Recap: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – “The Well”

SHIELD investigates a new dig site containing Norse relics in Canada, ironically near a Mt. Thor, which turns out to be a wild goose chase.  Skye is following the Norse Pagan Hate Group online, searching through forums full of angry people looking to cause destruction, leading her to conclude that “people suck”.  (Hilariously, one of the posts in the forum that is shown is, “I rode a horse today :)”.)  The group discovers a crypt in Seville which seems to fit the description, and Coulson suggests they go check it out and “see what we can dig up… you see what I did there?”

At the crypt, Ward and Skye search for anything Asgardian while Coulson and Fitz monitor from the car.  Ward is surprised to run into Randolph, who has the second piece of the staff.  Ward grabs at the staff, and when he touches it it glows red and he is knocked out.  He wakes up disoriented and having flashes of a boy at the bottom of a well.  Randolph runs into Jacob, Petra and their group as he tries to get into his car.  Coulson searches for him, but the search gets easy when he sees a car fly through the air.  He finds Randolph unharmed, but without the staff, as Randolph tells him, “I screwed up.”

Back aboard the Bus, Ward is getting a physical from Simmons while Coulson tries to interrogate Randolph.  Ward is still seeing flashes of the well, and becoming agitated with Skye, Fitz and Simmons.  His anger boils over when Simmons offers him a sedative, and he criticizes Skye and Simmons for talking too much and Fitz for not saving Simmons when she jumped from the plane before he storms out of the lab.  Randolph tells Coulson that he just wanted to study the staff, as something that was sent from heaven by the gods.  Coulson tells him that Asgardians are not gods, they’re aliens from space, and leaves Randolph alone in the interrogation room.

Ward is taking his anger out at the punching bag, getting more intense as he experiences more flashbacks of the event at the well.  May sneaks up on him and when he sees her he throws a punch her way, which she easily dodges.  He tells her not to sneak up on him, but she’s not concerned about that and is more concerned by his mental state.  “The last thing you need is to punch things,” she says.  We get a glimpse of the group, now calling itself the New Order, who believe they have to become gods in order to take the world back from gods.  Jacob uses the two pieces of the staff to imbue more of his followers with enhanced strength and the power of rage.

Ward goes to Coulson and says that he thinks he’s compromised, as he’s seeing things from his past that he previously buried, a key part of his training.  He is reliving his worst memory, the first time he ever felt hate, and it won’t go away.  Coulson understands, but realizes that the fact that Ward is worried about his behavior and is being honest means that he is still trustworthy.  Frustrated with Randolph’s lack of cooperation, he decides to set Ward and his rage loose on him.  Ward goes into the interrogation room and attacks Randolph with a knife, but Randolph simply grabs the blade and bends it in half.  Ward tells Coulson that he was right, Randolph is an Asgardian!  Coulson says that’s a good thing, because “otherwise that would have been really embarrassing.”

Randolph rips his handcuffs off as Coulson correctly guesses that he is the Berserker warrior who remained on Earth.  Simmons, who is watching in the lab with May, Skye and Fitz, wants to “cut him open a little bit” in order to get some tissue samples and bodily fluids, while Skye says that this is “better than the History Channel”.  May locks Ward and Coulson in the room with Randolph, on Coulson’s orders, and Ward tells Randolph that the walls are made of Vibranium (the same material which makes up Captain America’s shield).

Coulson asks why Randolph would tell his own story, and therefore the locations of the staff pieces, and Ward speculates that Randolph was tortured or interrogated for the information.  However, the truth is that he was just horny, and told his story to a French girl in 1546 in order to get in good with her.  Randolph laughs when asked if he knows Thor, and says that his occupation as a mason didn’t lend itself to hanging out with the future King of Asgard.  He broke rocks for a living, and used his desire for travel as a reason to join the Berserkers, but he hated it.  He tells them that the staff shines a light into the darkest places of whoever touches it, but that the people will calm down eventually, if they don’t die out first.  He says that the great thing about Earth is that it is constantly changing.  Coulson tells him that he knows Thor, and if Randolph doesn’t help him then he will tell Thor about him, doing away with the anonymity he has been enjoying, so Randolph reveals that he has been enjoying.  The third piece of the staff is revealed to be in an Irish monastery where Randolph spent some of his earliest days.

