Old Friend: SHIELD Comes out of the Dark, but a New Villain Appears

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SHIELD reveals itself to the world and an agent fights for her life – but the real story is what happened off-screen!

And I’m not kidding about that. Only a few minor plot points were addressed this episode, and the most interesting stuff – whatever Ghost Rider did in LA and the stuff happening to Inhumans around the world – happened off-screen.

Also, there’s a major change to the Ghost Rider mythos that really changes who this Ghost Rider is, for good or ill.

At any rate, a new character was introduced, so we can speculate about who she is and how she’s connected to it all.

The story thus far: Agent May is going insane thanks to a ghost’s curse, but that’s low on SHIELD’s list of priorities as the agency is trying to rebuild itself from the ashes of the Winter Soldier debacle while find, protect, and monitor the growing number of Inhumans around the world. It’d be a shame if something happened to make things worse, wouldn’t it?

Comic Connections in “Uprising”

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Terrorist groups trying to manipulate people? Who woulda’ thunk it!

Let’s start with the opening title. First, it’s great that SHIELD has one of the shortest opening title sequences on TV. Second, it’s cool that they added a touch of flame and the sound of an engine humming to go along with the Ghost Rider motif. This episode turns it up a notch by glitching out, as the episode features numerous power outs. Initially, a group called The Inhuman Resistance claims responsibility (though any regular viewers will quickly figure the Watchdogs were responsible). The premise though, is that resistance fighters want Superhuman Registration (which is essentially Inhuman Registration) to end, and all prisoners be released. This seems suspiciously similar to the Mutant Liberation Front, a group of villains that claimed to want equal rights for mutants, and staged similar attacks to end mutant registration and imprisonment. Of course, the MLF also had ulterior motives, as various MLF leaders usually wanted global domination, revenge, or some other petty desire, not equality.

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Legerdemain works best when combined with real magic.

The first black out (shown before the title card) was in Miami, where Yo-Yo is attending her friend Maria’s bachelorette party, along with others, like the legerdemainist, the Amazing Mertz. There’s a lot of talk about Yo-Yo’s move to LA and how much it’s changed her, but she was from Colombia, and didn’t originally speak English. It’s interesting that she has so many friends who have clearly lived in Miami for many years, especially when the vast majority of Miami’s Latino population comes from Cuba or the Caribbean. It’s not unheard of or anything, just an interesting note. As for Mertz, in the 1940s, several magical heroes doubled as stage magicians, like Monako, Prince of Magic.

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Not the most dynamic of heroes. No wonder people thought he was a Cap knock-off.

The terrorists have horrible timing, as far as SHIELD is concerned, because the clandestine organization was planning to wait a month before letting the world know it was back in business, but apparently bad guys just can’t wait. Director Jeffery Mace and his advisor, Burrows from public relations, realize this kind of highly publicized incident needs an international agency like SHIELD, but send in Coulson and his team to spearhead the operation covertly before finally announcing SHIELD to the press. As mentioned before, Jeff Mace of the comics was the World War II superhero Patriot (who actually predates Captain America by a few months!). In the comics, when Steve Rogers disappeared into the icy water, other heroes took his place, and the longest-running substitute Cap was Mace, and even married Cap’s military liaison, Betsy Ross (who served the same role in the comics Agent Carter does in the MCU). He died of cancer as an old man, but a younger Patriot did team up with Blade in the modern day, so it’s possible he is the Inhuman Jeff Mace.

The Watchdogs quickly reveal their hand as they head for the bachelorette party almost as soon as the Miami blackout began. Almost immediately, the party goers show their anti-Inhuman sentiments by turning on each other (with one guy literally offering to have Mertz killed – any repercussions for this?) and Maria being completely repulsed to learn Yo-Yo has the ability to save her life (because, who wouldn’t be grossed out when someone stops terrorists, right?). Even without their fancy equipment, Coulson’s team finds the party quickly and – alongside Yo-Yo – take out the baddies. Again, the Marvel Cinematic Universe can’t have “mutants” for legal reasons, but it sure seems like TV Inhumans are getting the kind of specist hatred comic book mutants usually experience.

When another black out hits Los Angeles, Robbie realizes it’s up to Ghost Rider to stop rioting and looting. Of course, all of this happens off-screen, as the viewers are only allowed to see Daisy interacting with Robbie’s disabled bother Gabe. Who would want to see Ghost Rider taking on tons of gang members anyway, right? Before moving on, it’s worth noting that as soon as the blackout starts random criminals start looting and causing trouble, and these guys weren’t Watchdogs in disguise. What is the show saying about the current state of the US? There have been several major blackouts in history, and things rarely go as bad as they did in this series. Most notably, the great 1965 blackout didn’t have nearly as many problems as expected, and the 2003 blackout did have problems, but there were hardly roving gangs attacking civilians. Plus, it’s not like guns stopped working.

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This is creepy on so many levels – but makes for great character development!

