We next see Hunter watching a proper military funeral for Hartley from a distance. He pulls out a device and unlocks one of the parked cars, but instead of stealing it he takes Hartley’s mother’s necklace and hangs it from the rear view mirror before closing the door. Coulson walks up, telling Hunter that he’s sorry he can’t get him the $2 million that Talbot promised him. He tells Hunter that Talbot will be after him, and instead of running he should work for Coulson instead. “I shot three of your agents,” Hunter replies. “Including Agent May,” Coulson adds. “Not a smart move.” “Is she the type to hold a grudge?” Hunter asks. “Savors it, actually,” Coulson says with a bit of his old self peeking out. Coulson says that they’ve both made mistakes, including most recently Coulson trusting Hunter because he felt sorry for him. Hunter took advantage of that, and they almost lost everything. “We’re still lucky we have our George Foreman Grill,” Coulson observes. But, he adds, Hunter did the wrong thing for the right reason. “I need you because I can’t be you. Not anymore,” Coulson says. He tells Hunter that people have vouched for him, and although Hunter can’t imagine why, he agrees to stay. “I just need you to do one thing,” Coulson says. “Sell me out.”
Back at the Playground, Fitz is seemingly happy that he was able to help, and is trying to explain the theory behind the device to Mack but is struggling to find the right words. He’s surprised when Mack can’t help fill the gaps, especially since he should understand the device after helping to modify it. “You know how some guys can play a tune by ear?” Mack asks. “I need sheet music.” Mack asks about Simmons, telling Fitz that it’s tough to lose a good partner, especially since he heard they were pretty tight. He asks how Fitz has been holding up since she left. “I’m ok,” Fitz says, although he can still see Simmons as he says it. May and Skye look on, and Skye is happy that Fitz is talking to someone other than himself. She says that they’ve all changed, “even the director.” May defends Coulson, saying that he has a lot on his plate, but Skye isn’t happy that he’s no longer the sharing type. “He has the world to worry about, not just us,” May says. “He’s keeping something from me. Something is wrong with him,” Skye says. “May, be honest. Is Coulson ok?” “Of course,” May answers, after a discouragingly long pause that doesn’t fool Skye for an instant.
“What is wrong with you?” May asks Coulson later in his office. “You’re director now, not a level one agent! You shouldn’t have gone into the field.” Coulson takes his scolding without complaining. However, May points out that it’s been eighteen days since his last episode, and that he’s overly stressed. He’s overdue for another. He tells her that he’s tired of fighting it. “So don’t,” she says. “That’s why I’m here.” Coulson loosens his tie, takes off his shoes and socks, lowers the protective shields over the windows so no one can see, and clears a space on the wall by raising his viewscreen. He pulls out a knife and starts scratching the strange alien symbols into the wall, just as he did at the end of last season, only this time he’s not alone. May stands behind him, taking pictures of the writing and of Coulson as he gradually fills the wall, all the time with a gun sitting on the table beside her atop a pile of pictures.
We catch up with Raina, who has opened the case containing the Obelisk and is watching it. “You did well,” a voice behind her says, and we get our first glimpse of Kyle MacLachlan as “The Doctor.” “Now, pick it up,” he tells her. She’s more than a little alarmed at this, but he says, “I need to know, and so do you. Pick it up.” She hesitates, reaching out slowly, but finally gives in and touches it. The Obelisk lights up with orange symbols, matching the alien writing Coulson’s been carving. The symbols move and pulse, as the Doctor watches, wiping his hands on a towel. “It worked!” Raina exclaims. “No,” he replies, “it let you live. There’s a difference.” “Show me please,” Raina asks, desperate for answers. “Bring me my daughter and I’ll show the both of you,” he commands.
After the credits, we return to the field where Hunter was picked up by Talbot. Three Hummers approach a van parked in the field, beside which stands Coulson. He greets Talbot as he exits a Hummer, asking if he can call him Glenn and saying that they’ve brought him Creel. “He turned to stone,” Coulson says, “but he could always do that.” Creel is in cryostasis just in case, but they only have enough power for another 58 minutes, so Talbot will have to hurry to get him “somewhere a little more secure than last time.” “We’re the good guys,” Coulson reminds Talbot. “We’ll keep dropping off people like Creel and you’ll keep getting promoted.” All Coulson wants is some breathing room. Talbot is impressed by Coulson’s “big brass ones” but knows that SHIELD doesn’t exist anymore and Coulson has no artillery to back him up. “We’re good on artillery,” Coulson says, and in midair above them the Bus materializes from behind its cloak, flying once again. “That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he says, as he heads over to the quinjet that just decloaked nearby. As an aside to his team he adds, “Let’s get out of here before the iceberg runs out of fuel,” before the two jets take off into the sky together.
