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

Simmons tries to revive Randolph, but doesn’t know enough about his anatomy to know what to do.  Coulson shockingly thrusts his hand right inside Randolph’s chest, finding his heart and applying pressure until his Asgardian healing abilities kick in.  Ward fights Jacob (each with a piece of the staff) and his comrades as he experiences stronger flashbacks to the well, and we finally see the full story.  Ward’s younger brother is at the bottom of a well, calling for Ward to help him.  Ward gets a piece of rope, but is told by his older brother that if he tries to help the youngest that Ward will find himself down the well, too.  Ward gives him a look of fury and waits until the older brother leaves before helping the younger.  After the flashback the camera pulls back to show Ward standing surrounded by the bodies of Jacob and his followers, before Ward collapses in exhaustion.

Petra arrives with more followers and the third staff piece, but Ward is too exhausted to go on.  Instead May picks up the other two pieces and takes Ward’s place in the fight.  She takes the third piece from Petra and joins them together to form the complete staff, before defeating Petra for good.  She then lays the staff down and slowly backs away.  Randolph awakes, surprising Coulson, Fitz and Simmons, and he tells Simmons that she’s the most beautiful thing he’s seen in a thousand years.

Simmons is upset with herself for not knowing how to save Randolph, but Coulson tells her sometimes you have to just jump in and not worry.  Her phone rings again, and she takes his advice and decides to talk to her parents and fill them in on her adventures.  Ward asks May how she seemed to be able to handle her worst memories so well compared to him.  The answer, she says, is that unlike him she sees it every day.

Coulson and Randolph examine the staff, and Coulson looks for a moment like he might pick it up.  Randolph asks what it is that Coulson wants the staff to show him, and Coulson confesses that the months after his death are “kind of a blank”.  He just woke up months after being stabbed in Tahiti.  He insists he’s not haunted about it, and changes the topic to what Randolph plans to do next.  He says he’s had enough of Europe for the moment, and Coulson recommends Portland, Oregon, which happens to have a great Philharmonic (and presumably a particularly great cellist).  He also promises to introduce Randolph to Thor.

The group spends the night in a hotel, and Skye wanders downstairs to the bar and finds Ward nursing a drink.  Ward apologizes for the way he acted in the lab, but Skye says that he’s saved them enough times that she can overlook his “Hulk rage”.  Ward is amazed, and asks her “does everything just roll off your back?”  Skye says no, and that she’d rage all the time if she could, but that it doesn’t help to do so.  She reminds him that she’s there if he ever needs someone to talk to, perhaps to tell the story of the well, and she lays a comforting hand on his arm.  She tells him that her “shoulder is free”, but Ward says that perhaps some other time.  He says it in a way that leaves the possibility open in the future, and Skye tells him that he knows where she lives.

Upstairs, Ward is returning to his room when he sees May entering hers.  She has a partially drunk bottle of alcohol in her hand, and the two share a look before she heads into her room.  She leaves the door open and a minute later he joins her and closes the door.  It’s not clear what we’re supposed to assume from this, whether it’s two soldiers drowning their problems in a bottle or whether there’s something more to it.

After the credits we see Coulson getting a massage by the beach.  He’s in Tahiti and the masseuse tells him in a mysterious way what a magical place it is.  Suddenly Coulson wakes up in a sweat, clearly unsettled by the nightmare/memory he’s just experienced.

Tonight’s episode was interestingly constructed.  It wasn’t exactly a continuation of Thor: The Dark World, as it had been promoted to be, but instead was something a little more clever.  It used the cleanup in Greenwich as a jumping off point to tell its own Asgardian story which was more clever by far.  If SHIELD wanted to introduce Asgard to the show, it would have been too jarring on its own, but opening the episode with the cleanup following the film gives the events surrounding the staff and Randolph some context.  It was a neat use of the film-to-show crossover potential as a way to expand the universe instead of just as a plot point.  And it did it all without having to rely on a cameo from the cast of the film.

The episode didn’t quite live up to the last two weeks, but it was nevertheless an important one for the show.  We did get some new exploration of Ward as a character, not to mention a tease into May’s background and another step along the path to the truth about Coulson (see below).  I feel like things are gradually coming to a head, as we’re 8 episodes into the show’s original order of 13, so I would expect the revelations and story to move faster in the next five weeks.

