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Recap / Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S1 E8 "The Well"

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Ward and Randolph discuss berserker rage and how to get rid of it.
"In ancient times, people believe the heavens were filled with gods and monsters and magical worlds. Then, as time passed, those beliefs faded into myth and folklore. But now we know the stories are true. Other worlds, with names like Asgard, do exist. And beings once revered as gods, like Thor, have returned, leaving us with more questions... and an enormous mess to clean up."
Simmons' Opening Narration

The eighth episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., directed by Jonathan Frakes.

Coulson and his team deal with the aftermath of Thor: The Dark World by cleaning up after the battling titans and searching for any Asgardian or Svartalfheim tech they may have left behind. Meanwhile, a Norwegian paganist hate group has already found an item that's been hidden for centuries — the Berserker Staff, which gives anyone who touches it Super Strength by drawing on their hidden rage. The paganists want to take Earth back from the gods by becoming gods themselves, so they use the staff to create a small army of berserkers. To stop all this, Coulson's team seeks the help of Professor Elliot Randolph (Peter MacNicol), an expert in Norse mythology who is more than meets the eye. Along the way, Ward touches the staff and falls victim to its power, becoming emotionally unstable as he's forced to remember a traumatic incident from his childhood.



  • Aliens Speaking English: Alien in the sense of foreign, rather. The Norse supremacists in a Norse park cutting down a Norse tree speak... English. Then, in downtown Oslo, they write "WE ARE GODS" in English. And their message board is written entirely in English. Even the runic writing on the Berserker Staff itself is in English - the words "rage," "inspire," and "fight" can be read by any English-speaker who knows this alphabet.
  • All Myths Are True: Briefly discussed by Skye, who wonders if other pantheons are just Sufficiently Advanced Aliens like the Asgardians.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Skye says the Berserker has "been through all the scary stuff: the Crusades, the Black Death... Disco."
  • Bait-and-Switch: You thought Ward was the drowning child in the well, didn't you?
  • Barehanded Blade Block: Professor Randolph, being an Asgardian, can not only catch a blade barehanded but bend it like a paperclip.
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  • The Berserker: It's in the staff's name, though in practice the user retains a certain amount of control depending on their willpower.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The beginning of this episode has Coulson's team doing cleanup at Greenwich University. Coulson also explains that Professor Randolph was consulted about Mjölnir during the first movie.
    • Likewise, we are reminded once again that Coulson was stabbed and knows the Avengers.
    • Ward is still very angry at Skye for what she did in "The Girl in the Flower Dress". However, most of the anger he expresses is amplified by the Asgardian staff.
    • Simmons is still dealing with aftereffects from her near-death experience in "FZZT". She's been avoiding talking to her family, and is hesitant regarding heights (though she's resisting letting it become a full-blown fear).
    • Coulson suggests that Randolph relocate to Portland, noting that it has a great philharmonic. One is reminded of the cellist he dated before she moved there as was mentioned in The Avengers.
  • Designated Girl Fight: Ward takes out the four Berserked men, but when the girl comes out to fight May tells him to accept her help and she takes the girl out.
  • Dismantled MacGuffin: The Berserker Staff is in three parts scattered across Europe (Norway, Spain, and Ireland).
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The paganists describe themselves as the "Master Race" on their message board.
  • Expy: The Norse-anarchists are clearly meant to be the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of the Wrecking Crew, a group of Dumb Muscle criminals given Asgardian powers by accident. Rather than a 4-men group of dimwitted thugs who just want money, they're now a cult obsessed with using the Berserker Staff to become gods, and only lost because Ward and May are trained in combat and just got better with the Berserker Staff.
  • Fanservice:
    • Ward is shirtless.
    • Early on, we get a hint that both Skye and May were Eating the Eye Candy. Both agree (insist) that Thor is dreamy. Not handsome, dreamy.
    • Coulson is seen partially unclothed at the very end, and has some rather impressive arms of his own.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Skye is discussing the chatter on the paganist hate group's message board, a selection of posts is shown. One of them is hilariously off-topic. "I rode a horse today. :)"
  • A God Am I: The Norse-Pagan group believes the staff will make them gods and burn "We are gods" into a street. Others see them as violent hate mongers.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The paganist group's message boards claim that they are the offspring of Asgardians and humans.
  • Human Aliens: Professor Randolph is Asgardian, but looks and acts like any other human.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Professor Randolph is stabbed with his own staff, but his accelerated healing allows him to survive after Coulson stifles the bleeding.
  • Lampshaded Double Entendre:
    Coulson: And lots of bones. Let's see what we can dig up. See what I did there?
  • Kill the God: The Norse Pagan hate group seek the Berserker Staff so they can kill gods.
  • Living Forever Is Awesome: The Team estimates that Professor Randolph has been alive for a thousand years and his only complaint is a student putting too much Lit Crit and not enough History in their paper. He's had numerous paramours over the ages. He's also so patient that he's perfectly willing to wait for a human he doesn't like to die of old age.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Regular humans gaining power from an Asgardian weapon is similar to Thor's first appearance in Journey into Mystery #83, when Dr. Donald Blake found Thor's hammer. Blake was not established as Thor in a human form for a few issues.
