After the last two superb episodes, SHIELD has finally arrived at the point that many have been waiting for: a direct crossover with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Last week gave us a fun, exciting and hilarious James Bond adventure which simultaneously expanded the scope and mythology of the show. This week, however, found our heroes dealing with the direct aftermath of the events of Thor: The Dark World, currently the top film at the worldwide box office. It’s a tough act for the show to pull off, trying to find a way to work the film and the episode together in a way that honors the film but feels true to the show, and I think SHIELD pulled it off with subtlety and a light touch which kept things surprising. So without further ado, let’s fall down “The Well”, which was written by Monica Owusu-Breen and directed by Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Will Riker).
“The Well” opens with a narration from Simmons about Asgard and the relationship between the Norse gods of old and the aliens who recently wreaked havoc on Greenwich, England. The backstory feels a little unnecessary, but it’s over quickly and features footage from the films in a way that makes it clear that the events of the show belong right alongside the films. The narration turns out to be Simmons complaining that Thor and company left behind a huge mess that SHIELD is left cleaning up. She and the rest of the crew are sorting through the wreckage left behind for the Dark Elves searching for anything with otherworldly origins. Between the events of “Item 47” and what we’ve seen thus far on the show, SHIELD has learned its lesson about leaving alien artifacts around for civilians to find.
Fitz grumbles that a monkey could do the scanning job (the second time this season that Fitz has mentioned a monkey), though Ward tells him that “you’re our little monkey.” Simmons’ phone rings, but she ignores it when she sees it’s from her parents. She’s still getting over the ordeal of being infected by a Chitauri virus, and she’s not eager to talk to her parents about it (is it not classified?). May, Skye and Coulson are wandering around picking up debris and Coulson is a little pissed that SHIELD is having to spend its time cleaning up after Asgard’s mess. Would it kill them to “send down the god of ‘cleaning up after themselves’?” he wonders. They probably even have a magic broom for it. Skye just regrets that she can’t get her hands on the alien ship that the Dark Elves left behind, though no one else seems interested. If that’s not a possibility, then she at least wants to get her hands on Thor, who she says is “dreamy.” Coulson scoffs at this, but is shut down when May totally agrees with Skye. The scanning pays off and they find a piece of metal from another world, which is quickly locked away in a secure case.
We flash to a park in Norway, where two park rangers come across a vandalized sign, frustrated that anyone would take spray paint to a sign in a park (clearly people are nicer in Norway than in the US). We see a young couple hiking and following a map but they stop when they come across a tree surrounded by stones. They read a paper containing a poem that mentions a tree just like the one in front of them and the man pulls out a chainsaw. He cuts down the tree, climbs up its angled trunk and slices into it revealing a metal cylinder covered in mysterious markings.
He brings it down to the woman, who says she can’t wait to tell the others. She places her bare hands on the cylinder, which glows suddenly red as the strange markings flash across her hands. She starts to lose control of herself as the man tells her to “embrace it”. She is filled with rage from within, when the two rangers arrive, having been drawn by the sound of the chainsaw and the falling tree. The rangers confront the pair, but out of nowhere the woman smashes one of them in the chest sending him flying through the air.
Our SHIELD crew responds, of course, and we see Simmons preparing to climb the tree. She’s still a little twitchy about heights, but Ward encourages her (in the sweetest way possible) but distracting her and getting her to talk about science. “I know you’re trying to trick me into going up but I’m going up anyway,” she says. She scans the void in the trunk where the cylinder was and discovers an Asgardian signature. She scans the imprint left in the wood by the rod and transmits it to Fitz back on the Bus, who builds a replica from the scans.
Coulson wants to search for the couple, but there’s no need as they’re spotted among a group of people who are rioting in Oslo. They leave an ominous message in the street written in fire that says “WE ARE GODS”, which can’t be a good thing. The couple is identified as Jacob and Petra, who are members of a “Norse Paganist Hate Group”, which sounds mildly ridiculous when written out but is just tossed out like it’s not a big deal by Ward. Fitz says that based on the model he built he thinks there are two more pieces to the cylinder, which seems to be some kind of staff. Skye wonders why they don’t just call Thor, but he’s conveniently off the grid and SHIELD doesn’t have his cell phone number (which works out well when Chris Hemsworth isn’t available for a cameo). Instead they’ll have to find someone else to translate the markings.
Coulson has a professor friend, Randolph, who was a professor of Norse mythology until it turned out the myths are true, so he now teaches history. (Randolph is played by Peter MacNicol, who many will recognize from Numbers or Ally McBeal, but who will always be Janosz from Ghostbusters 2 and Galen from Dragonslayer to me.) Randolph says that Fitz’s reproduction is a piece of a Berserker staff from a 12th century legend. The legend tells of a Berserker army from Asgard which came to Earth for battle, but one of whom fell in love with humanity and stayed behind when it came time to return. The Berserker staffs could give someone the strength of twenty warriors by tapping into the holder’s rage, and the lone Berserker broke the staff into three pieces to hide it from humanity. There are three clues to the pieces in the legend in the form of a poem, which says that one piece is East of a river among some bones and another is close to God. But, Randolph warns, “It could also mean nothing.”