First off, shame on ABC’s hype machine because other than cleaning up the mess Malekith made in Thor: The Dark World, there isn’t a heck of a lot to connect this episode with the latest Thor flick. “The Well” is steeped in Asgardian lore and backstory but none of that stems from the film. The Dark World cleanup is used for comedic purposes as well as to establish the Asgardian presence on Earth. There is a bit of a subplot involving Simmons’ fear in calling her parents after her recent brushes with death and a chance for Skye and, hilariously, May to moon over how “dreamy” Thor is, but it’s all filler designed to get the audience to the real meat of the story. Fans might get a little chapped that the Thor tie-in scenes were so light, but they were an effective little bridge to the main story.
When two very Nordic looking white supremacists find an Asgardian artifact, the Agents must race to discover the truth of the weapon and stop the Asgardian-powered villains. Once again, the antagonists are overly generic, just a bunch of angry white folk out to cause some chaos. There is no motivation beyond them being bad so the threat does not seem all-encompassing. The villains are more inconvenient than they are frightening and the show still needs to ramp up the threat factor.
What did work was the advancement of Ward’s character as his contact with the artifact grants him temporary super strength…but increased his rage. The show reveals that Ward hesitated to save his brother from drowning in a well because he was afraid of a bully’s wrath. This is a nice wrinkle to add to Ward’s character, his motivation that he will never hesitate to save an innocent again, a fact that makes his plunge out of The Bus to save Simmons in “FZZT” that much more powerful.
We are also introduced to Professor Eliot Randolph, an Asgardian disguised as a simple literature professor on Earth, a fact deftly sussed out by Agent Coulson. Randolph is a fascinating character, a former simple Asgardian mason who came to Earth to see other realms. He becomes a mighty berserker warrior but hates the loss of control his staff forces him into. Randolph stays on Earth because, by his own admission, he was horny and wanted to bed down with some naïve Earth girls. Randolph is a rich character that exists in a nice shade of grey, a sensualist of the highest order who hated being a rage machine, something Ward must fight the entire episode.
The coolest part of “The Well” is when Agent May grabs the staff and remains in control despite her magic-fueled berserker rage…because like another certain Doctor associated with SHIELD, she is always angry. The last image of her going to her room with a bottle of booze to be alone with her secrets is a powerful reminded that we truly don’t know much about the usually in-control Agent May.
“The Well” may not have had much to do with Thor: The Dark World, a fact that might irk some folk, but the weaving in of Asgardian threads beyond the drama of Thor and Loki makes the world of Agents of SHIELD seem a bit bigger. Combined with some revelations about Ward and May and this is one of the deeper episodes so far.
But please Marvel, you have nine realms to choose from, BRING ON THE BAD GUYS!