Lessons For Writers From Agents Of Shield – Part 8

by J.J.Foxe on November 27, 2013

This is the eighth part in an ongoing series following the Joss Whedon produced series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  If you’ve not read the earlier instalments in this series for writers you probably should.






You can find Part 1 here:


And Part 2 is here:


And Part 3 is here:


And Part 4:


And Part 5:


And Part 6:


And Part 7:



You’ll get the most value out of this article if you’ve already seen the first six episodes.  If you haven’t, I recommend finding them on the Interwebz and watching them.  In the UK you can find them on the Channel 4 website.  In the US you can find them on the ABC website.

A Précis Of Episode 8 – The Well

The Well has a connection to the events in the movie Thor 2 – although the connection is fleeting and tenuous.  The episode starts off with two hikers chopping a tree down in a national park in Norway.  And within that tree they find a part of an Asgardian staff.

This staff seems to give them great strength – and that strength seems to be linked to rage.

The Shield team – who are sifting through the rubble in Greenwich post Thor 2 – are dispatched to investigate. Using Fitz’s gadgets they are able to perform a 3D scan of the tree that contained the staff.

Coulson tells them that when they found Thor’s Hammer they consulted a specialist in Norse mythology – Elliot Randolph in Spain.  And they are going to consult him re the 3D model they’ve made of the staff.

Randolph tells them the story of the berserker staff – an Asgardian staff that gives whoever wields it the raging power of 20 men.  And there are obscure verses that tell the possible locations of the 3 pieces that the staff was broken into.

Skye and May think that one of those pieces might be in a crypt in Seville.  So the team go and investigate. Whilst there, Ward encounters Randolph who has retrieved the piece.  He puts his hand to claim the staff back and is rendered nearly senseless by the memories it triggers.

Randolph escapes with the staff – but he runs into the hikers from the start of the episode – who are Norwegian paganists – and they take the staff from him.

Coulson interrogates Randolph – who doesn’t shed much light on things – but Ward is suffering as a result of exposure to the piece of the staff. Coulson tells Sims to test Ward, and Ward blows off at Simmons, Fitz and Skye.

Coulson figures out that Randolph is the Asgardian from the myth – the berserker warrior who stayed.  And surely enough he is…and he is persuaded to tell them where the third part of the staff is – a monastery, in Ireland.

Randolph leads them to the monastery and is leading them to the staff – when the paganists appear. And their leader stabs Randolph with the staff.  Ward retrieves the staff – and attacks the leader of the paganists.

Whilst Ward and the paganist fight, Simmons directs Coulson to help staunch the wound in Randolph’s chest and heart. Ward dispatches the paganist – but then hordes of his comrades arrive.  He draws on the power of the staff to fight them – and we get a longer, more unsettling look at the memory that is driving Ward’s rage.

There’s a neat transition out of the well sequence back to the monastery. Ward has defeated all the paganists, and drops the two pieces of the staff and slumps forward, exhausted.

Then the paganist’s girlfriend arrives with the third piece.  Ward goes to pick up the two pieces he dropped, but May steps forward and says let me help.  May then proceeds to kick butt and the pieces of the staff join together to form the complete staff.

Which May then lays down on the floor.

That concludes the main part of the story – Coulson has stemmed Randolph’s bleeding enough for his Asgardian physiology to kick in and heal him.

The Continuing Story?

In Episode 8 there was no reference to what I’ve perceived as the overall story arc – that of Centipede and Raina (episodes 1 and 5 mainly).

There was some character information though….when Ward held the Asgardian staff it triggered memories of a specific thing that his elder brother had done to him and his younger brother.

And these memories were disturbing.

After May took up the staff in the final battle, Ward asked her if she’d seen anything.  When she picked up the staff.  May said yes.  And Ward wants to know why it didn’t affect her as badly as it had to him.

And May replied that what she saw was something that she saw every day.  So we know already that she’s been through some trauma…and now we’re even more curious to get some hints of it.

Especially when Skye offers to be a shoulder for Ward to cry on, and maybe offers more, and he turns her down but then May goes into her hotel room with a large bottle of alcohol (brandy?) and leaves the door open for Ward.  Who goes in and shuts the door behind him.

There’s also a stinger at the end of the episode regarding Coulson – he has a dream about Tahiti.  And in the dream he’s getting a massage and the masseuse says: It’s a magical place.

So something’s up with that.

So whilst it’s great to see character stuff unfolding, it’s

Writing Lessons From Episode 8

This was probably my least favourite episode so far in Season 1.

My main beef was the lack of connection to the overarching story. And envisaging ways of ‘fixing’ things that don’t work – or don’t work in the way you’d like them – can be useful writing exercises.

So the villains are cardboard villains – they are like TV Movie Of The Week style villains. And their purpose is purely to give the team something to do.  Plus how are they able to find the pieces of the staff ahead of – or at the same time – as the Shield team with the Shield teams (presumably) superior resources?

But a way that the writing team could have strengthened the villains would have been for say the Centipede Project to be pulling their strings. And maybe feeding them information.  All it would have taken would have been a shot of Raina talking to the mysterious prisoner at the start of the episode – and him saying something like: we are close to our goal (whatever that is).  We need to keep Shield on their toes.  Create diversions.  Etc etc.

Then suddenly there is no need to ask questions as to how the Norse paganists find the locations of the pieces of the staff.  And not only does that make them more credible, it also keeps the threat of the Centipede Project alive in our heads…and depending on what the overall story arc IS going to be, it could feed into that well.

So we get better villains. And we get to wonder what the Centipede Project is up to and why they need to divert Shield?

Other Writing Lessons

There were some neat character moments that are worth noting down here.

First when Ward is responding to his first contact with the staff, he is trying to channel his rage and exhaust it using physical exercise.  And he is beating seven shades of shit out of a punch bag.  He has earphones in and May comes to check on him and touches his shoulder.

He swings round and tries to punch her.  She sways effortlessly out of the way.  We know she is capable in fight situations…this moment just reinforces that.

There was also a nice character moment involving Simmons and getting a phone call from her parents. At the start of the episode she doesn’t take a call from her parents –but at the end of the episode she does.  The phone call does two things – it shows a change of state of mind in Simmons.  Maybe she’s had her own post traumatic shock to deal with since the events of Episode 6.  But also it’s a moment that shows that these characters are people, they have lives outside of Shield, they are not super heroes.

But that was about it.


I was really looking forward to Episode 8.  I even went out and watched Thor 2 last week because I knew there was a connection between that and this episode.

And I’ve got to be honest that this episode really disappointed me – see the writing lessons for more detail on why.

Episode 9 – which is called Repairs– aired last night in the US and airs Friday night on our side of the pond.  I’ll post an article after that episode once it’s aired in the UK – the trailer looks good.

If you’ve got any writing lessons – whether story oriented or otherwise – from this series, don’t hesitate to share by dropping a comment.




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