“He is Vigo! You are like the buzzing of flies to him!”
Spoilers if you haven’t seen tonight’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (“The Well”)!
Ok, I should probably start my write-up by celebrating the fact that tonight’s episode of S.H.I.E.L.D. was the anticipated tie-in to the recently released Thor: The Dark World. That’s surely the main talking point. And then Peter MacNicol’s excellent guest spot. Then Tahiti. Then Ward and Melinda May because what?
It’s weird, because earlier in the episode I was thinking I’d rather see Ward with Simmons. They were so cute together as he was helping her walk up that log to examine the impression the staff-piece left. I’d rather see those two start something than Grant and Skye. But once again, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Shipping chatter later. We’ll start (or restart) with the the Asgardian stuff.
“The Well” picked up in the aftermath of Thor’s most recent visit to Earth. The episode doesn’t spoil much more about that situation than anything you’d see in a trailer for Thor: The Dark World, in that a pretty nasty battle plays out in London, leaving a mess of London parts mixed with Asgardian artifacts that need to be boxed up and shipped off to wherever S.H.I.E.L.D. stores all that stuff. Related to Asgard is some group called the Berserkers and a powerful staff that’s been broken up into three parts and stashed separately on Earth. And then there's a group of people Earth that's trying to track down the staff and put it back together. Oh, and did we mention touching the staff sparks the toucher’s inner-rage and — as we learned later on — shines a light on a person’s darkest memories.
We learned all about this staff when Coulson led his team to Professor Elliot Randolph (MacNicol), a man who teaches Norse/Asgardian mythology, helped Coulson out when they found Thor's hammer in the desert, and collects fancy pens. As it turns out, Randolph’s actually the Asgardian warrior who stayed behind. His legend was documented centuries ago, and Coulson only just realized it during tonight’s episode. Randolph filled in some of the blanks about the staff, including where to find the last piece, which led the team to Ireland, where they retrieved the staff and confronted the aggressive group of staff-seekers. A pretty great church-battle ensued involving Ward and Melinda May and the gang of rage-filled staff fans. S.H.I.E.L.D. eventually won, as they often do.
The search and retrieval of the staff wasn’t nearly as interesting as the side effects of it. As mentioned, when someone touches the staff, it fills them with rage and thoughts of their darkest memories. Grant dealt with this first hand after touching the staff, and we were treated to a scary memory of a kid — I’m pretty sure he was Grant’s younger brother — stuck down a well and struggling not to drown, and Grant’s hesitation to send down a rope, for fear that his older brother would throw him down there with him. It’s a memory Grant had been suppressing for years, and it came back to the surface thanks to his newly acquired staff infection. Between that and the rage, Grant was barely himself tonight, and I didn't hate it. Dark and occasionally nasty Grant is kind of interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of meanness, but I like the idea of him having a darker side that the better side of him has to battle. Inner conflict makes for a much more interesting character than one that always does the right thing.
Randolph told Grant the super-strength would fade, but the anger would stay with him for decades. So I’m kind of curious and sort of hopeful that this is a semi-permanent condition for Grant. It would give him a Hulk-like quality, only as Coulson pointed out, he’s aware of the condition when it's happening. He recognizes the anger and he doesn’t want to succumb to it, which I think could make for some interesting character conflict for him going forward, assuming it sticks. Meanwhile, Melinda May also touched the staff, though she didn’t seem nearly as affected by it — beyond the amazing super-strength it gave her to take down the last of the people who were trying to get the staff. She admitted to Ward that whatever the staff’s powers showed her, she sees every day. It was almost an "I'm always angry" response to explain why she could handle the effects of the staff much easier than Grant. We weren’t treated to any details on May’s dark past, but I’m hoping that’s something they’re saving for another episode. In the meantime, the last we saw of her, she was disappearing into her hotel room holding a bottle of something and leaving the door open for Ward to follow her in, which he did. So, hello.
I'm going to guess that whatever's going on with Grant and Melinda isn't particularly romantic. At least not yet. But maybe whatever connection those two form — assuming it lasts beyond one night in a hotel room — will shed some more light on them as individuals. Or it’ll just complicate the dynamic of the group, which finally seemed to be gelling. Hopefully not.
Randolph survived the episode (barely), which hopefully means MacNicol will drop back in for another guest spot in the future. He seems like he could come in handy, given that he’s been on earth for a thousand years.
Finally, there's Tahiti. Coulson was considering touching the staff, probably to see if he'd regain any memories of what happened after he died or when he was revived. Randolph talked him away from that plan, so he didn't do it, but the episode ended with Coulson dreaming about getting a massage in Tahiti, the magical place. And then he woke up looking terrified. What was that all about? Hopefully we'll find out soon...