Review: ‘Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD’ – ‘Heavy Is the Head’

Senior Television Writer
09.30.14 35 Comments


A review of tonight's “Marvel's Agents of SHIELD” coming up just as soon as I still have my George Foreman grill…

Okay, we're 2-for-2 with the new “SHIELD” status quo. The show hasn't reached peak capacity yet, but right now we're in the introductory phase in terms of story arcs and characters, and “Heavy Is the Head” did a fine job at that, particularly on the character end, while also offering up more cool Absorbing Man action.

From the moment the Lance Hunter character was announced, I feared the show had decided to add a Poochie – or, if we're sticking with Marvel terminology (albeit a character Marvel TV has no access to), a Gambit: cool name(*), cool accent, cool attitude, etc., there to do awesome things while the characters we already know and like stand around and act impressed. Fortunately, that hasn't been the case at all. Yes, Hunter is good at what he does – which he would have to be, for Coulson to keep him around after he screws up the mission and allows Raina to walk off with the obelisk – but his abilities and attitude haven't been overblown, he feels like an actual character who can be a wild card without being annoying about it, and Nick Blood is doing good work so far. It's a bit evocative of Spike circa “Buffy” season 4 – the British rascal the team doesn't entirely trust, even though he's useful – but restrained so far. This was very much the Make Lance Hunter Happen episode of “SHIELD,” and it worked for me. I like the guy, and would already much rather have him running point on missions than Ward. (And good on the writers for not forcing Ward into an episode that didn't need him.)

(*) Though, as many have noted, Nick Blood is a much cooler name than Lance Hunter.

Mac isn't as prominent a character yet (and, like B.J. Britt, Henry Simmons remains a guest star, which means he could catch a bullet at any time), but the episode quickly sets him up as a good foil for Fitz: a physical and emotional contrast to him in a way that Simmons (or Ghost Simmons) isn't, and someone who's willing to push him through his mental blocks in a way the others – who remember the old Fitz and treat him like a wounded bird – won't. This damaged Fitz is just a vast improvement on the character we got for much of season 1, just like Skye being more assertive, May being so much more active and leader-like, and Coulson being the spymaster who has to make the tough choices. (But can still occasionally crack a Clark Gregg joke, like explaining why Coulson doesn't do yoga.)

On the other hand, whatever the alien tech inside Coulson is doing to his mind is, frankly, much less interesting than what the burden of directorship is doing to him emotionally and his relationship with the team. The one lesson I had hoped the creative team had learned from last year is that character arcs are a lot more interesting when they're about who the characters are rather than what they are. Skye now has come into her own as a person, and that matters more than what powers she might have or what the deal is with her father – who would appear to be Kyle MacLachlan, appearing near the episode's end to tell Raina about the obelisk – and I don't want Coulson's crushing responsibilities suggested by the episode's title to be shunted aside in favor of watching Gregg carve crop circles into whatever wall is handy.

Still, the action scenes worked well, Adrian Pasdar continues to be a fun noble enemy type (especially once they fixed the mustache issue), and the new configuration of the team seems to be gelling nicely. More room to grow, but continuing last week's solid start.

What did everybody else think?

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