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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Heavy is the Head - Review

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “Heavy is the Head,” was written by Paul Zbyszewski and directed by Jesse Bochco – both familiar names from the first season. The episode title hits us on a number of different levels. In one sense, it refers to the weight now on Coulson’s (Clark Gregg) shoulders as Director. May (Ming-Na Wen) tells him not to take responsibility for everything just because he’s Director, but in true Coulson style, he tells her that that’s what being Director means. It could also refer to this new, more serious Coulson – at least Skye (Chloe Bennet) sees him that way. On another level, it could also be a reference to Fitz (Iain De Caestecker). His once lightning-fast brain is now slow and lugubrious – heavy – due to his injury.

The episode picks up right where we left off last week and is packed full of the chase scenes, snappy one-liners, and mystery that makes the show so entertaining to watch. I’ve been thinking a lot about what sets some “superhero” shows apart from others, and for me, it’s the conviction with which the cast approaches the universe. I believe in this universe because the cast does. It doesn’t hurt that the show delivers some of (if not the) best special effects on television.

A main focus in this episode is to introduce the new characters. We learn a lot about Hunter (Nick Blood), but there is also still a fair bit of mystery about him. We learn he was a decorated soldier, and he left the army because of a girl. But there’s no indication of who that girl is. We learn he had a psychotic ex-wife who was a friend of Hartley (Lucy Lawless). We see that he knew that Hartley’s mother died of cancer and that her sister now has it. Hunter also knows that Hartley’s mother gave her a pendent and he risks his freedom to make sure the sister gets the pendent. He is willing to sacrifice himself so that May can go after Creel (Brian Patrick Wade) to get revenge for Hartley, and his price to work for Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) includes clearing Hartley’s name and giving her a proper funeral. It’s unlikely that the girl he left the army for was Hartley though as he became a mercenary and she was S.H.I.E.L.D.

Hunter is clearly just trying to get revenge for Hartley and Idaho with no real intention of sticking around when he comes back from Talbot. Hunter advises Skye not to get attached. In some ways, he comes to the team much as she did last season – as a bit of a misfit who Coulson just has a good gut feeling about. Skye tells him that she tried not to get attached and it didn’t work – and then she calls him on his own failure not to become attached. He acknowledges she may be right and tries to recruit her – because she’s got skills. Skye tells him that S.H.I.E.L.D. is her life, and he tells her that it’s not a life, it’s just a job. I’m betting we see him change his mind about that by the end of the season.

I quite enjoyed Hunter and Coulson together. It’s also going to be fun to watch him with May after him shooting her. I can imagine that May is not going to be too happy with Coulson’s new recruit. I really liked the scene when Hunter comes back from Talbot. Coulson is clearly suspicious. I loved him asking if Hunter was kidding and admitting he couldn’t always tell when Hunter was kidding. Gregg is wonderful in this scene – his comic timing is always superb – but there’s also a couple of nice moments when you see that Coulson is quietly impressed that Hunter asked for a proper burial for Hartley and then when Hunter wants Hartley and Idaho’s pay as well as his own – but to give to their families.

Coulson and Hunter provide a nice juxtaposition character-wise. Coulson tells Hunter that he wants to recruit him because Coulson can’t be Hunter anymore. Of course, he asks Hunter if he’ll follow rules and Hunter tells him Boy Scout’s honor right before he disobeys and takes out his own team. But Coulson knows going in that Hunter isn’t a Boy Scout. He tells Hunter that he is in desperate need of “skilled assets in the field who’ll step over the line and do the wrong thing for the right reason.” Coulson knows that as Director, he can’t play as fast and loose with the rules anymore.

We also learn quite a bit about Mack (Henry Simmons) in this episode. I adore the relationship they are building between Mack and Fitz – Simmons and De Caestecker are wonderful together. Anybody else find it highly coincidental that Henry SIMMONS’ character is essentially taking over Jemma Simmons’ role??? I like that Mack isn’t intimidated by Fitz’s odd behavior. It’s easier for him to treat Fitz normally because for Mack, unlike May or Skye, this is normal Fitz. May and Skye will always compare Fitz to what he was like before. 

I love the symbolism of Mack being the super mechanic. He tells Fitz that he can basically read instructions – and what he builds is only as brilliant as whoever has designed the machine. He’s also able to translate for Fitz – to decipher Fitz’s blueprint – the clues that Fitz is able to communicate. He figures out that what Fitz means by not solving it today is that he’s solved it in the past. I also loved him sending the others away when it was clear they were distressing Fitz. Mack is not, however, and easy substitute for either Ward (Brett Dalton) or Simmons – he’s something different, and just what Fitz needs now.

