TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 4 Episode 3 "Uprising"
EPISODE 3: "Uprising"
SYNOPSIS: As Coulson, Mack and Fitz attempt to track down and neutralize a rogue group looking to end Inhuman Registration worldwide, Simmons and Dr. Radcliffe only have hours to save May before she succumbs forever to her mysterious illness.
REVIEW: Everything old is new again as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns to a place of legitimacy after two seasons of operating in the shadows. With so much changing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with each new feature film, it is interesting to see that this network series continues to mine similar territory year after year. After the threat of HYDRA and the introduction of Inhumans, the series seems to be teetering on the edge of a big change but it still hasn't quite been able to figure out which way it wants to go. With the first arc of this season dedicated to Ghost Rider, it feels strange that the demonic superhero has taken a back seat to the proceedings. The focus of tonight's episode is split between Melinda May's terminal haunting and the widespread EMP outages across the globe. Naturally, our team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are on the case.
Lets start with Agent May. Over the first three episodes, May has been subject to the haunting effects of a box that held some sort of ghostly beings. We quickly learn that the impact of these spirits results in a bloody death and that May has hours before she suffers the same fate. Her incarceration does not seem to be working, so Director Mace gives Simmons the go ahead to try and find a solution with Dr. Radcliffe. They deduce that the section of May's brain connected to her fight or flight response is in overload so they must kill her and bring her back to reset her. Of course, the moment she needs reviving, an EMP hits New England. With May seconds away from permanent brain damage, Dr. Radcliffe uses the energy core inside AIDA to power the defibrilator and bring May back, seemingly cured of her ghostly pathogen. The presence of Life Model Decoys has long been teased in the MCU and it seems like we are on the verge of them becoming a big component of the small screen universe. So far, I am enjoying their existence.
In Los Angeles, Daisy and Robbie are on their way to visit Robbie's uncle, a convicted felon who worked at the lab where the Watchdogs stole weapons. Robbie relates part of his origin: making a deal with the Devil, Robbie has not been able to figure out what he has to do to be free of his demon and has taken to righting the wrongs of the innocent. Nothing has seemed to work, but that is all we learn about the RIder tonight. The focus here is more on Robbie's brother, Gabe, who hangs with Daisy as Robbie heads to find medicine for Daisy's ailing bones. Gabe, confined to a wheelchair, does not know about Robbie being Ghost Rider but realizes that Daisy is an Inhuman. Gabe asks her to stay away from her brother and she obliges. Daisy feels like a wasted character this season with her only purpose to further the Ghost Rider arc. Her torment at being different and yet not believing that her people could be responsible for the blackouts around the world feels more like the writers spinning their wheels until they can merge these storylines, something that the trailers point to happening as early as next week.
The real focus of this episode is the main arc involving power outages across the world. Director Mace is concerned about the impending announcement that S.H.I.E.L.D. is back and now they have to deal with a group claiming to be Inhumans fighting back against the Sokovia Accords and the Registration Act. Heading to Miami to rescue Yo-yo, Fitz realizes that the EMPs are rotating signals and they need to triangulate the source. Taking out some thugs claiming to be concerned citizens, Coulson and Mack realize these are Watchdogs and that the hate group has gone global. Taking out squad, Fitz uses some old Boy Scout tactics and rigs compasses out of corks and needles to figure out where the EMP is being housed. At the same time, Mace is under fire from the President as fear of the Inhumans continues to spread as more cities lose electricity.
Yo-yo gets to put her powers to the test in stopping the Watchdogs and restoring power to Miami, but she also pays a price in revealing that she is an Inhuman. Her friends shun her as a freak but she doesn't seem to bothered by the loss. This does force her to come face to face with Mack who knows she has been helping Daisy. Yo-yo doesn't deny it, but they are interrupted by the news conference where Jeffrey Mace reveals to the world that S.H.I.E.L.D. is officially back to defend humans and Inhumans alike. Coulson is happy to learn May is okay as well as finally being back to where he belongs within the organization he has helped protect for years. But, someone who is not happy is Senator Nadeer (Parminder Nagra), an Inhuman hating politician seen on news broadcasts through the episode. At the conclusion, we see her talking with a masked voice from the Watchdogs as she checks mail at her brother's home. As she leaves and bids him farewell, we see he appears to be an ashen statue, similar to the effects of the obelisks from last season.
A solid episode, I am still not sure exactly where the season is headed yet. Taking Ghost RIder out of the mix, this was a solid hour that felt right at home with most of the first three seasons. That being said, it also didn't feel like it stood out as much different from anything we have seen before. Ghost Rider has so much potential, I would almost rather see him as the focus of his own series rather than the supporting player we have seen so far. Robbie Reyes was a surprising choice for rebooting the Ghost Rider character but it has been working for me so far, I just need to see more. I am indifferent to S.H.I.E.L.D. becoming an official organization again as I doubt it will impact the MCU all that much and neither will this new political threat in the form of Senator Nadeer. Is she an evil Inhuman? Is she Red Skull? Does it matter? I just want to see some consistency from these storylines without dragging the plot in half a dozen directions each week.
MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE REFERENCES: The Sokovia Accords play a central role. Nick Fury is name checked.
NEXT ON MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.: "Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire" airs October 18th - As Ghost Rider’s quest for vengeance brings him into an explosive confrontation with S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson and Mack must rely on an unlikely ally in their time of desperate need; and Daisy reunites with a familiar face to stop the Watchdogs.