Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Revolution For Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.: "Uprising."

The Good: Competent performances, Moments of plot, Sense that the various plot threads are building to something
The Bad: Very simple plot resolutions, Low on character development, No big performance moments
The Basics: "Uprising" is a mediocre Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode that very quickly resolves two potentially huge crises.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is at a potentially precarious place as it appears to be the element that is introducing the supernatural into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Avengers: Age Of Ultron (reviewed here!) seemed poised to infuse the MCU with magic elements by adding the Scarlet Witch into the mix. The film managed to avoid that, scientifically explained her powers, and moved right on. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. seems mired in a quagmire by introducing Ghost Rider, Robbie Reyes, to the mix. Either Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. will undermine all of the work it has done by attempting to reveal everything the Agents encounter as scientific anomalies by introducing the Spirit Of Vengeance . . . or it will piss off Ghost Rider fans by completely gutting the mystic character by explaining his powers and anger in a scientific way that destroys the spiritual aspects of the character. "Uprising" opens bearing the weight of the conflict between where the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been and where it is headed.

"Meet The New Boss" (reviewed here!) climaxed with Daisy going off with Reyes after Agent May was stricken with her mysterious illness related to the "spirits" Ghost Rider had torn out of people. "Uprising" returns the Inhumans to the forefront while bringing Holden Radcliffe and Aida to the plot to resolve the Agent May's medical condition.

In Miami, Elena Rodriguez is at a party when Mack calls her moments before there is a blackout that knocks out all power in the city, including the cell phone Mack is calling on. At S.H.I.E.L.D. Headquarters, Director Mace views an Inhuman Resistance operative taking responsibility for the attack in Miami. While Simmons struggles to get to May - who is at a facility in Upstate New York - to save her life, Mace assigns Coulson, Fitz and Mack to go to Miami to maintain peace, locate the Inhuman and restore power to the city. Daisy and Reyes are headed to visit Reyes's uncle when the Inhuman terrorists attack a fourth time. They go to rescue Reyes's brother and in the process, Daisy hurts herself by using her abilities.

In Miami, Elena's party is broken into by thugs searching for the Inhuman. Coulson, Fitz and Mack arrive in Miami and lose all power, which leads Fitz to realize that the terrorists are using a continual EMP device. The trio arrive at Elena's side just as she is exposed as the Inhuman at the party. Simmons and Radcliffe conclude that May's brain is under attack by fear-driven hallucinations and that the best way to save her life is to kill her. Using rudimentary tools, Fitz devises a way to locate the EMP device and shut it down.

"Uprising" is pleasantly surprising for the way it sets up one type of episode and then manages to go in a very different direction. "Uprising" puts Aida in play very early in the episode before putting May in the same place as her, in mortal peril. Fans of science fiction and comic books might reasonably suspect that May was about to have her brain transferred into an android, much like the way Data was essentially replicated with B-4 in Star Trek: Nemesis (reviewed here!). Fortunately, the combination of Aida and May is not so lazily resolved.

Robbie Reyes is given characterization that certainly insinuates that his Ghost Rider personality is supernaturally-derived. He claims to have sold his soul to the devil and that the price of his powers was settling scores. But when getting vengeance on those who put his brother in a wheelchair failed, he started trying to get vengeance for other people. His failure to accomplish whatever goal will allow him to be rid of the Ghost Rider personality is what motivates him. Reyes's internal conflict is further motivated by his guilt over what has happened to his brother, Gabe.

One of the things that "Uprising" does extraordinarily well is that it reveals the moral and practical problems of the Sokovia Accords and the Inhuman Registration. Those lists that people with powers are put on can easily fall into the wrong hands and be used by people that have sinister agendas. That the Watchdogs resurface in full force is a nice tie-in to the third season that helps keep Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. vital and complicated in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Robbie Reyes continues to be a mysterious character in "Uprising;" the episode enhances Gabe much more than Robbie. The scenes with Gabe and Daisy are good and they enhance both characters. The relationship front is fleshed out by a reasonable sense of conflict between Mack and Rodriguez. Mack tries to get an honest response from Rodriguez and when she denies that she used him to get medication for Daisy he snaps at her.

"Uprising" introduces a new villain and enhances the Watchdogs as an adversary, but it offers no moments that allow the performers to shine. Jason O'Mara is still comparatively low-impact as Director Mace, leaving no real impression on the viewers and giving them nothing to truly emotionally invest in. In a similar fashion, Gabriel Luna still has yet to break out as Reyes in an interesting way.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has come back from lulls before - especially when it has been forced to divert from its own plotline to accommodate whichever blockbuster from the Marvel Cinematic Universe hits theaters. "Uprising" is stuck in the lull, but it is not the death knell of the series. But it is also not particularly compelling television, either.

For other works with John Hannah, please check out my reviews of:
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 3
The Words
The Mummy Trilogy
Sliding Doors

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - The Complete Fourth Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the fourth season here!


For other reviews of elements of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, please check out my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for a listing of all those reviews!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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