[This article contains SPOILERS for those not caught up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3.]
The synopsis for the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3 episode 'Parting Shot' promised that the episode would leave Director Coulson's (Clark Gregg) S.H.I.E.L.D. agent team "changed forever" and it did just that - as the agent couple Bobbi Morse a.k.a. Mockingbird (Adrianne Palicki) and Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) have now been formally disavowed by S.H.I.E.L.D., after an operation that involved HYDRA head Gideon Malick (Powers Boothe) and a handful of high-ranking Russian government officials went south, forcing Bobbi and Lance to take the blame and sever ties with their fellow agents. Of course, as tear-jerking as Bobbi and Lance's farewell to Coulson's team was in the episode, fans no doubt took comfort in knowing this isn't the last that we'll see of the agent duo.
Yes, Bobbi and Lance are getting their own ABC-based Marvel TV show, titled Marvel's Most Wanted. The new series was created by Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. writers/producers Jeffrey Bell and Paul Zbyszewski (the latter also wrote 'Parting Shot') and will costar Delroy Lindo (The Chicago Code, Blood & Oil) as Dominic Fortune, a "rogue adventurer" - as the official Marvel's Most Wanted synopsis puts it - who makes an alliance with Bobbi and Lance as the pair find themselves with a hefty bounty on their heads.
Bobbi and Lance quickly became fan-favorite members of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. cast when they were introduced during season 2, so it naturally begs the question: will the latter show take a dip in quality, with the formally-married couple no longer being part of the show's ensemble? Here is what Bell had to offer EW, with respect to why he doesn't feel that will happen:
I feel like S.H.I.E.L.D. is a functioning entity. The sum is larger than its parts. Those parts are always changing, as we’ve brought in other characters both as protagonists and antagonists. They were a wonderful flavor to come in and play that out on the show. Beyond that, I think the show continues to function and is entertaining as we bring different characters in. We brought in Inhumans this season, we brought in Luke [Mitchell] to play Lincoln. Henry [Simmons] has really stepped up in the role of Mack. There are other dynamics that continue to grow and evolve.
One of the things I love about this show is the characters all go through seasonal arcs. Who any of them are from the beginning of season 1 to the end of 2, there’s always growth and change. Those entrances and exits tend to be a natural part of that growth. We continue to bring in other interesting actors and create new dynamics. Every now and then you go, “Oh my God, this is the first time those two characters have had a scene together this year,” or, “We haven’t had that situation before.” Pairing Mack and Daisy up as partners this year is fun. Even though we’re pairing Daisy and Lincoln romantically, on a job partnership, it’s been fun to have it different. We’re always looking for that. Early in the season, we sent Hunter and May out together, that was fun to see them together.
Truth be told, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had begun to gradually reduce Bobbi and Lance's significance in its over-arching narrative well before 'Parting Shots' aired. Viewers no doubt recall that Bobbi spent much of the first half of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3 recovering from the injuries that she sustained in season 2 after being captured/tortured by Grant Ward (Brett Dalton). At the same time, Lance was part of a sub-plot that revolved around him and Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) on a hunt for Ward, yet that particular story thread was a secondary concern to what continues to be the main story thread in season 3 - i.e. the 'Rise of the Inhumans' - and had limited direct impact on the events in the midseason finale. Still, Bobbi and Lance's departure for Marvel's Most Wanted came sooner than some anticipated, and Bell told EW that was due to a combination of the logistics of shooting the Most Wanted pilot and the S.H.I.E.L.D. showrunners' desire to give the characters a dramatically satisfying farewell:
They had to go off and shoot a pilot. That takes a long period of time. We wanted to manufacture a meaningful exit. They had to leave physically to go do a pilot — for them to be on the show, then be absent for a few episodes and then come back to leave felt disingenuous. It just happened naturally based on the schedule for shooting the pilot. We shot it earlier this year, and that really forced us to get them in and get them out at a certain time so they could turn around and do it.
Bell also explained the reasoning behind the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. showrunners' decision to firmly establish that Bobbi and Lance cannot re-join Coulson's team in the future (under anything but the most extreme circumstances, anyway), as he told EW that Marvel's Most Wanted is not approached as an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff - rather, it's meant to be "a show about these two characters living their life and the adventures that they have together," where calling Coulson for assistance is simply not an option. It's a smart move too, as a common criticism of Marvel Studios' Phase II films was that, given the shared continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it didn't make a whole lot of sense that S.H.I.E.L.D. and/or The Avengers weren't called to action during the movies as Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World in particular (throwaway lines from Kat Dennings' Darcy about how "Stupid S.H.I.E.L.D. isn't calling me back!" aside). With Most Wanted, however, it's a given from the beginning that Bobbi and Lance are on their own, for all intents and purposes. Of course, Bell did not completely rule out a future crossover between Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Marvel's Most Wanted either - having told EW that "[Crossovers are] fun when that can happen, but let’s get the show picked up first."
We’re trying to find our little corner of the sky. The Netflix shows have a certain feel and tone, Agent Carter had a certain feel and tone, and S.H.I.E.L.D. does, too. This is a show, at its heart, about a relationship. It’s about a man and a woman who love each other, who fight, who’ve been married, who got divorced, who are still together, and they also happen to be ex-spies who can kick ass. We’re looking to find a separate world for them in this larger universe, if that makes sense. Hopefully, tonally, you’ll look at it and it will have its own vibe.
Bell acknowledged that, based on that description alone, comparing Marvel's Most Wanted to being "Mr. and Mrs. Smith in the MCU" is a fair move, adding that at the heart of the series is "an adult relationship that’s complicated by a larger world." He also emphasized that while Most Wanted is a globe-trotting adventure like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the scaled-down nature of Bobbi, Lance, and Delroy's jobs together will allow Most Wanted to explore the side of the MCU that hasn't been properly examined by Marvel TV shows past:
On S.H.I.E.L.D., there’s a militaristic, governmental, global scale, and the Netflix shows are very much stories set in a neighborhood, and then Carter’s first season took place in New York, then the second season in L.A. What we’re trying to do is Bobbi and Hunter, because they are ex-spies, globe-trot. We’ll go around the world and we’ll go to cool places, but not so much on a giant militaristic scale. They’re going into different worlds. It’s in the press that Delroy Lindo was hired to play Dominic Fortune. He is a master of shades of gray. It’s a world of ex-spies, mercenaries, soldiers of future and corporate espionage. He’s a guy who is always looking to make a deal. He’s the guy you go to when you’re a senator who’s in trouble or something fell off the back of your truck. The fact that he’s a player in this takes us into a different corner of the universe than S.H.I.E.L.D. did.
Indeed, as Bell emphasized multiple times throughout his EW interview, the key to success for Marvel's Most Wanted will be differentiating itself from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.; not only in terms of the kinds of (mis)adventures that Bobbi and Lance get up to, but also in terms of their dynamic with both characters like Delroy and one another, compared to their days on S.H.I.E.L.D. together. Most Wanted faces a challenge in that regard, as it doesn't read as being a significantly different TV show from S.H.I.E.L.D. in terms of genre and/or style, unlike the Marvel/Netflix series and forthcoming TV series like the MCU-based workplace comedy Damage Control. Of course, if Most Wanted fails to catch on with fans, it will have Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4 as a safety net for keeping Bobbi and Lance involved as active players in the MCU (even if they can't become S.H.I.E.L.D. agents on that series again).
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues with ‘Watchdogs’ Tuesday March 29th at 9pm on ABC. We'll bring you more details on Marvel's Most Wanted as they become available.