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The Casket of Ancient Winters

Season One, Episode 20


Director(s) Sebastian Montes

Paul Giacopo

Summary On an icy plain in Norway, a dogsled team makes its way across the frozen ice of the landscape.  Led by a hooded man, they approach a mountain cavern.   A locked, wrought-iron gate doesn't slow them down.  As they progress, they find the bodies of frozen Viking warriors, and a large stone chest.  One by one, the mortals succumb to the creeping ice.  The hooded man opens the stone chest, and removes... the Casket of Ancient Winters!

Meanwhile, back in sunny, warm Manhatten, several Avengers - Hawkeye, Wasp, and the Hulk - are at the Avengers Mansion pool, relaxing.  JARVIS informs them that Stark Tower is under attack by the Radioactive Man, with Iron Man, Thor, and the Black Panther on-site.  Hawkeye tells JARVIS that they'll guard the Mansion, in case its a diversion - and go back to relaxing poolside.

The Radioactive Man is trying to get to the Stark Industries Arc Reactor, so that he can absorb its energies.  During the battle to defend the Arc Reactor, Thor expresses his contention that mortal science destroys more than it creates, and Iron Man defends technology and science while trying to stop the Radioactive Man.  The Radioactive Man is defeated when Thor floods the chamber with coolant, draining the Radioactive Man's energies, and preventing Iron Man from forcing the villain into meltdown!

Back in Norway, the hooded man is soon joined by the Enchantress and the Executioner.  The hooded man is named Malekith, and he's the former King of the Svart Alfar, the Dark Elves of Asgard.  Loki released Malekith's spirit from the realm of the dead (Hel's realm, presumably) to serve him by retrieving the Casket.  Rather than give up the Casket, Malekith uses it on the Enchantress and the Executioner, releasing the dark magics contained therein.

Iron Man and Thor continue to bicker about methods; Iron Man is annoyed that Thor flooded his basement with hundreds of gallons of radioactively-contaminated water, and Thor points out that pushing the Radioactive Man into meltdown would have have been much worse.  Thor is overcome by a wave of ancient sorcery as the released dark magics begin to freeze the world.

The Avengers pool is frozen, with Hulk in the middle.  Wasp and Hawkeye decide to suit up so that they can avoid frostbite and fight the ice demons which begin to manifest from the snow and rime.

Thor explains that what they battle is the Casket of Ancient Winters, which contains the cold of the Norse realm of Niffleheim, hidden on Midgard by Odin ages ago.  Ice it is not closed, welcome to Iceberg: Earth!  Thor rails about how mortal science keeps creating dangers they fight, and Iron Man points out that the Enchantress and the Executioners are pure Asgardian threats while the Black Panther triangulates and informs them that the Casket is in Norway. 

Hawkeye, Wasp, Captain America, and Ant-Man - with assists by Ultron-5, the Human Torch, and the Thing - fight the Ice Demons while Thor, Iron Man, and the Black Panther head to Norway to confront Malekith.  The Black Panther has a new (presumably) more winter-insulated uniform, whose off-white blends better in a blizzard, while Iron Man wears a new set of armor.

Hulk reads Hawkeye the riot act for leaving him encased in ice at the swimming pool.

Thor, Iron Man, and the Black Panther challenge Malekith in the cavern.   Thor questions how Malekith can be here, as his people were all killed by Frost Giants, and Malekith tells him that Malekith now belongs to both the world of the living, and the dead, then uses the Casket to ice Thor.  Malekith reveals that he intends to bring his people back from the dead via the power of the Casket; in New York, the Ice Demons split apart to release the Dark Elf spirits, which attack the home team.

In the cavern, Malekith's hounds grow and help Malekith attack Iron Man and the Black Panther.

In Manhatten, the other Avengers battle the Dark Elf wraiths, and discover that its hard to fight something which can discorporiate at will.

In Norway, Thor, the Black Panther, and Iron Man use teamwork and synergy, combining the Dark Elf weakness to iron (and vibranium, as it turns out), technology, and Thor's magical lightning to defeat Malekith, who turns to stone (or a rigid, stone-colored corpse) and crumbles.  Thor fights against a blizzard-force blast from the Casket of the Ancient Winters, but triumphs, closing the lid.

As Earth returns to normal and the Dark Elf spirits vanish, the other Avengers in New York are informed by Wasp that she defeated all the spirits...

As Thor and Iron Man come to appreciate each other's abilities, the Enchantress and the Executioner ambush them, and teleport away with the Casket.  When Thor creates a dimensional gateway to follow, he's knocked backwards.  Thor is locked out of Asgard!
Commentary These notes are derived from a detailed summary sent my by Jake McFarland in Australia.  Thanks Jake!

I'm trying hard not to make bad puns, like "a cool new episode" or "what a pleasant way to break the ice after the break".  Suffice to say, I can't wait for the regular broadcasts; second-hand screenshots and summaries aren't the best way to experience a new episode.  I can't really comment on the dialogue or anything until I actually get to see the episode, though, to be fair.

In other notes:

* Its unclear to me why the Enchantress and the Executioner needed Malekith to obtain the Casket of Ancient Winters; all he did was have a mortal break open a gate.  Perhaps he has some natural affinity or ability which made it necessary for him to be the one to retrieve it, but if that's the case it was not made explicit.  EDIT:  Apparently, only the Dead can find the Casket, so Loki needed Malekith or some other dead emissary.

* Wasp in a bikini! 

* Hulkcicle!

* It was nice to see the Human Torch and the Think, even if only for a breif cameo appearance.  Now all we need is the Invisible Woman, and we'll have had the whole Fantastic Four cameo set... what?  For all we know, we DID have a cameo of the Invisible Woman?!?... fair enough, I suppose.

* Captain America may be old-fashioned, but he took quite quickly to snow-boarding.  Dude!

* Hawkeye wants the team to move to the west coast.  Hurrr!