The much-touted “Thor: The Dark World” tie-in on this week's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." didn't amount to much. In the opening scene, we find the team cleaning up after the events of “Thor." Word comes down that, coincidentally, a completely separate Asgardian artifact has been found in Norway, and off they go.
Disappointing marketing aside, “The Well” was an enjoyable episode, doing a good job of revealing backstory without stumbling over its action-oriented narrative. A group of Norwegian pagans-turned-street thugs decide that the only way to live in a world with superheroes and gods is to become gods themselves. So they track down the Berserker Staff, researching old legends to find the three parts of the staff that fills whoever touches it with rage and super-strength. Basically, an old-timey Hulk-making machine.
It also dredges up a person's strongest memories of anger and hate. So when Agent Ward touches it, he remembers The Well. A boy is trapped in a well while another boy watches him from above. At first, we think it's Grant in the water, but we come to find out that he's the boy above. He wants to throw down a rope, but another older boy threatens to throw Grant in if he does.
The memory comes up every time he touches the staff, so instead of seeing Grant fight a dozen crazed Norwegians, we see the entirety of that memory. This works in the show's favor, since they don't have the budget to do justice to a proper superhero fight.
The Cavalry (Agent May) takes over for Ward in the final fight and seems unaffected by the rage memories. She reveals later that that's “because I see it every day.” The connection between the two leads to a night in a hotel with a bottle of whiskey. Whether it was just to talk or something more remains to be seen.
There is a lot of lightness in the episode, though. Nebbishy Professor Randolph, who says “I thought I was teaching Norse mythology; turns out, I'm a history professor,” is really even more than that: an actual Asgardian — though nobody famous, just a stone worker. (Coulson promises to introduce him to Thor the next time he's in town.)
Coulson also gets to save Randolph's life by plunging his hands into his chest and massaging his heart until his deific healing powers can take over. So in case you ever need to give a god CPR... now you know.
The episode ends with Coulson's dreams/memories/nightmares of “Tahiti,” which wake him up in a cold sweat. It feels like we should be uncovering that secret soon, but odds are good we'll have to wait for the season finale. Was it magic that brought him back from the dead? Is he a robot?
Maybe it wasn't a Tahitian girl rubbing him down; maybe the reality was Nick Fury was the masseuse. That seems like something Coulson — and all of us — would rather not remember.
Watch this week's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." in full right here:
"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.