Spoilers ahead: The following recap contains spoilers for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., episode 403, “Uprising.”
Well, S.H.I.E.L.D. is officially back -- and in an episode that may be its most topical one yet.
In this episode, the entire team is impacted by an alleged Inhuman Resistance uprising, which claims responsibility for EMP attacks knocking out power across the globe. As Coulson, Mack and Fitz head to Miami -- the first city affected – to team with Yo-Yo and discover the EMP’s source, Daisy and Robbie set out to save his brother from getting caught in a bad neighborhood during the blackout. Meanwhile, Simmons takes May, still infected from being touched by a ghost, to Radcliffe as a last resort before the agent suffers an agonizing death.
Oh, and a new villainess rises in the form of Inhumanophobe, Senator Rota Nadeer (Parminder Nagra), while Director Jeffrey Mace wrestles with the decision to take S.H.I.E.L.D. public early -- and emphasizes how he could use a win, with a capital “W.”
“Uprising” might be Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s most relevant, and sophisticated, episode to date by tapping into a current political and cultural climate of divisiveness and fearmongering toward “the other” by those in power.
Inhumans have already been standing in for mutants in the MCU as the marginalized member of society. However, this episode ramped up that theme big-time by revealing the Watchdogs are getting secret funding to pose as Inhuman terrorists, which allow Nadeer and others to stoke hatred. We also begin to see the fallout from the Sokovia Accords insofar as a list to keep track of a race of people can be used to hunt down members.
It was frankly frightening to watch Nadeer -- a character I worry might have a silly arc ahead (but I’m remaining optimistic) – take to a new network to assert the attacks were indeed being carried out by Inhumans, calling it an act of war. And her efforts led to the president appearing ready to take out all known Inhumans on the registry list. That’s as chilling as it was depressing to see Yo-Yo’s friend give into prejudice and reject her.
I respect MAoS for exploring this subject matter, and embracing the themes covered so well in X-Men comics. I hope they keep it up.
With all that said, it was heartening to have Director Jeffrey Mace (I really like this guy; please don’t turn him bad, because he can be this show’s citizen Cap) re-introduce S.H.I.E.L.D. as the “old friend back in town,” and both take a stand against human extremists while standing up for Inhumans. I won’t lie; I got chills when he gave that speech. It was the hopeful note this episode needed.
Beyond the topicality, this was a fairly tight episode as three plotlines paralleled one another but still operated independently, and there was a lot to like.
Daisy and Robbie’s relationship really crackles onscreen. We still don’t know much about how Robbie became the Rider, but their car talks do offer insight about both characters. These two play well with one another, and the writers are handling the relationship well. I also enjoyed – initially -- Gabe’s conversation with Daisy. Gabe is protective of his older bro, and is right to be vetting this new stranger.
The action sequences in this episode also stood out. First, the daylight fight between (non-flamehead) Robbie and Daisy vs. the looters was excellently choreographed with nice stunt work. It’s good to see these super friends kick a little ass without only relying on their abilities. The other set piece when Yo-Yo distracts, then disarms, the EMP Watchdogs, followed by the agents taking them down in the darkness, was pretty cool. Not all the action on a TV budget can be big, and yet this was a fun, and effective, fight.
Also: Fitz going all MacGyver, and thriving without his gadgets, was a treat to watch.
Gabe. Oh, Gabe, Gabe, Gabe. You stupid boy. I was enjoying your scenes until you kicked Daisy out with the threat of outing her. I become so annoyed when a character pulls this kind of nonsense, especially after having their life saved by the person they’re threatening (or after seeing them do something clearly “good.”)
I do believe Gabe doesn’t want his bro’s life more complicated, and wouldn’t want a superpowered pal to start hanging around, and bringing all sorts of trouble with her. But I think the kid would’ve played the situation differently by maybe just imploring Daisy to bounce instead of blackmailing her. And I think Daisy would’ve responded to that. This was weak storytelling – especially since we all know Robbie will pursue Daisy, and eventually Gabe will learn the error of his ways, and come to respect her, blah, blah, blah.
The plotline of Simmons and Radcliffe struggling to save May from the ghost infection by rebooting her brain was enjoyable, but not the highlight of the episode. Though I really enjoyed watching Radcliffe playing with some Tony Stark-esque computer holo-displays.
Now that S.H.I.E.L.D. is a thing again, does Fury have to remain in hiding? Where is that guy? Is he still just taking up residence in Hawkeye’s barn?
Radcliffe removed AIDA’s power source to save May, so what does that mean for her? And am I the only one who thought she might not be content to stay in her pod just because her maker told her to?
Can Ghost Rider’s car get dented up? I mean, Robbie slammed that dude’s head against the fender quite a bit, and it looks like there was a slight dent, but maybe that will heal much like Robbie’s face?
Nadeer doesn’t appear to be a pre-existing character from comic canon, but who do we think is in Terragenesis mode? Maybe her Inhuman brother (who must be a real dick in order for her to hate all Inhumans) is someone we know.
We know Nadeer is involved in the Watchdog conspiracy, but who is the real puppet master here? (Please don’t let it be Jeffrey Mace!)
“I know you’re doing the whole mysterious silent thing, but if we’re going to work together on this, you've got to fill me in.”
“I wouldn’t touch it if I were you; the owner’s a bit of a hothead.”
“Yeah, no big deal, just rudimentary science, maybe saving the day.”