The Man Who Stayed - Really Shouldn't Have
Tie-in anything is a hard thing to pull off well. The product must serve two very brutal masers, one requiring it to suddenly fit into a larger story while the other demands standalone status and keeping with established formula. It’s a tight needle to thread, hence why I don’t bother with most tie-in comics.
“The Well” is the first tie-in episode of Agents of SHIELD between it and the movies, despite living in the same universe. The marketing for that was a bit overblown, it made for a fun opening gag, the Agents of SHIELD must clean up the mess left by Thor and Malekith. Making me opine for a mod to Viscera Cleanup Detail where you are these five. The rest of the episode deals with Norse myth and Asgardian objects so it manages to stand alone a bit.
This episode highlights the strides this show has managed to make ex. I’m slightly interested in the characters and banter has gotten better but also exposes where this show falls utterly short. Due to a myriad of circumstances from likely too many cooks in the kitchen and the generic conceits of the show it’s hard to actually “be” interested in these characters when you move them forward 1% at a time. Agents of SHIELD lacks the proper synergy between fun case of the week plots and actual character development. So far they’ve been playing an either or kind of game.
Grant Ward aka Agent McBeef Cake aka Mr. Save the Day has been a stiff act and character from the start, though it actually works well when they play into that archetype. “The Well” is his Digimon episode, if we continue the analogy, and tries to give him more layers that reaffirm his type. Except where past episodes highlighted a character within the plot and featured some resolution, “The Well” has none of that. Instead we get him brooding in a bar refusing to talk to Skye, before joining May in her room for possibly some fun and likely more drinking. Why couldn’t we see him talk with May as to old war veterans who understand one another without really knowing each other? These are two broken people; let’s see them be broken together.
After touching the Staff of the Beserker, Ward is plagued by memories of the first time he felt real hate. Wither that hatred is aimed at himself for not rescuing his brother sooner or at the bully who threatens him to throw him in to is unknown. It gives this episode a psychological edge that I found rather refreshing. The part that isn’t is the lack of resolution; the show continues to dangle carrots in front of viewers only these aren’t that good looking. Give this show an overarching villain to fight against and some personal troubles per episode. Whatever emotional archs the writers imagine to be happening aren’t that interesting week to week. No one really cares if Coulson is the Vision or an LMD, he is still Coulson. No one cares about Skye and her parents because Ward is right. she doesn’t shut up. And now I don’t really care about the importance of this memory that plagues Ward. This shows continual punting of resolution is really starting to annoy me. From a generic and structural standpoint I get it, but this isn’t trying to be Law & Order it’s trying to be NCIS. The later having an great synergy between character and plot and the former being so formula driven they can replace a cast member like nothing.“The Well” does continue to show Simmons getting over what happened in “F.Z.Z.T.”, which is the only arch that is somewhat engaging.
I’ve recently finished rewatching most of the Justice League animated series, that show had its structure and group dynamics down so well it hurts seeing SHIELD have an utter lack of all that. If this series employed two part story arcs for missions this would of made for a nice standalone episode. None of this is the case.
As stated above Agents of SHIELD tends to be an either or proposition for which is good this week, plot or character. The plot for this week’s episode is so poorly developed it is amazing someone within ABC didn’t stop it. A “Norse-paganist hate group,” finds the mythical Staff of the Berserker in order to take back their planet from the gods or something. This group is given nothing to develop them beyond being physical threats despite the idea that humanity feels the need to become gods to fight against real and imagined threat is interesting. The kind of world building that I should get off on. The plotting for this episode show no sense of genre fun either, you had characters down in some Indiana Jones-esque tombs and not one reference.
The terrible development of these physical threats would’ve been elevated had there been some decent action work. You’d think with Ward and May touching a staff that gives them super strength and fighting a bunch of equally yoked vandals would be eye candy. I don’t know, since the show cuts in Ward’s memory to cover up the utter lack of big bombastic fighting. I understand the intent of that sequence but the follow up one with May didn’t make up for it.
“The Well” did have one highlight, Peter MacNicol of Numb3rs, 24, and Ally McBeal fame, as Dr. Elliot Randolph. MacNicol brings a sense of ambivalence that only an alien could have after spending so many years on earth. The Asgardian came to Earth after working as a mason for thousands of years, and eventually stayed behind once the war was over having fallen in love with humanity.
The ratings are up for this episode so perhaps the bleeding has stopped and the show has hit the floor. At the same time, I view this episode a lot like the pilot: a huge novelty. Making it not applicable when thinking about the series overall. “The Well” is a stretched tie-in at best and an episode that shows the potential this series has but with just utter garbage plotting that should scare people away. This was not a good episode of television.
The Bits At The End
You can read my review of Thor: The Dark World HERE
If for some reason you made it down here know that Michael Mazzacane can be found many places on the internet but mainly onTwitter@MaZZM and on Tumblr weekntv.com where he links to TV stuff and maybe posts a GiF