By Josh Axelrod
Was this really so hard, Marvel? If season one had maintained the pace the first two episodes of “S.H.I.E.L.D” has managed, we all wouldn’t have been so nervous about the show going into Season 2. Luckily for us, the creative team must have come to the same conclusion. “Heavy Is the Head” picked up right where the premiere left off and ran with it, showing me again that we’re in for an exciting sophomore outing “S.H.I.E.L.D.”
We left off last week with Hartley and Idaho dead (still not convinced about Hartley, even after seeing her buried), Hunter bleeding in an overturned car and Carl Creel getting away with the mysterious Obelisk that destroyed Huntley’s hand. All of that gets dealt with right away: Hunter gets picked up by Talbot’s team and May tracks down Creel, only to have Coulson order to not engage yet.
Two episodes in and I’m already very intrigued by this Lance Hunter. He’s a mercenary with a quick mouth that claims to only be in it for the money. But it appears he genuinely cared about Hartley and wanted to make sure her family would be notified and compensated. He even appeared to be willing to turn down a prime deal from Talbot where he would turn in Coulson in exchange for money and freedom.
That’s why it was such an unexpected twist when he shot May, Skye and Triplette during their mission to get Creel. Sure, it was so he could get revenge on Creel for killing Hartley (presumably), but it was still basically Hunter betraying S.H.I.E.L.D. Which is how you know Coulson is desperate when he asked the man who just jeopardized an important operation to join his team full time. We clearly can’t entirely trust Hunter, but then again Skye wasn’t exactly a straight-shooter at first either. I’m very interested in what what the show does with the character.
Carl Creel continued to be the most terrifying villain this show has created. And yet, the show somehow managed to humanize him by showing that the Obelisk affected him too (that poor waitress…never saw it coming). Our Absorbing Man was scared for once, and who should come to take advantage of his fears than the Girl in the Flower Dress. That’s right: Raina is back, and she has a vested interest in the Obelisk as well.
I always liked her character. Last season, she genuinely believed in the Clairvoyant and that people could be more than human. She was half right, but it was clear that her days with H.Y.D.R.A were coming to an end. Now she’s working for a mysterious guy played by Kyle MacLachlan, who is also (SPOILER ALERT) Skye’s father. And he’s ruthless: Raina’s lucky the Obelisk didn’t kill her when she touched it, because MacLachlan certainly would have if she hadn’t complied. Now we have the Daniel Whitehall-led H.Y.D.R.A branch and this new team in play as our antagonists this season.
Oh, and Carl Creel is technically still alive. God knows what that magic device that Fitz and Mac engineered to take him down is, but the end made it clear that we probably haven’t seen the last of The Absorbing Man.
Speaking of those two, watching Fitz is painful. We know Simmons is just in his head, but he’s barely functioning on a normal level, let alone as the genius he once was. With that sad, I like Mac the mercenary’s gentle touch with him. It was because he didn’t get frustrated with Fitz that he was able to find the design that ultimately saved the day. I like the Fitz/Mac dynamic. If he’s what it takes to keep Fitz valuable to the team, hopefully he sticks around. Side note: The real Simmons is going to have to resurface eventually, right?
Another element that resurfaced this week was the mysterious symbols that Coulson keeps seeing. They were apparently the same ones that are on the Obelisk, so there’s clearly a connection here. Coulson was clearly feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders here, so it was nice to see him open up about his struggles to May. With Skye’s father about to become a major player, he won’t be able to keep Skye in the dark for much longer.
Finally, we had that badass scene at the end where Coulson showed Talbot that S.H.I.E.L.D was both a good guy and nothing to be trifled with, courtesy of a refurbished Quinjet. Talbot is technically fighting against S.H.I.E.L.D for the sake of justice, but he’s obviously a bit misguided here. Also, compared with Skye’s father and H.Y.D.R.A, he doesn’t seem like much of a threat yet. But who knows, maybe he’ll become a bigger thorn in Coulson’s side going forward.
I have very few complaints about this episode, other than the lack of Ward and Whitehall. I’m still afraid the show is going to try to redeem Ward, which is the worst thing it could do with that character. And Whitehall’s agelessness needs to come back up sooner or later. Other than those minor quibbles, this was about as good as “S.H.I.E.L.D” has been so far. Keep up the good work team.
P.S. Anyone else catch that photo of Agent Carter popping up on Coulson’s computer screen? Either that’s just an easter egg for the new show, or we haven’t seen the last of Hayley Atwell this season.