Agents of SHIELD: 202 “Heavy Is The Head” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
After a promising start to the new season last week, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues that momentum with an episode which serves primarily to flesh out one of the new cast members while also providing some hints towards the larger themes of the season, and throwing in some fun action for good measure. Judging by “Heavy Is The Head”, season two of Agents is set to go from strength to strength.
After the world-building of last week, this episode is able to get further into the motivations of the characters, particularly the charmingly louche mercenary Lance Hunter, who we rejoin in the same position as he was at the end of last episode: namely stuck in an upside-down car surrounded by the dead bodies of his friends. In quick succession he is given a blowtorch by Agent May to get out of the vehicle and then captured by the US military and taken to meet with Talbot and his insane facial hair, where we discover some of his motivations: he left the SAS with a glowing record to follow a girl, and clearly had pretty deep feelings for Izzy Hartley. He also agrees to sell Coulson out for two million dollars and the opportunity to give Hartley a proper burial (apparently he doesn’t want one for his fellow agent Idaho, who also died in the car crash, but he wasn’t played by a famous so who cares?), but Coulson knows exactly what is going on and gives Hunter what he really wants: an opportunity to take down Creel in revenge.
Speaking of whom, Creel is apparently having some difficulties after absorbing the properties of the Obelisk last week, and after accidentally turning a waitress who touches his arm into stone, he is understandably a little bit panicked about his lot in life. He engages in a series of conversations, one with the well-dressed and explicitly sinister Hydra agent he was in communication with last week, who agrees to meet him and retrieve the Obelisk; and another with none other than the Girl in the Flower Dress herself, Raina. As it turns out, she is no longer working for Hydra and wants to make sure they don’t have access to the Obelisk: she offers Creel an object made of carbine, supposedly harder than diamond and holding the ability to store energy, in return for giving the Obelisk to her rather than to Hydra.
Raina’s re-emergence provides a nice through-line with last season, and shows that she is a very different beast from the rest of the Hydra agents she was working with: her objectives are far less black and white, less with the world domination and more with protecting Gifted people. It also gives us the first proper glimpse of the man she is working for, a character played by the very talented Kyle MacLachlan and credited simply as ‘The Doctor’. However, judging by the end of last season, we all know that he is also Skye’s father, and seems to want to re-connect with his daughter for what I am guessing are malicious reasons.
The other recurring feature from last season is Coulson’s reaction to being injected with the GH-325: apparently May is aware of what they refer to as his ‘episodes’, which seemingly occur every 18 days or so and result in his carving strange alien symbols into the walls. What these symbols mean for the world of Agents as a whole, and for Coulson himself remains to be seen, but judging by the fact that John Garrett was carving the same symbols into various surfaces last season, and he was bat-crap crazy, they probably don’t mean anything particularly good.
However as it turns out, those same symbols are present on the Obelisk, which makes it even more important for the team to recover it: it also turns out that Raina is able to touch the Obelisk and reveal those symbols without getting turned to stone. We don’t find out specifically what it is that stops this from happening, but the assumption is that it’s something to do with Raina being Gifted, and now that Skye’s dad is involved, possibly something to do with her connection to Skye as well.
Elsewhere, Fitz is still struggling to get back to his old self, hallucinating Simmons and having difficulty working on any projects. However, he is helped by Mack the mechanic, a straight-shooting new addition to the Agents team who doesn’t coddle Fitz and instead helps him to figure things out: namely, how to create a device to disrupt Creel’s powers and allow the team to bring him in, which they do. Although this seems to do wonders for Fitz, as he begins to realise that Simmons is not actually there with him, his confidence takes something of a hit when it is revealed that Mack was able to reverse-engineer the cloaking technology from the Quinjet and apply it to the Bus, essentially taking a big job away from Fitz.
Anyway, as the episode wraps up, Coulson offers Hunter a place on the team, then threatens Talbot with something of a bluff about the Bus being a ‘big gun’ when it is not yet fully operational. It’s a nice moment that may take away the immediate threat of the US Military for now, and sets up the possibility of an interesting dynamic as Coulson offers to incapacitate dangerous people and drop them off for the Military to take care of. Whether anything will come of this remains to be seen, but with Agents I have decided never to take the throwaway lines for granted, as there’s every chance they will come back and have greater significance later.
A strong second episode for the new season of Agents, “Heavy Is The Head” builds on the good work that the premiere did and offers up some tantalising hints for what is to come. It also helps to break Lance Hunter out of the ‘charming Brit who only cares about the money’ character trope that he seemed to inhabit last week and adds a little more depth to him. All in all, we’re off to a great start!