Tuesday, November 19, 2013

In The Wake Of Thor: The Dark World: “The Well” Fits In Well!

The Good: Decent acting, character development, plot, Good special effects
The Bad: Larger themes are not developed as much as one might hope.
The Basics: “The Well” is a great tie-in for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. to the latest Marvel cinematic adventure!

When it comes to crossover appeal, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has done a good job of working into the Phase 2 Marvel concept. The “Pilot” (reviewed here!) followed smartly on the heels of Iron Man 3 (reviewed here!) and the first real challenge to fitting into the Phase 2 concept came with the recent release of Thor: The Dark World. Thor: The Dark World (reviewed here!), featured an attack on Greenwich, England and given the huge nature of that event, the Marvel Universe should be resonating with consequences. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. explores some of those consequences with “The Well” and it follows up on Thor: The Dark World much better than just an after-credits scene. Sadly, “The Well” does not follow up on the final scene from the Frost Giant’s realm, but it does promote the idea of Asgardian visitation to Earth and have that resonate with consequences.

More than simply an advertisement for Thor: The Dark World, “The Well” explores the character of Grant Hill and it expands the Marvel Universe surprisingly well.

In the wake of the attack on Greenwich, Agent Coulson’s team is called in to dispose of any alien technology that is left on Earth. Elsewhere, in Trillemarka Park, Jakob and Petra recover a metal staff from inside a tree they cut down. Violence breaks out in Oslo, as the staff empowers Petra and Jakob and they are overcome with the belief that they will become gods of death and destruction. To stop them, Coulson visits Professor Elliot Randolph, an expert in Norse mythology. When Agent Coulson and Skye embark on a mission to recover the second of three pieces of the staff, they discover Randolph with the piece they were there to recover. In the process, Ward touches the staff piece and he begins to feel violent rage and recalls a childhood incident focused on a well.

While Simmons and Fitz study the changes going on in Ward’s body, the Asgardian cult surrounding The One Who Stayed (a mythical Asgardian who remained on Earth after the Asgardians defended Earth from the Frost Giants) grows and has more violent demonstrations. Testing a hunch, Ward goads Randolph and then attacks him, getting him to reveal that he is from Asgard. Determined to keep the final piece of the staff from falling into the cult’s hands, the team and Randolph journey to Ireland to recover the final piece from a monastery. The cultists are there and while Ward and Randolph struggle to hold them off, another member of the team steps forward to take them on and protect the Earth!

With “The Well,” Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. reveals how good it can be at creating a serialized story. The episode focuses on Grant Ward, though it has decent use of the entire ensemble cast. For a change, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. does not belabor the character of Skye, though she comes in for the final scene in a big, obvious way. The rest of the episode smartly spreads itself around the characters to make for a good ensemble piece. “The Well” has Simmons wrestling with the consequences of “FZZT” (reviewed here!) in a fairly decent subplot. As well, the resolution to the episode sets up a potential complex emotional relationship that it will be intriguing to see how the producers develop.

Director Jonathan Frakes managed to get one of the juiciest episodes of the season and he pushes the envelope for just what Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. will show. Agent Coulson sticking his hand in Randolph’s chest is definitely more graphic than prior episodes. Frakes has one of the stronger scripts to work with, but he brings Monica Owusu-Breen’s script to life with vivid direction, wonderful special effects, and genius casting for the primary guest star, Peter MacNicol.

Peter MacNicol plays Professor Randolph and the role is an interesting one. MacNicol makes Randolph’s backstory seem like more than simple and straightforward exposition. Instead, MacNicol makes Randolph vivid and the concept that the character is of the same race as Thor plays well. While all else is different between Thor, Loki, and Randolph, they all share an arrogance that MacNicol is expertly able to play with subtlety in every one of his scenes. MacNicol completely eliminates even the hint of the usual timid character he plays as Randolph and that sells the character.

The other character that resonates in “The Well” is Grant Ward. Ward has frequently been played as a pretty generic secret agent type, but in “The Well,” Ward has added layering to him. The incident at the well where he was bullied inspired the adult version of Ward to repress rage and focus on being an efficient S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Actor Brett Dalton is able to express anger that the character has not revealed before and the actor pulls the added range off exceptionally well.

Perhaps the best episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., “The Well” has a decent level of character development, an engaging plot and performances that are well above the norm, making it an essential chapter in the Marvel Phase 2 storyline!

For other works with Peter MacNicol, please visit my reviews of:
Game Change
Ally McBeal
Addams Family Values

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season here!


For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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