[This post contains SPOILERS for the season 3 finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.]
The end of one chapter marks the beginning of the next, but the season 3 finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. did more than just close a single chapter. The emotional closing of the season closed the book on several key elements and characters in Marvel’s television flagship program, leaving viewers with the answers to many questions, and still more questions on top of those.
Whatever happens next, fans know that the game has changed for Coulson and co. With the loss of Brett Dalton’s Ward, the series has closed the book on their greatest antagonist. With the loss of Luke Mitchell’s Lincoln, the team has been shaken to its very core. But Chloe Bennet’s Daisy Johnson felt the loss most personally. As seen in the closing moments of the finale, the agent seems to have gone rogue. What’s to become of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the rest of the team? Fans won’t know until next season, but series producers recently dropped some hints about what you can expect as the series moves into season 4.
Executive producers Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen recently spoke to CBR about the emotional close out to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3, and what these changes might entail for the characters in the season to come. They also spoke at some length regarding the decision to close the book on both Lincoln and Ward, giving some insight into the hows and the whys of that decision making process. On this, Tancharoen said:
“It was so, so hard. There were many tears. It was very emotional. Even in the process of developing their arcs and breaking the season, it was a decision we struggled to finalize. We knew that we had to, though. We had to close a chapter with Ward. To sustain an antagonist for this long or to go beyond three seasons -- we just didn't want it to lose any steam. At our wrap party, there were several emotional speeches being made for both of those guys… A week before we wrapped, we were here at home. I was thinking of Brett and Luke. They are such great people, and so talented and so handsome. ‘Oh, my God. What have we done?’”
Whedon concurred with Tancharoen, adding:
“One of the things about television is that it's fluid. You always have to generate a lot of different stories. Sometimes you eliminate a character and it's easy, because you either don't like the person or you don't like the character. This was a situation where we didn't have that. Both of these actors are just great guys, they're great to work with and are pros. It was a very emotional end of the season for everybody…[But] One of the reasons we closed that chapter [on Ward] was to start a very different, very new chapter next year. We're very excited about it, but that's as specific we can get.”
It is hard to imagine what a Ward-less Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will even look like; from the very beginning, Ward has remained a persistent thorn in the side of Coulson and his crew. Since then, his arc has seen him become one of the new heads of Hydra, and later this season as the powerful Inhuman, Hive. As difficult as it might be to imagine the series without him, this did feel like a logical conclusion for his character, a fact that both producers acknowledge. According to Whedon:
“Hive revealed his motivation: ‘I want a connection.’ That's a fitting end to his story. Also, to Ward's story, he wanted that with Skye. Now, here he is, sitting with Lincoln, the one person who had that with Skye/Daisy. There's some poetry to the simplicity and the quietness in that moment that we loved. It was a fitting end for someone with [goals of] world domination, and to our buddy Grant Ward, who we managed to maintain as an antagonist for three seasons, which is a lot for one character.”
Tancharoen added to this sentiment, stating:
“At the very end, when Hive is meeting his end, he says, ‘I'm finally going to experience something that has eluded me all these years -- and that's death.’ There's a simplicity to it in that, it's quiet. It's just the two of them, and he said all he wanted was to make the world better. He just wanted a connection.”
It was a fitting end to the Ward chapter of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. history. But the loss of Ward is compounded by the loss of Lincoln, a relative newcomer into the S.H.I.E.L.D. fold. His introduction in season 2 marked a turning point in the overarching narrative of Skye/Daisy, giving her someone to identify with and keep her grounded in the crazy world she’d been dragged into. The effects of his loss will certainly be felt as the show moves forward, a fact that both producers acknowledge. In full Marvel style, both were mum on the specifics of what his death might mean, but Whedon offered some hint about what’s to come.
“It's safe to say they were emotionally affected by it. When we come back, we'll get a sense of how it's affected their plan moving forward and the way they operate.”
This loss, as was already seen, will affect Daisy deeper than the rest, as Lincoln's death can, in certain interpretations, be seen as her own fault. After all, it was her being controlled by Hive that put not just Lincoln, but the entire team, in danger. We’ve seen that she’s gone rogue, but what that means for the team and its dynamic remains as yet uncertain. According to Tancharoen:
“She's obviously broken by what she did. Her addiction to Hive and his sway are so powerful. She does her most unforgiving act in trying to go back to him.”
To this, Whedon adds:
“She's riddled with guilt. She's ashamed for her weakness in going back to Hive...That's too much for her to handle. To have Lincoln sacrifice himself for all of her sins, as she says, it's going to be hard for her to recover from that.”
Whatever happens, and however season 4 plays out, Daisy’s world is forever altered. Between the guilt she feels regarding her Hive addiction and the loss of Lincoln her character can never quite be the same as she once was. It is unclear whether she's gone from the team for good, or if she’s fashioned herself into a new pseudo-antagonist for the team, as was hinted at last night, but things are different now, that’s for certain.
The plot thickens with every page turn, and the season 3 finale certainly turned a few pages. Never before has Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. left itself in such an uncertain position, but season 4 is right around the corner. Whatever does happen, fans of the series have almost a completely blank page on which the next chapter will be written. There is sure to be more about what’s to come on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the coming months, and we’ll keep you posted on any new information as it develops.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4 will air this fall on ABC.