‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ S4: E03 ‘Uprising’ Review

Photo Credit: Marvel/ABC
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After a one week break, SHIELD is back in action. While Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) works to save May’s (Ming-Na Wen) life, Coulson (Clark Gregg) takes a team to stop an anti-Inhuman group from causing more damage. Daisy (Chloe Bennet) also begins a tentative alliance with Robbie (Gabriel Luna).

 

**Spoiler Alert**

This review contains spoilers for S4E03 of Agents of SHIELD. If you haven’t yet watched, read at your own risk.

 

The Good

Elena. More storylines for Elena are always going to be good in my book. It’s nice to see her outside of SHIELD, interacting with friends, and living her life. Of course, something goes wrong, but the show doesn’t have time to show the audience the typical when there are other things going on in the world, like an Inhuman resistance movement, for starters.

Jemma brings the sass. It’s always fun to see Jemma Simmons let loose on someone else. She’s usually the one following orders and playing by the rules, so when she makes a phone call to chew someone out for the treatment May is receiving and lays into them, you can’t help but love it.

Getting to know Gabe. We get to see a little more of Robbie’s little brother this week, and it’s a welcome introduction. Lorenzo Henrie has been doing a great job, whether you like his character or not, on Fear the Walking Dead.

The Fitz, Mack, and Coulson banter. These three have clearly been spending a lot of time in the field together as the give and take in their banter, especially as they discuss how great of a light source a flaming skull can be, is so fun. In an episode that’s about the hatred one group of people has for another, it’s a welcome interlude.

Fitz goes old school to save the day. Using “rudimentary science,” Fitz fashions compasses from water and wine corks to figure out just where the “Inhuman Resistance” is hiding out and keeping the power down. No one should be surprised that science saved the day at this point, and yet, the looks of surprise on everyone’s faces when Fitz suggest his plan are hilarious. This show has done a great job at demonstrating that brute force can’t always win out in a fight.

Jemma gets emotional. As the power predictably goes out and Jemma attempts chest compressions to get May’s heart pumping again, she promises May that she’s going to save her, then orders her not to die, since she outranks her now. It’s particularly poignant for Jemma as she saw first hand what can happen to someone who “died” and had their brain deprived of oxygen for too long as Fitz struggled to communicate and complete his work in season two. By killing May and only have a few minutes to bring her back, Jemma risks the same happening to her. Elizabeth Henstridge, as usual in her dramatic scenes, knocks the sequence out of the park. It’s a shame that this character, who holds so much guilt when things go wrong, keeps getting put through the emotional wringer, but she’s just amazing to watch work.

Marvel/ABC

The fight sequences. While Chloe Bennet’s single-take fight sequence in season two (where she actually injured her own wrist) is still my favorite on the show, the stunt coordinators did a great job with the sequences in this episode. They were so fun to watch, and with impeccable camera work to get the audience right in the thick of the action. I especially loved the sequence with Elena running through a group of armed Watchdogs to get their guns.

SHIELD goes public. Director Mace unveils SHIELD’s new longer on the world stage during a news conference, making SHIELD official. It’s about time. I liked the team working in the shadows when they were struggling with resources, but with their unofficial government backing, keeping them quiet seems pretty useless. Especially when they show up at Inhuman sightings all over the world. Now, if we can just get them back in the movies again.

The timeliness of the anti-Inhuman rhetoric. Inhumans are most definitely the Marvel stand in for pretty much any disenfranchised group you can think of, whether you’re looking at gender, racial, or religious inequalities. An episode where one group wants to eliminate another because they were born different is especially timely given the nature of politics in the U.S. right now where one candidate is running a platform rooted in racism and bigotry. I’ll leave it at that.

 

The Bad

Not even a mention of Joey? I realize that Juan Pablo Raba is busy with other projects, but the last time the show went to Miami, it was to pick up Joey for a Secret Warriors mission. I’d be willing to guess he’s the Inhuman relocated to Miami. Can’t we at least know how he’s doing?

Jemma’s not a medical doctor. This isn’t solely the fault of the show, but a trope that’s spread across genre television. Anyone who has even a remote association to a scientific field is suddenly a surgeon, a paramedic, etc. in a time of crisis. But despite Jemma being the one with biology and chemistry knowledge, and the one who is the head of SHIELD’s science division now, she doesn’t actually do much of the scientific work in the episode. She’s expected to save May, but it’s Radcliffe who is the one with the tech, the knowledge, and the skills implemented here. Jemma is there to provide the emotional component. It’s strange considering the show has forced her into the role of medical doctor so often that here, she’s little more than an assistant.

