Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Recap – 1.08 “The Well”

agentsofshieldSo I took an unexpected week break from recapping Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?  Did you miss me?  Sadly, I didn’t miss the show and if you believed the entire series was predicated on being a cheap tie-in for the movies, this week’s episode proves it. Previous episodes touched on the current movies, predominately the Extremis plot coinciding with Iron Man 3’s home video release, but The Well hopes you went and saw Thor: The Dark World in the last week.  If you didn’t, you won’t be too lost although I’m tempted to question whether the movie would have colored my enjoyment of the episode.

This week was all about Grant Ward: tortured soul.  More specifically, a group of Norwegian anti-paganists found a mysterious Asgardian staff embedded in a tree.  Yes, in this universe we don’t have hate groups based on political ideology or race; we have people who really, really hate Thor and his people.  Apparently, this group wants to bring anarchy and chaos by using the Thor technology.  Is that the pot calling the kettle black?  Anyway, the SHIELDies are tasked with finding out where the remaining pieces of the staff are, and Coulson mentions he consulted with a top-notch professor well-versed in Norse mythology when he found Thor’s hammer.

Cut to Professor Elliot Randolph played by Peter MacNicol.  He’s our brilliant professor who is supposedly a ladies man or a total scumbag as it’s alluded in the opening scene when he reminds a student they’re meeting for dinner.  What is the point of this scene, exactly?  It goes nowhere and it just makes you think either someone believe MacNicol is a stud-muffin or he’s a total scumbag.  It coincides with a comment made by Skye about Thor being dreamy.  Yes, we know ladies love Thor, no need to pound the obvious into the ground.  Anyway, Randolph tells Coulson about a long-ago legend wherein an Asgardian came to Earth but fell in love with a woman and refused to return.  Hmm, reminds me of a movie but I can’t put my finger on it.  The staff contains the power source for the Berzerker’s, legendary Asgardian warriors.  The various pieces of the staff were scattered to the winds, but conveniently there’s an old text to give them obscure clues.  With all this mythology, it’s almost frustrating how often this episode forgets the opening with the anti-pagan hipsters.  What’s their end game?  Why are they contradicting their own ideology?  Who knows because this episode never tells us and apparently gives no fucks about it.

The clues lead the SHIELDies to the second piece of the staff, in Canada of all places, where Grant is stabbed with it by….Professor Randolph (and he would have gotten away with it too!).  Grant passes out, but not before having images of his little brother drowning in a well which continually furrows his brow throughout this episode.  Everyone returns to the plane where, through a test with an outcome summed up as “It has to work because it’s all we have to solve the plot point,” its revealed Professor Randolph is an Asgardian who has made a comfortable life for himself on Earth.  This is probably the best element of the episode as Randolph explains he never knew Thor (because don’t all Asgardians know each other?) and wanted to change his boring life as a mason.  He did fall in love with a woman, but never anticipated said woman would tell the story to her brother who would write it down.  A pretty modern take on how easy mythology is to make!

The gang goes to Ireland for a final show-down with the Norwegian hipsters (oh, hey guys!  Where you been all this time?  Who cares!).  Grant uses his Berzerker rage while Melinda May continues to kick ass.  Throughout we’re reminded about Grant having some dark tragedy involving his brother, while Melinda May has similar secrets but who cares about them!  That’s becoming the grating issue I have – currently – with this series.  All the mysteries are given such weight, oooh soooo mysterious, but never portion them out.  Obviously, Grant’s issues involve his brother dying, we have the gist; whereas Melinda May’s back-story is completely blank!  Eight episodes in, almost everyone has had an episode or at least some type of character development, except Melinda!  Either give us something or throw her overboard, and I hate to say that because Ming-Na is kick-ass and continues to impress me by doing absolutely nothing.

The episode ends pretty abruptly.  The staff is safe, the hipsters are dispensed, and Ward and Melinda May bond for reasons.  Again, I think their bonding would have been a great moment for character development if it was equally doled out!  There’s also a brief subplot involving Simmons refusing to talk to her folks after the events of her episode, but it’s irrelevant.  The episode ends with Coulson waking up after having a dream about the magic of Tahiti.  Okay, here’s another mystery given all this weight, only to have Melinda give Coulson a ham-fisted moral, and then the mystery kicks back in?  Screenwriters, you can solve something right now!  No need to drag everything out till the finale; you don’t want to miss anything, do you?

Overall, The Well is a good episode.  I might have enjoyed it more had I seen Thor 2, but it wasn’t nearly as insider as I expected a tie-in episode to be.  I just wish something was tied up, or at least not imbued with the weight of a funeral.  The characters that truly need development, aka Melinda, are blending into the scenery whereas everyone else has become some type of fleshed out presence.  Oh, well, maybe next week.