‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ 2.02 Recap: “Compliance Will Be Rewarded”

Let me get this straight: Last week, ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ added a major fan-favorite genre star to the cast, along with a couple of nondescript, forgettable Redshirt tag-alongs, and it’s one of the Redshirts who’s going to stick around? Huh. That’s certainly not how I would have played it.

Episode ‘Heavy Is the Head’ reiterates several times that Lucy Lawless’ Agent Xena (yes, I know that’s not really the character name, but that’s what I’m calling her anyway) is dead, and even gives her a funeral at the end. However, we never actually see her dead body in a casket. By comic book logic rules, that means that she’s still alive and will be trotted out again later for a “shocking” twist. I fully expect that the military revived her and that she’ll eventually return decked out in Deathlok robotics. If not, I just can’t understand what the point was of making a fuss last episode about amputating her arm if she was just going to get killed off 30 seconds later anyway. The show could have cut right to the death scene and not wasted the screen time.

For now at least, the only official survivor of the SUV crash is mercenary agent Lance Hunter. He gets captured by the army and brought before Gen. Talbot, who offers him $2 million (plus a proper funeral for his friend Xena) if he’ll give up Coulson. Hunter accepts the offer, but (after ditching a tail) returns to S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters and freely tells Coulson exactly what happened. He says that he’ll stick around with S.H.I.E.L.D. so long as they pay him what he’s due, as well as the money that Xena and the other Redshirt were promised.

The Absorbing Man, Carl Creel, is still on the loose and still has the mysterious Obelisk doodad. He waits around in a diner for his scheduled meeting with a HYDRA contact, growing increasingly antsy the later it gets. Even though he turned himself to rubber before touching the Obelisk, it has somehow infected him and turned part of his arm to stone. When a waitress accidentally touches him, she gets infected as well and turns entirely to stone. Creel’s transmutation power is the only thing slowing down the effects of the Obelisk. (It seems to me that he should try turning his arm to Jello and simply scooping out the infected rock portion with some tongs or something, but nobody thinks of this.)

When HYDRA doesn’t show up, he’s met instead by Raina, who knows all about him and wants the Obelisk for herself. Creel brushes her off and leaves, but not before she plants a tracker on him and calls Coulson to give him the information. She says that she’s not working for HYDRA anymore and that she and S.H.I.E.L.D. have mutual interests in this case.

With Fitz effectively useless now, Coulson assigns a new tech guy named Mack to reverse engineer the Quinjet’s stealth technology to make the Bus invisible too. Nobody wants to tell Fitz about this, but in his hallucinatory conversations with Simmons, he’s figured out that everyone else thinks he’s dead weight. Hoping to prove his worth, he secretly works on a way to neutralize Creel’s absorbing power, but he can’t quite put the pieces together until Mack (the only person who doesn’t treat him with kid gloves) works on it with him and they develop a little bit of the symbiosis he used to have with Simmons. However, in the process of this, Mack lets slip that Simmons left months ago, forcing Fitz to realize that he’s having delusions.

Coulson sends May, Skye, Trip and Hunter to ambush Creel. Hunter turns on the other three and shoots them all with Icer stun bullets, then tries to take out Creel himself with a big honking rifle that shoots armor-piercing rounds. Unfortunately, he blows it and Creel chases after him instead. In the midst of the chaos, Raina slips in and steals the briefcase containing the Obelisk.

Just as Creel catches up to Hunter and prepares to pound the crap out of him, Coulson shows up out of the blue and neutralizes Creel’s powers with Fitz’s gizmo. No longer able to slow the infection, Creel turns entirely to stone.

Despite the fact that he betrayed them, Coulson still thinks that Hunter is useful and offers him a permanent spot on the team. (How are the others he shot going to feel about that?) Through Hunter, Coulson arranges a meeting with Gen. Talbot in which he demonstrates that S.H.I.E.L.D. now has two stealth jets, and asks Talbot to back the hell off. In exchange for giving them some “breathing room,” Coulson will let Talbot take credit for any successes S.H.I.E.L.D. has.

Elsewhere, Raina brings the Obelisk to her new master. The character doesn’t have a name yet, but he’s played by Kyle MacLachlan and reveals that he’s Skye’s father. (I suppose this means that he’s a Kree?) He orders Raina to touch the Obelisk, which she does very reluctantly. Rather than turn her to stone, the object starts glowing. It likes her!

When it comes down to it, I think I liked this episode a little bit better than last week’s season premiere, if only because it works in a few notes of some much-needed (but not overdone) wit and humor. I’m still not overly invested in the plot, however. Nor do I care for the emphasis placed on the boring Lance Hunter character. The show has a long way to go to overcome my general apathy toward it.

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