Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD S04E03 “Uprising” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- Yoyo is at a hen party with mates in Miami when there’s a power blackout and a helicopter crashes into a skyscraper.
- A group calling itself The Inhuman Resistance claims responsibility for the act but SHIELD suspects it may be a non-Inhuman group trying to stoke anti-Inhuman hysteria, using EMP devices rather than mutant powers.
- The group causes another blackout in London and threatens more blackouts every hour until their demands are met.
- A senator, Ellen Nadeer, urges for humans to fight back, stirring things up even more.
- One of the victims with the same “ghost” infection that May has dies. Simmons has a plan that might save May from the same fate, so Mace reveals where May has been taken.
- However, Mace won’t let Coulson go to see May; he sends him with Fitz and Mack to Miami to investigate the blackout.
- When they get there the EMP – which turns out to a continuous succession of pulses – leaves them with no electrical power (even Coulson’s robot hand freezes).
- They find their way to the hotel where Yoyo’s hen party has fallen victim to an armed gang who know there’s an Inhuman amongst them and are demanding that it reveals itself.
- There’s a big fight. Team SHIELD wins.
- Yoyo’s friend who’s getting married, though, isn’t very grateful; seems she doesn’t want an Inhuman as a bridesmaid. Yoyo’s just glad she doesn’t have to wear the dress.
- The armed gang turns out to consist of members of the Watchdogs. Coulson realises the Watchdogs are responsible for the blackouts but more importantly they have somehow have gained access to the Inhumans registrations list.
- But the Watchdogs have always been a domestic organisation whereas the blackouts are worldwide. Is there somebody else behind them now?
- Fitz comes up with ingenious old-school method to track the source of the EMP pulses (using corks, a fountain and a rudimentary knowledge of MacGyver).
- Team SHIELD takes out the bad guys and disables the EMP device.
- Mack reveals to Yoyo he knows she’s been stealing meds for Daisy. Yoyo basically just shrugs – seems she’s less into Mack than he is into her.
- Coulson convinces Mace to publicly announce that SHIELD is back in action – earlier than planned – to help calm the public.
- A pissed senator Nadeer gives a press conference claiming she has info that the attack was by Inhumans – like Donald Trump, she clearly seems to think that if she says something often enough the public might start believing it.
- Later, at home, she receives a call from whoever organised the blackouts – GASP! She’s in league with them.
- She also has an Inhuman in a cocoon in her front room.
- Robbie and Daisy are driving to see Robbie’s Uncle – currently in prison for manslaughter – because he used to work at the Momentum facility, when there’s a blackout in LA.
- Worried for his brother Gabe’s safety, Robbie has a change of plan and drives back towards home. On the way he admits to Daisy he’d love to be rid of his Ghost Rider powers.
- Gabe, is attacked by looters. R0bbie and Daisy arrive just in time to rescue him but Daisy is forced to use her powers in the ensuing fight. It causes her more pain.
- Gabe see this and works out that Daisy is Quake. Later, when Robbie leaves him and Daisy alone at his house, Gabe uses this knowledge to blackmail Daisy into leaving his brother alone, because he thinks Daisy is a bad influence. Daisy leaves without slapping him, proving that her real mutant ability is Inhuman levels of restraint.
- Simmons takes May to Radcliffe’s place; Radcliffe hides AIDA.
- Radcliffe and Simmons decide that killing May then bringing her back to life will cure her.
- But having “killed” her, just as they’re about to use a defibrillator to restart her heart there’s a blackout, rendering the defibrillator useless.
- So Radcliffe uses AIDA’s independent power source – which is unaffected the EMP – to power the defibrillator instead.
The main problem with “Uprising” is that it never gets better than its impressive opening scene. Miami being plunged into darkness and a helicopter ploughing into the side of a skyscraper promises a lot, as does the episode title: “Uprising”. Instead, while the rest of the episode is never actively bad, it does quickly revert to Agents Of SHIELD’s default setting: “that’ll do”.
The concepts of worldwide city blackouts is the stuff of Bond or Mission: Impossible but Agents Of SHIELD manages to reduce the grandeur to few blokes waving guns in the dark and the world’s most easily distracted looters (“Oooh look… wheel chair!”). Global panic is averted when Coulson and co easily defeat a couple of armed gangs in Miami and discover their tattoos and passports. It’s not exactly the most thrilling climax or the jawdropping revelation, but somehow it’s enough to get all the other blacked-out cities switched back on.
