As executive producer Jeph Loeb, who’s also the Head of Marvel Television, told TVLine Saturday at New York Comic-Con, “We didn’t know until 48 hours ago if we were going to have 22 episodes, or 13, or eight. But once you know that, you can exhale and not so much take your time but explore things in much greater detail. It enables us to sit down and take a look at each of the characters and give them their due.”
After all, Loeb notes, the S.H.I.E.L.D. team’s confluence of distinct personalities and how they work (or sometimes don’t) together is a main driver of the narrative. “What we’ve tried to do is build stories that come from character and not so much from plot,” he attests. “The real question is: How are our characters going to react to whatever it is that we’re doing?”
Among the things S.H.I.E.L.D. thus far has been doing: A gifted “hero” was contained, a mysterious object was sought and a human asset was protected. And there are still other manner of missions to come.
“One of the things that’s fun about the show is we’re going to be doing all different kinds of missions and episodes and tones,” Loeb shares. “We’ve talked a lot about four groups, one which is the gifted, where we deal with people who have abilities; one of which is alien; one which is more tech-based, and sometimes the tech may be alien or tied into someone who’s gifted; and the episode airing this week lives in the world of espionage, the world of S.H.I.E.L.D. And what’s wonderful about these characters is that they can play in all those different places because they all have different viewpoints.”
Of course, at least two of the characters are embarking on these missions while harboring secrets, even unwittingly. “Certainly one of the big overarching stories is what happened to Coulson and how could he be there,” having died in the Avengers movie. Might the elite agent start to pick up on clues that his seeming resurrection involved more than the “magical place” of Tahiti? “He’s a pretty smart guy,” Loeb smiles. “Let’s see where it takes us.”
Noob “consultant” Skye, meanwhile, is covertly in cahoots with Rising Tide, whose agenda runs counter to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s own. But is the hive of hacktivists indeed Season 1’s big bad, or is there a greater evil ahead? “[Rising Tide] certainly will offer complications. Episode 5, in particular, will start to focus in more on that,” Loeb previews. “[The Big Bad] may be them, or it may be something else that delivers a smackdown. But there is something coming.”
Perhaps the most burning question about ABC’s S.H.I.E.L.D., as it dives into its full season, is whether viewers have yet laid eyes on the actual show. After all, many a showrunner will admit that after basically “repeating the pilot” for the first few episodes of a maiden run, at a network’s urging, their true vision will have yet to crystallize on screen.
To that, Loeb says, “Certainly the second episode was intended to be very much like ‘The Pilot, Part 2,’ because it was really the first time [the characters] could all work together and see who they are. Very much in the same kind of way that the audience is getting to know these characters, these characters are getting to know each other as well. That is the mission.
“I think the show is absolutely getting better as we go — and we hope the audience feels that way as well,” he continues. “We’ve absolutely found the show; the idea is to keep watching. It’s very much like a roller coaster. You’ve got to go up the hill before you start coming down the hill at 100 miles-per-hour.”