If Len Wein and John Romita Jr. hadn't invented Wolverine, someone else eventually would have. Maybe he wouldn't have had the name, or the claws, or the anti-gravity sideways mullet-thing, but someone would have stumbled upon the collection of hair, cigars, cliches, and badassery that makes up Mr. James Howlett.
And if Marvel hadn't sold the rights to Wolverine and the rest of the X-Men, they wouldn't have taken Agent Tofu-Block (Brett Dalton), introduced him to a Magic Stick (not 50 Cent's), and turned him into Wolverine for one episode. Luckily for Agent Tofu-Block, Marvel did sell those rights, and it was thus that Grant Ward became a real boy.
Reminder: If you're reading, you either a) watched the episode or b) don't care about spoilers. Because there's going to be spoilers. So after the jump, let's take a ride on an Asgardian Disco Stick, and see what lights up.
All the noise about this being a tie-in to Thor: The Dark World was mostly that: Noise. About two minutes worth, total, featuring our team picking up some wreckage in London as a prelude to the actual cold-open, featuring some really pissed off Nordic types cutting a stick out of a tree, touching it, getting special powers, and beating up some softhearted park rangers.
These two Portlandia extras have taken their powers back home to Oslo, where they're burning shit and screaming a lot. It's suggested that maybe Coulson, who can't go 15 minutes without reminding someone an Asgardian stabbed him through the chest once, might want to get a hold of Thor. But Thor isn't taking calls. Luckily, Peter MacNicol is a professor of Asgardian Bullshit, and can answer a lot of the questions they might have about the PowerStick, which is not a Nintendo Accessory, but a weapon given to ancient Asgardians to turn them into Berserkers, who were fueled by pure hatred and rage.
Skye & May figure out where they might find the other fragments of this artifact, and while they're spelunking in some sort of dank hole, who does Agent Ward bump into but that dude from Ally McBeal again, all mousy and apologetic, holding part of the artifact. Ward touches it, and immediately starts freaking out, huffing and grunting, flashing back to a childhood trauma occurring at the bottom of a well. Skye is deeply concerned for Ward, Ward is easily 45x more emotional than we've ever seen him, and MacNicol escapes with the artifact, just in time for the Angry Beards & Beanies Brigade to intercept him, take it, and leave him to SHIELD.
Then shit gets interesting, or what passes for interesting in this show's universe.. Ward is feeling the effects of the berzerker rage, and it's the closest to human I've seen him yet. I think part of my disconnect with Ward comes from the fact he was introduced as a junior, he's treated as a junior, but he acts like he's Coulson's equal, and everyone else just sorta rolls with it - including Coulson. It gives him this weird sort of Percy Weasley vibe, in a way. So when he lays hand on the rage stick, and it allows him to cut loose, it's humanizing him. Sure, the human he's izing is Wolverine, but if anyone's going to rip off a Marvel character, it probably should be Marvel.
After scaring the shit out of the nerdier half of the team, Coulson turns Ward loose on Peter MacNicol, who they've got in the interrogation box, keeping his trap shut like a Ghostbuster. Ward doesn't like that he's getting stonewalled, and so he pulls a knife and goes straight for MacNicol's face, at which point MacNicol just grabs it and bends it in half. SURPRISE ASGARDIAN. But since he's Peter MacNicol, he's not one of the really impressive ones. He's more like a guy who broke rocks and saw a chance to impress Earth women with his bullshit stories as a means to get laid.
Maybe the most encouraging bit of the episode came when Janosz, friend of Vigo told Ward right before the climactic church battle against the Beards & Beanies Brigade, that the effects of handling the MadStaff don't really wear off for a couple decades. Maybe he's being snide. Probably. But if that means that Brett Dalton gets to legitimately express emotions for the rest of the show (however long that is) then that's a good thing, because this show is a lot less Lola and a lot more Prius. It'd be nice to get the sense there's something burning at the center of these characters.
Speaking of burning, after the big fight scene closing out this week's story (in which May ALSO touches the FightWand) we get teased with the prospect of our first SHIELD hook-up. Not Ward & Skye. Not Fitz & Simmons. Not Simmons & Ward. Not Coulson & May. Not Fitz & Ward. Not Ward & Coulson. No: Ward, who was Wolverine for the day, and May, who explained how she could shrug off the effects by riffing on Dr. Bruce Banner's "I'm always angry," have a couple drinks and retire to May's hotel room, presumably to set some sheets on fire. The click of her door leads us to...
Tahiti! It's a magical place. A place where the show trades Marvel Movieverse references for Dollhouse callbacks. No shit - the first lines out of Coulson's mouth in Tahiti are "Did I fall asleep?" This is what the dolls say after they've had their memories wiped post-mission. And after some weird vocal effects are applied just as the line "it's a magical place" is uttered, Coulson jolts awake from the nightmare. Still no closer to the answer. I'm still not really caring what the answer is. Pretty sure he's not a robot, though. Or a clone. Still betting it's Asgardian in nature, considering Coulson's one hero moment involved shoving his hand into MacNicol's chest and digging around the dude's internal organs to help him survive a stabbing.
I dunno. Today's show seems to represent what SHIELD, for better or worse, is going to be going forward. It's this. It's finally comfortable with mixing in supernatural/superheroic stuff with its awkward Warehouse 13-esque procedural. The good news is that it's led to three straight entertaining episodes in a row. The bad news is that it took this long to become Warehouse 13.
But I like Warehouse 13 so we'll see where this goes.