Agents of SHIELD
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Review - Episode 8: The Well

Bob Chipman | 20 Nov 2013 12:53
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"It would be nice if, just once, Thor and his friends would send down The God of Cleaning Up After Yourself."

The first few minutes of The Well are a crystallization of the very, very bad show I'd originally worried Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D" would wind up being: Coulson and Company as CSI: Marvel Universe, sifting through the post-action debris of Thor: The Dark World, quipping variations on "Aw, nuts! One of The Avengers was here and we just missed him!" Not that it isn't amusing, conceptually, to see the worker bees of the world putting things back together after the de rigeur smash-a-thon of a Hollywood blockbuster - but I'd rather see this series keep aspiring to be more than a way for Marvel Studios to mark time between movies now that it seems to have found it's groove.

Fortunately, once those minutes (and they are just minutes) pass, what kicks in turns out to be easily the best hour of television Agents has delivered its whole first season: action packed, dramatically interesting, spectacularly goofy in the way I prefer a show like this to be, a new personal best, and maybe the first full episode I can imagine earning this show fans who didn't see the movies and/or weren't personally invested in things like the secret of Coulson's resurrection or what S.H.I.E.L.D's status will be leading in to Captain America: The Winter Soldier . I feel pretty comfortable saying that, if I stumbled onto this episode with no prior knowledge of its broader continuum, I'd watch again next week simply because it offered a killer premise - The X-Files with Mission Impossible's hardware - and delivered the hell out of it.

Amusingly, the much-ballyhooed (to the extent that I spent some of today reading up on The Well of Wisdom, just in case) connection to the Thor sequel is almost wholly tangential: While we indeed start out in the (literal) aftermath of Thor's battle with Malekith (spoiler: the one who's already set to appear in Avengers 2 won), story-wise it's just an opportunity for Skye to give a nutshell version of how Asgard works (i.e. the ancient Norse gods were/are real but they're actually a race of powerful, exceptionally long-lived aliens whom ancient peoples took for gods and built religions around) in advance of this week's Big Mystery, which involves an Asgardian artifact that's been lost on Earth for thousands of years and has only the vaguest connection to Thor possible.

Said artifact is a rune-engraved metallic rod (a broken piece of a larger staff) pulled from inside an old-growth tree in a nature preserve by a young Norwegian couple. Touching the artifact staff imbues them with anger-powered superhuman strength (Me: "Oh, lord... please don't be ThunderStrike) which they use to murder a park ranger and then kick off a super-powered gang riot in a nearby city, leaving the words "WE ARE GODS" written in fire on the street. Cue S.H.I.E.L.D, and thus cue Agent Simmons to establish herself as the team's resident Asgard agnostic - insistently interested in proving the scientific basis for everything "magic" they encounter - and be further flirted-with by Agent Ward (Agents being second only to Once Upon A Time in begging it's audience to form shipper-fandoms.)

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