Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Heavy is the Head Review
The second episode of a season can be difficult to predict. Sometimes, once the pacing slows down and the show tries to settle into a manageable pace, previously unnoticed issues can rear their ugly head and rise to the forefront of the viewers attention. Speaking of ugly heads, I really feel like I should break into the Hydra motto there. Fortunately, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pulls through in the sophomore episode of its second season without any significant issues. Part of me wants to rate it more favorably than the previous episode, due to the fact that it confronted and fixed much of the pacing issues that plagued the Shadows, and even gave us some nice character moments. However, in an attempt to slow the proceedings down, the plot ends up getting left behind.
First of all, we finally get a bit more time to sit down with our new characters. Most notably, we get to know a bit more about the British mercenary Lance Hunter, who is played by Nick Blood. If you asked me to guess which of those two names belonged to a comic book character I’m not sure I’d be able to guess correctly. There are no real surprises to the character overall, but it’s nice that we’re given a bit more time to get acquainted with him. At the moment, he feels a bit like a British version of Ward, except more likable and a bit more honest.
We also get to see a bit more of Alphonso “Mack” MacKenzie who also appeared in Shadows. Unlike the mercenaries, whom I didn’t mention during my preceding review in order to avoid spoiling which of them died, the reason I didn’t mention Mack last time was simply because he did little more than be present. Fortunately, we get to see more of him in Heavy is the Head and he makes a pretty good impression. His story arc involves him trying to communicate with Fitz, and, in doing so, helps Fitz aid the team once again. At the moment, he feels rather like the big teddy bear of the team. He’s large reliable guy who can get others to open up, not unlike Terry Crew’s role in Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I’m looking forward to seeing how he works as a team member in the future.
Before I move on to the plot beats contained within the episode, I guess I should talk briefly about the first appearance of Kyle MacLachlan. At the moment, the only name I’ve heard for him is “The Doctor,” so that’s probably what I’ll be referring to the character as. I’ll skip past the Time Lord jokes for now and just get the dancing dwarf in the room out of the way. He only shows up at the end. This isn’t really surprising. I’m starting to suspect that Agents will probably come to be known for it’s last minute, end-of-the-episode reveals the way Fringe was known for lens flare transitions or the way Gotham will be known for pointing at characters and saying “Hey, someday they’ll be interesting!” As it stands, we don’t know much about the Doctor. He appears to have knowledge regarding the nature of the Obelisk, he’s not with Hydra, and he seems to sweat a lot (Maybe I was right and fire DOES walk with him!). The show seems to be trying to play him with a sinister edge, which might not be the best way to use MacLachlan, but I think I’ll reserve judgement until after he’s said at least a half dozen lines.
The plot of Heavy is the Head picks up right where Shadows left off. The Absorbing Man has the Obelisk but is having trouble transporting it as it has seemingly merged with his hand. Much of the episode is actually spent tracking or observing Creel rather that dealing with him directly. This has the benefit of providing much needed time for character development, but it occasionally feels that the show is stalling so that the team doesn’t have to deal with Creel until the end of the episode so they can have a proper climax.
Fortunately, the show largely uses that time effectively. Aside from getting a more in depth look at Fitz’s condition, we also get to see how he’s perceived by the rest of the team. This makes the few steps forward that he takes feel all the more significant. Coulson meanwhile is struggling to maintain control as director while he also deals with compulsions similar to those experienced by Garrett back in Season 1 which include carving patterns on the walls. May has apparently been counseling and observing him in order to ensure that the stress of leadership doesn’t expedite any mental degradation that may accompany these tendencies, hence our episode title. Skye remains somewhat unused in this episode, which is a little surprising. She has a scene with May where she expresses frustration over the fact that Coulson is hiding something from her, and she has a scene with Hunter where they talk about the late Lucy Lawless. Sometimes shows don’t know how to keep their audience surrogate relevant once the premise of the show is established, but, considering how Skye is tied in to much of the plot, that really shouldn’t be a problem here. Here’s hoping she’ll have more to do next week.
Before I try to wrap this up, I should talk about the reappearance of Raina. She shows up about midway through the episode and attempts to negotiate with Creel over the obelisk. Aside from putting S.H.I.E.L.D. back on Creel’s tail, her role in the episode is somewhat minor. It’s mainly to establish that she has cut ties with Hydra and is now working for the Doctor. Unfortunately, Raina is not a character that I particularly care for. The show tries to paint her as some form of evangelical person but, as a character, she comes off as too afraid and uncertain for her to be interesting. If she had a sense of conviction in her purpose or we had an understanding of her motivations, I might find her character more intriguing. But, most of the time, it feels like she’s about to run and hide the moment someone confronts her.
And a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- Why doesn’t Coulson tell Skye what is going on with the patterns? She was injected with the same substance he was, so it’s not like she doesn’t have the right to know.
- The scene where Talbot met with Hunter could have been dealt with better. It was… pretty silly. The soldiers left Hunter in a field, and drove off, leaving Hunter to lie there waiting for Talbot to come in by helicopter.
- On the other hand, the pissing match between Talbot and Coulson continues to be fun.
- No sign of Ward this week. …I have this odd feeling. If I didn’t know better, I’d say I was disappointed that he didn’t have any scenes… maybe I’m having a stroke. That seems more likely.
- The final fight of the episode was okay. The visual effects were great, but the fight itself was very short and felt a little underwhelming.
- May gets a tranq in the back from a character that they were already wary of… Yeah, I don’t buy that.
- In truth, I haven’t seen Lucy Lawless in much (I don’t think I got far enough into Battlestar Galactica) but, unless they plan on bringing her back in some capacity, I think it’s clear that she was criminally underused. On the other hand, it’s almost a little amusing the degree to which everyone has forgotten Idaho already.
I appreciate the slower pace of this episode. It had a number of good moments for Fitz, Mack, and Coulson, and helped reestablish the team structure a bit more. However, the episode often felt like it was just trying to buy time before it reached it’s climax, and the final fight could have used a little more time and could have been set up more effectively. All in all, Heavy is the Head succeeds in delivering some nice character moments, but is sabotaged by a few sloppy plot elements.
As much as I’d love to give Heavy is the Head a stronger rating due to it’s development of the shows new characters, plotting issues and underused primary characters serve to handicap the episode. In the end, it essentially breaks even, but there are worse things than breaking even.