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

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Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

"The Well"

Season 1, Episode 8

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Okay, S.H.I.E.L.D. I’m at my wit’s end with you, and I think I’ve been very patient so far. “Give the show time to breathe!” I’d argue. “It needs a few weeks to flesh everything out, like any Joss Whedon show!” Well, I’ve had enough. This is the most expensive new show on TV, and it’s set in the fascinating, fun Marvel Cinematic Universe, full of great characters, 60 years of story ideas, and so on and so forth. This week, we crossed over with Thor: The Dark World, a legitimately awesome romp of a movie that had me spellbound in the theater from start to finish.

What happens in the episode to live up to all this promise? I don’t know. There’s a magic staff, Asgardian, that gets stolen by a couple of roadies for a Swedish hair metal band (I’m giving them a back-story, which is more than the episode bothered to do). It gives them super-strength, but it also makes them super-aggressive, although maybe they’re already aggressive since apparently they belong to a “Norse-paganist hate group,” which, confusingly, doesn’t hate the Norse or pagans, just people in general, I suppose.

The team has to track them down, mostly by cleaning up wreckage and chatting about how handsome Thor, a character who does not appear in this episode, is. It’s okay that Thor didn’t make it to his own crossover episode, though, because the mighty Goddess of War Sif is here instead. What’s that? No Sif? What about Volstagg? Heimdall? Fandral? Okay, fine, no one from the movie, but maybe we could have someone from the Thor comics? Expand the universe outward a little more? Great, you’ve cast someone! An Asgardian for our heroes to tangle with.

This Asgardian is played by Peter MacNicol, he of Ally McBeal and 24 and Numb3rs and Ghostbusters II and the like. Love MacNicol. He’s an Emmy-winning actor! Would he be my first choice to play an Asgardian? Well, no. It’s definitely a let-down that he’s in a suit the whole episode and has nothing to do. Oh, we’re told (in a shocking twist!) that he was an Asgardian warrior, a berserker soldier who did all kinds of cool shit. But a while ago. Not recently. Now he just sits around.

This show cannot be this boring when its characters are so bland. You have to give me something, S.H.I.E.L.D. You’re giving me nothing. “The Well” focuses a lot of its energy on Grant, giving us a haunting glimpse into his past, but it’s not especially haunting (or at all clear what we’re looking at), and Brett Dalton continues to not be up to the challenge of playing a character we might be remotely interested in. There’s a hint of flirtation with Skye late in the game, but the sparks aren’t exactly flying. The one vaguely interesting moment is between him and Melinda, who has a well of darkness deeper than his own, but I’ll be surprised if their dalliance actually leads the show anywhere interesting. Nicely staged though it may be, it feels more like it is something for the show to do to distract from how boring it is.

It’s too bad. If things were pointed in a more interesting direction, I’d be more taken with the episode’s ending, a flash to Tahiti that cuts to Coulson awakening as if from a nightmare, even though nothing untoward transpires in his fantasy. It’s a creepy moment, but it’s also re-hashing material we’re well-acquainted with at this point. Tahiti, it’s a magical place, he died and came back to life, blah blah blah. Let’s wrap this plot up, ladies and gentleman. It’s far less interesting than you seem to think it is.

I really wish I had something to say about the main plot this week. The set-pieces were dumb and embarrassingly small-scale—even when Grant took out a room with the staff powers, it felt a level above an A-Team episode. The Thor discussion was head-slappingly stupid since it just drew further attention to how lame this show is compared to the awesomely expensive Marvel movies. The Swedish park rangers talking to each other in English, even with no one else around, felt like something that would happen on a TV show in the 1990s. We can deal with subtitles for two minutes, ABC. It’s 2013.

My patience is gone; I officially find this show a chore to watch and have no idea if it can improve. The cast is largely game, the budget is there, and the writing talent is there, too, at least on paper. Fix this show, ABC, or watch it go down as the most high-profile bust since Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip.

Stray observations: 

  • Skye calls Thor dreamy. Phil scoffs. “Sure, he’s handsome, but...” “No. He’s dreamy,” Melinda confirms.
  • Jonathan Frakes, Riker from Star Trek, who’s directed many good and bad things, directed this episode. Nice job, buddy. 

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