Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S04E03 Recap: 'Uprising'

I've given enough 10s out to Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. that, with every new one, I have to think extra hard if it truly deserves it. 10s on this site don't mean that whatever I'm giving it to is perfect, but instead that, in that moment, that show or movie or what have you is the best that it can be. A watershed moment, a peak or an apex. AoS just happens to be a show that often surprises me in that regard, and this week's episode, "Uprising", was, to say the least, a bit of a whirlwind. It gave me those same feelings that I had every time I gave the show a ten last season. It left me wanting more, and it got me really excited for what's next, all while doing that patented AoS slight pivot to something new and even more exciting. If that isn't worthy of a ten out of ten, at least as I've already described it, then all these years talking about TV shows have been a waste.

The episode centers around a team that's up against the wall on multiple fronts after the Watch Dogs launch an attack on multiple cities, using continuous EMPs to turn off the power. What's more, they do it under the guise of an Inhuman uprising, asking for the Sokovia accords to be rescinded. What they really want is both a distraction so they can kill as many Inhumans as possible (using the Sokovia registry), and an excuse to blame something on Inhumans so they can recruit more people to their cause and build unrest.

It's a big idea that unfortunately we don't get to see much of, that may be worthy of a crossover with other shows or a movie, but AoS makes it work on a smaller scale, within the confines of this one show. Mack, Coulson and Fitz travel to Miami to meet up with Yo-Yo and get to the bottom of what caused the blackout there, Simmons and Radcliffe try to save may after her potentially deadly encounter with the ghost from the box, and Daisy has a chat with Robbie's wheelchair-bound brother Gabe. That's it, that's all, small scale, but a large enough event that it affects the show overall, as the Director (who we find out to be Jeffrey Mace, but more on that later) is forced to unveil SHIELD to the public much earlier than anticipated, and the team bonds together after being seemingly split since the premiere (minus, of course, Daisy).

What's more, while I sense a bigger chance coming to the show, what with all the talk of ghosts, flaming-head demons and magic that will certainly tie in to Doctor Strange next month. For now, AoS is tackling this idea of an anti-Inhuman uprising head on, and the result, at least in this episode, were some really tense scenes. I counted no less than three really good action sequences, including Daisy and Robbie's near-powerless fight against looters in LA, Mack, Coulson and Fitz going to the hotel to help Yo-Yo in a pretty great scene that included tracking shots, and one other one when they go to take out the EMP in the dark (big credit to director Magnus Martens on his first credit with the show).

That action, including also the tense scenes as Simmons and Radcliffe fought to save May's life, may very well have been what I liked most about the episode, more than the pivot, the banter, the reveals or anything else. This is an action drama, after all, and it's what I come to the show for. "Uprising" really delivered on that.

But it's more than just tension or action. "Uprising" instilled bigger, crazier ideas in my head as I was watching it. It felt grand and important, which is where I feel this show is often at its best. This isn't a show where a small operation or a bottle episode would make me feel those same things (although I'm not necessarily saying it's impossible for that to be the case, for what it's worth). It's a show that changed the state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe using a convenient Captain America: The Winter Soldier twist. A show that wasn't satisfied with that, and jumped forward to introduce the Inhumans. Then tied its two big ideas together, taking us to an alien planet to meet the first Inhuman and leader of Hydra. It's a show that thrives on big, crazy ideas in spite of how it doesn't really seem to mesh well as well with the movies and Netflix shows as the casual fan may hope. The events of "Uprising" will almost certainly never be mentioned in a movie, or in Luke Cage or Daredevil, and that's fine, but it still feels big and important. AoS's ability to give me that feeling against all odds are what define it. It's a champion underdog, and that's exactly how I like it, all contextualized and grounded by that moment at the very end, when Coulson looks out at his team and proclaims how that's exactly where he wants to be, and not in front of the cameras revealing SHIELD to the world.

That's what makes a great Agents of SHIELD episode, and what made me give "Uprising" 10 makeshift compasses out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • So probably the biggest news in the episode was that Jason O'Mara's director was confirmed to be Jeffrey Mace, a character who's been around Marvel since 1941, and has taken up the mantle of both the Patriot and even Captain America. While I doubt he'll ever be MCU Captain America, and unlike his comic book counterpart this version is an Inhuman, that's probably a big enough deal for this show and a pretty good reveal for comics nerds.
  • Didn't really talk a lot about Yo-Yo in the review but I loved the little bits of character development we got with her. Nothing completely surprising but the scene where her friend abandons her for being Inhuman is pretty heartbreaking.
  • Radcliffe is forced to unveil part of Ava to Simmons when he has to use her battery to save May, gotta imagine a full reveal isn't far behind.
  • The kid who plays Gabe is so much less unbearable than he is on Fear The Walking Dead. But still fairly insufferable.
  • Daisy: "I like to vet my vengeance demons before I hop in a car with them."
  • Fitz: "You know what's a good light source? Guy with a flaming head."
  • Coulson on not having seen the Ghost Rider yet: "Has everybody seen this guy but me?"