Wednesday, November 20, 2013

'Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' 1.08 "The Well" Review

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One of the most prevalent complaints about the characters of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is usually centered fully around the character of Agent Grant Ward. I’ve heard fans complain that he’s too wooden or too dull and while he was definitely the stoic straight man at the start of the show, there have been steps made to flesh his character out more with dry humor and a bit of charm. The writers went a step further last night to try and fully humanize Agent Ward by giving him a sad flashback scene involving the namesake of the episode ‘The Well’. Unfortunately Grant's manpain turned out to be the weakest part of an episode that had a lot to love about it elsewhere as an Asgardian relic caused all kinds of mayhem for whoever put their hands on it. 




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The Berserker staff is described early on as a staff that powered an ancient group of warriors known as Berserkers. Berserker rage is something that isn’t an unfamiliar comic concept to fans as I’m sure many people thought of Wolverine nearly instantly at the mere mention of the word. A pair of hipster-y Swedes discover the first of three segments of the staff and all hell breaks loose when mere mortals try to play as gods. I enjoyed the concept of the staff and the chance it gave us to see a couple of our favorite agents go berserker. While Ward was pretty standard with the power of the staff, it was Agent Melinda May who was the true highlight of the episode. If this wasn't an 8 p.m. show I’m pretty sure she could have removed limbs and crushed skulls with her bare hands. 

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That’s because her mysterious rage fuel has already been alluded to as being far more enormous in scale than Grant’s issues with his brother. Siblings are awful to each other but May clearly seems to be a lone survivor of an unspeakably devastating loss while on mission. Let's hope we get to see her own flashback soon as it will be much more compelling than what happened in the well.  After both characters had a ‘light shone on their dark places’ it makes sense that May would leave her hotel door open for Ward--anything to stop the persistent need to pair Skye with Ward is okay in my book really. 

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We did get something out of this episode besides an inter-S.H.I.E.L.D. hookup however, when it was revealed that Dr. Randolph was in fact the stuff of myth--an ancient Asgardian whom fell in love with Earth so much that he decided to stay. Coulson getting to flaunt that ‘he knew Thor’ to a fellow Asgardian was great as was his willingness to literally dive right in to save the Asgardian’s life. I can appreciate Coulson constantly being faced with near-death experiences in order to bring up the feelings of his own very vague ‘ressurection’ but it is a trick the show needs to stop relying on so much in future episodes. That said, I hope we see Dr. Randolph again in the future as he was the kind of strong connection to the Marvel canon that many believe the show needs. While it’s true it wasn’t exactly Chris Hemsworth wielding a hammer on our TV screens for this Thor 2 crossover episode,  it still allows for our team to connect to the mystical in ways they haven’t before. Humans randomly given powers by science experiments gone awry shouldn’t be the only thing for the team to deal with. They need to be allowed to explore and experience the kinds of things that few mere mortals have before which includes more people than Agent Coulson getting to meet the inhabitants of legend. 

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That’s the thing about this episode that worked the best for me, whenever you read a Marvel comic and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents show up they’re the clean-up crew. They’re the guys that sort the debris and work on repairing the collateral damage wrought from epic battle sequences. I understand that’s not a very ‘sexy’ concept to sell a show with but it’s a lot more honest to the core of what Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is. Those with disappointments toward the nature of the show are often somehow shocked that it’s not some sort of television sequel to The Avengers with Captain America and Iron Man swooping in every week. S.H.I.E.L.D. has a number of functions in the comic book world, and I like the ways this show takes the mundane and shifts it into the extraordinary with a group of core characters that I’m definitely starting to care about. It’s meant to be about the people behind this extraordinary world and in a government subtext of course they won’t all know about the truly weird and wonderful that’s out there so stop complaining when someone like Simmons scoffs at the idea of magic existing. Yes, we know it does because we’ve seen all the movies and read the comics but she’s held back from so much of the truth on the basis of her security level as we saw in last week’s episode. 

Not even Phil Coulson is privy to everything, and certainly not to whatever really happened
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to him when Loki murdered him. There was a tweet before the show that claimed fans of Dollhouse would love the tag at the end of the episode. It makes sense as the showrunners of MAOS are the very same from that other Whedon created series. I’ve said in past reviews how Coulson’s triggered response of ‘it’s a magical place’ when Tahiti is mentioned is very much like the call and response the dolls were conditioned with in that show. Now it seems the show is definitely going there as well when Coulson’s nightmare featured a scene that could have been right out of the late Fox series. Hopefully the show will give an answer regarding Coulson sooner than the season finale because at this point I’m far more interested in the aftermath of Coulson knowing he’s a clone/robot/whatever than the actual answer itself. I can’t wait to watch a company man realize what his company tried to pull over on him. 

1 comment:

  1. The subplot about Ward's past and his "manpain" ended up playing a major role in the season's final six episodes. So much for it being weak. Don't forget that "AGENTS OF SHIELD" is a serial drama. Even the smallest subplot might have consequences in future episodes.

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