Season 1, Episode 8
Date of airing: November 19, 2013 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 6.895 million viewers, 4.3/7 in Households, 2.36/7 with Adults 18-49
I would maybe call this a BS episode, because it didn’t bring anything new to the Marvel game except some random Asgardian history that could have been big and grande and spectacular, yet was wasted for an episode following THOR: THE DARK WORLD. Then I remember that the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Marvel Television were two completely different companies, so it’s kind of obvious that both would never get married, if they had separate leaderships, which means this television show will always stand behind the films and mop up their plot devices to be recycled for a weekly hour of television on ABC, which makes this kind of an okay-ish episode. After all, AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to go deeper into the Marvel comics and establish the various mythologies from various comic heroes, in the hopes that later episodes (and later TV shows, maybe even later films) will benefit from it. Yes, the Asgardian mythology wasn’t even closely depicted in this episode, since it was just about one Asgardian warrior and not the entire race, but I was glad to see that the universe is one Asgardian character richer now — despite the fact that his reveal was pretty much the dumbest of all twists.
First of all, the throwback to THOR: THE DARK WORLD was laughable, and it was pretty much what I expected — not much of a throwback at all. The film came out, so why not use it to promote the show a little bit and make it known to the viewers that the characters of AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. are indeed interacting with the world that is being inhabited by the superhero characters from the films. Yet what the writers made use of was absolutely nothing. Just a little bit of London chaos after Malekith’s little British invasion, but even here the episode was indoors and probably on a soundstage, not delivering anything special but a few dialogue scenes about Asgardians being aliens, and “dreamy” Thor leaving behind messes for humans to clean up. It felt like it was a scene added much later in the production of the show, as the London scene wasn’t even important to the characters, especially since two scenes later they were in Norway investigating the weird case of the week. Maybe it would have been a little cooler if the writers would have brought one or two more scenes showing the aftermath of the London chaos, or maybe it would have been cooler to not throw back to the movie at all. Maybe it would have been great to set the story of the episode in London and have a random Asgardian back story thrown into this episode, slightly and loosely referencing the Asgardian back story that was currently in movie theaters.
The arc around the berserker staff was a bit boring. It was a weapon used by someone who could have been a superhero, but it was then stolen by people who wanted to be supervillains — it’s the typical “weapon of mass destruction in the wrong hands” storyline, which Coulson even mentioned during the London clean-up scene, essentially setting up the scene for this hour and serving itself as the exposition to what would come right after the show has finished referencing the films it was born out of. Besides that, Jakob and Petra were boring villains with no character depth (kind of like Malekith), and the group they were with could have referenced actual hate groups in the world, but I guess that was a no-go for this episode, because the writers didn’t even make clear what the Norse mythology group was fighting for (or against). Were they just having boners for being gods? The story about the antagonists itself got lost as soon as Randolph was made an Asgardian, and suddenly the story was with him and not the villains of the hour — which shows you where the focus really lied with the writers. Why do you even need villains when you had the perfect Asgardian to fill minutes and minutes of storylines?
But here is where the episode had a few problems: Why would Randolph give Coulson and his team the rhymes and essentially the locations of the other two parts of the staff, when he was about to pick them up himself? Why wasn’t Randolph looking for the staff much earlier than this, considering the fact that he knew their locations were put into rhymes and verses and the staff could have been found by anyone? Granted, he knew the staff was about to get into the wrong hands right now, but he could have anticipated that for hundreds of years. After he realized that the locations to the staff pieces were put into rhymes, he could have relocated them, or maybe found a way to destroy them. This could have been his mission, and that way Randolph would have never been bored. He was an Asgardian, he could have done something, but for reasons unknown to the viewers he was just sitting on his butt and probably enjoying the women of a millennia. The writers once more failed to bring a little character depth into the episode.
But I kinda liked Randolph as Asgardian, and his “relationship” with Coulson after the reveal of his origins. I never knew if there was hateship between the two after Coulson figured out the truth or if the two started to like each other, since they had something to talk about. After the fight scene in the church, Randolph and Coulson definitely had a moment of sharing, but before that I was never sure what the two were about when it comes to each other, and that was quite the nice sub plot. One only thing that annoyed me a little is that I could never read Randolph as a character after the reveal of his back story. Was he the villain, was he a friend and helper? The interrogation scene was almost horrible because of this.
The actual main character arc was kind of horrible as well. I actually thought that the episode would focus on Ward and his fights against his dark memories, yet the reveal of his tragic and dark and violent back story was … low-key. I was hoping that Ward’s past would be messed-up beyond any recognition, but apparently he just had a bad situation with what I assume were his brothers. Okay, that situation definitely looked nightmare-ish, but in hindsight I can’t quite believe that Ward’s range comes all out of being horribly mistreated by your older brother, and not because someone was killed right before his eyes or he lost the greatest love of his life, or he hates a specific group of people for some reason. Besides that, how was the berserker staff really working at the end? The hate group had no difficulties in bringing out their rage and killing people, yet Ward (and May later) were completely in control of their rage, and still seemed peaceful at the end of it, or at least knew who to kill after being filled with that rage. Also: When the staff brought back bad memories in Ward and Melinda, did it do the same to the members of the group? Why was there nothing about this in the episode? Was it part of “not giving a damn about the villains of the episode, because this isn’t about them?”