So you guys know about this movie Thor: The Dark World, right? Well, this episode basically has nothing to do with it, but it's true S.H.I.E.L.D. starts out checking out the UK's Greenwich for alien artifacts from the events of the film, unaware that in Norway, a couple are following some ancient clues that lead them to cut down a tree and discover an Asgardian staff. When the woman touches it, it imbues her with a rage that gives her superhuman strength and sends S.H.I.E.L.D. scrambling to Scandinavia; the man and woman then cause riots in Oslo and leave the message "WE ARE GODS" in burning letters, and S.H.I.E.L.D. IDs them as part of a "Norse paganist hate group," because that needed to be a thing.
The team then heads off to Seville to see a "Professor Elliott Randolph," an expert in Norse mythology, who tells him the piece they have is one of three that made up the staff of a Berserker warrior; according to the myth, he lost his rage and fell in love with humanity, so he stayed on Earth when his comrades returned to Asgard; what's more, to prevent the dark magic of the staff from falling into the wrong hands, he broke it into three pieces and hid them, and the ancient texts written about it are what the couple is using to locate them. The team realizes Seville is actually a possible location for one of the pieces, and when they investigate, Ward finds the professor attempting to abscond with the staff. Unfortunately, Ward doesn't cover his hand when he grabs it, causing the second piece to infect and momentarily incapacitate him (and also to unearth unpleasant memories of his horrible childhood), allowing the professor to escape – only to run right into the NPHG. (I'm sure as hell not typing "Norse paganist hate group" more times than necessary.)
While Coulson interrogates the professor, Ward basically struggles not to punch the entire Under 25 set, and when Coulson gets nowhere with his questions, he has Ward stab the professor – who harmlessly crushes his knife, revealing himself as the Asgardian Berserker who stayed behind. He tells them that the staff shines a light into the dark places of your soul, but he's reluctant to help them find the last piece until Coulson threatens to call Thor on him. Not being clear on how idle a threat that is for this show, he sends them to Ireland while assuring Ward the super-strength will fade quickly enough, but the rage will take a long time.
When they reach the monastery housing the last piece, they find the male half of the couple, who stabs Professor Berserker in the chest with Piece Number Three – which Ward then grabs to go full-on psycho. While he kicks as much NPHG ass (the couple have recruited and juiced a bunch of disciples at this point) as a double shot of dark magic permits, Coulson literally sticks his hand into Professor Berserker's chest wound and slows the bleeding from his heart enough to allow his body to heal, saving him. Then, when Ward gets overwhelmed by grief from that terrible memory (I'll go into it in the full recap, but there are little kids and an episode-title well involved), May grabs the reconstituted staff and makes short work of the girlfriend. Later, Ward asks May if she saw anything terrible when she held the staff, and when she affirms that, he asks how she could possibly have borne holding all three pieces. May: "Because I see it every day." Cheery!
To wrap things up: Ward comes clean to Skye that the memory was about his brother. It looks like Ward and May hook up, and if they needed to throw in some sex this is much, much better than him and Skye. And finally, we see Coulson on a beach being massaged by a Tahitian woman; after a Dollhouse shout-out, he says it seems too good to be true, and she replies that it's a magical place – whereupon he awakens in a cold sweat. Maybe he heard May and Ward through the wall?
So we start off with a little wonder-filled VO from Simmons about what people used to believe with regard to Asgard. The point is that people now know that it's real, and we get a few Marvel-owned shots from Thor: The Dark World. Of course, they do not actually include Thor (other than a distant CGI shot) or Loki or anyone, really, because while Marvel/Disney may be willing to throw this show a few computer-generated bones. No way are they going to shell out for or even facilitate the production getting the likeness/photo rights for Chris Hemsworth or Tom Hiddleston.
They will, however, encourage/require the show to do a tie-in of sorts. So we open in Greenwich University in London with the team apparently having been hired as specialized janitors as they clean up the mess made at the end of the film while keeping an eye out for any alien artifacts. Simmons then rejects a call from her parents for…no TV-worthy reason as far as I can tell. She mentions that they want explanations and answers for "all this," as probably any parent would, plus she doesn't want to tell them about her near-death experience two episodes ago. So…don't? Maybe chat about the weather instead? It's such an odd little point to include. Maybe they're going to expand on it in future episodes but they pay it so little attention here it doesn't seem worth bringing it up at all. Not to mention the fact that a sure way to exacerbate parental worry is to screen their calls for extended periods of time.
Elsewhere, Skye once again is tasked with audience-surrogate duties as she explains to anyone who doesn't know that Asgardians are aliens from another planet that visited Earth thousands of years ago. (After several weeks spent shedding millions of viewers I'm pretty sure anyone who wouldn't know this has moved on to other things, but thanks for the expository effort, I guess). Skye goes on about how she'd have loved to check out the alien ship, and May's face admits to some intrigue at the idea. Skye and May also agree that Thor is "dreamy" and I'd joke that Mr. Hemsworth's people will send them a check, but they're not exactly wrong. Still, is this what watching the show is about? A bunch of people talking about Thor like he's the Tino of this show? Fitz's Alien-O-Meter then goes off, so Ward quickly bags the piece of the alien ship that set it off and then smiles that that's why they're there is to "to keep everything under control." Good job, Ward! Now sew this "Thematic Line Of The Week" patch on your sleeve!