“Heavy is the Head” gave us another great episode, even if it did feel like half of a two-parter. Creel’s storyline was wrapped up nicely for the moment, but with the possibility of a return later in the season. Hunter has officially joined the team as they continue their mission to rebuild SHIELD. Raina, last season’s most intriguing “villain,” returned, bringing along with her a new character in Skye’s father. Fitz showed some progress, and I’m loving the pairing of him and Mack. And much to many people’s pleasure, I’m sure, Ward didn’t show up at all. SHIELD has successfully set the stage for the season with these last two episodes, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store going forward! Most importantly, they’ve taken off at a much faster pace than last season, which will help the show retain viewers and will ultimately be more satisfying for fans. I’m very excited about the show going forward, as it promises to get even more interesting and exciting from here on out. (You can read my instant reaction to the episode with some other thoughts by clicking here.)
Simmons! How can I not start with the teaser for next week’s episode that we were given? Can Simmons really have betrayed everyone to join HYDRA? Is she another Ward? Remember at the end of last season when Fitz asked her straight-up whether she was HYDRA? Was she lying? Has she been brainwashed (“Are you ready to comply?”)? Is she pulling a reverse-Ward and infiltrating HYDRA as a spy? Is she working for Coulson or working on her own? They made mention of “losing our best and our brightest to HYDRA” in the teaser, and Coulson said to her, “Did you think I wouldn’t find out?” I honestly have no idea what to expect. I like to imagine that Simmons would never join HYDRA and is instead playing them or using them to find a cure for Fitz, but often the answers that seem the most likely are not the correct ones when it comes to Marvel or TV in general. Anything’s possible. (Although fans will be PISSED if she really has joined HYDRA and betrayed everyone.)
Hunter is quickly growing on me. I think he’s going to fill an important role on the show this season in terms of tone. Last year Skye was the sarcastic outsider to the team, questioning when things got too weird or making sarcastic comments. But now that “SHIELD is my life,” I think she’s going to be significantly more serious and Hunter can hell bridge that gap. It’s always good to have an outsider on your team in order to give different perspectives, something that’s crucial to an ensemble show. It’s also a plus that he has different motivations than our team, and isn’t shy about challenging Coulson and the status quo. And his humor will give the show more energy this season in the wake of everything that’s happened with Ward. Everything needs to have a balance and Hunter should go a long way towards helping keep that balance. He’s already feeling a lot like Jayne Cobb from Firefly, but with a slightly more sentimental/loyal side to him that I like.
I’m thrilled that Raina is back! She really stood out to me last season. Of all of the villains last year, she was the one whose motivations were the most ambiguous, and her quest for some sort of truth or vision is intriguing. I’m very curious about her relationship with the Doctor. What made her join up with him? Did he promise her answers? Why does he have so much power over her? I can’t imagine Garrett talking her into touching the Obelisk, so there must be more to it than simply a threat. I’m excited to see more of her this year.
Each episode this season needs to advance the larger stories on SHIELD. Stand-alone/monster-of-the-week episodes are fine as long as the rest of the plot of those episodes are advancing the larger stories. The majority of the complaints last year were about the show stagnating in the early episodes, so SHIELD has to avoid that this year. Patience is no longer something shows can take for granted, and simple, throw-away references to larger mysteries each week won’t cut it. Fitz’s progress with Mack was a perfect example of advancing story this week, even as other stories were abandoned completely. We don’t need to see massive, shocking revelations every week, but good, steady progress is of the utmost importance. I have a lot of confidence in the people behind the show, so I’m not worried, but every episode needs to advance at least one story in significant ways.
Last week we were introduced to the Obelisk, which will obviously be a big mystery of the season, perhaps even connecting with Agent Carter this winter. I think the Kree theory is all but confirmed at this point, but that doesn’t really explain what the Obelisk actually is. Do the symbols mean that it’s trying to communicate, or is it some sort of weapon or test? What did the Doctor mean when he said that it “let” her live? Is it sentient, or is it governed by some sort of rules he’s trying to figure out? What is its larger purpose and what is the Doctor’s interest in it? Does he want it for a different reason than HYDRA and Dr. Whitehall?
Director Coulson is a different man than Agent Coulson last season. Obviously the crown of his his new title is weighing heavily on his head, but we’ve yet to see what kind of toll it will take on him. He’s definitely got the “needs of the many” attitude down, and is willing to sacrifice people for the sake of the mission, but he can’t completely detach himself from the pain of that loss. I was really worried that he would still be keeping every secret to himself this season, so I was so relieved when we found out that May knows about his condition. I’m even more curious what the writing is about now that we know he gets these recurring urges to write. It makes me feel like he’s receiving a repeating message of some sort that they’ve yet to decode/translate. I wonder if he’s writing the same thing every time or if it changes. Even with May helping to keep his secret, there’s no way this will stay quiet forever. Especially if Skye starts showing symptoms too. In all, it’s nice to see some changes in Coulson, but I don’t want him to become so much like Fury that he loses the relationships he has with the team, especially Skye. (I don’t think Skye will put up with his current attitude for very long, however.)
What do you think? Did you enjoy “Heavy is the Head?” Did you enjoy Mack bonding with Fitz? What’s your feeling on Hunter joining the team? Are you glad Creel’s story was wrapped up, or do you want to see more from him? What are Raina and the Doctor up to? What’s the deal with the Obelisk, and why could Raina safely touch it? Were you happy that Ward was left out this week? (We’ll see more of him in future episodes.) Most importantly, what do you think is going on with Simmons?!? Let me know in the comments!