S.H.I.E.L.D. Bosses Talk Coulson's Crisis, Ward's Dark Side and Landing in the Military's Crosshairs

BRETT DALTON, BILL PAXTONIt comes with the territory, as a showrunner on ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., that “seekrits” must be kept. But perhaps no huger one existed this season than the very dissolution of the titular organization, as dictated two-thirds of the way into the season by the film Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

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“As much as it’s been challenging, it’s been a great opportunity,” executive producer Maurissa Tancharoen tells TVLine. And now that the seismic shift in the Marvel-verse has played out on TV, “We have been waiting to see how people respond to the fact that it’s been something in our design for a while,” she says.

One of the many big questions coming out of last week’s episode “Turn, Turn, Turn” — which encores tonight at 8/7c, leading into the brand-new episode “Providence” at 9 — concerns the raison d’etre, if there still is one, for Agent Coulson & Co.

“Part of his mission going forward is to figure that out,” Tancharoen says. “Coulson’s life has been defined by this organization that fell to pieces, so what happens to the company man when the company goes away?

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“May asked him, ‘What are we going to do now?’ and he says, ‘Survive”– and survival is a big part of it,” the EP continues. “But there may also be a personal need to take down Garrett” aka The Clairvoyant, played by Bill Paxton. Even worse for all and known to none, is the fact that Agent Ward is playing for the other side. “There will be some tension to play, having this snake in the grass.”

So, Ward is a true turncoat? There’s no triple-agenting at play here? “You’ll learn a lot more” about his true agenda, exec producer Jed Whedon allows. “You’ll get a glimpse of a side of Ward we didn’t know was there.”

Further compromising Coulson’s team is his new distrust of Agent May, whom he just learned has known the truth about his “death” and “T.A.H.I.T.I.” all along. (Oh, and it also was she who steered the assembly of his crew.)

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What will it take to restore May’s “friend” status, currently downgraded to a tentative “ally”? “Coulson is deeply wounded,” Tancharoen says. “She said to him that she [concealed the truth] out of a place for caring for him, but it will take him a while to believe anything she says.”

An exploded infrastructure, estranged allies, a traitor in the midst…. What else will this ragtag S.H.I.E.L.D. team have to contend with this week? Enter Adrian Pasdar (Heroes) as Colonel Talbot. “S.H.I.E.L.D. was once an agency that the U.S. Government looked to for help,” Tancharoen notes, “so it’s interesting to see them looked at more as a target in the military eyes.”

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  1. Lucy says:

    I’m really excited by the way AOS is going at the moment, now that is it truly linked into the Marvel cinematic universe I can’t wait to see things play out – although I’ll admit my heart broke seeing Ward turn seemingly evil just after he and Skye finally got their stuff together. I can’t WAIT for the rest of this season!

  2. JC says:

    I’ll give the writers credit – they’ve really upped their game since the holiday break. I did not see the Ward reveal coming, though I’m still wondering if that was actually faked to get him inside HYDRA.

  3. tv2day says:

    Never knew his name was ward. That’s how uninteresting the characters have been. Hopefully they kill him off and the sky chick and one of the nerd doctors. If the show stays on the dark side like the last episode they r on to something. But if they go back the the Saturday morning cartoon that its been all year….

  4. critter42 says:

    I don’t think they’ve actually come out and said that Paxton is “the clairvoyant”…

    • Alan says:

      paxton never said it himself, he just never denied it, thats why im convinced someone else is pulling the strings and not him.

    • Alichat says:

      Coulson said Agent Garrett is The Clairvoyant….twice.

      • Alan says:

        thats what coulson thinks, garrett never agreed or disagreed with him.

        • Alichat says:

          True. But the current assumption is that Garrett is The Clairvoyant. If The Clairvoyant is someone else pulling Garrett’s strings, who could that be within Hydra? Pierce? Sitwell? Garrett did mention that Sitwell was responsible for filling the ranks with Hydra men. But Coulson said Quinn told him the goal of The Clairvoyant was to find out how he is still alive. That can’t be the only goal considering what happened to Mike Peterson, but wouldn’t Pierce, being the level he is, be able to determine how Coulson was saved? Why the elaborate plan to capture him, torture him, and get him to remember Tahiti if it could be determined by opening a highly classified document? This points to Garrett being TC…..since he wouldn’t be able to access Coulson’s files or anything highly classified. If TC is someone higher up in Hydra, why would they use Garrett to gain data they could access via other agents like Pierce and Sitwell? So, I think basically for now the belief is that Garrett is TC, but as you are implying there’s probably another twist coming and it will be someone else or some big red herring.

