Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Season 2, Episode 2, “Heavy is the Head
September 30, 2014, 9:00 p.m. (EST), ABC
At the beginning of its second season, Agents of SHIELD is in a bit of a pickle. The show’s weak point has always been characterization, yet it has thinned the pack enough at this point it needs some new blood to survive. Enter Lance Hunter, who feels like the blandest possible version of his character. He’s a mercenary who can be bought and thus not trusted, who secretly has a heart of gold. At this moment, Hunter is Han Solo without the roguish charm, which leaves us with not much to hang onto when examining the newest member of the team.
Lance’s story in this episode is one characters of his ilk must always face at some point: he is offered a large sum of money to sell out the heroes, and then chooses not to, in order to prove to us he may yet be redeemed. “Heavy is the Head” focuses on Lance and his moral decisions to the point that it leaves the characters we’ve actually come to care about or understand largely side-lined. With The Bus grounded, Fitz in slow recovery, and Coulson playing Director, the show has divided its central cast into several different roles and storylines. The separation between them could itself become the narrative, but for the moment, these subdivisions leave each of them with not a whole lot to do, and not a whole lot of time to do it in.
May continues to be a tough bad ass who can take a punch and get Coulson to own up to things, but she has never fully coalesced as a character in her own right. While Ming-Na Wen is one of the more immediately engaging performers in the show’s cast, the writers seem to constantly trade on that instead of developing her as a character. Over the course of last season, pretty much everyone else got some form of character development to add depth to their roles, but May remains the show’s biggest question mark—a potentially compelling character the writers seem afraid is easily reduced to a few unanswered questions and a lot of glowering.
I appreciate what the show is trying to do with Fitz, but two weeks in, I am already growing tired of how long it takes him to communicate with anyone. The road to recovery may be long and hard for our resident genius, but I hope the show figures out some different ways to express his frustration. His current aphasia doesn’t feel all that realistic as a form of brain damage, but beyond that, it also slows down every scene he is in. His frustration is palpable and that translates to ours. It’s a handy trick, but one I have a feeling will grow old fast.
But look: “Heavy is the Head” introduces Kyle MachLachlan as Skye’s dad, and really, I can’t hold much against the show if it is going to give Agent Cooper some fun material in the weeks to come. Agents of SHIELD has actually developed enough of a mythology at this point that the role MacLachlan will play in all of this, and how he connects to the Obelisk, the blue alien that revived Coulson, and the symbols that appear on the Obelisk and in Coulson’s drawing during his “episodes” has me somewhat curious. Early in its run, the show threw out a bunch of mysteries I didn’t care about, but at this point, the pay-offs to those are starting to develop in ways that might be interesting. All of this could fall apart next week, of course, but I actually care where this is going, and for this show, that’s an accomplishment.
“Heavy is the Head” doesn’t really satisfy as a singular episode, but it sets up enough potentially interesting threads for the show to pull at in weeks to come that it is still worthwhile. Watching Creel go down as quickly as he does is disappointing, since I expected he might stick around as an adversary for a while, and since his power set is uniquely suited to present a challenge to this team without breaking the show’s budget. The story of how the team tracks him and how Lance betrays them to kill him is pretty rote (and nonsensical, since the team aimed to capture Creel, who would presumably be easier to kill in captivity, and Lance inexplicably chooses to approach Creel with a sniper rifle instead of firing from the window where it was initially positioned), but it mostly exists to fill the space between various plotlines that are ramping up. This isn’t a great episode of the show, but it also doesn’t defeat my confidence that this season is going somewhere. This show didn’t solve its problems today, but as Fitz learned, it has solved these problems before, and may be able to do so again.
- “I know. And we just re-tiled the bathrooms.”
- “Why does any man do anything, General? I met a girl.”
- “Try…yoga, or something.” “I tried it. I’m…really not flexible.”
- “I didn’t solve this today.”
“Heavy is the Head” doesn’t really satisfy as a singular episode, but it sets up enough potentially interesting threads for the show to pull at in weeks to come that it is still worthwhile.