With everything the team has to deal with now, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is forcing the agents to decide what’s most important to them. No longer able to keep powered people out of the public eye, Daisy (Chloe Bennet) and Mack (Henry Simmons) are working to track down Inhumans for a team of Secret Warriors whose mission it is to train and protect powered people, all while the existence of Inhumans is polarizing public opinion. At the same time, Hive (Brett Dalton) is pushing forward with his plan, the motivations and goals of which are still unclear.
Collider (along with a handful of other outlets) was recently invited to the top secret set to try to pry details out of the cast and executive producers about where things are headed. Even though that’s a difficult and risky proposition, we got a few tidbits from executive producers Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen and Jeffrey Bell, who talked about how Hive works, Coulson’s (Clark Gregg) desire for renewed legitimacy for S.H.I.E.L.D., the challenge that Gideon Malick (Powers Boothe) presents, differing ideologies within the team, the ripple effect of the events in Captain America: Civil War, and writing a satisfying season finale, with or without a season pick-up (although Season 4 has already been ordered).
Question: How does Hive work, and what exactly is it that he’s doing to people?
JEFFREY BELL: That will actually all be laid out. I can say that, if he was something on the planet that embodied Will, and then after Will died, he then embodied Ward, and when he was Will he was able to have the memories of Will, there’s a fill-in-the-blank conclusion that you can take from that without me saying it. We’ve laid out the map of where it’s going.
MAURISSA TANCHAROEN: If you just think of the word hive and what hive means, it’s about being hive-minded.
How did you decide that this is the best version of Hive for the story that you’re telling?
JED WHEDON: Well, we’re huge fans of Brett [Dalton].
BELL: You wouldn’t know it from the things we put him through, but it’s true.
WHEDON: It is true. And this was another way to not only give him a challenge, but he’s been the baddie for awhile and this was a nice way to escalate the character. There are still memories in there, so there’s still an aspect of the man we came to love-to-hate in there, but we wanted to give it some extra juice. We wanted to give Brett one more challenge, where he has to change his character.
TANCHAROEN: Also, I think we’re very interested in seeing how our team will respond, if they eventually happen to cross paths. How they will respond to seeing the man they all know and hate, still standing? And if he does have Ward’s memories, or parts of Ward’s personality, how will that play into scenes with our characters?
BELL: One of the challenges, anytime you have an antagonist, is what’s the antagonist’s motive? So, to be able to embody an antagonist with somebody we already have feelings for is already loaded and interesting to us. So, for Brett to embody whatever this thing is, puts a face on it that comes super-loaded for us. It’s much richer than Monster X, in the same way that Lash was much more interesting to us once we understood that it was Andrew. It’s not just the thoughtless monster who’s going around doing this stuff. You have the drama of Andrew and his relationship with May. Suddenly, that whole character became much more intriguing, at least for us.
Are we going to see more of Creel?
WHEDON: We have a lot of characters now. Deathlok is an example of someone we always have on the shelf, and I think Creel fits in that category. One of the things that was interesting about his character is that he was the first indicator of this Whitehall brainwashing thing. It really wasn’t his fault. We also love his power. We wanted to bring him back just to see that and to do a little bit of the turn of expectations.
TANCHAROEN: We tend to bring characters back that we like, at least once.
You mentioned Deathlok. Will we get to see him again this season?
TANCHAROEN: It’s always a possibility.
BELL: A behind-the-curtains peak is that there are times when we want to bring people back, but there are 400,000 shows on TV right now, and sometimes you want a person, but that person is not available.
WHEDON: If they are good, they have their own TV show.
TANCHAROEN: Just logistically, it’s a puzzle.
BELL: The handful of times we had Patton Oswalt on is because he had two minutes in his schedule of doing 30,000 things a week.
TANCHAROEN: Oh, my god, he’s the most employed person we know.
BELL: So, it’s not because we don’t love people or because we don’t think the fans would enjoy seeing them. Sometimes we even think, “Oh, this would be a really good story to insert this character.” There are real world logistics that we don’t want fans to think about, but that does play into it sometimes.
Coulson seemed to be getting things with S.H.I.E.L.D. back on track, but now there’s this significant Malick-shaped monkey wrench. How will that continue to play out?
