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Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “The Well” 

Photo Credit: Ron Tom/ABC

Well, it’s been a hard slog, but after weeks of sub-par episodes and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D not living up to its potential, loyal, patient fans were finally rewarded with an episode that not only didn’t suck, but also bordered on good. Really good. It made getting to this point pretty much worth it. Thanks. SHIELD.

‘The Well’ gave us some backstory and insight into Agent Ward, a new perspective on Asgardian culture and some serious ass-kicking on the part of Agent May. Skye managed to be not altogether annoying (and she’s right; turndown service *is* a life-affirming event); Coulson’s resurrection was barely acknowledged, and when it was, it made sense to the story and the episode.

Finally, who knew that the one thing we had to do to make Ward interesting was get him hopped up on anger and surrender to the Asgardian version of ‘roid rage? Not me.

Angry Ward is an entertaining Ward, as opposed to regular, boring Boy Scout Ward. Maybe he should get his hands on that Berserker Asgardian staff more often. Take one for the team, there, buddy.

The staff in question belongs to an Asgardian warrior who chose to remain on earth and live a (comparatively) peaceful life. The Angry Young Things who desecrated a national forest to find the first part of the staff certainly opted *out* of a peaceful life, in order to live like Gods.

Gods who beat people up and burn shit and generally act like a group of methed-out hooligans. Think ‘Drunk Soccer Riot’ meets ‘WWE Locker Room’ and you’ve pretty much picked up what the New Gods are putting down. And they’re jerks. Tree-killing, graffiti-tagging jerks.

The Remaining Asgardian was played brilliantly by Emmy-winning guest-star Peter MacNicol (Ally McBeal; 24; NUMB3RS). While he may seem like an odd choice for playing a warrior, MacNicol demonstrated that not all Asgardians are tall, handsome, rough-and-tumble Thor types. Not everyone is royalty and some jobs, even on Asgard, are really awful.

As a mason for thousands of years on his home planet, MacNicol’s character joined the Asgard Foreign Legion (No. I don’t know what their Away Team is called. I’m doing my best here) because he was bored of smashing rocks and wanted to see the universe, which is pretty much the reason almost anyone joins the Armed Forces, “I hate working at KFC and I’d like to see the world, please.”

MacNicol, an especially endearing actor (I am still grieving his death on Chicago Hope) is the complete opposite of what we’ve been trained to assume an Asgardian warrior would be like. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of his nebbishy, sweet-natured college professor appearance and the fact he could kill us all with his thumbs six ways to Sunday.

The staff itself works by tapping into the psyche of whomever is holding it, ultimately triggering a rage that is uncontrollable and violent. Ward’s childhood memory of being bullied and putting another child in danger down a well is shown in jarring flashbacks, which not only explains the blinding anger he starts to feel, but gives us an idea of how, and why, Ward grew into being, well, Ward.

The basis of anger is often helplessness. Being unable to control or be in charge of whatever is happening can be a catalyst to rage. In suffering at the hands of a bully who threw his brother down a well and wouldn’t let Ward rescue him, Ward’s helplessness turned to rage, which he successfully buried until picking up that staff.

Our Agent Ward: strong, in control, with the life-mission of being the ‘Good Guy,’ was defined by needing to control the helplessness and fear he felt that day at the well. This is what formed him.

We don’t get a similar insight to Agent Miranda May’s motivations, as her only explanation for the visions given to her by the staff not affecting her as deeply as Ward’s experience is that she sees her trauma every day.

It made me want to know more about May and her background, and how she got to be the Cavalry, then chose to ride a desk. There’s damage there, and I hope Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will eventually let us know what it is.

Passing Thoughts

• I had a roommate who wrote in runes (aggravating when you’re trying to read her diary) and, for anyone wondering, the graffiti tagged to the National Park sign was a rune whose definition is ‘Homeland’ or ‘Home’. You are welcome.

• If Norse mythology is your thing and you’re wanting more Gods on Earth stories, you need to check out, The Almighty Johnsons, a two-season series from New Zealand. Again, you are welcome.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on ABC.

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