‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Review: “Heavy is the Head”
Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ assembles its second season 2 installment in "Heavy is the Head,” as Coulson and the team reluctantly partner with Raina to intercept Creel and the mysterious obelisk before Hydra can, while Lance Hunter faces a difficult choice from General Talbot.
Last week's ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ finale “Shadows” saw Coulson's efforts to rebuild the organization coming up against Hydra mercenary Carl "Crusher" Creel (Brian Patrick Wade), while a mysterious artifact from the 'Agent Carter' era necessitated a run-in with the U.S. government, so how does ABC’s ‘Avengers‘-adjacent series continue its marvelous new season?
Read on for your in-depth review of everything you need to know about ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s season 2, episode 2, “Heavy is the Head”!
Last week’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ proved something of a victory, not necessarily for the team itself, but for a series whose uneven first season necessitated a confident foot forward in its first run outside the “Shadows” of Marvel’s cinematic features. I liked the post-‘Winter Soldier’ reveal episodes as much as any of my critical peers, but still genuinely hadn’t expected to enjoy last week’s premiere as much as I did, especially important given the superhero TV series springing up all around. “Go dark” proved a little on the nose for a season 2 mantra, but “Shadows” impressively lived up to the idea with a few surprise twists that never once had us lamenting the absence of more famous heroes.
Then of course, I had to remember that the first season began with a strong premiere that quickly spiraled into a macguffin-chasing jungle adventure, before Samuel L. Jackson showed up to yell about fishtanks. Second episodes have a tendency to let you down.
That said, Marvel and ABC might well have been better off shelling out for a two-hour debut last week,* given how effectively “Heavy is the Head” carries the momentum of the premiere, picking up mere moments after the wreck that felled poor Lucy Lawless. In fact, where last week even kept us somewhat in the dark over development of new characters like Lance Hunter, the true nature of Fitz’s condition, or even Coulson’s continued leadership struggles with S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0, “Heavy is the Head” feels very much like the other side of the coin, without necessarily skimping on any of the effects or action.
*Marvel actually did host a critics’ screening of the season 2 premiere that was quickly followed by “Heavy is the Head,” but NOT ALL OF US LIVE IN L.A., DAD.
For one, the whittled-down roster (R.I.P. Idaho) gives us a much clearer insight into Nick Blood’s new mercenary operative Lance Hunter, as his interactions with both Talbot and Coulson expectedly reveal the character to have slightly more allegiance to fallen comrades than the almighty dollar, but only slightly. That certainly comes in handy for Coulson at least, as the former agent gets the chance to confidently flex his muscles as Director, both in and out of the field, even as it complicates matters with his original protégé, Skye. Also pleasantly surprising was that May seems to have been brought in on Coulson’s alien symbol “episodes,” which combined with his winning over Hunter and badass display against Talbot lent an overall strong sense of self-awareness to the series, that often lacked amid the first season’s reliance on secrecy as a plot device.
On the evil (!) side of things, we also got to spend a bit more time with Brian Patrick Wade’s Absorbing Man, as the continued spread of his obelisk infection and interactions with Raina gave Wade far more to do than pose menacingly in CG makeup. The idea petered out a bit in having Whitehall’s Hydra stooge simply talk Creel through keeping his abilities under control, though the subsequent battle more than made up for the narrative hiccup, even with Hunter’s plan of attack mostly lacking in common sense. If nothing else, the strong effects work reinforced the Absorbing Man as a strong starting villain for the second season, one we’re glad to see might return down the line.
As stated, “Heavy is the Head” also saw the return of Ruth Negga’s recurring nemesis Raina, though the episode offered relatively little beyond her usual schtick of flirty antagonism with Coulson, and hazy motivations for playing different sides against one another. We did get our first glimpse of ‘Twin Peaks’ star Kyle MacLachlan as the mysterious “Doctor” / Skye’s father at least, and while it didn’t particularly deepen our understanding of the mystery to have the obelisk “spare” Raina its death touch, nor necessarily to have Coulson scratch out another board’s worth of equations, it’s nice to see the writers keeping the alien aspects in play as often as possible.
The show may have gotten itself a win last week, though the team certainly took a beating, and it was nice to see “Heavy is the Head” turn things around a bit for the new S.H.I.E.L.D., as Coulson scores a temporary respite against Talbot by flaunting their new cloaked Quinjet and Bus. Not only that, but our least-developed addition Mac (Henry Simmons) proved useful in cutting through Fitz’s shattered thought process to realize that the disabled genius had already constructed a device capable of countering Creel. Granted, we don’t yet have a sense of how Fitz might return to his old self, or why Simmons left the team in such a desperate hour to begin with.
There wasn’t very much time to deepen the Hydra threat or the alien mysteries season 2 has promised to cover thus far, though tonight certainly kept both in play entertainingly enough, all the while maintaining a self-aware edge that promises less sloppy storytelling than the first season. No sign of
Beard Ward or the real Simmons this week either, but at least for now we’re thrilled to see “Heavy is the Head” taking the ball from last week and running with a very confident start to the season thus far.
AND ANOTHER THING…
- “I know. And we just retiled the bathrooms.”
- The repeat mentions of Hunter’s ex-wife lend strong credence to the theory that Adrianne Palicki’s Mockingbird will emerge under said title, where the comic character shared a romantic past with Hawkeye. The ‘Agents’ version might well have been involved with both, or neither necessarily, though for convenience’s sake we could easily imagine the show grafting the relationship dynamic onto a character it has easier access to.
- Hmm, who might the “senator with deep pockets” chasing after Coulson be? We certainly saw Senator Stern already taken into custody…
- The fleshing out of Hartley’s relationship with her sister likely snuffs out any possibility of a romantic entanglement with the late Victoria Hand, otherwise Hunter might at least have mentioned it.
- We can all thank Skye for an image of the Absorbing Man’s junk in our minds.
- Great effects on the bullet-time shot to Creel’s head by the way, though it’s increasingly noticeable how the extent of his powers varies between subsequent shots, depending on budget availability.
- Kyle MacLachlan’s gooey appearance last season is implied to be a result of performing surgery, unless Marvel is perhaps planning something more…Inhuman.
- Hopefully we’ll have more Talbot to come, despite the minor victory tonight.
Well, what say you? Did ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s second season installment “Heavy is the Head” keep up the momentum as successfully as you'd hoped? How do you think the show fares with its titular organization in Hydra-torn pieces? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and check back next week for our review of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ season 2's latest, "Making Friends and Influencing People" on ABC!