[Review] - Agents of SHIELD, Season 1 Episode 8, "The Well"

Courtesy of Marvel Television Productions.
Is anyone else suddenly wondering if The Winter Soldier's change to an April release date might have had something to do with the synergy from a cross over between it and Agents of SHIELD? From the looks of the trailer, SHIELD gets it in a bad way in that film, which would have a profound affect on Coulson and his team. Just a thought...

This episode, incorrectly labelled as a cross over with Thor: The Dark World, is everything I feel people were expecting SHIELD to be from day one. I feel vindicated in telling people to wait it out, it's building towards something, but another part of me feels that the cohesiveness and the dynamics of the episode could have been present from episode two. I'm very glad that it has gotten here, and hopes that it keeps things at this level. This was a solid episode, in many ways, and is a clear expression of what this show can be when operating at peak efficiency.

Hit the jump for the review, which includes spoilers that remember the first time they felt hate.

Right off the bat, this isn't a cross over with Thor. What it is, is exactly what it should be. The episode opens with Coulson's team doing clean up after the Greenwich attacks, which is exactly their job. And more than that, the episode finally fulfils what I've always perceived to be the series mandate: to show the world of the MCU that takes place in between the films. The movies are all about these big things that happen, with lots of punching and property destruction, and then the hero gets to walk away and credits roll. Because it's weekly, SHIELD can then pick up where those big stories left off, and see the every day people complaining their asses off because of the mess.

That opening scene was pitch perfect in terms of showing how people would react to such an event. Coulson complaining that there isn't a God of Cleaning Up, Skye geeking out about aliens, Simmons complaining about how magic doesn't make sense. All the little and unique reactions to something next to incomprehensible. Skye's hurried suspicion that other mythology systems might be based on aliens as well was in keeping with her conspiracy theorist background, and Coulson's slight annoyance about the whole thing was wonderful. And, for the second time in the series, a comment from the women about Thor's level of attractiveness.

More than that, and better than that, was the look at the larger effect the Avengers have been having on society. My favourite line of the night came from Peter MacNicol's first scene, when he is complaining to a grad student how he used to be a professor of mythology, turns out he was a history teacher. Or how, with knowledge of ancient aliens having been real, that cults would spring up around them. The movies don't have the time to focus on the cultural and societal effects that aliens and gods and heroes have, but the series does, and hasn't until now. I hope its something they keep up with, shining a light into those as of yet unexplored areas of the world Marvel has built here.

The story was unexpected, but a lot of fun too. Disenfranchised youths assembling an ancient Asgardian weapon, only to uncover an Asgardian living on Earth for a thousand years. And, as with the intent of The Dark World to give the viewer a better look at Asgardian society, we learn more about Thor's world through this tale. I certainly didn't expect Peter MacNicol to be a berserker, but once he explained his story to Coulson and Ward, it all seemed perfectly reasonable. A simple, lowest rung on the ladder worker, irking out a living in the cobbled streets of Asgard, volunteers to fight in one of Odin's wars (they don't specify, though one wonders if it wasn't part of the J├Âtunheim defencive from the first Thor film). It provides a glimpse of Asgardian society we haven't seen yet, that of the commoner, of the everyman, which is exactly what SHIELD itself is meant to be focusing on in Midgard.

The writing in this episode, by Monica Owusu-Breen, was some of the best the series has seen yet. Maybe it was the actors finally becoming comfortable in their characters. Maybe it was that the dialogue all seemed like things real people would say, and while the characters were witty and charming, they never seemed to be trying to be witty and charming. Ward's coaxing of Simmons as she climbed the tree was particularly well constructed, as was Ward and May's various interactions, with May still keeping so very much close to the chest. Most importantly, and this has been, I feel, the show's biggest weakness to this point: for the first time, the team actually worked together as a team. Everyone had clearly defined roles, there wasn't a lot of interchangeable technobabble and what exposition there was was slotted naturally into the scenes. 

And, there wasn't protracted and inorganic references to every little thing that has happened to the characters over the past few episodes (Skye's untrustworthiness wasn't mentioned, Simmon's free fall was only alluded to, etc.). My favourite call back of the night was Coulson's suggestion that Randolph move to Portland, because they have a great philharmonic. It all felt like it had finally come together, which I think is what we've all been waiting for. Ward got some back story, leaving only May with question marks left her column, but more importantly, I actually liked Ward for the first time since the pilot. His character made sense, his motivations seemed logical, and they got to use the verb "Hulking out." If I were Tancharoen & Whedon, I'd firm up Ms. Breen's contract, because she's demonstrated a firmer grasp on these characters and the concept behind the show than anyone else has.

Coulson's ongoing mystery got another layer shaved off of it, and at the rate they are going, I don't see how they can drag this out until the spring. My guess is that Coulson will have a pretty good idea of what is going on with him by mid-season, and the second half of the year leading up to Winter Soldier will deal with the repercussions from that. But things took a malicious turn here, with Coulson's recovery suddenly a lot more sinister seeming than has been suggested before. His terror induced jump-waking really put a darker spin on the whole thing, and be he man or machine, I can't see this ending well for anyone involved.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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