Marvel’s film line and TV series meet this week as the team’s efforts to clean up the mess left by the events of Thor: The Dark World (the film released earlier this month) are interrupted by having to hunt down a rediscovered piece of Asgardian technology.
In the aftermath of Thor’s exploits in London the SHIELD team searches for leftover extra-terrestrial artifacts. Meanwhile in Oslo, two hikers cut apart a tree to find a silver, rune-covered staff that allows them to absorb god-like qualities. The artifact is far from Earthly, and after catching up to the scene of the staff-nabbing, Fitz and Simmons determine it’s from the same place as the hammer-wielding Thor: Asgard. Apparently the thieves know what they’ve got — they cause mayhem in the streets and write “We Are Gods” in fire to let everyone know.
Further examination of a 3-D printout Fitz made of the staff shows that there are two more pieces to it. The team is charged with finding the missing pieces, and Coulson agrees with Skye that this might have something to do with Norse mythology rather than pure science. They approach Norse folklore expert Professor Randolph, who determines that the staff is from the Berserker Army (no, really, that’s the name of it), and has powerful magic that makes the holder fight with insatiable rage. The Rod of Rage — as I’ve come to call it — was left on earth by a warrior who fell in love with Earth life and didn’t want its dark magic falling into the wrong hands. Using the poetry of old, the team figures out that they need to search Viking routes, possibly starting with trade routes near Mount Thor.
Yes, there’s a Mount Thor. I’m booking my plane ticket and packing my hammer.
Skye’s research leads them to Seville, Spain, where they find the second part of the staff — being carried through the catacombs by Randolph himself. When Ward grabs hold of it infuses him with its power, and he lapses into a flashback to when his brother tried to drown him in a well. The hikers-turned-wannabe-gods (and army that they’ve initiated) usurp the second piece and leave Randolph on the curb with a lot of explaining to do.
With the professor in custody and SHIELD’s top Earthly muscle man going berserk as the Berserkers (cue Eminem), Coulson has a volatile mess on his hands. It only improves when he realizes that Randolph is the immortal Asgardian warrior who brought the staff to Earth in the first place. This theory is proved true when Ward attacks the professor with a knife only to be rebuked by the relatively tiny man’s extra-terrestrial strength. “Good thing,” Coulson says of Randolph’s response. “Otherwise that would have been really embarrassing.”
Randolph explains that the staff “shines a light into your dark places” to enrage and empower the user. He agrees to take them to the final piece so Coulson doesn’t expose his true identity.
On their Da Vinci Code-style travels, the next stop is a chapel where the original manuscript of Randolph’s story is kept. One of the staff’s thieves finds them before they recover the last piece of the staff and attacks using the two pieces, stabbing Randolph through the chest and incurring the wrath of Ward. On a normal day that would be a bad idea — with the Berserkers’ powers, it’s a death wish.
Ward crushes his opponents in a sequence interlaced with flashbacks to the well. He only calms down when he remembers the compassion of one of the brothers saving him and crumples after decimating the would-be Asgardian army. When the rest of the “We Are Gods” groupies show up, Mae takes over, now armed with the third piece thanks to Randolph. Now that they have all the pieces, she’s able to get rid of the last of the enemies. Sadly, no character-defining flashbacks accompany the ass-kicking she delivers.
Coulson saves Randolph, and they bond over both being stabbed in the heart. The SHIELD leader recounts being killed, then waking up a few months later without any flashes of a hospital or being revived. He’s not haunted by it, he says, and Randolph asks “Then what’s the problem?” We may not know what it is, but a problem definitely exists, as seen when Coulson wakes up in a cold sweat from a dream about Tahiti during the episode’s final stinger.
But the juiciest part of the new SHIELD episode isn’t in Coulson’s mysterious death experience or Skye’s support of her CO. It’s what happens when Ward follows a booze-carrying Mae into her hotel room, which does more than hint that their relationship isn’t entirely professional.
Agents of SHIELD continues to hold its own with spare references to the Avengers movies. This episode demonstrated that although it’s not afraid to connect up with recent cinematic events in the Marvel Universe (or, you know, show half the Thor: The Dark World trailer as its opening), the series has its own plotlines that stand independently from the films and prove to be entertaining in their own way.Photo via
Kate Everson is a Chicago journalist and University of Missouri alumna. By day she is an associate editor for four HR industry magazines. By night, she reviews films, outlines fiction novels with tough female leads and dreams of being the first person to win two Oscars in the same night for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay. When her fingers aren’t getting exercise bouncing across her keyboard, she’s reading Palahniuk and Vonnegut, practicing her Batgirl skills in the dojo or waiting by the mailbox for her Hogwarts letter. As Katharine Hepburn said: “Life is to be lived. If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting.”