Instant Reaction: Agents of SHIELD – “Heavy is the Head”

*Update: My full recap of “Heavy is the Head” is now live.  Read it here!

Tonight’s episode of Agents of SHIELD picked up right where last week’s episode left off.  In fact, in many ways it was almost as if the season premiere was split in half, and tonight was merely part two of an extended beginning.  We got some (temporary) resolution to the Creel/Absorbing Man plot, spent more time with this season’s newest cast member, and the stage was set for the larger movements of the plot going forward.  We got to see progression on some of the character arcs that were started last week, while some others were left out, and we saw the reappearance of a familiar face from last year along with the introduction of a new threat to SHIELD.  In all, it was a great followup to last week, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store going forward.  Here are my instant reactions to “Heavy is the Head,” and I’ll update this post with a link to my full episode recap once it’s finished.

  • I started with Fitz last week, and I’m going to start with him again tonight.  I’m thrilled that we’re already seeing some progress from him.  I don’t want there to be some magic solution to his problems right away, but the show can’t afford to drag out his condition in such a painful way week after week.  It was great to see him get to save the day again, even if he needed some help to do it.  It should go a long way both towards helping to rebuild his confidence in himself but to also rebuild the team’s confidence in him.  I find it very interesting that “Simmons” was so encouraging with him, talking him into taking the file on Creel that was left lying around, and telling him that she liked Mack.  Obviously, if “Simmons” is just a figment of his imagination, then everything she says is coming from Fitz, and therefore he’s doing his best to offer himself encouragement.  It shows that despite his frustration with his situation, deep down he believes that he’s still worthwhile and can get better and help his friends.  That’s important for any recovery he’s going to make.
  • As long as we’re talking about Fitz, how about Mack?  I love the idea of Mack as the mechanic who not only fixes their vehicles and devices but who also fixes the team.  He’s like part-counselor, part-grease monkey.  When he told those scientists in the lab to “Beat it, you’re pissing him off!” he completely won me over.  Mack has already become my favorite new character.
  • No Ward this week, which I think was a smart decision by the writers.  If they’re going to play Ward’s story smartly, then they’re better off only using him when it works with the story.  They could easily have forced a scene where Skye was sent to try to get one more piece of information about Creel out of him, but they thankfully didn’t.  Like with Fitz, the show can’t afford to stagnate this season, after the criticism of the early episodes last year, so if they have nothing new to show with Ward it’s best to leave him out.  They can pick it up again next week, perhaps while backing off of Fitz’s story a bit.
  • On that note, the show is doing a good job so far with balance, which is key for any show but especially for SHIELD.  Especially with an expanded cast this season, there’s no way that every episode can feature every actor, every plot strand and every mystery.  The season as a whole needs to be balanced, but you do that by varying the episodes and finding just the right mix, rather than forcing each episode to contain a tiny, watered-down piece of every part of the story.
  • I’m not 100% sold on Hunter yet, but I think he fills an important slot on the show going forward.  Last season, Skye was the one questioning everything Coulson’s team did.  As an outsider, she wasn’t afraid to ask the silly questions or give them some snark when things seemed ridiculous.  Now that Skye is a field agent, and “SHIELD is my life,” someone needs to fill the sarcasm, boat-rocking void.  Hunter is different enough to not just feel like a male version of Skye while still fitting nicely into that role.  And if they need any inspiration for the character, they should look to another Joss Whedon creation: Jayne Cobb from Firefly.
  • Along that line, I was happy to see some humor return to the show tonight.  Last week was pretty serious, but was also jam packed with story, which didn’t leave a lot of time for comedy.  Things are still pretty serious, but we got some classic Coulson deadpan tonight which thrilled me.  I don’t want the show to lose that sense of fun that helps to tie it into the Marvel movies.  Even at its darkest, there’s still comedy to be found in the MCU, which is how SHIELD should feel as well.
  • Favorite lines of the night (all from Coulson): “May, that doesn’t sound covert.” “And we just retiled the bathrooms.” “She savors it, actually.”
  • Raina is back!  She’s certainly an interesting character, with motivations that are still somewhat murky.  I think she brings a great energy to the show, and I hope she’ll be hanging around a while.
  • We got our first look at Kyle MacLachlan tonight as Skye’s supposed father, “The Doctor.”  Obviously we don’t know much about him, but one thing that piques my curiosity was his entrance into the scene.  He was cleaning his hands on a towel, which is only interesting when you remember that when we saw the character last season he had something dripping from his hands.  Is the dripping substance related to his use of a towel tonight?  Is it coming from him, or from something he’s been doing?  He’s being called “The Doctor,” so does it have something to do with whatever medical procedures he might be up to?  Lots of questions with no answers so far.
  • We learned a bit more about the Obelisk tonight.  Creel clearly didn’t manage to escape infection by turning his hands to rubber.  On the other hand, Raina was able to touch it without any harm coming to herself.  She also brought out the alien hyroglyphics much more clearly than we saw last week when Hartley touched it.  What is it, where did it come from, and how is it connected to Coulson?
  • Hunter told May that Hartley and Idaho were dead, which, when paired with the funeral scene, seems like confirmation that Lucy Lawless will not be back.  I know this will piss off many fans, who quickly became attached to her only to have her killed in a single episode, but I don’t think the show could sustain having that many new characters, much less a star of her caliber.  Our main group of heroes from last season would have seen their screen time drastically reduced if Hartley had stuck around.
  • It seems like Creel’s story has been wrapped up for the moment, although I doubt we’ve seen the last of him this season.  I’m glad he’s still around and capable of returning, but I wouldn’t have wanted the team to spend the whole season chasing him.  However, it definitely looked to me like his final form resembled what happened to Hartley’s arm after she touched the Obelisk.  Did he turn into a Kree?  Why would Coulson say he turned to stone?  I thought it was interesting that Creel was able to suppress the Obelisk’s effects through his focus on “compliance” with HYDRA.  Is that some sort of brain washing, or just some really good training?
  • Lastly, I’m immensely relieved that May is aware of Coulson’s condition.  It will be much better for everyone since Coulson isn’t going through this alone.  I like to think he told May about his compulsion to write the alien script, but it’s always possible that she found out his secret.  Regardless, I know it’s a relief to Coulson (who seems to be fighting the impulse), and May will of course do whatever it takes to keep everyone safe (made obvious by the gun sitting on top of the pictures she’s taken).  This does put her in a similar position to last season of keeping secrets from the team, but at least she’s not keeping them from Coulson as well.  I wonder if she’s reporting all of this to Fury?

