Agents of SHIELD Episode 8
The Good Nerd
Once again Agents of SHIELD has shown that this is a show that is getting better and better each week. This week’s episode ‘the Well’ loosely tied into Marvel’s Thor 2: The Dark World, which is in theaters now. Before I get into why this episode was great and what we have to look forward to I need to address the complaints about the show not ‘standing on its own’.
Marvel is doing something very unique with its movies and with Agents of SHIELD. They are creating a shared universe on a scale that has never been attempted before. Marvel’s current cinematic universe is arguably one of the best movie franchises of all time; the movies are related without being sequels or spin offs. Agents of SHIELD and soon the Netflix shows are the stories that fill in the cracks between the movies. These are the shows that deal with the fallout of what happens in the films. So it makes a great deal of sense that after a massive battle in England, SHIELD would send in one of their top teams to help with the clean up. I like the moments when they acknowledge all of the other stuff going on and I don’t agree that having Nick Fury on was a ratings stunt. Now that the crossover stuff is out of the way, let’s talk about last night’s episode.
Last night, our Agents were dealing with a whole mess of Asgardian fallout. Initially, our gang is cleaning up Thor’s mess from the climax of The Dark World. The team actually feels like a team here; they are comfortable with each other and making jokes. The cheekiness is short lived though, because before too long the team gets called away as a result of the villain of the week. This week, the villains are a group of thugs who have found an ancient Asgardian war staff and are using it to cause chaos all over Europe.
This episode belongs to Ward, not saying there are not important moments for the rest of the team but Ward really got to shine here. The war staff unlocks the rage of whoever touches it on their skin; think a minor case of hulking out. To do this it causes the user to relive their darkest memory over and over. For Ward this memory was something he had tried to lock away, something related to his childhood. We get glimpses of the memory throughout the episode, but only towards the end when we find out the entire story do we see why Ward locked it away. As a kid, Ward was forced to watch as his brother struggled at the bottom of a well. Despite wanting to lower a rope down to him, he was “prevented” by some older mystery child. Ward clearly has struggled with this sense of failure his entire life. It was this failure to protect his brother that has set him to become the man he is today, a man that must always protect those around him, regardless of the personal cost.
Ward wasn’t the only member of the Team to come into contact with the staff, Agent May did as well, and the difference between the two could not have been bigger. Since Ward locked away the memory in order to be a better field agent, the memory caused him to loose his composure and balance. Agent May on the other hand never locked away whatever memory was her darkest moment, instead she came to peace with it and conquered it. Her conquering of her past doesn’t make it any easier for her; it just doesn’t control her the same way that Ward was controlled. Another difference was Ward accidently touched the staff, while May knew what needed to be done for the good of the team and intentionally grabbed it. Of course this gave us a super charged Melinda May that proceeded to kick all kinds of ass, which is always a good thing.
The rest of the team spent the entire episode trying to deal with raged out Ward. Fitz and Simmons were trying to figure out what was happening to Ward scientifically, in a scene that included some nice fan service for the ladies I might add. Skye was trying to reach Ward on an emotional level, which failed horribly. Coulson trusted raged out Ward though. Ward came to Coulson and told him that he was concerned that he would be a liability in the field and felt like he should be benched until this was figured out. The fact that Ward had enough control to recognize the state he was in was all that Coulson needed to know that Ward was still up to the task.
The twist of the episode came from Coulson’s go to expert in all things Asgardian, Professor Elliot Randolph. The Professor was being less than honest with the Agents and in a ballsy move to call him out on it, it is revealed that Professor Randolph is actually an Asgardian. Of course Coulson’s way to call him out was to have Ward try and stab him, which was awesome by the way. Coulson, the team, and now the Professor are racing to beat the crazy anarchist gang to the last part of the staff. Both sides meet up and the final battle is actually pretty dang fun to watch. Ward rages out and takes down most of the gang before the staff overwhelms him. That is when May steps in and just acts because she knows what needs to be done, and that is kicking ass.
‘Agents of SHIELD’ has really come together as one of my top shows to watch every week. We are done with the cliché team building episodes, and beating the audience over the head with the episodes plot points. The show just seems to naturally evolve and the characters are fitting into their roles in a more relaxed way, nothing feels forced anymore. If you have passed on ‘Agents’ or never started, you need to join the team and start watching, you won’t be disappointed.
Good Nerd: Thumbs Up
The Bad Nerd
Well, well, well. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Last night was the premiere of the highly anticipated Thor 2 tie-in. And while the hype machine was out in full force for weeks, the episode lacked any real tie-in beyond a glancing reference to the events in London. Yes, it was about an Asgardian. And, yes, it started in London, but it had nothing to do with the story, characters, or Dark Elves of Thor 2. So, that was all a lie. But before my NerdRage could reach a Berserker-level stage, they did something even better than what they hyped. They started digging into the Marvel Universe and Agent Coulson’s mysterious healing. And that’s no hype.
The episode goes a long way to dispel Asgardians as gods, but rather that they’re “simply” advanced aliens who’ve used Earth, or Midgard, as their playground for several thousand years. And in the course of that time, a few artifacts and stories have found their way into our own history. Among those artifacts was a Berserker staff, a weapon that amplified a person’s strength and endurance by shining a light on their darkest well of hate. And as Simmons notes, “That’s not very scientific.” And to that I say, “Duh!” But also, “It’s about time we get a real frackin’ Marvel Universe story line!!” They have to deal with Asgardian tech and a lost Asgardian mason/warrior. Now that’s what this show was made to do.
At best, I think it’s sketchy that Ward’s deepest, darkest moment in his entire life was a moment from childhood where he was held back by his older brother from helping some kid from drowning in a well for a few minutes. Did he feel helpless? Maybe. But after his brother says not to help him, he waits a few seconds until he’s gone and then does so anyway. They needed to do a better job of explaining the severity of this on his psyche, because I just didn’t get it. I’m about to commit sacrilege here, but it was as meaningless as Luke Skywalker entering the Cave of Evil on Dagobah. Boring!
Also, can they stop teasing Melinda May’s past already? And by teasing I mean not saying more than she has one. We get it. Something dark and terrible happened to her. But until you’re really ready to dive in to it, just let her be a badass combatant. Because I’m not really all that interested in seeing her hook up with Ward. They don’t build up their chemistry at all. So, if it did happen, it would just be sex. So, what does it service to have them do it for the story at large besides a bi-line in the next episode? I think this would’ve a prime opportunity to tell her story more than Ward’s, as hers is the one they’ve been teasing.
But ultimately, what sold this episode for me was Coulson. It’s like picking a fight with a kitten; eventually,
you’re going to get scratched. Or something like that. Last night was the first scratch on the story, and while it wasn’t much more than they’ve said before, this time they showed us Tahiti: a place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I’m talking about a little place called…Tahiti? I can’t decide if what I just was dumb or dumber.
And on that Nerdsplosion, I leave you with your Coulsonspiracies. Because while it’s true that Coulson lives, it’s not clear as to how. Magic? LMD? Answering this question would be the best Christmas gift ever. #miracleshappen
Bad Nerd: Thumbs Up