Agents of SHIELD, Season 2, Episode 2, “Heavy Is the Head”
Written by Paul Zbyszewski
Directed by Jesse Bochco
Airs Tuesdays at 9pm ET on ABC
“Heavy Is the Head” picks up right where “Shadows” left off, with Carl Creel on the run from SHIELD and Hartley presumed dead in the car accident. Hunter, Hartley’s right-hand man (pun unintentional), is picked up by Talbott, who tries to convince Hunter to sell out Coulson in exchange for two million dollars and a proper funeral for Hartley. Hunter decides that Coulson’s team has a better chance of finding Creel, however, and after getting away from Talbott, he rejoins Coulson and the team’s hunt for Creel. Creel has more to worry about than SHIELD agents, though, as he is facing some nasty side effects from touching the dangerous artifact from “Shadows.”
“Heavy Is the Head” is not bad, but at best, it is a very serviceable in-between episode. In that role, however, it is much better than most of the middle of season one, because the writers are setting up season-long villains and story arcs instead of supervillains-of-the-week. The story moves along at a brisk pace with enough jokes and action that one never gets bored, but so much of the episode is about long-term set-up that there isn’t much short-term satisfaction. Also, the drama of Hartley being dead is difficult to buy into, because it makes very little sense for Agents of SHIELD to hire Lucy Lawless and only use her in one episode. It is only a matter of time before Hartley re-emerges with a robot hand and (hopefully) a taste for vengeance.
Since Ward double-crossed Coulson and the team in the name of Hydra, there has been a vacancy in the beefcake department. Initially, it seemed that Triplett would fill that role, and he is certainly a fine-looking man. More and more, though, he is stepping up as the new comic relief to replace the former Wonder Twins, Fitz and Simmons. Instead it appears Hunter will step into the team’s beefcake role and his mercenary values could also make him a good foil for May, a role it originally seemed would go to Hartley. He is already trying to convince other agents (here, Skye) to leave SHIELD for independent military contracting. If he keeps it up, he will likely get May’s boot to the back of his head.
Ward and Koenig are both absent, which makes sense, as most of the episode is one long chase with not many chances or reasons to check in back at the base, but one villain from season one is noticeably back. Raina, the woman in the flower dress, is back again in a secondary villain role, which is where she works best; Ruth Negga does not deliver the same scenery-chewing joy as Bill Paxton in season one and her character is not intriguing enough on her own to be a top-billed villain. Who or what she really is and what her connection to Skye might be is interesting, but once that mystery is solved, hopefully there will still be enough to Raina to justify keeping her around. Considering her storyline will now include a healthy scoop of Kyle MacLachlan insanity, there’s good reason to be optimistic.
On the topic of insanity, Fitz’s scenes with his imaginary Simmons are sadder and creepier than those in the premiere. In “Heavy Is the Head,” it is firmly established that Fitz knows Simmons is not really with him, but he continues indulging his delusions regardless. Simmons left him and the team of her own free will, so it is interesting that Elizabeth Henstridge is playing imaginary Simmons as a docile companion, only present to help Fitz or reinforce his opinions. This is a really disturbing place to take these two characters, and considering how much Simmons’ departure hurt Fitz, one wonders if bringing back the real Simmons would only drive him deeper into that delusion.
Developments like Fitz’s mental stability, Raina’s return, and Hunter’s dilemma of self-preservation vs. greater good are strong hooks for season two, but there is one longer story arc that is of concern: the mystery of Coulson’s death and resurrection was one of the biggest problems of season one. It dragged on far too long and the payoff was not worth the wait. The writers are setting up another mystery for Coulson, involving an uncontrollable compulsion to carve strange patterns of shapes and lines into the wall. The Agents of SHIELD fan base cannot survive another season of drawn-out Coulson mysteries. Whatever is going on with him needs to be resolved before the mid-season break, and the show already has enough unresolved story arcs to worry itself with another one.