11:00 pm EDT, October 11, 2016

‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ 4×03 review: Darker forces

Coulson handled an insurrection while Simmons worked against the clock and Daisy learned a lesson on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×03.

The episode, titled “Uprising,” deals first with a very tactile danger — orchestrated blackouts in cities around the world. But Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×03 suggests that the true threat is infection, not of the body, but of the mind.

Fear, anger and hatred may be far deadlier than any violence.

These themes come to the fore amidst the blackouts, as armed men who show up at a hotel in Miami, where Elena just happens to be celebrating her friend Maria’s bachelorette party. The invaders insist that an Inhuman lurks among the spooked partygoers — an inherent danger to humans.

Elena is forced to reveal her true nature in order to save a man suspected of being Inhuman. Immediately, her friend Maria reacts with disgust and suspicion. It’s easy (and very tempting, and not entirely wrong) to write Maria off as a rogue proponent of prejudice, but “Uprising” suggests that viewers may have been lulled into a falsely rosy perspective on Inhuman acceptance.

A season and a half of acceptance and integration within S.H.I.E.L.D. has largely concealed the fact that human/Inhuman relations are rapidly eroding beyond the extremists and Watchdogs. Maria is proof positive that the combative attitude presented by Senator Nadeer (who describes the attacks as “an act of war” by Inhumans) is much more mainstream than we may have thought.

Fear and hatred are, after all, contagious.

But luckily, Coulson is on the case, and arrives in Miami in time to help Elena deal with the invaders. Along with Fitz and Mack, Coulson deduces that the armed men (and those responsible for the blackouts) are part of the Watchdogs — and are receiving some serious outside help. Thanks to Fitz’s low-tech quick thinking, the team is able to deliver Mace a capital-W-win and neutralize the constantly pulsing EMP that has slammed the city into darkness.

(And Coulson’s hilariously disabled mechanical hand starts working again.)

Meanwhile, the rest of the team is also grappling with blackouts and the subject of sickness. When the ghost-infected gang leader dies, Simmons realizes that May has mere hours left to live. Mace presses the backspace button on his previous decision to ship May off to New York, and agrees to let Simmons do whatever she needs to save May.

So May and Simmons arrive at Radcliffe’s lab, just after he puts an increasingly cognizant Aida back to sleep. Simmons and Radcliffe map May’s brain, and discover that she is essentially stuck in a repetitive nightmare state — and her brain is scaring her to death.

“How do we stop it?” Simmons asks, to which Radcliffe quite relevantly muses, “How do you cure fear?”

I think we’re going to have to come back to that question before too long.

agents of s.h.i.e.l.d. 4x03

But for now, Radcliffe proposes that he and Simmons basically kill May, stopping her heart to reset her brain and then reviving her. Simmons is anxious about the idea (to say the least) but with the clock ticking, she carries out the plan… only to have the “Inhumans” cut the power when it’s time to shock May back to life.

Simmons is understandably hysterical, and begins futile (and poorly performed, but hey, TV) compressions. Just as she gives up, weeping her apologies to May, Radcliffe retrieves Aida’s non-electronic power source, allowing Simmons to shock May’s heart.

May awakens as her old self — fearless, and also generally pissed off. It’s really good to see her.

And in Los Angeles, Robbie takes Daisy to prison to see his uncle, who was convicted of manslaughter after an incident at Momentum Labs. But their plans are interrupted when LA falls to the blackout, and Robbie races to get Gabe off the streets.

On the way, he confesses to Daisy that it wasn’t exactly his intention to spend his entire life as a spirit of vengeance. Robbie made his deal with the devil to get revenge on the gang that paralyzed Gabe — but the spirit remained, constantly hungry for vengeance.

In a way, you might even say that Robbie’s… infected.

Anyway, the dark duo do save Gabe from the poor intentions of a few vandals, during which Daisy uses her powers and shatters her arm again. Robbie parks Gabe and Daisy at their house, and leaves to get bandages and medicine. While he’s away, Gabe turns out to be significantly more canny than he initially seemed, figuring out her identity as Quake and telling her bluntly to get out of his brother’s life.

agents of s.h.i.e.l.d. 4x03

“Robbie needs good people around him,” he says, “And that’s not you.”

It’s no accident that when Robbie finally returns with instruments of healing, Daisy is gone. She is back in her van, sick and lonely, and refuses to listen to Director Mace’s message of hope as he announces S.H.I.E.L.D.’s return.

“We’re back, and we’re here to protect you,” he says. “Human and inhuman together.”

Daisy isn’t interested in words of healing, and neither is Senator Nadeer. In a dark and lonely house, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×03 reveals that the Senator is so sick with anti-Inhuman hatred that she is working with the Watchdogs. The source of her fear and rage is the very same pathogen which did such deadly work against humans back in season 2 — the Terrigen Mist, which has turned her brother to stone.

Somebody call the World Health Organization; there’s an outbreak coming.

(Also, get your flu shots.)

Were you thrilled or chilled by ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ 4×03?

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