    • The Berserker Staff seems to be the in-universe's equivalent of The Wrecker's crowbar. It grants great physical strength, the wielder can share the power with others, and this episode's antagonists become a literal wrecking crew. Also, like Wrecker and his team, the villains are physically powerful but lack real fight skills.
    • One to actual Norse mythology. Randolph says that he worked as a mason in Asgard before becoming a warrior. A stone mason plays an important role in the birth of Odin's eight-legged horse Sleipnir.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Playing with a Trope in regards to the Berserker Staff. The strength wears off within days if it's not being held but the rage can take decades to abate since the user has to cope with their memories to deal with it.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: The characters pronounce the name Nyström with a "Nye-", it's supposed to be more like "Nyh-".
  • Not Himself: Ward, throughout the episode while he's under the influence of the staff. Played with in that he acknowledges something's wrong with him.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Ward begins fighting an enormous group of Norse Paganists, before the flickerings of his flashback become the main focus. When that scene ends, we return to the present, with an exhausted Ward surrounded by the dead or unconscious bodies of the entire group.
  • One Degree of Separation: Subverted. After being exposed as an Asgardian, Randolph is asked if he knows Thor. Randolph points out that he was a mason who became a common foot soldier. When would a guy like him get an opportunity to hobnob with the Crown Prince? Given that Randolph is supposed to have been on Earth for at least a thousand years, Thor was probably still a baby when he left Asgard, anyway.
  • Play-Along Prisoner: Randolph while being interrogated. Once he knows they know he's an Asgardian, he casually snaps off his handcuffs because there's no point pretending anymore.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Professor Randolph, since he's an Asgardian.
  • Red Skies Crossover: The episode was hyped as tying into Thor: The Dark World. The only real crossover is that the team is doing cleanup at Greenwich University after the Thor/Malekith fight, and the Pagan group is motivated by said events. The episode's MacGuffin and characters are largely unrelated. (Asgardian, but unrelated.)
  • Repressed Memories: The staff brings out Ward's long-forgotten memory of the first time he truly felt pure, unbridled hatred: his older brother telling Ward to leave their younger brother trapped in the bottom of a well. What May saw when she used the staff is unknown, but she had better control over the staff because she hadn't repressed those memories. Coulson briefly contemplates trying it himself, but decides against it. Randall correctly guesses that Coulson doesn't want the power, but the memory:
    Randall: And are you haunted by it, Mr. Coulson?
    Coulson: No. Not exactly.
  • Screaming Warrior: Holding the berserker staff frequently causes this.
  • Ship Tease:
    • Ward follows May into her hotel room (and shuts the door behind him) after the two exchange a prolonged glance and the latter leaves her door open.
    • Randolph is openly admiring of Simmons, both for her intelligence and her looks. Despite being the least romantically-inclined of the lead characters at this point in the series, she eventually begins to seem a little flattered.
    • Fitz, on the other hand, seems more than a little irritated by Randolph's flirting.
    • Ward makes some brief insinuations about Fitz's relationship with Simmons (or inadequacy therein, in reference to the end of "FZZT") in order to get to him while under the influence of the Berserker Staff. At the end of an already pretty nasty exchange, it's what finally drives Fitz from the room.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Stock Footage: Scenes from Thor and Thor: The Dark World are used in the opening.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien: He's not even the fancy "I'm an architect and my job is all management" kind of stonemason. Professor Randall spent thousands of years breaking rocks.
  • Super Strength: Those who hold the staff (in whole or in part) get a strength boost, with a side order of Unstoppable Rage. Randoplh has it naturally, due to being an Asgardian.
  • Tranquil Fury: May is able to pick up the reformed staff, kick ass, then put it down with very little change in attitude. She explains that this is because she is always reliving the memories the staff brings forth.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: The Norse-Pagan group is granted Super Strength by the staff pieces, but they aren't particularly competent fighters. Once Ward and May get their hands on the staff pieces, they easily dominate their opponents.
  • Unstoppable Rage: The staff forces the user to relive a dark moment in their past when they were filled with rage. It takes a lot of willpower for the user to cope with it once it's unleashed. The effect evidently increases with each part held.
  • Wham Line: "You were right. He's Asgardian."
  • Wham Shot: The scene of Agent Coulson relaxing in Tahiti cutting to him awake late at night in bed, apparently having a nightmare.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Many people thought this episode would revolve around the Jotunheim beast featured in the second post-credits sequence of Thor: The Dark World. Not only does the beast not show up, it isn't mentioned, despite The Team visiting London at the beginning of the episode. For all we know, the beast could still be making a mess somewhere.
  • Your Worst Memory: Upon touching the staff, Ward is forced to relive what he describes as his worst memory and the first time he felt hate - namely the moment his older brother told him to leave his little brother at the bottom of a well. May picks up the staff later and is able to handle it. When Ward asks her about it, she explains that she sees her memory every day.


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