          • Tim says:

            I’m still on board with the theory that the Clairvoyant is Dr. Zola. Given what we know about the Clairvoyant – that he (for sake of simplicity, I’ll just refer to him as a ‘he’) relies on information submitted into SHIELD’s database in order to predict what actions people are going to take. Given the fact that he didn’t know how Coulson survived, that takes away any actual clairvoyancy, since that skill would allow him to read that information without the need for factual data. Since Fury withheld information about Coulson from everybody, Dr. Zola was never aware of it, so he couldn’t have any answers about it. That’s my theory, and I’m sticking to it until something better comes along.

  5. Christine says:

    I’m still curious about Skye’s background…particularly the fact that SHIELD labeled her as an 0-8-4? Does she have powers?

    • Alan says:

      im of the opinion that skye unconsciously has the power to make people want to protect her, and entire village died to protect her and when she was shot everyone ran headlong into a place they knew nothing about in the hopes of finding something to heal her, its a little suspicious in my opinion.

      • CBWBDK1 says:

        Hahahahahahahahahaha!!! That would suck!! Terrible power!

        • One theory is it is an aspect of possible mental abilities (telepathy and such), but she has zero idea she can do it. That idea comes from that they keep talking about how real psychics don’t exist and the potential dramatic irony in Skye being one all along. Whenever she’s hurt or in danger she unwittingly basically sends out a psychic cry for help.

  6. I am so incredibly excited for the reason of the season and I love the link to the movies! Now why did Hand want Ward to kill Paxton? If she really is on the good side, I’m surprised? There has to be more there….

  7. Babygate says:

    Ward going dark is the most interesting thing that has happened on this show. That was a jaw-dropping moment. I also clapped. He went from being a boring, vanilla type of character to finally being intriguing. Now I really want to know what happens next.

    • EJ386 says:

      This indeed. They really upped their game. I am a little sad because I like Ward and Skye, but I think this might very well mean a much better storyline, with some actual conflict there.

  8. Christina says:

    I’m so happy it’s finally picking up the pace. It’s definitely a show I look forward to every week now. Fitzsimmons are still the best part of the show though!

  9. personally i don’t think ward is evil in the truest sense of the word. i think he’s a human being molded first by family experience then the tutelage of garret and coulson and everyone has also left their mark too

  10. James D says:

    This show pulled a complete 180 after the winter break and has steadily improved IMO, Last weeks episode was outstanding. I honestly didn’t see Wards turn coming until he got on the plane then it was obvious what he was going to do. I’m not totally convinced he’s turned, either he’s being manipulated by the Clairvoyant (who is not Paxton) or Coulson planted him with Hydra as a spy. with that said i’d be very impressed with the writers if they had the guts to actually make him a willing participant in Hydra, it would be far more dynamic of a story. Can’t wait to see Patton Oswalt tonight he’s awesome in everything. Sky Cake!

    • Greg says:

      Come on folks! If Whedon and Tancharoen say Garrett is the Clairvoyant, he’s the Clairvoyant! Ward? He is the one character who is expendable. Despite his “cleaning” abilities he is really nothing but filler. Ming Mae can do the same job only better. I find it amusing that there are factions for each character. Although it sounds like I’m one of them, I really believe a good plot should not be carried solely on any one character’s shoulders. I would hate to see AoS fans go the route of NCIS fans who can’t get behind characters because their eyebrows are darker than their hair! Let’s not go there! Pleeez?

  11. Ashley says:

    I think they’re going to back track and make ward some type of double agent or some way his character can be redeemed.

  12. The Kaibosh says:

    So many possibilities! the prevailing sentiment seems to be that Ward is a triple agent of sorts and his double, double cross is coming which will reveal he’s a good guy after all. But what if he’s neither? What if he isn’t in fact HYDRA but did actually betray SHIELD for real? That would make him a third party. A rouge. The producers have taken the time to establish the Ward/Skye relationship. These two are obviously destined to be together and I highly doubt their payoff would be a simple “why the hell not” kiss. I think Ward positioned himself on purpose in the beginning to protect the 0-8-4. But he fell in love with her. I think that the inevitable reveal of what Skye is will be linked to Ward revealing his true intentions. The show will then continue to be split in terms of plot direction. Ward and Skye will be on the run together when we learn what she actually is (I’m guessing Shi’ar).

  13. R.O.B. says:

    Just want to voice an annoyance to the powers that be (I am not even going to read these talkbacks yet). If there is a movie tie-in, can you wait at least a full week before running an episode that could spoil the film for people that haven’t had the opportunity to see the movie during opening weekend? There are likely a few of us out there, and the ratings could be affected. I have last week’s episode and now the next one that are going to be sitting on my DVR until I can catch Captain America in the theater. This happened with Thor as well, although the tie-in episode was not very spoilery. For Captain America, which I hear supposedly flips the Marvel world on its head a bit (and the consequences are evident in the last episode), who would want to see the Tv show before the movie?

