In the aftermath of the events chronicled in the feature film Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World, Coulson and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pick up the pieces–one of which threatens to destroy a member of the team.
Coulson's Team is assigned as part of the S.H.I.E.L.D. clean-up crew after Thor's battle with Malekith and the Dark Elves. While they clean up Greenwich University, which was affected by the battle, Phil Coulson explains to Skye about the origins of Asgardians. Jemma Simmons gets a call from her parents who want to know if she is okay, but she hangs up on them. Simmons assures Leo Fitz she will call them when she has the time.
In Trillemarka National Park a couple discover a mysterious staff; when the woman touches it she seems to experience an extreme degree of pain. One of the two forest rangers attempts to question them when she effortlessly pushes him into a tree, killing him. Coulson and his team come to investigate. As Jemma begins to climb the tree that the staff was in, Grant Ward opts to go in her place but she tells him she will be fine. Coulson talks to the partner of the deceased forest ranger as Simmons discovers that whatever was in the tree was not of earth origin, with Fitz confirming that the staff is Asgardian. Coulson tries to get more details from the Ranger only for Skye to call them as something is happening on the news, with violence breaking out in the streets of Oslo, resulting in twenty injured civilians. The news then reveals the riot was started by the same couple who have written a startling message on the streets: WE ARE GODS.
On the "Bus", Ward identifies the couple as Jakob Nystrom and Petra Larsen the leaders of a Norse Paganists hate group. Analyzing a 3D model of the Staff, Fitz and Simmons conclude that there are two more pieces of the staff to find. Skye asks Coulson to call Thor for help but Coulson tells her he did and that Nick Fury told him that Thor went "off the grid". Coulson then tells them that when Mjølnir landed in New Mexico they consulted an expert on Norse Mythology, Elliot Randolph.
With that the team heads to a university in Seville, Spain. Upon meeting Randolph, he tells them the story of an Asgardian warrior, part of an army campaign who fell in love with Earth and stayed behind, possessing a weapon called the Berserker Staff which grants the user incredible strength, yet driving him into an uncontrollable rage.
The Warrior, not wanting the staff to fall into evil hands, cut it into 3 pieces and hid it in three different locations: one being in "a tree, east of the river son overhead", and one place "close to God". Randolph then suggests looking into Baffin Island in Canada. After finding nothing on Baffin Island, Coulson checks in on Skye who only finds sly comments people have made after the battle in Greenwich. However, she does however hear particular chatter about going underground meaning the paganists are searching for the next piece underground.
Skye brings up Seville, Spain noting that the Vikings attacked Seville twice in history. Skye and Ward explore underground catacombs in Spain, finding Elliot Randolph with the next piece of the Staff. As Ward attempts to take it from him, he suddenly blacks out, flashing back to what seems like a boy drowning. Elliot escapes while Skye goes to check on Ward and is worried when he suddenly backs away from Skye frantically.
While above Randolph is confronted by Jakob, who takes the staff off of him with Fitz and Coulson following behind, only to find the empty-handed Randolph. While on the "Bus", Simmons and Fitz examine Ward, whose anger grows to the point of him lashing out on Skye when she asks about his brother. Fitz and Simmons do their best to brush off the insults. In the interrogation room, Coulson tries to get answers out of Randolph but he claims he only wanted to study it. Coulson explains that from his past experiences with Asgardians, cases like this are personal to him, and tells Randolph to get comfortable.
In the Cargo area, Ward tries to work off his anger. However, the flashes continue to haunt him to the point that he nearly strikes Melinda May. She tells him to let her help him, but Ward claims that all he needs to do is find the Staff before the Paganists hurt anyone else. Meanwhile Petra and Jacob return with the next piece and begin spreading the berserker's staff strength to the other followers.
In Coulson's office, Ward tells Coulson that the Staff seems to be bringing up his worse memory: The first time he felt hate, and claims that the feeling won't go away, noting his outburst to Skye, Fitz, and Simmons. Coulson tells Ward that the fact that he is telling him this makes him feel like he can trust him, and suggests that Ward let some of his rage out on Dr. Elliot. Ward enters the room and attempts to get answers from Randolph. when he does not cooperate, Ward attempts to stab him only for Randoplh to twist and bend the knife, confirming Coulson's theory: Randolph is the Asgardian Warrior who stayed behind.
Breaking free of his bonds, Coulson reveals to Randolph how he found out about his heritage, noting he is not the first Asgardian he had had in his custody, and says that Asgardians do not panick when in captivity. Coulson also notes the professor's pen, claiming he would not be able to get it on his salary, and how he was not curious on learning how he has met other aliens. While the team is amazed by Randolph's presence, May locks the interrogation room on Coulson's orders.
Ward then tells Randolph that the room is made to hold his kind, and Coulson tells him no one will open the door unless he orders it. With that, Randolph reveals that his story was spread because he was "horny" and tells them that in 1546 he met a French girl who loved love stories, and so he proceeded to tell her his story of why he stayed behind... only for her brother, who turned out to be a priest, to write it down into history.
Coulson asks Randolph if he knows Thor. Randolph quips that he was only a Rock Mason and only went with the Berserkers to travel. He tells them that he went to great lengths to hide the staff, not liking the dark power of the weapon, and summarizes that Ward doesn't like it also, as the staff "shines" the user's darkest memories to light, resulting in the unpleasant mental after effect. Coulson requests Randolph's help.
