Right off the bat, let me say how happy I am that May didn’t die only to be replaced by an LMD. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t get credit for a lot of things it does well, but one of the main ones has always been walking us right up to a TV trope and then avoiding it. Having a beloved character die unceremoniously and then replaced by a surrogate, forcing Radcliffe and Simmons to share a terrible secret, would have been a serious stain on this series. That’s not to say, however, that what we were given was much better. I avoided May’s condition in my last review because I wanted to see where the show went with it. My initial reaction was quite negative, as I was looking forward to the show exploring some new plots with May this season after having put her on the sidelines much of the previous one. When they had her possessed, I thought it could lead to some interesting drama, but the next episode she just went crazy and was carted off. Things didn’t look good for fans of Ming-Na Wen actually being given something to work with. Then this episode, she’s out of commission until the very end and we have to wonder if they’re going to kill her (unlikely in the third episode), turn her into an LMD (the fear of which took away some of my enjoyment of the episode), or cure her, thus putting everything back to normal and making her plot over the first three episodes of the season virtually pointless. There was really no good option, highlighting just how unnecessary the decision to have her get possessed was. I mean, besides Coulson worrying a bit at the beginning, the stakes of her life and infection are only shared by two characters in a B story (maybe even a C story). The Ring Rejects are still out there, and hopefully the team learned something about what was happening inside May’s brain and can use it in the future, but, ultimately, there was no reason to put May through this whole ordeal other than the fact that the writers clearly have no idea what to do with the character anymore. It’s a real shame, as she’s a fan-favorite and Ming-Na is an amazing performer.
Another plot that seems to be spinning its wheels: Radcliffe and his LMD. Introduced in the premier then skipped in episode two, we see about 30 seconds of a return of AIDA, only to have Radcliffe reiterate the dilemma from the first episode and then put her to sleep. Once it seemed safe that “May becoming an LMD” was off the table, it was pretty clear that Radcliffe would somehow use AIDA to overcome the blackout problem. Then, Simmons would know about her but be okay with it cus it helped save May’s life! Nope. Instead, it’s Chekov’s glowing green heart (which was never mentioned before until it suspiciously lit up earlier in the episode, thus letting us know it was important) that saved the day, sidestepping the entire AIDA/LMD plot, presumably to maintain the thread of Fitz lying to Simmons. The real problem with all of this is that it made it pointless for Radcliffe and AIDA to even be involved in this episode, as Simmons easily could have been the one to come up with the plan to save May. Perhaps you could argue that Radcliffe’s maverick way of thinking was what led him to it, but it still feels like the entire plot was stuffed full of deception and misdirection, not among the characters, but between the writers and the audience.
Now that I’ve spent two paragraphs talking trash, you probably think I hated the episode. Luckily, a weak B story is easy to ignore, especially when the main plot is so solid. When the Watchdogs appeared last season, they were pretty underwhelming. They potentially introduced a solid threat, as a militarized human supremacy group, but the plot never really went anywhere. They were set up as being secretly controlled by HYDRA, but then the writers abandoned that plot and only brought them back to turn them into a set of creatures so unintimidating and terrible looking, that they must have been designed that way just to make Lash look better by comparison when he showed up to save the day. Thankfully, the writers learned their lesson and decided to beef up the threat of the terrorist group this season. By episode’s end, we learn that Senator Nadeer (Parminder Nagra) is helping to feed the group S.H.I.E.L.D. intel about Inhumans in an effort to both besmirch their name and enact a genocide upon them. It’s some heavy stuff and feeds right into the classic mutant persecution stories that Marvel has done so well in the comics over the years. Naturally, it further complicates the idea that no other MCU property will mention the Inhumans, which are now a globally-recognized phenomenon and connected to a series of high-profile blackouts and riots and the resurgence of S.H.I.E.L.D., but at this point it’s probably safe to just pretend this show exists in a parallel universe from the films and Netflix shows.
On top of advancing some of the strong story elements for this season, we also get a lot of action in “Uprising.” Fitz, Coulson, and Mack have all proven to be a blast when in pairs, so it makes sense that all three joining forces would be a highlight. Their skills and personalities all blend nicely, and Yo-Yo makes an excellent addition to their team. Elena has fast (smirking emoji) become one of my favorite MCU characters, and Natalia Cordova-Buckley brings both energy and gravitas to her performance. She can throw a quip just as easily as a punch, making this both a fun and fearsome foursome. Even Fitz holds his own, which was great to see as it makes sense he’d be able to given everything he’s been through. Never bring a gun to a Fitz fight. The direction and choreography of the fight scenes were also on point, especially the final brawl where the pulse of the EMP device lights up the room every few seconds. We also got the rare treat of seeing things from Yo-Yo’s perspective, as she gleefully snatches up the Watchdog’s guns. Make her a series regular already! All-in-all, another strong episode, moving the central plots forward and giving us lots of well-executed action sequences, only slightly bogged down by some story threads that ended up going nowhere.
4 Cork Compasses out of 5. To be honest, the biggest disappointment was the fact that Mack never pulled out his shotgun axe.
I didn’t talk about the Daisy/Robbie/Gabe plot mostly cus I’ve focused a lot on them the past two reviews and their story was mostly set-up for next week’s episode. Looks like we’re finally gonna get some answers to Robbie’s MCU origin, which is good as this episode seemed to tease some potentially major deviations from the comics.
Come on, Mack. Burrows is just doing his job.
Somehow, Senator Nadeer has arrested her brother’s Inhuman metamorphosis. Any theories?
If you aren’t already, check out our daily Luke Cage reviews. I had a lot of fun writing the first four, which you can check out here.