WHEDON: Part of the Malick-shaped monkey wrench is that, once you have the President on your side, it feels like you’re pretty well-stacked. We wanted to make Malick equally dangerous. His international reach and his influence is far and wide. So, it’s not as easy as getting the secret blessing of the President. He says, “My hands are tied. Yours aren’t. Your gloves are off. Go nuts!” But, that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy. He doesn’t want S.H.I.E.L.D. to be hunted anymore, so he is trying to work towards legitimacy, but it’s not an easy road.
It seems like there are two separate teams within S.H.I.E.L.D. now, with Daisy and the Secret Warriors, and then Coulson, May, Hunter and Bobbi. How difficult has that been?
TANCHAROEN: It hasn’t really felt like we’ve been trying to juggle two separate teams. It does feel like it’s an extension of a team that has a new dynamic within it. So, I don’t know.
WHEDON: We’re trying to reflect Daisy’s desire to bring people like her together, and that does create complications. But, it’s creating a dynamic within the team.
TANCHAROEN: It’s enhanced the varying perspectives that we’ve already established, namely Mac and Daisy, who I wouldn’t call militant, but she’s proud and human, and we’re feeling that pride. It’s also part of her just building her leadership role within the team. She’s the point person for assembling this team. So, with having these new people come into play, it’s more about asserting this new arc that we have for Daisy.
We’re seeing this clash between Daisy and Lincoln, in the way they view their powers and the ideology behind it. How direct of an allegory are you trying to make between that and the struggles that people are facing nowadays?
BELL: The beauty of doing a genre show is that you can make those kinds of metaphors and allegories. And depending on your particular issue or where you come from, you can read into that a lot. We are aware that we’re doing that, but what people put on that is the fun of people interpreting the story.
WHEDON: There are two aspects of it. There’s the, what’s it like to be different and to be treated different because you’re different? And then, we have the debate of, what happens when a weapon’s in the wrong hands? Both of those sides of the argument have equal weight, so that makes it fun to write. How do we treat the people who change? Do they immediately have freedom to be who they want to be? Is it a very dangerous weapon that we have to control, or at least understand? That’s a lot of the stuff that we’ll talk about, moving forward, because that’s the dynamic between regular humans and empowered, enhanced humans, or Inhumans.
Lincoln has been struggling with his powers within S.H.I.E.L.D. and his place on the team. Is he going to continue to struggle, going forward?
BELL: Yes, but not in the same way. He has a lot going on. He has a power that he’s not sure he wants, and that he has trouble controlling. He also has other issues in his past that are amplified by that power, like his issues with anger, authority and control. And he likes Daisy, who is, in a weird way, his boss.
TANCHAROEN: He’s very confused. I’ve got to say, it’s really fun to watch our actors do the powers without all the VFX. They are still a little bit self-conscious of just standing there.
Will you guys bring in any elements from Civil War?
WHEDON: It will definitely have a ripple effect. It is one world, so if there’s a giant event, it will definitely have a ripple effect in our world.
Does already having a pick-up for Season 4 impact your writing?
WHEDON: What we are planning, in our heads, was always coming. Even if the pick-up hadn’t happened early, which we very much appreciate, we have to work as though it’s coming. But, it does allow us to set stuff up with a little bit more confidence.
BELL: The only thing that would be really helpful would be if they said, “Okay, this is your last season,” so you know that you’re working towards a series finale. When we did Angel, we knew the series finale was coming up, so we worked towards that. But we always have to assume the best, and that we’re going to go forward and get another season. You want to write that season finale so that it’s satisfying, whether there’s more or not.
There’s also a chance that Bobbi and Hunter will be following their own path onto their own show. Is that something you’re looking at, on the story level, or will you cross that bridge when you need to?
WHEDON: They are currently on our show. The plan is to have them on another show, so we’ll have to address it in the story. Where that happens will be for you to find out.
BELL: We hope that, one day, they may have their own show, but while they’re on S.H.I.E.L.D., we want to take advantage of who they are and give the audience as much of their relationship with one another, and with other people, as possible to make that really satisfying. So, we are aware that there is a potential immanent end, and they won’t be neglected.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs on Tuesday nights on ABC.