Agents of SHIELD: 108-109 “The Well,” “Repairs” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
Episode 108 – The Well
Despite much publicity about this episode being a follow-up to Thor: The Dark World, it actually has surprisingly little to do with the film: the team starts off in Greenwich clearing up the almighty mess Thor and Malekith made at the film’s climax, but swiftly moves on to a plot involving a crazy paganist cult and a magical Asgardian staff. It was somewhat disappointing considering the marketing push for the episode, but overall the plot we were left with was fairly entertaining and gave some insight into one of the least developed characters on the show.
The basic premise of the episode past the Thor-related opening revolved around the aforementioned paganist cult trying to assemble the three parts of an Asgardian Berzerker staff, which gives the wielder super-strength and some kind of berserker rage by tapping into their deepest, darkest memory. Unfortunately, Ward grabs the staff when trying to apprehend one of the cultists and becomes consumed by a memory from his childhood in which his older brother apparently threw his younger brother down a well. The team track down an expert on Asgardian mythology (played by the very recognisable, and extremely talented Peter MacNicol) to help them with their hunt for the remaining parts of the staff, who turns out to be an Asgardian himself, who came down to Earth and decided to stay.
Eventually the team finds the final part of the staff and Ward, with his super-strength, has to fight off an entire group of cultist berzerkers, until they subdue him and May has to take over, assembling the entire staff and taking down the entire team of bad guys in a pretty well-choreographed fight sequence and a quickly-explained reason for why May wasn’t possessed by a terrible memory (she supposedly always carries the burden of the bad things in her life, an answer which was suspiciously close to Bruce Banner’s ‘I’m always angry’ in The Avengers).
Anyway, Ward ends up gradually calming down, helped by drinking whiskey and secretly doing the ‘bad thing’ with May, but by revealing a painful memory from his past, Ward has been somewhat humanised, and by sleeping with May the obvious romantic tension between Ward and Skye has been punctured, for now at least.
However, the big talking point of the episode was the final scene, in which Coulson has a nightmare about his recuperation time in Tahiti (involving a nice little Dollhouse reference in the “Did I fall asleep?” “For a little while” exchange between Coulson and his masseuse), suggesting once again that everything was not as it seemed. However, I do feel that the show needs to stop hinting about this, as we have known that there was something dodgy about Coulson’s time in Tahiti since the pilot, and start giving us some new information, otherwise this subplot is going to become incredibly tedious incredibly quickly.
Episode 109 – Repairs
Moving on, after a Ward-centric episode we are given a May-centric episode this week, which sheds some light on her nickname of ‘The Cavalry’ and gives a few hints as to what the previously-icy character is really all about.
Unfortunately, the character revelations are wrapped up in a plot that is largely uninteresting, revolving around a supposedly-telekinetic young woman experiencing problems she believes to be the work of ‘demons’ following the explosion of a Particle Accelerator. However, after taking the woman into protective custody on the plane, and the plane subsequently crashing, they discover that the telekinesis is actually caused by a young man named Tobias who was caught in the explosion and is now trapped between Earth and a place he perceives to be ‘Hell’, teleporting from place to place and gradually losing a part of himself each time he shifts.
What follows is an odd episode which wavers between a ‘bottle episode’ (an episode taking place entirely in one location) and an old-school horror film full of ‘don’t go in there’ and ‘he’s right behind you’ moments, none of which are particularly interesting. While the teleportation effects are very cool, the reason behind them is not engaging and the character himself is formed of the dullest horror-villain archetypes, and to be honest I found myself mentally switching off through a great deal of the episode.
The main point of ‘Repairs’, however, is to shed some light on the enigma that is Melinda May, and it does so with relative success. The whole process starts when Fitzsimmons decide to play a prank on Skye by telling her a falsified version of the story which gave May her nickname, involving taking out 100 trained mercenaries with just two handguns on horseback, and the story is gradually recounted with increasing honestly by the rest of the team: Ward tells her it was 20 soldiers and one handgun, and finally Coulson tells her the truth, that May took on ‘enough’ soldiers on her own in order to save a group of hostages, and the experience changed her from an upbeat young agent who pranked her colleagues, to the woman she is today. It’s an interesting insight into the character, but I get the feeling there’s more to be revealed about her in future episodes and that feeling dulls the effect of the revelations somewhat.
Overall a pair of somewhat disappointing episodes continuing the unfortunate trend this show is experiencing of not living up to its promise. Whether they can come out swinging with the mid-season finale remains to be seen, but my optimism for this show is rapidly running out.