Back to the characters, Daisy learns more about Robbie’s uncle, Elias Morrow. It seems Uncle Eli was an electrical engineer at Momentum Labs, but he “beat up” someone so bad he ended up spending time in Southridge Penitentiary.  We’re repeatedly told Eli was a “good man” in a bad situation, and it’s implied (though not stated) that he’s still alive. We also learn Gabe was paralyzed during an incident of gang violence, but that he’s made peace with his physical abilities. Okay, a few things here. First, show producers said some fans might be upset at the change to Gabe, who in the comics is severely mentally disabled and has been since birth, but that seems unlikely. It is odd they chose to focus so much on gang violence which, although still a very real threat in communities like East Los Angeles, is nowhere near what it was in the early ‘90s. More significant is the change to Eli, who was not a “good man” who did a “bad thing,” but was instead a very, very evil man who pretended to be good. He was a serial killer and a mob enforcer, and he claims to be responsible for Gabe’s condition. In fact, the only reason Robbie agrees to kill anyone in the comics is to pacify Eli and prevent him from attacking Gabe. Removing this element from Robbie’s backstory now makes Robbie himself a serial killer, and removes any ethos he may have had going in. We’ll see where this goes.

uprising-raceOn the related-to-the-comics side, Gabe says he worries about his brother getting involved with gangs and illegal racing, and that is totally a thing from the comics. Robbie was involved in illegal Fast and Furious-style racing before becoming Ghost Rider, and when reality went all wonky in Secret Warriors, Robbie was part of the other-worldy Ghost Racers. Robbie also mentions healing from any wound as long as he transforms between human and Ghost Rider form, and this follows his comics’ appearance too (although he has a lot more powers).

When Gabe realizes Daisy is the Inhuman terrorist known as Quake, he demands she get out of his brother’s life. Too bad he doesn’t know his brother isn’t exactly on the side of angels.

While all this is happening, May is still suffering from her Darkhold ghost infection. It turns out, everyone infected dies “of fear” within a matter of days or hours (which means that little boy from last episode is now without a father), and Mace wanted to send May to a qualified Center for Disease Control, but Simmons rightly points out she is better equipped. At her urging, May is redirected to Radcliffe’s house where she and the not-quite-mad-but-not-entirely-good scientist can work together. Because Radcliffe is hiding his prototype Life Model Decoy AIDA from Simmons, he has puts her into sleep mode. He also tells her not to be a “snappy cat” which – doesn’t mean anything as far as I can tell. It’s too bad they can’t just throw in random phrases like “Silly Seal” which would actually have Marvel connections.

Although they are loath to accept the “touched by a ghost” or “die of fear” theories, Radcliffe and Simmons paraphrase the old Sherlock Holmes maxim (as Spock and Data have done before) about eliminating impossible to accept the improbable (though they do flip it). Radcliffe uses his neat Stark-style manipulatable holograms, then decides May needs a hard reset – in other words, killing and reviving her to restart her brain. Naturally, the power goes out just when they need to revive her.

For a second, it sure seemed like Radcliffe was going to have to reveal AIDA’s existence to save May, but he just pulled out AIDA’s heart instead, which was helpfully immune to whatever EMP device is blocking out power from the DC area. Ain’t that a helpful plot device? Anyway, the Self-Sustaining Magnetically-Shielded Clean Energy device (SSMSCED? SMCE? Someone didn’t get the acronym memo) saves May’s life, and honestly, should make Radcliffe richer than Stark if he ever tries to monetize it.

Not having fancy plot devices, Fitz is forced to save the day MacGyver style, using his slide rule. He leads the team to the Watchdog’s Miami hideout, Yo-Yo pulls a low-budget Flash routine, and the day is saved in the nick of time. It doesn’t seem like the stakes were that high this episode, until, you think about what we didn’t see on screen.

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Never trust a pretty face.

Aside from whatever badassery Ghost Rider did off-screen, the Inhuman Resistance (re: Watchdogs) blacked out seven cities, Miami, Los Angeles, Moscow, London, DC, Rio de Rio de Janeiro, and somewhere in central Europe (Rome?). During the several hours this takes place, numerous riots occur and 17 registered Inhumans are killed. Whoever is backing the Watchdogs is doing a good job taking out SHIELD’s resources. We also meet the mysterious Senator Nadeer, who is vehemently anti-Inhuman. Whoever she is, she was connected to all of the bad stuff from this episode, and has an even more mysterious brother who appears to be trapped in his Inhuman cocoon. In the comics, Inhumans can spend anywhere from a few seconds to a few weeks in their cocoons, but there are more important questions. Who is she? Who is he? Nadeer seems to be of Indian descent, and the most prominent Indian Inhuman is Dinesh Deol, but “Nadeer” is a Muslim name, so it’s possible her brother is Kamran, the boy Ms. Marvel totally crushed on until she realized he was evil. It seems unlikely they’d use one of Ms. Marvel’s main baddies in Agents of SHIELD as she’d be best used in any eventual Inhumans movie. Time will tell where this goes.

See you guys next episode!

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