[This is a Review of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 2 – There Will Be SPOILERS!!]
Let’s put the past behind us, shall we? Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2 began with clear intentions to deliver upon all its palpable potential from last year. In this week’s episode, those ideals are realized – some may say completely – as a truly impressive adventure continues to build this series into something quite rewarding.
In this week’s episode, “Heavy is the Head”, written by Day Break creator Paul Zbyszewski, Talbot enlists the help of Hartley’s (Lucy Lawless) mercenary friend, Lance Hunter (Nick Blood), to deliver Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) to the government. Meanwhile, Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) continues to track the location of Carl Creel (Brian Patrick Wade), who appears to still be affected from touching the Obelisk, while Mack (Henry Simmons), Fitz (Ian De Caestecker) and "Simmons" (Elizabeth Henstridge) come together to figure out the solution to a problem that Fitz previously solved. Elsewhere, Raina (Ruth Negga) and the Doctor (Kyle MacLachlan) set their plan in motion and obtain the Obelisk.
In many ways, “Heavy is the Head” is the best episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D yet, as it’s largely a story that exists solely within this television universe, made up of all the series’ strongest characters, to help carry this seasonal story-arc - which seems to only be getting better. Like last year’s fan-favorite episode, “The Hub”, which may be the series’ second best episode, this tale fully separates you from the much larger Marvel Cinematic Universe (which still exists, in theory) and instead invests heavily on developing all of these rich character storylines from within.
Fitz and Simmons have always been the proverbial heart of the series. No matter what happened last season, one could always rely on Fitz and Simmons to deliver enough witty banter to make any episode enjoyable, and they arguably paid the price for it. This year has a fritz’d Fitz, an imaginary Simmons, and a wonderfully supportive new co-worker named Mack, who may very well may be the most exciting addition to this blossoming show.
Henry Simmons, who plays Mack, comes from the NYPD Blue school of “making it work” as a new addition to a show, and for 6 seasons on Steven Bochco’s opus he did just that, and them some. So it’s no surprise that, when Ian De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge need a strong third to help propel their heartbreaking journey in season 2, Henry Simmons is not only up to the job, but he’s able to do it so effortlessly, making him a member of this (now) trio in an incredibly short amount of time. Just imagine what he’ll be able to do with 20 more episodes.
Coulson, too, is as complicated as ever, and his character certainly took many hits in season 1 because of all his mystery. Now, however, Melinda May’s “guardian angel” role is fully realized, which allows us to better connect to Coulson and get a sense of the angst currently within him. It also helps to see Melinda May actively documenting Coulson’s journey through all this. The fewer secrets the better, as they say.
Ward (Brett Dalton) is still in a box, and Skye (Chloe Bennet) is relatively silent – which is honestly quite impressive. Knowing when and, most importantly, when not to fully use a character within an episode is a fine art, and the last season contains more than enough episodes that show what happens when character inclusion becomes a requirement. This week’s episode simply doesn't require much from certain characters and, rather than force in some half-hearted subplot, it’s refreshing to see Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. really begin to feel like a true ensemble show and focus on the bigger picture.
In just two episodes of its sophomore year, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has firmly established itself as a show willing to fight for its spot on the air. This week’s episode, a continuation of the season premiere story, provides a clear direction for Marvel’s ever-growing television arm. However, there’s always potential for a bit of the earned excitement to lead to a few awkward stories later in the season - and as a series which is still evolving, there’s no shame in taking such sidesteps.
What we have now is a real show, with real characters, and a real story to tell. Sure, Deathlok is still out there, somewhere, and it’s highly unlikely that his suit received the same 9pm upgrade that the series is looking to embrace. Even so, what Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is now delivering onscreen, week to week, is now too much fun to miss out on.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns next Tuesday with "Making Friends and Influencing People" @9pm on ABC. You can check out a preview of next week’s episode below: