“The Well” (Season 1, Episode 8)
“The Well” is another passable episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (and it might actually be one of the better ones), which is odd because it does a lot of the things I don’t want the show to do, such as name-dropping and riding the coattails of the Marvel films without really being a part of them. This episode is an awful lot like that one issue of that title with flagging numbers that publishers tie into a major crossover to goose the numbers and boost sales. (So you buy that issue, thinking it’s got something integral to the crossover, because why else would you buy an issue of Moon Knight or Booster Gold? But you find out it’s only so thinly related to the larger story.)
As the promotions for this episode are eager to show, it deals specifically with the events of in Thor: The Dark World (Hey! Listen to the rambling episode we did on that one. “It’s a hoot” exclaims Dru). Now, unless you were told this episode was directly related to The Dark World, there’s very little here to actually support that, save the excessive Thor name-dropping. “The Well” is only tangentially related to The Dark World; the episode doesn’t spoil the film and the film doesn’t provide anything that makes the episode any better.
So, after the events at the end of The Dark World, part of an Asgardian Berserker staff is found by a cult of Norse god worshipers (or something) in Norway. The staff has been divided into three parts, and if all three are assembled this cult will have unimaginable powers. Coulson enlists the help of Professor Elliot Randolph (Peter MacNicol) who has his own motivation for recovering the staff (and a fairly lame reveal).
This episode is another Ward-driven episode — the well of the title refers to a trauma from his past — but I still don’t think Brett Dalton has the chops to move his character beyond good-looking and cool in a fight. As with much of the rest of the series, the best moments are coming from some of the characters who have so little to do and very little time to do it. During the episode’s well-staged climactic fight (thank you, director Jonathan Frakes), May swoops in to save the day. She’s a tough, icy-cool character, and besides Coulson (who gets a lot of the good material), May is probably both the most interesting and likable person on the show. It’s such a shame that the writers don’t seem to know what to do with her or how to handle her.
As well, I’m beginning to think that there’s very little in the bulk of these episodes — story-wise — that’s really of any value (or interest). Sure, events lead to characters realizing something about themselves or learn a valuable lesson, but all of these moments — and the ones driving the over-arching story — seem to come at the end. “The Well” is no exception: Skye and Ward share tender heart-to-heart while the almost unbearably overwrought score by Bear McCreary tells us that there’s supposed to be some romantic tension between the two. Coulson also has a dream about his time in Tahiti, which really makes me wish the writers would just stop teasing us and stretching this plotline out so much.
After eight episodes, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has found a rut it seems to be comfortable with — both in terms of its structure and quality. All of the episodes are essentially the same and don’t really offer anything beyond the surface. And as we’ve seen with “The Well,” they also don’t offer any new insight or perspective on the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe.
- Skye is the voice of the audience: “Why don’t you just call up your buddy Thor?” Coulson says he’s “off the grid.” Big help.
- Skye gets a another good line early on: “‘Yay, internet’ she says sarcastically.”
- Every time someone mentions Thor is just a reminder that Chris Hemsworth is definitely not showing up.
- I think the writers are stretching Coulson’s story so far because they don’t know what to do with it yet, which makes me think it’ll be like season three of Lost.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “The Well.” Directed by Jonathon Frakes. Written by Monica Owusu-Breen.