As they prepare to head out, Ward asks Randolph how long it will take for the effects of the staff to wear off, and Randolph assures him that soon he will physically crash and feel exhausted as the power leaves him, but that the psychological effects will take a few decades to disappear.  At the monastery the group comes across an ancient book with an illustration of Randolph, who they viewed as a saint, though Ward says that means that they were idiots.  Randolph looks for the final staff piece, but is stabbed by Jacob, who already has it and who says that if they want to defeat a god they must become one.  Ward grabs the staff piece and is infused with its power, before tackling Jacob off the balcony.

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9 thoughts on “Recap: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – “The Well”

  1. Mad Spoilers…..

    I was kinda hoping for a wild west roundup of the Jotun creature still galumphing around Greenwich at the end of Thor. This episode might have been even better than that, and … Jonathan Frakes?!? as director?!?! WHHOOOT!!!

    My first thought was that the broken staff bit was part of Mjolnir. Except I think it never had a longer handle, it was merely forged short. (In his account of Norse mythology Snorri Sturluson relates how the hammer was made by the dwarven brothers Sindri and Brokkr, and how its characteristically short handle was due to a mishap during its manufacture. wiki)

    The rune on the park sign is variously an o or the oe that is squashed together. One site says it also means “estate”. Also variously othila, odal, epel (land, estate), or oedel with a lot of things going on (like squashed letters and greeblies over them) that my non-Asgardian/Norse keyboard won’t do. It does not appear in the moon runes of Thorin’s map to Erebor at all, but in Tolkien’s Cirth (LOTR) it is either a u or a v. In the “Hobbit Runes” (the Hobbit) it doesn’t exist.

    Apparently “fallen angels” get pudgy and decadent. The shape of our Asgardian who fell to Earth is much like one of the angels in “City of Angels” who decided to “take the fall” and remain on Earth indulging in Mr Ben and Jerry. I like his character arc, we spend some time not sure at all who or what he is, or what his intentions are… though there is that nice foreshadowing of his story… I saw none of this (who and what he is) coming despite the foreshadowing.

    Inspired a bit by some interviews with Tom Hiddleston (who appears to be a sweet, classy gentleman of the highest degree), I had contemplated recently how people respond to power. How do you handle being a celebrity? A warrior like May? Like Ward? What happens to Angry Young Men who get Real Power in their hands? I think it is not simply a matter of “let’s cast a blondish Norseish looking guy as the lead baddie here”… he looks a great deal like Thor. Thor exhibits compassion, gentleness and empathy alongside raw elemental power (yeah, there’s that character arc in the first film wherein he learns the purpose of Real Power, and that with it comes, yeah, great responsibility thankyouUncleBen). Clearly our baddie in this episode is driven by hate and anger… not a good combination with real power. I’m also liking the exploration of the idea of the Berserker (literally “bear shirt”, bearskin, shapeshifter with the power of Bear, though sometimes depicted as wolf-skinned). One of Thor’s alternate names is “Bjorn” …bear.

    It says something about Coulson’s compassion, wisdom, and humility that he never mentions being stabbed by Loki or that it was Thor who saw him die. He only alludes vaguely to that moment.

    As for Thor being “off the grid”, I am somewhat comics impaired, so I don’t know how they handled it in the comics, but it seems like he might have some of his own mopping up to do. That SHIELD is there to do SHIELD’S thing, and Thor gets to handle the somewhat more epic stuff. And occasionally they cross paths, but not this week.

    L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland is well known and accepted as a Viking settlement by scholars, there are lots of other claims for Viking visitation, but few are authenticated.

    “May locks Ward and Coulson in the room with Randolph, on Coulson’s orders, and Ward tells Randolph that the walls are made of Vibranium (the same material which makes up Captain America’s shield).” I got that reference….

    I was more vague on which of the three boys in the well is Ward. So much of that was shown from the POV of the boy in the water that I eventually assumed it was Ward in the water.

    As for the May/Ward thing, I think it’s great that they leave it up to our interpretation, though I lean toward the two warriors commiserating. Fannish shipping does not always work.

    As for her and the Staff of Berserkr, I think she is a classic highly controlled martial artist whose skills have landed her in some very deep doo doo, which she has survived due to her highly developed skill set… which includes some serious mental skills (part of tai chi, and much of the rest of Asian martial arts and medicine is that mind-body-spirit connection, the idea that they are not separate things). Surely she has seen some horrors in her travels. And just as surely, she had had to “bagua” past them. Shove them aside, let them fly by under their own power, and go on.

