Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 Recap, Episode 2: ‘Heavy Is The Head’
Last week, Agents of SHIELD came back strong, and not, "oh, it's better than it was" strong, but "oh, it might actually be good" strong, with the new ragtag outsider premise making for much more interesting dynamic -- and the use of the Absorbing Man pushing all the right nerd buttons.
This week's episode, 'Heavy Is The Head', directed by Jesse Bochco and written by Paul Zbyszewski, picks up where last week's ended -- but can it keep up the pace, the energy, and the quality? Has Agents of SHIELD ever had two good episodes in a row? Could this be that blessed day? Find out, thanks to our ComicsAlliance-exclusive S.H.L.E.I.D. recap system.
Having monstrously bumped off poor Lucy Lawless, Carl 'Crusher' Creel (Brian Patrick Wade) is on the run with the silver disco doohickey that turns people to stone ("the Obelisk"). May (Ming-Na Wen) is in hot pursuit.
Meanwhile, the mercenary Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) has been captured by Glenn Talbot (Adrian Pasdar), and offers to give up Coulson's location in exchange for lots of money and a funeral for Lucy Lawless's Isabelle. Hunter then tells Coulson (Clark Gregg) about the plan (or half of it), but says what he really wants is revenge on Creel.
Creel has absorbed some of the Obelisk's power, so his HYDRA rendezvous goes badly wrong when a waitress brushes his arm and turns to stone. Creel flees, shaking off May in the process. He's later discovered by our old friend Raina (Ruth Negga), the girl in the flower dress, but he rejects her recruitment deal and steals the fancy harder-than-diamond rock she offered him.
Of course, Raina planted a tracker on the rock, the frequency for which she unexpectedly gives to Coulson, who she sees as the spiritual heir to Garrett because they've both been injected with the Kree serum that gave Garrett weird Kree math visions.
SHIELD goes to Creel's next HYDRA rendezvous, but Hunter shoots the other agents with a night-night gun and tries to kill Creel. Raina steps in and steals the Obelisk; Creel attacks Hunter; and Coulson saves the day by jabbing Creel with a doohickey that petrifies him.
Epilogue one: Coulson recruits Hunter at Isabelle's funeral, because recruiting demonstrably unreliable people is kind of his thing.
Epilogue two: Coulson has an "episode" in which he writes lots of indecipherable gibberish on a wall while May takes photos. So Raina was right about him. He is the Kree messiah!
Epilogue three: Raina and Kyle MacLachlan coo over the obelisk. Yes, Kyle MacLachlan. I hope he's playing himself as a supervillain.
Epilogue four: Coulson hands Creel over to Talbot, and then uses a couple of cloaked planes to make his escape, because Talbot hadn't twigged that Coulson might actually use the Quinjet he stole last week.
Making this first story a two-parter really helped flesh out the show's new, more interesting set-up. After so long without a good nemesis to measure themselves against, SHIELD now has three in HYDRA, Talbot, and Raina/Kyle MacLachlan, and it helps the show enormously.
I'm enjoying the addition of Lance Hunter to the team, and he gets a lot of the focus this week. He's charmingly roguish, and I get the sense he's what Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) was meant to be, and he helps rough up a milquetoast cast.
Best line: "HYDRA have only one thing on their mind; world domination. It's just so 1945". I'm delighted to see Raina back in action. I only wish she weren't always someone else's lackey. Ruth Negga is so much more than lackey material.
PS. Agent Ward was not in this episode, so that's a highlight all in itself.
Fitz (Iain DeCaestecker) dealing with his trauma is getting a little tough to watch -- and sure, it's meant to be, but as bold as it is to have a lead character lose their mind like this, I'm not enjoying it, perhaps because I don't really give a toot about Fitz.
Pairing Fitz with new engineer Mack (Henry Simmons) -- in the strangely niche science club for guys whose name means 'son of' -- means that Mack still doesn't feel very well established on his second outing. And poor old Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) is still stuck playing ghostly conscience, which is not a good use of one of the show's more reliably charming performers. If this Fitz storyline goes on for too long, it could be a bit of a lead weight, dragging other characters down with it.
But that's actually a fairly minor quibble, and arguably so is this: As the second part of a two-parter, this episode really didn't add anything new to the show's playground. After starting strong last week with Diamond, Lawless, and Blood (amazingly, those are the names of the actors, not the characters they played), I really don't want the show to take its foot off the gas.
Oh, and Lucy Lawless's character got buried, so, that sucks.
On which subject, allow me a brief diversion; last week I said two things about Lucy Lawless's character that probably aren't true. First, I said I think the character will return from the dead -- but I'm coming around to the idea that they squeezed one episode into her schedule and that was that. It seems like a waste of a big genre guest star, but if you only have Lucy Lawless for half a day, you use Lucy Lawless for half a day.
Second, I implied that Lawless's character was not a Marvel comics universe character, but apparently she is. Now, I had a personal pet theory that she'd turn out to be Madam Masque, because (a) I really want this show to use Madame Masque, and (b) Lucy Lawless would be a great Madame Masque. But instead, Lawless's 'Isabelle Hartley' was inspired by a really minor character -- Victoria Hand's SHIELD agent girlfriend, Isabelle No-Last-Name. (Who, it should be pointed out, didn't look quite so white in the comics.)
According to an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the showrunners looked at spelling out that connection on-screen, but after Hand's death last season, they didn't want to become "the people who killed off two lesbians on the show." (Actual quote.)
That would indeed look crappy, given that the only presentation of a same-sex relationship in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date was an unsavory joke about situational homosexuality in prisons. But the show never actually established that Victoria Hand was a lesbian, and it never actually established that Isabelle Hartley was a lesbian.
So now the showrunners get to be the people who killed off two lesbians without ever telling anyone that they were lesbians.
Good work, team.
Here's a tip for future queer content: less killing, more kissing.
No new characters this week. None! Well, OK, one, Kyle MacLachlan, but we don't know who he's playing yet, other than Kyle MacLachlan.
Screw you, Agents of SHIELD. You can't just throw Raina at me and expect me not to notice the abysmal lack of Clay Quartermain cameos.
When do we get to the Kree? Guardians Of The Galaxy set things up nicely for Agents of SHIELD to delve deep into that well -- aliens are real, you guys -- but the extent of alien business we've seen so far is people doing hard math on a whiteboard. Bit yawny, fellas. Bit yawny.
If the show was going to end up recruiting Hunter, did it really make sense to have him shoot everyone? I feel like this show is really bad at proportionality.
Why is Mack so tall? He's very tall.
Kyle MacLachlan??? Kyle tells Raina to "bring him his daughter." Do a quick Google and you'll find out whose father he is. But who is he? Kyle MacLachlan really needs to turn out to be somebody we've heard of. Though I definitely want him to be playing Kyle MacLachlan. Like Ron Silver in Heat Vision and Jack.
(Kyle MacLachlan could be Hate-Monger, right? Everyone expects Hate-Monger to be Hitler. It would be a real twist if he turned out to be Kyle MacLachlan.)