I am going to cautiously suggest that “The Well” could be a turning point for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. While some viewers harrumphed the Thor: The Dark World tie-in episode, “The Well” intrigued and even delighted me for several reasons.
First, “The Well” was directed by Johnathan Frakes, Picard’s Number One aboard the Enterprise on Star Trek: Next Generation. I’ve seen Frakes’ directing on such shows as Leverage (13 episodes), Castle, Falling Skies, and Dollhouse, not to mention all his Star Trek TV show and movie credits. He has a slower, deliberate style that I admire, especially when paired with a bigger cast. It allows a thoughtful approach, and in shows such as Dollhouse and Leverage, that’s a great thing when characters’ backstories are being explored.
Second, I felt it was an extremely clever move to go from all science and into a more mythical direction. It was almost like watching a fairytale with the story of the Asgardian who fell in love with Earth and broke his Berserker staff into three pieces and hid them all over the world. Traveling to exotic locations like Norway, Spain and Ireland helped cement the fairytale feel, along with exploring the neo-pagan group who wanted control of the staff so they could become gods.
While the plot was basic, I felt it was strong in that it explored the most base of human desires. We want power. Control. Strength. We want to be gods. But humans with too much power become corrupted, and everything devolves into chaos. It’s an interesting comparison with the Asgardians, who live much longer than we do and so are able to handle more power, even though some, of course, allow themselves to be corrupted by it. Are we all eventually going to give in to the dark desire to control?
Meeting the Asgardian was a surprise, somewhat because of his age, and somewhat because of his looks. He didn’t “look” like a god, or like our depictions of them. He wasn’t Thor (he didn’t even know Thor, having been a mason and then a soldier), but he felt such a deep love of the Earth that he gave up power to be here. I think that’s an intriguing, albeit brief, look at how powerful love can be.
The third thing that claimed my attention in “The Well” was the effect the staff had on Ward and his conversations with May and Skye about it. Ward has a more troubled past than I imagined, and I’m wondering if the staff will have lasting effects on him, if we will see a psychological progression into deep, dark places, or if this will bring about some healing to Ward? I’m fascinated with the psychology behind characters so this was a great surprise, as it will hopefully continue to develop. I am also curious about his relationship with May (he followed her into her room, ostensibly to share a drink, but we all know where that can lead) and his careful, arms-length protection of Skye and Simmons.
I am a sucker for great one-liners, so the fourth thing I liked about “The Well” was the line about the staff: “It shines a light into your dark places” (more psychology!), and the line, “People suck, sir.” Indeed. There were also some great conversations about the Asgardians (are they aliens from space or gods from the heavens?) and Coulson’s personal business with them (specifically, Loki and the attack on New York). This feels like we could continue in this vein for a while, especially since the events at the end of Thor: The Dark World imply that there is something fishy going on in the world of Asgard.
Fifth and lastly, I might have screamed at the last little bit of the episode. I was not expecting it and while I don’t know what this means for the show, it opens up a new way for the show to go, or at least tie in with part of the Whedonverse, which would be spectacular. If you’ve never seen Dollhouse, you won’t get the reference (but you should immediately go to Netflix and watch the two seasons of Dollhouse, which is my favorite Whedon show), but for those of us who fell in love with Echo, Topher, Mellie, Ballard, Sierra and Victor, this was a genuine shock and thrill.
After May’s confession to Ward that she has to live with her worst memory every day (although she doesn’t reveal what it is), she and Coulson have a chat about what has been bothering him. He knows something is off about how he came back, but can’t quite put his finger on it. “Are you haunted by it?” asks May. “…No,” says Coulson. “Then what’s the problem?” This might have ended the conversation for May, but Coulson is a curious individual who needs to know the truth. Later, we see him in Tahiti where he says, “Did I fall asleep?” and the masseuse replies, “For a little while.”
This was standard protocol with the dolls from Dollhouse. Is Coulson a doll?! Did they have a procedure done like they did for Ballard? What if Coulson’s not the only doll? What if the team members are all dolls? Does this mean Topher and the gang are going to be included in the Marvel Universe?! My inner Dollhouse fan is jumping up and down screaming at the thought of all the possibilities.