength from it, and then they went on a rampage in Oslo, claiming they are gods. And there you go, lesson learned. They are the leaders of a Norse Paganist hate group obsessed with Norse mythology. And the stick is the berserker staff.
The unnamed Berserker of Norse mythology we learn of here has a similar origin to the Silver Surfer. He, imbued with crazed fighting power by the magic staff, came to Earth to battle, and yet, he fell in love. In love with Earth, so in order to protect it, broke the staff into three pieces, and hid it separately.
The Paganists found one, and a Professor Randolph, who clued the agents to the staff’s origin (as well as being the mythology expert when SHIELD had Thor’s hammer), led them to the second. He also let Agent Grant Ward grab the staff to unexpected effect. He is suddenly short tempered and aggressive, his adrenaline racing. He’s becoming… yeah, I don’t need to say it, but I will… a Berserker.
Played by Peter MacNicol, who helped the bad guy in Ghostbusters II (and even though I loved him in Dragonslayer, I have held the GB sequel against him for decades), I have to say I didn’t trust Professor Randolph from the get go. It turns out however his secret is far more than I at first suspected – he’s Asgardian. An Asgardian on Earth – yep, you got it, he’s the Berserker who stayed on Earth.
Randolph tells a fanciful tale of his origins, a light lesson in the making of reality into fantasy, and aliens into gods. The best moments of his interrogation include Ward namedropping vibranium, and Coulson threatening him that he may not know Thor, but Coulson does. Nice.
The New Order
Meanwhile, our friendly neighborhood Norse Paganist hate group couple are allowing members to touch the two pieces of the staff and gain rage-filled strength and fury. Yeah, they’re building a Berserker army, and looking much more hate group than Norse Paganist. Thor would not be pleased.
The staff, or pieces thereof, bring out a person’s darkness, and shine a light on their rage. These guys are giving the blond blue-eyed among us a bad name. Perhaps putting some skinheads in the group was a bad idea, or a good one, if they want the viewers to hate them more.
Battle of the Berserkers
When the Professor leads the agents to the third piece, the leader almost kills our favorite Berserker. I guess that’s just to show us how powerful they’ve become. To fight them, Ward grabs hold of the staff again – to fight fire with Asgardian fire. He takes down most of the group yet is defeated by his own dark secret of letting his brother die as a kid – in the well referred to in the episode’s title.
Agent May picks up the piece, then pieces, then assembles the whole staff. She appears to be unaffected by it. I think it’s a matter of being strong, in control, and a trained SHIELD agent. Or maybe, like everyone else, she has a secret. No matter how it stacks up, Agent Melinda May is badass.
So this wasn’t quite the sequel to Thor The Dark World we expected, except for the first few minutes, but it was an exciting episode, very hardwired into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I dug it a lot. Good writing, directing, and action, props to former Star Trek commander Jonathan Frakes who directed “The Well.”
We also got some good characterization, forward motion of subplots, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Randolph again. Granted, I was sorta expected Valkyrie when the staff was first found (and that would have been sooo cool), but this worked out just fine. I was also at first chagrined at Skye throwing herself at Ward, but re-intrigued when he chose May over her.
Things are getting hot… and not just in the field. Next time, trouble on The Bus. See you then!