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REVIEW: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×03 “Uprising”

Full disclosure: I’m writing this review after having watched the latest episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in an absolutely packed room at New York Comic Con. And before we get into the epicness of, “Uprising,” I have to say that watching this show with literal thousands of other die-hard S.H.I.E.L.D. fans is way more fun than watching alone in my living room. The audible gasps, cheers, and uproarious laughter that filled the room during the NYCC S.H.I.E.L.D. screening only reaffirmed the fact that the show continues to deliver this season.

I know on a personal level that S.H.I.E.L.D. has continued to up the ante over its four-year run, but being surrounded by people who love these characters as much as I do really made, “Uprising,” that much better.

Onwards!

The big problem of the episode has everything to do with the global blackouts that are allegedly being caused by a group of radical Inhumans who are none-too-pleased with being forced to register as such under the much-disputed Sokovia accords.

The first of these blackouts occurs in Miami, where YoYo just happens to be attending a friend’s bachelorette party. Similarly convenient is the fact that all of the following cities that are taken out by this massive EMP are also the places where S.H.I.E.L.D. and foreign governments have relocated registered Inhumans.

Hmm…. Interesting.

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Mack, Coulson, and Fitz are tasked with putting a stop to these terrorist attacks and make their way down to Miami to meet up with YoYo and take out the EMP device that’s causing all of the blackouts. After an epic fight scene, one in which even Fitz got to be a butt-kicking badass, the gang realizes that it’s not actually the Inhumans who are responsible for everything that’s happening. They’re being set-up by the Watch Dogs who have somehow gained access to the Inhuman registration list and are blacking out cities where they’re known to be in order to lure out, and ultimately take out, any powered persons.

It doesn’t take long for S.H.I.E.L.D. to realize that the Watch Dogs have some sort of leader on the inside, feeding them information and funds, but they manage to put a temporary end to the reign of terror through some rudimentary science and more butt-kicking. They destroy the EMP and bring power back to all of the affected cities.

Success!!

In addition to the looting and rioting that is occurring thanks to society’s need to cause complete and utter chaos in blackouts, the loss of power causes some major for problems for Jemma.

As May’s progress grows steadily worse, Simmons turns to Doctor Radcliffe and his awesome technology to try and figure out how to save her before she winds up like one of the previously infected Watch Dogs: dead. Naturally, the combined intelligence of Jemma and Radcliffe means that they figure out a way to stop May’s hallucinations (being driven by the part of her brain that deals with fear). The only issue is that the only way to, “turn off,” this fear center is by killing May and then shocking her back to life.

Do you see where this is going?

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Jemma understandably replies with, “Hell no I’m not ready! We’re about to kill May,” when questioned by Radcliffe about her emotional preparedness. And she was right to be concerned considering, with two minutes of death to go until permanent brain damage post-resuscitation or, you know, permanent death, the power goes out… not good.

Jemma makes a valiant attempt at bringing May back from the dead through CPR but can’t jump start the senior agent’s heart. Just when all seems lost, and Elizabeth Henstridge reminds viewers that she’s the emotional powerhouse of the show through some teary pleading, Radcliffe remembers that his secret LMD Aida has an alternative power source that should theoretically make the defibrillator work.

And it does!

May rises from the dead and immediately says, “Get this crap off me,” when she does. This moment got one of the biggest cheers at the screening that turned into genuine laughter when, after Jemma gives her a bear hug, May questions, “Did I miss something?”

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Elsewhere, Robbie and Daisy team-up to take out a few nameless thugs and ultimately wind up at the Reyes residence. We get a brief tease about Robbie’s murderer uncle, but just as a genuine partnership seems to be brewing between Inhuman and Rider, Robbie’s younger brother Gabe tells Daisy to get lost- his brother doesn’t need bad people like her in his life.

Ouch.