What do you think?  Did you enjoy “Heavy is the Head?”  Is Hunter growing on you?  What about Mack?  Were you glad to see some progress from Fitz?  Happy that Ward was left out this week?  Would you prefer Creel to stick around or sit out for awhile?  Glad Raina is back?  What’s your theory about the Obelisk?  How about Coulson?  What was your favorite line from tonight’s episode?  Let me know in the comments, and come back later for my full recap!

4 thoughts on “Instant Reaction: Agents of SHIELD – “Heavy is the Head”

  1. Not gonna lie, I was kind of sidetracked from focusing on everything that happened in this episode because of the promo for next week. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of things this week were important (defeating Creel, Lance Hunter’s story, Fitz and Mack, etc.), but I was excited to know where Simmons was (still a little confused there). They’re not wasting time for these things which both excites and terrifies me.

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    • I’m with you on that! All I wanted to write about was Simmons after seeing the tease. It was all I could do to focus on the recap and the actual episode that aired. There’s no way she’s with HYDRA for real, right? It’s got to be some clever trick? Of course, I also don’t doubt that she’d do anything to save Fitz, including betraying the rest of the team, so anything’s possible. Tuesday can’t come quickly enough!
      And I completely agree about being excited and terrified by the pace this season! I want them to keep it up because it makes the story better, but I want them to slow down so that nothing bad happens to our characters too soon!

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  2. “Our main group of heroes from last season would have seen their screen time drastically reduced if Hartley had stuck around.”

    I’m not sure why this statement matters when applied to Hartley but not Hunter. I don’t think it makes any sense to kill Hartley off and add yet another white man with a tragic past to the team because god knows MCU is already full of them. I would’ve preferred if Idaho and Hunter died and they kept Hartley around. As an old SHIELD agent who parted ways with them (presumably because she didn’t agree with what they were doing), I think she could’ve made more of an impact, questioning Coulson on what he wants this new SHIELD to be.

    So overall, happy about Mack, generally uninterested in Coulson’s story, really loved Raina and Skye’s Dad, so happy with Skye’s progression, May is amazing as always, can’t wait for Simmons and Hunter will have to do a heck of a lot before I care about his character.

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    • Sorry about that, I didn’t express myself well. I meant that since we already knew Hunter was an addition to the main cast, if Hartley had stuck around also then time would have been even more reduced for our main cast. Even as a guest star, Lucy Lawless is big enough to command a sizable chunk of any episode she’s in, which would have taken away from the rest of the team. I loved having her on, and I think she would fit in well with the team, but given a choice between screen time for her and more screen time for May, I’ll pick May any day of the week. The MCU is definitely full of white men with a tragic past, although I think Agents of SHIELD, by having a 50/50 male/female ratio of main cast in their first season did a good job of trying to counter that trend. Although with the addition of Hunter to the main cast, plus all of the supporting cast being male (if not white) with Trip and Mack, I would like some more interesting female characters to restore that balance a bit. And Hartley could have done it, I just think Lawless is a big enough star that she would have sucked time away from Skye, Simmons and May. I’d pick Hartley over Hunter for sure, but with Hunter already a given, Hartley would have just been too much. But that’s just my opinion.

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