We have to kill May to save her. This tends to be a trope used on way too many television shows of the action or medical variety. I’m not sure why writers think it’s something fresh and surprising to the audience any time they cliffhang a commercial break with “we’ll have to kill them.” Add to that the fact that this episode centers around mysterious blackouts and it’s obvious where the effort to save May is going before we get there.

Marvel/ABC

 

The Marvel-ous Links

Miami, Florida. This marks SHIELD’s third time in the sunshine state. The first was in season two to retrieve a mysterious painting with alien writing on the back. The second was when Joey was picked up in season three to join the Secret Warriors. Apparently, Miami is one location SHIELD really likes to go back to.

Elias Morrow. That’s Eli Morrow to comic book fans. He’s in prison on the show, which I’ll bet comes into play in next week’s episode. In the comics though, he’s the “spirit of vengeance” that gives Robbie his Ghost Rider abilities, in actuality, a dead serial killer. Finding out that he’s still alive is going to make for an interesting twist on the comic book story, and means that readers are still in for some surprises

The kids wanting to steal Gabe’s wheelchair. A similar scene plays out in the comics, except the kids that come after Gabe actually do get ahold of his wheelchair, and that theft is part of what fuels Robbie’s need for vengeance. In fact, his story about wanting to settle the score with the people who put Gabe in the wheelchair in the first place is a spin on the storyline that makes his Ghost Rider in the first place.

Gambling, racing, and drugs. Those three things Gabe worries about his brother getting into? All things he accidentally gets into in the comics when he’s just trying to make money to take care of his brother. Racing and drugs have a direct impact on him becoming the Ghost Rider as he’s street racing in a car that has drugs hidden in it when he meets the ghost.

One chimpanzee, two chimpanzee. The universal count for seconds is in “Mississippi,” not chimpanzee. Considering Fitz’s love of monkeys (as well as Iain de Caestecker’s love for the animal) is well documented at this point, this has got to be a shout out to him wanting a monkey for a lab assistant, right?

Fitz uses a fire extinguisher as a weapon. You might remember a fire extinguisher as another SHIELD agent’s weapon of choice. Jemma Simmons has used one on more than one occasion, primarily in season one, as a weapon when it was the first thing she could get her hands on. Looks like Fitz learned from her. We also get another callback to season one as Fitz goes straight for the candy back at the base. In season one, Ward mentioned that Fitz hid the candy in his bunk, and he was often seen snacking on junk food in group scenes.

Bendeery beer makes another appearance. You all know by now that the distinctive beer Elena was drinking was named for a friend of Nick Blood, right? It gets a mention every time it’s spotted on the base.

WHiH. This world news network is the one covering Jeffrey Mace’s unveiling of SHIELD to the public. It’s the official news network of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, popping up here, in the movies, and in the Netflix shows. Most recently, its reporters also appeared in Luke Cage.

Marvel/ABC

 

The Questions

Who is Senator Nadeer’s brother? Rota Nadeer is not a comic book character, or at least not one that goes by the same name. Her brother, whom we saw cocooned as a result of terrigen exposure at the end, very well could be. Unfortunately, it was very difficult to get a good look at his mail, so we don’t have a name. Let the theorizing begin.

When will we see SHIELD back on the big screen? The next big screen effort from Marvel is Doctor Strange, out in November, but that might be a little soon for SHIELD to be interacting with the big screen heroes. My bet? Spider-Man: Homecoming.

How long before Daisy goes back to her team? She couldn’t listen to anymore of the SHIELD unveiling news once the director started talking about trusting your team. She sees herself as doing right by them by staying away and keeping them out of the danger that seems to follow her. But something tells me she won’t be able to stay away for much longer.

 

Grading the episode: Considering the love that poured out of New York Comic Con from the fans who got to see this early, I knew to expect good things from this one. The series has found a good balance in developing its long arcs and single episode action in addition to providing consistently fantastic VFX and fights. The show has really hit its stride over the last year, and this is just more of that amazing story. B+