“Simmons” (Elizabeth Henstridge) in Fitz’s mind is really a part of himself. It’s Simmons who’s always been a bit less socially awkward, so it’s her that accepts Mack’s honesty – bluntness to Fitz – and she’s the one who likes him first. It’s also “Simmons” who guides Fitz away from the cloaking device which has been frustrating him and nudges him in the direction of helping with Creel – due to their expertise with “gifted.” I loved that by the end of the episode, Fitz is tapping Mack impatiently to fill in the blanks of what he’s saying. 

We get a little more information on the real Simmons – who apparently left abruptly. Skye remarks that she can’t believe that Simmons just took off. Trip (BJ Britt) remarks that he can’t believe she abandoned Fitz. Skye points out that she abandoned all of them. Mack remarks to Fitz that it’s tough to lose a good partner. Fitz clearly realizes that she is gone even though he sees her. I can’t wait to find out exactly what is going on with Simmons next week!

We get a bit of insight into what’s going on with Coulson. We see him using the toolbox that Fury (Samuel L Jackson) gave him – and it’s totally cool! It’s interesting that Coulson seems to have no problem using it even though it looks a lot like the holo-table that he had so much trouble with last season. Is it because he’s now Director or is there more going on? Skye certainly doesn’t seem to think he’s himself. I still adore Bennet and Gregg together – loved her telling him to try relaxing – maybe try yoga and Coulson admitting he had but that he just wasn’t very flexible! May also tries to get Coulson not to be too hard on himself, but he’s right in saying that the results of the missions are on him – that’s what it means to be Director. 

I loved Coulson showing up and being the badass to take out Creel with Fitz’s modified device – and I also loved getting to see so many of the gadgets Fitz and Simmons made last season in the files! It’s another great scene between Wen and Gregg as May scolds Coulson for putting himself in danger in the field. Even Gregg’s body language in the scene makes him look a bit like a petulant child! And it’s so Coulson to have gotten rid of the levels! We see that May is still taking care of Coulson and that their relationship is back on track. He’s share his “condition” with her. Apparently, he is compelled to write the alien symbols. When he resists he becomes stressed, even twisting paperclips into the alien symbols. 

The final scene between Talbot and Coulson is also classic Coulson – Gregg just so obviously loves this character and Coulson just so obviously loves his job! It’s always wonderful to see Coulson get the last word. He’s also still protective of Skye. He seemed to want to keep her away from the obelisk. Was he worried about what she might learn? Is he concerned with how she will react or with how the alien tech might react if they are in close proximity to each other?

Reina (Ruth Negga) is back. She is very clear that she’s not working for HYDRA. I loved how she explained that they were all about world domination – so 1940s! – and she’s interested in enlightenment. It’s great to have her back, and she’s one of those complex characters who seems both evil and vulnerable. We also find out that she seems to be working for Skye’s father (Kyle MacLachlan). He essentially forces her to pick up the obelisk, which doesn’t kill her, rather lighting up and once again showing the alien symbols. MacLachlan’s debut was great – he’s going to be fantastic at playing creepy! And what exactly was he wiping off his hands?

        HYDRA is clearly also going to be a force to contend with. Bakshi (Simon Kassianides) is able to help Creel combat the force of the obelisk by telling him to remember his training. All he has to say is "Compliance will be rewarded." Creel almost goes into a trance and says, "I'm happy to comply." It would seem their brainwashing techniques are finely honed. I have to wonder if these kinds of techniques were also used on Ward. Remember how at sea he seemed when Garrett wouldn't give him orders.

What did you think of the episode? Is Fitz getting better? Is Coulson getting worse? Can Hunter be trusted? Did you like the pairing of Mack and Fitz? Mitz? Fick? How do you think Skye is going to cope with meeting her father? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

About the Author - Lisa Macklem
I do interviews and write articles for the site in addition to reviewing a number of shows, including Supernatural, Arrow, Agents of Shield, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Forever, Defiance, Bitten, Glee, and a few others! Highlights of this past year include covering San Diego Comic Con as press and a set visit to Bitten. When I'm not writing about television shows, I'm often writing about entertainment and media law in my capacity as a legal scholar. I also work in theatre when the opportunity arises. I'm an avid runner and rider, currently training in dressage.