Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s incredible mid-season finale was a reactionary bundle of action, plot crescendos and the kind of shock twists fans have come to expect from the show’s enterprising writers. The team responded to the episode’s multi pronged Hydra threat with a satisfying display of dexterity, utilizing Daisy’s (Chloe Bennett) new Secret Warriors team and the unique skills of each human and Inhuman agent – as the characters took an opportunity for retribution for the professional and personal assaults brought within season 3’s first half.
For one character, the episode’s conflict was motivated by a very personal context, and his consequential actions will undoubtedly have massive personal repercussions that will spill into the season’s second half. Ahead of tonight’s (at the time of writing this) Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. mid-season premiere episode, Clark Gregg has opened up about Director Coulson’s revenge fueled incentives – and teased what kind of aftermath fans should expect in upcoming episodes, when the show returns to our screens.
When the sharp and sensual A.T.C.U head Rosalind Price (Constance Zimmer) was introduced to season 3, it was clear that the flirty, love/hate dynamic between her and Coulson was building to a romantic encounter. Unfortunately for the director and fans hoping to see him gain some personal reward outside of S.H.I.E.L.D, their relationship would be tragically short lived as it was revealed this plot line was actually serving a larger purpose. Price was to be sacrificed to the long developed conflict between Coulson and his one time protege turned traitor, Grant Ward (Brett Dalton).
This series of events were the catalyst for a new side of Coulson to be revealed. Usually the voice of reason against personal acts of revenge, the director cast off his position and set his sights on avenging his lover, except most grieving lovers with a vendetta don’t have S.H.I.E.L.D opps training and advanced tech at their disposal -making for some extreme consequences, as Gregg explained to EW:
“I’m pretty sure Coulson feels very conflicted about what he’s just done in a world where it’s constantly being pointed out to us how important it is that the people responsible for protecting us adhere to a higher standard, don’t carry out personal vendettas, and don’t respond to anger….. Coulson has crossed that line. It’s a moment that’s between him and Fitz [Iain De Caestecker], because Fitz witnessed it, and that dynamic between them and their mutual ambivalence about what’s happened and what they both did on the planet, to a certain extent, will play out in those first episodes. I don’t think Coulson has any idea that by doing this thing, that there will be anything more than the karmic moral implications that are upsetting to him, but he’s going to find out that the literal payback for what he’s done is beyond anything that he can possibly imagine.”
Coulson’s revenge plans are by no means finished as another known key Hydra player is still at large – as is, unbeknownst to S.H.I.E.L.D, a new version of Ward:
“Definitely he sees Malick as the final point in terms of the chain of responsibility for her death…. I don’t think he’s going to sleep at night until that circle has been closed. That said, I think the person he really held most responsible was Ward. As big of problem as Malick is, that he’s as powerful and formidable an über-Hydra goon as Alexander Pierce [Robert Redford] from Winter Soldier, just when you think that you’ve cut off all the Hydra heads, the biggest, nastiest one seems to pop up, and that’s before he even knows what handsome Grant Ward is about to show up as.”
Gregg joked about the team’s expected reaction to the ‘Ward has metamorphosed into a super-villain’ reveal and how his fellow Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. players will respond to this new powerful threat:
“The universal feeling will probably be something along the lines of, ‘Are you f—ing kidding me?….. “What is this guy from Halloween? He’s like Michael Myers, if you imagine either him or Jason a little less ghoulish and a lot more handsome. You just stab and stab, and it just won’t stay dead….. That’s one of the factors that makes it very important to get Secret Warriors up and running….. It’s all the stuff that’s happened with Hydra and the ATCU that’s gotten in the way of doing that, but it does feel like it moves into a new level of high priority in the back half of the season.”
Gregg also teased the plot of an upcoming episode “The Inside Man” that sees his character reunite with unlikely ally General Talbot (Adrian Pasdar):
“At this point, they’ve realized that they trust each other to a certain extent, but I wouldn’t say that they’re homies…… They’re not setting up guy dates to go out and watch Deadpool together. There’s a lot of suspicion still, but they need each other. That said, nothing is what it seems. That episode has a lot of spectacular twists and turns where nobody is doing what you think they’re doing.”
This episode also teases the reveal of another possible traitor to the agency and Gregg discusses this development:
“Coulson will deal with it, unfortunately, the way he seems to deal with it, like, ‘Damnit, really?! They got me again!….. He doesn’t seem like, ‘Yes, I knew you were a traitor, and your underwear is filled with explosives.’ He seems to be taken by surprise every time.”
Coulson’s character has always represented somewhat of a father figure on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and this context has brought additional depth to many of his storylines, as this role is challenged by events forcing him to develop and evolve. A conflicted and suffering Coulson is a device that will likely cause other characters on the show to evolve in response, as the team needs a leader with a moral compass.
S.H.I.E.L.D has proven adept at handling character arcs with complexity, proving the creators are unafraid of exploring the morally gray areas needed to elevate their subject matter. As the team becomes stronger than ever, it is perhaps necessary to clip their wings – what with an internal conflict now affecting the psyche of their symbolic patriarch. These developments should make exciting viewing in the episodes to come.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns with ‘Bouncing Back’ on Tuesday, March 8 at 9pm on ABC.