Lastly, in true S.H.I.E.L.D. fashion, the post-tag scene put a face to the mystery person responsible for the hits on the Inhumans. Senator Nadeer, who we previously saw in TV clips warning people about the powered people, is the one in charge of the Watch Dogs and, if that wasn’t bad enough, it seems that her brother has gone through Terrigenesis and is getting ready to break out of the rocky shell.

The season’s new big-bad perhaps?

Overall, “Uprising,” was another fun episode of S.H.I.E.L.D. We still seem to be in the, “gearing up,” phase of the season, which is to be expected considering we’re only three episodes in, but the information is starting to flow and the action is picking up. We’ve got the first tease of the potential big bad, which could be a red herring or a legitimate threat, with the introduction of Nadeer (the assumed brains) and her still faceless Inhuman brother (the assumed brawn).

And, I know last week I said I didn’t trust new Director Jeffrey, but I have to admit that, now that I know he’s Jeffrey Mace, his actions and overall persona seem a bit more genuine to me.

Also, while the actual plot of this episode was fun, I have to say that I really loved the cinematography and camera work of, “Uprising.” I’m not a fan of gratuitous slow-motion, but the way the effect was used this week with the big fight sequences is how it should be used.

Episode Grade: B+

Episode Highs:

  • It was great seeing Mack, YoYo, Coulson, and Fitz team up in such an epic way this week. We haven’t seen that dynamic in a while and watching all of their respective strengths put to use to save the day was awesome. Equally awesome to see was the interaction between Jemma and May after the senior agent was brought back to life. Some of the best relationships on the show are those between the women and, despite all of the bureaucratic changes that are occurring, it was nice to see the genuine love and admiration that Simmons has for May.
  • Mark Kolpack and Co. are continuing to crush it with another week of stellar VFX. We haven’t seen the holotable in quite some time and it seems to have gotten a serious upgrade. Watching Simmons and Radcliffe play around trying to find the root of May’s problem was made all the better by the detail of the tech being used. Also, really like that the title sequence was adjusted to fit the theme of the episode. It’s the little things and S.H.I.E.L.D. does them well.
  • As someone who is just beginning to familiarize myself with Felipe Smith’s Ghost Rider source material, I feel the need to once again commend costume designer Ann Foley for her work. Avid fans of the show are already well aware of how drastic an impact Foley’s costumes can have on the overarching plot and tone of the show (just comparing FitzSimmons of S1 to the duo in S4 tells a pretty clear story), and while that’s impressive in its own right, her attention to detail is what makes an ensemble seemingly as basic as a leather jacket and hoodie so wonderful. The clear nod to Smith’s Robbie Reyes is what really sets Foley apart and confirms that she’s one of the best in the business. To so seamlessly interweave these Marvel hero homages with perfectly tailored suits and pieces straight out of a J. Crew catalog is an impressive feat that not many could successfully pull off. There is a subtlety to Foley’s decisions that makes it that much more exciting when keen viewers can make the connection between show and comics. There’s no need for blatant overtones or aggressive displays because, unlike many other superhero projects I’ve seen, Foley genuinely does let the clothing speak for itself.

Episode Lows:

  • While the actual transitions were handled well (as in cutting from the A story to B, and C) Robbie didn’t seem fully relevant this week. Obviously now that the show has tacked on, “Ghost Rider,” to the end of it’s title sequence, he has to be present in every episode, but it felt a bit like a drive by this week. He popped in briefly to have his exchanges with Daisy and introduce his brother, and then disappeared into the night to presumably kill some people and snag some drugs, only to needlessly reappear at the closing of the episode.

Additional Thoughts:

  • Now that we know that Senator Nadeer is the one behind the Watch Dogs, how long until the actual characters put the pieces together and link the anti-Inhuman government official to the anti-Inhuman extremist group?
  • If Gabe was able to figure out in .2 seconds that Daisy is Quake, are you honestly saying he has no idea what his brother is getting up to at night?

What did you think about the latest episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D? And do you think Nadeer and this mystery Inhuman are the real big-bads of the season, or is something even worse in store? Sound off on Twitter or in the comments below!

About the author

Silje Falck-Pedersen