Don’t get us wrong. The blackout plot is perfectly watchable. The show’s main characters fun to watch and listen to – it’s a strong episode for Fitz and Yoyo, and Mace is starting to become a much more fascinating, nuanced, multi-level character. The first fight scene is well-staged, and the arc plot is throwing up some intriguing questions about the modus operandi of the Watchdogs. It’s all okay. For fans. But this show needs to attract new viewers (or entice back old ones) if it’s to survive beyond season four, and workmanlike episodes like “Uprising” are not going to set newcomers’ pulses racing. You can’t imagine meeting someone down the pub who goes, “Did you see SHIELD last night? There was this amazing bit with corks!”
Of the two B-plots, Simmons and Radcliffe killing May to save her is by far the more entertaining, and it cleverly interweaves with the blackouts for a bit of added tension during the defibrillator shenanigans. Plus John Hannah is still great value as Radcliffe, and there are a couple of amusing lines at May’s expense (“I hear you’re a little bit more yourself.” “I feel cranky.” “Like I said…”). However, it’s a bit odd that there’s no fallout from him using AIDA’s power source to bring May back to life. Maybe that’s still to come but you’d think there’d be more of a suggestion that Radcliffe has done something pretty major here by revealing the green glowy thing. But he doesn’t seem unduly concerned.
Daisy and Robbie’s storyline, though, is Mogadon in TV form. Considering the subtitle of this half-season in Ghost Rider you’d hope he’d be doing something more interesting that nattering away about his relations while driving Daisy round LA. It doesn’t help that brother Gabe is one of the best excuses for buying voodoo doll we’ve seen on TV so far this year.
- Re: the fight at the LA hotel. In a TV era when fight action tends to be all cut-cut-cut-cut-cut it’s really refreshing to watch a punch-up that comprises just two shots; the first 12 seconds long, the second 11 seconds long. It means you can really appreciate how good the fight choreography is.
- The FX for the helicopter crashing into the side of a skyscraper are pretty impressive and moodily shot.
- The way the plots dovetail, so that the power outages caused by the A-plot almost cause May’s death in the second B-plot, is seamlessly crafted.
- Fitz MacGyvering his way through the power blackout.
- “There shouldn’t be any secrets between us.”
“Why not? There’s nothing else between us.” Withering comeback of the week goes to Yoyo.
- “It’s the call you’d make if you were in my shoes.” Mace may come across as a bit of an oaf but he’s showing some clever signs of man management. The way he sticks up for his PR gut (“That’s his job!”) marks him out as a decent boss too.
- In fact, the concept of SHIELD having a PR guy is full of potential (and potential conflict); we’re wondering if this guy’s a one-off or if the show has plans for him.
- “She’s at a bachelorette party. She’s probably having a good time, dancing and drinking with all those sexy Latino guys.”
“No, I’m not taking that bait.” Fitz at his most surly is Fitz at his most watchable.
- “You know what’s a good light source? A guy with a flaming head.” What did we just tell you?
- So Lorenzo James Henrie’s character Gabe Reyes is going to be every bit as irritating as his character on Fear The Walking Dead. What a bell-end. We wanted Daisy to slap him.
- How does Yoyo put up with her airhead Miami fiends?
- Since “The Inhuman Resistance” turns out to be non-Inhuman agitators, what would have happened if powers-that-be had acceded to their demands? The real Inhumans would have come out of it quite well!
- Plus, why did “The Inhuman Resistance” decide to blackout Los Angeles during daylight? If they’d waited a couple of hours for dark they’d have made a much bigger impact.
- The looters’ reason for attacking R0bbie’s bro’ (they want his wheels) is amusingly weak. It’s more likely they’d ignore him and find something more lucrative to break into.
- So Robbie’s uncle used to work at the Momentum facility – that’s rather convenient, isn’t it?
And The Random:
- The opening titles are given a glitching effect that links into the video of the terrorists’ demands.
- This is probably just a huge coincidence but after Fitz says “x marks the spot” when the agents get there, that “spot” does indeed have an “x”
- Parminder Nagra, who makes her debut here as Senator Ellen Nadeer, was a long-running character on ER (she played Neela) where, during the 10th and 11th seasons, she appeared alongside Ming-Na (she wasn’t credited as Wen back then) who played another long-running character Jing-Mei Chen. Nagra first made her name in the Britflick Bend It Like Beckham (2002).
- And just in case you didn’t notice, Radcliffe’s desk sculpture is well creepy…
Review by Dave Golder