Randolph claims that he is a pacifist and also that he does not want his identity to be revealed. He tells him not to worry about the Paganists, that they will settle down and eventually die. Coulson tells Randolph if he does not help them he will expose his identity. Convinced, Randolph tells them that he was once approached by monks in Ireland who gave him a place to sleep, revealing the next location of the Staff, "near God".
As the team prepares to move out, Ward asks Randolph if the effects of the staff are permanent. Randolph tells him that while the strength will wear off in a few hours, the mental side effects might take decades. Skye asks Coulson if it is a good idea to let Ward into the field considering the effects of the Staff, but Coulson and May tell her he will be fine.
The group arrive at the Church, only for Jakob to stab Randolph with the staff. Ward reluctantly grabs the piece and attacks Jakob, who he manages to defeat. Meanwhile, Simmons is having trouble stopping Randolph's bleeding since she is unable to understand his anatomy. Coulson sticks his hand into Randolph's wound and tells them that since Asgardians heal faster, all they have to do is keep him alive long enough for his body to heal itself. Simmons tells him to look for his heart.
The other Paganist soon arrive, and Ward grabs both pieces of the Staff and fights through both the Paganists and his own dark memory, revealing that as a child, Ward's older brother threw his younger brother into a well and stopped Ward from rescuing him, threatening to throw him in as well. Ward rescued his younger brother anyway.
Coming out of his memory, Ward collapses, having defeated all of the Paganists. Skye and May quickly come to his aid. Larson and another member enter and attempt to grab the Staff again. May stops Ward and tells him to let her help. Ward relinquishes the Staff pieces to her, and she defeats Larson and the other Paganist with all three pieces before setting the staff down. Meanwhile, Coulson finds Randolph's heart and manages to save him by stopping his bleeding.
As the group cleans up, Simmons finally decides to talk to her parents about her experiences. Ward asks May how she managed to hold all three pieces; May explains that she deals with her anger every day. Coulson is tempted to touch the staff to figure out his ressurection, but Randolph convinces him against it. Later, Skye meets Ward at the bar and tells him if he ever needs to talk, she will be there for him. As Ward is about to enter his room, May appears at her door with a bottle of alcohol and enters, leaving the door open. Ward immediately follows.
Coulson wakes up on a massage table and asks his masseuse if he feel asleep. She replies that it meant he was relaxed; he says that is exactly how he feels, and that Tahiti is too good to be true. The masseuse says "It's a magical place." At that, Coulson wakes up in his bed from the nightmare.
- Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson
- Ming-Na Wen as Agent Melinda May
- Brett Dalton as Agent Grant Ward
- Chloe Bennet as Skye
- Iain De Caestecker as Agent Leo Fitz
- Elizabeth Henstridge as Agent Jemma Simmons
- Peter MacNicol as Elliot Randolph
- Michael Graziadei as Jakob Nystrom
- Erin Way as Petra Larsen
- Trenton Rogers as young Grant Ward
- Micah Nelson as young Thomas Ward
- Alex Neustaedter as young Christian Ward
- Toby Wilson as Neils
- Josh Diogo as Bjorn
- Sylvia Brindis as Elena
- Samantha Cutaran as Karine
- Steve De Castro as Ador
- Dennis Keiffer as Rollo
- Jessen Noviello as Lars
- Brian Orosco as Olaf
- Eric Lee Huffman as Norse Worshipper (uncredited)
- London, England
- Dublin, Ireland
- Oslo, Norway
- Seville, Spain
- Asgard (mentioned)
- Baffin Island, Canada (mentioned)
- Mount Thor (mentioned)
- Russia (mentioned)
- Kiev, Ukraine (mentioned)
- Portland, Oregon (mentioned)
- New Mexico (mentioned)
- Battle of Greenwich (mentioned)
- Berserker Staff
- Spectrographic Analyzer
- Three Dimensional Scanner
- Mjølnir (mentioned)
- Vibranium (mentioned)
- Nick Fury
- Vishnu / Vishnu
- Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen
- History Channel
- Black Death
- The episode loosely ties in with the theatrical movie Thor: The Dark World, which premiered on November 8, 2013.
- In the final scene of the episode, Phil Coulson has a dream, and he says "Did I fall asleep?", which is retorted by his masseuse with "For a little while". This is a quote from Joss Whedon's previous series Dollhouse, where this is said to the actives every time they are wiped.
- Grant Ward referred to Jakob Nystrom and Petra Larsen as "Sid and Nancy", a shout-out to Sid Vicious the bassist of the Sex Pistols and his partner Nancy Spungen. The pair shared a self-destructive, drug-fueled relationship, which ended in Sid killing Nancy and then having a heroin overdose and dying himself.
- The walls in the interrogation room in the Bus are built from a silicon-carbide Vibranium alloy. Vibranium is the same material used to create Captain America's Shield.
- After the Battle of Greenwich, Skye wondered which other deities could be aliens, explicitly citing Vishnu. Vishnu and other Hindu Gods are characters in Marvel Comics belonging to a race called the Daevas from a world called Nirvana. This reference has caused criticism from real-life Hindus.
- Thomas Ward's name was revealed in A Fractured House, along with the name change of "Maynard" to "Christian".