  S.H.I.E.L.D. Thoughts

So did you catch the Dollhouse reference at the end of the show?  Coulson is getting a massage and he asks the masseuse, “Did I fall asleep?”  She replies, “For a little while.”  Joss Whedon fans will of course recognize this from Dollhouse, which ran for two seasons a few years ago and was surprisingly brilliant.  In the show, people could be reprogrammed to fit the needs of paying clients, and after returning from an engagement would be wiped back to a default state.  After the wipe, they would always ask, “Did I fall asleep?” and would be answered with, “For a little while.”  (The next lines would be the doll asking, “Shall I go now?” and the programmer answering, “If you like.”)  I’d love to say that the new theory is that Coulson is a doll, but I imagine this is just a nudge-nudge, wink-wink for Joss Whedon fans (Dollhouse also featured a couple of episodes written by SHIELD showrunners, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen).  Perhaps Coulson was just a fan of the show, and that line is embedded in his memory and therefore turned up in his dream.

How about May’s comment that she sees her worst memory every day?  It could just mean that she was never able to suppress it the way Ward was, but I’m leaning towards it being more literal.  Some people out there have speculated that May is Skye’s mother (which seems possible to me), and I think it’s fair to say that she might have at least been involved with the events surrounding a SHIELD agent leaving Skye on the orphanage steps.  Perhaps her worst memory is fresh in her mind because she sees Skye every day and it reminds her of that memory.  That’s just my theory, and it could certainly mean something else, but I think this is at least a possibility. However, if May is Skye’s mother, I hope that she and Ward are not hooking up in that hotel room.  I’m not a huge Skyward shipper, but I do think Skye and Ward have a good chemistry and I’d like to see where a relationship between the two would go, and if it’s going to become a love triangle involving May then I really don’t want May to turn out to be Skye’s mom.  That’s just a little too weird on the character development front for this show.

I do like how Skye and Ward are learning to appreciate each other’s personalities.  Skye has an idealism and positive attitude that Ward finds refreshing, and Ward has a determination and confidence that Skye could learn from.  Whether Skyward becomes a canon ship or not, I like their friendship and I want to see it continue to grow.  I think they compliment each other really well.

Every week I like Ward a bit more.  He was a little stiff and uninteresting when the show started, but as we learn more about him and see more sides to his personality he’s really starting to grow on me.  I loved the way he encouraged Simmons when she was afraid of climbing the tree.  He was positive and supportive, but also sweetly manipulative in just the way she needed.  I also like that he was quick to apologize to Skye after the events of the episode, as most characters of that type would be a little more hesitant.  As for the flashback to the well, I’m not exactly sure what to make of it.  Ward’s brother was obviously horrible, and Ward carries the guilt of not standing up to him, but the fact that Ward described it as the first time he felt hate was intriguing to me.  I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Ward’s backstory, because this felt like just a small piece which didn’t explain enough to stand alone for the character.

Let’s see how SHIELD handles Captain America: The Winter Soldier when it comes out next year.  Tonight’s episode did a good job of using Thor: The Dark World to tell a tangentially related story, but with the new Captain America film that doesn’t seem like much of a possibility.  The trailer for the film shows that SHIELD will be greatly involved in the events of the movie, and I imagine that those events will have serious ramifications for the organization and the show.  Obviously the people behind SHIELD don’t want their show to be dictated by the films, but they can’t ignore those storylines either, and while Thor: The Dark World was a bit of an isolated incident, I don’t think the same can be said for Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  I think there will be some lasting consequences that SHIELD will have to deal with.

Don’t know quite what to make of the preview for next week.  It looks like the girl in the promo is being haunted by something which is causing chaos around her, but I got the impression that she might be the one responsible.  Unlike most of the other “next week” teases, this one was a little unclear.  In fact, my notes on the preview simply say “WTF?”  Regardless, it seems like a pretty bad idea for our team to bring the girl aboard the Bus.

What do you think?  Did you enjoy “The Well”?  What did you think of how the episode connected to Thor: The Dark World?  What did you make of Ward’s tragic backstory?  What do you think May saw when she picked up the staff (and supposedly sees every day)?  What do you think Ward and May are doing in that hotel room?  Do you now believe Coulson is a doll?  What do you think is coming next week?  Let me know in the comments!

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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