Episode: The Well
Original airdate: 11-19-13
The lead up to this episode from what I read about was a big deal that it was the tie-in episode to the theatrical release of Thor: The Dark World. I wasn’t really expecting something huge like a cameo from Chris Hemsworth or Tom Hiddleston, or even Kat Dennings though that could have been more likely. What could have been a possibility was something to do with the beast that was let loose in England during the battle. They might not be able to use the full quality as in the movie, but one might think that they could use it in some lower res capacity. What we got instead is a completely unrelated story about an Asgardian who came to Earth in the distant past and left an ancient relic that has been found. The tie in is mainly just a very brief montage of quick clips from the first two movies as well as starting the episode with the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents cleaning up a little bit of the mess left in England from the climax of the Dark World. As far as a “tie-in” goes, it was a bit of a let down. Looking at the episode apart from the marketing and it’s another fairly solid episode with a surprising guest appearance by Peter MacNicol, and finally a little bit of depth to Ward’s character.
The episode follows a small cult of Asgard worshipers who are following a tale of a Norse berserker who stayed behind after his fellow warriors had returned to the heavens and with him was a spear that gave him his berserker rage powers which he broke into three pieces and hid them across the land. The first of these pieces has been found and S.H.I.E.L.D. must find the rest and stop this cult before they get out of hand. Peter MacNicol plays a university professor that Coulson had talked to in the past before visiting Thor’s hammer in the first Thor movie, and spoilers, he is also that ancient Asgardian berserker who stayed behind. I was generally familiar with MacNicol from his work in the series Ally McBeal where he played a quirky lawyer. His incognito Asgardian is a much different character and he handled it quite well playing it mostly serious with a few lines of subtle humor.
The real draw of the episode is given to Ward, as when he touches the berserker spear, it dredges up a memory from his past, one that he hinted about in an earlier episode where he mentioned getting bullied by his older brother. Here, it starts out as being fairly unclear as we only get to see an image of a young boy at the bottom of a well struggling to keep his head above water while another young boy looks down from above. We eventually find out that Ward was the young boy at the top of the well and his younger brother was thrown in by his older brother who tries to stop young Ward from helping his younger brother. Basically it drew out the memory to fill him with as much hate as possible. It does have the added effect of trying to give some added depth to Ward’s character, though I’m not entirely sure how well it succeeds at that as he expresses it through snapping at his fellow teammates and later lets out a primal scream before taking out a bunch of rage-fueled cultists. It’s also fairly vague as to how long the effects of the spear lasts, as the strength seems like it lasts anywhere between hours and days though the rage memories may last for years. Coulson also gets to draw out the mystery behind Tahiti and his death while not actually moving that mystery forward at all. In the end, it was a rather mediocre episode. As usual, I enjoyed the bits with Melinda May, and I also really enjoyed Peter MacNicol even though I don’t remember his character’s name. The stuff with Ward was a step in the right direction, but it hasn’t gone far enough yet, and the promise of a Dark World tie-in was a major let down.