    Which doesn’t mean she doesn’t remember them.

    And now Tahiti is even more of a conundrum! Waht?!? WAHT?!?!? What IS it?

    I do think Coulson is Coulson… resurrected, sort of, but still Coulson. I mean, his greatest characteristic as a Marvel character is that he is a normal human surrounded by “gods”.

    Perhaps there will be something of a clue in Winter Soldier.

    And I still think it has something to do with the Captain America serum.

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    • (Sorry for not replying to your comment from last week. I was going to do it just now, but I figured that was silly if there’s a more recent one to reply to.)

      Jonathan Frakes has proved himself a solid director over the last couple decades. He directed some of my favorite episodes from 4 series of Star Trek, not to mention the fantastic job he did with two of the films. He has the ability to really get into the script and find a tone and style that compliments the performances.

      I would have loved to see the SHIELD crew rounding up the rogue Jotun! That would have been awesome!

      I was wondering about the rune. They had it branded on their hands as well. Thanks for checking on its origins! I wonder if we’ll see it pop up again?

      Awww, pudgy? If he’s pudgy I hate to think what I am. All Asgardians can’t look like Thor or Loki, can they? Surely some of them are more… ordinary?

      I love the idea of how people respond when they get power. It was one of the things I loved so much about the Harry Potter series, in that it showed so many different reactions from those with power. Even when gained with the noblest of intentions, it can still corrupt and pervert until someone has been changed completely.

      I wouldn’t want Thor (or Iron Man, or Captain America) to show up every week to bail out SHIELD, so I’m glad that they kept him away from the action of this episode.

      Ward was the boy at the top, who wanted to rescue the boy at the bottom (the young boy at the bottom called the one at the top “Grant”, which is Ward’s first name). I assumed that the boy at the bottom was Ward’s younger brother, and the bully was Ward’s older brother, as we’ve heard about how their relationship was one of the things that helped form him.

      I like your interpretation of May, and mind-body-spirit connection. I think there is a lot of depth to her that we haven’t even begun to see.

      I think the Captain America serums is definitely a possibility (and imagine how Coulson would geek out over that!), and I think he was resurrected somehow. I don’t think that the show would go as far as him being a robot or Life Model Decoy.

      As always, thanks for reading and for the thoughtful and fun comments!

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  2. Hee hee, pudgy, I can relate. One of the things that I love about the British TV I’ve seen is that the actors tend to be less Hollywood scrawny glamour and more… ordinary. Even the various Doctors (Who) have been of various ages, faces and builds, only a few of which could be termed glamour boys. Even the “pretty ones” are more quirky and unique, with a high dose of humor.

    As a woman of substance and former swordbroad (and dabler in historical re-enactment and martial arts, I repeat, dabbler) I am appalled by Hollywood’s insistence on stick chicks (hey, what can they do? They’d blow away in a high wind!). I applaud the designer of Merida (Brave) for sticking to her guns when it came to Merida’s unique, quirky design (that’s me as a kid!). Too bad she had to fold and make Mom more typical Disney Queen. I also applaud Jennifer Lawrence (Hunger Games) for being real, and not bowing to Hollywood pressure to be a stick chick either…
    “L.V. Anderson of Slate.com points out that there’s been a lot of reviewers griping about Jennifer’s body… and no one else’s. The Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy refers to the starlet’s “baby fat,” while Hollywood Elsewhere critic Jeffrey Wells calls Lawrence “big boned” and says she’s “too big” to be believable next to her leading man Josh Hutcherson. But no one, says Anderson, is knocking Hutcherson’s strong arms or Liam Hemsworth’s healthy body, both of which also exist in a fictional world without protein smoothies.” http://www.ivillage.com/jennifer-lawrence-not-skinny-enough-hunger-games/1-a-439499

    As a writer/artist with my own set of tales to tell, I have wrestled with the issue of putting high powered characters in the same tale as mere mortals. Avengers and SHIELD have created a nice balance of high tech, superpowers, and average human beings all dealing with Big Issues. I think this reflects (as all good tales do) reality, in which we have people with power (technological, political, financial), and those without, all of whom have some contribution to make to the world.

    I suspect they’ll leave the superpowered characters to the films, and keep SHIELD more on a mortal level. Which will be just fine.

    Like

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