    • Greg says:

      I grok you! I took time off of my job to go see “Winter Soldier” before last week’s episode so I wouldn’t be exposed to a spoiler. Not everyone has that luxury, so, I agree whole heartedly that some sort of spacing should be considered. But, I must also admit that it does boost interest in the series.

      • R.O.B. says:

        Sure, but I think it would boost more interest if they gave us that week and a half – they could even heavily promote the tie-in episode to boost sales of Captain America on its second weekend, and then I bet there would be a bump in the ratings for AOS the following week for the bigger group of people that want to see how the aftermath affects the team. Seems they missed an opportunity here.

    • gdv says:

      I watched SHIELD before I went to see Captain America and I don’t think it spoiled it much at all. I guess it depends on what you consider a spoiler. To me, a spoiler is a really huge reveal you don’t see coming or ruin’s the whole plot. To others, a spoiler is anything that gives away any bit of information about the plot, however bland or expected. I think the crossover was done well enough that one show informs the other, but doesn’t really spoil it.

      • R.O.B. says:

        That’s good to know. Someone out there should let those of us who simply can’t see the movie on opening night (or weekend) know that we don’t have to affect the ratings and alter the fate of Agents of Shield because we ironically just want to drop a twenty on the movie first.

        I was only going by the TV Line and EW promos, which kept promising “major fallout from Captain America 2”. It sounds like CA2 has a decent twist in there, so I didn’t want an episode of AOS giving it away before I saw the movie.

        • Ben says:

          ROB – this is a big spoiler, not a small spoiler. If you are the ‘don’t like to be spoiled’ type, definitely watch the movie first.

          • R.O.B. says:

            YES IT WAS. I just saw the movie (excellent). I didn’t watch last week’s AOS yet but I have a feeling it would have spoiled the movie.

      • R.O.B. says:

        Sorry gdv, I have to disagree. I saw the movie yesterday and the crossover episode afterwards, and watching Agents of SHIELD first would have spoiled Winter Soldier in almost every way. The show references a major character death and a major reveal about SHIELD that were both twists that made up the backbone of the film. These, especially in regards to SHIELD, I would consider the ultimate of spoilers. Minor spoilers, on the other hand, are like the ones in the Thor 2 crossover episode, where basically just an Asgardian artifact was discovered, if I remember correctly – it had no connection to the plot of the movie, except in coming from Thor’s planet (not that anything Marvel-shattering happened in Thor 2 anyway).

  14. Patrick Maloney says:

    This material is way better than anything Arrow has come up with this season because they have really built to this event and earned it.

    • Dav says:

      If by “built to this event” you mean floundered around with boring stories until the movie finally aired so they could begin an actual story…then yes.

      • Mikael says:

        They were definitely stalling until The Winter Soldier came out. Hopefully all the people who left early on will come back now. I’m curious to see what the 9pm ratings are compared to its usual timeslot against NCIS

  15. This show has gotten SO DAMN GOOD. Really excited for the remaining episodes. Too bad it took AoS a while to find its feet (as is the case for most shows), because most of the audience was gone by the time it did. I know it’s basically guaranteed a second season, but damn, it still deserves better ratings than it gets.

  16. Dav says:

    Regarding Ward – The producer said in an interview right after the episode that they had planned Ward as a bad guy right from the beginning. So that rules out him pretending to be bad to infiltrate Hydra. However, that doesn’t mean that Ward hasn’t been brainwashed by Hydra. Personally, I would love it if Ward really was a bad guy but I firmly believe they will excuse his betrayal by having his character under mind control. I bet you $20 that he will be capture by SHIELD in season 2 and most of that season will be spent de-programming him and having him win back everyone’s trust.

    • Ben says:

      It doesn’t rule out him pretending to be Hydra. Just because the producer says something in an interview doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t misleading. They might know full well that the full truth is ‘we always planned an arc where Ward appeared to be a bad guy, but he is actually good’. Producers/writers often mislead to avoid people knowing what is coming up the bend.

    • DarkDefender says:

      Ward could totally be a bad guy… Who worked for HYDRA all along.. Probably to monitor Coulson, but then to watch the 0-8-4. Then, he got to know her and well.. Probably fall in love with her.. So he is now in “protect her” mode.. So when it comes down to it. Bad guy, but will give all that up to protect Skye. That’s why Couslon will take him back.

    • Rocco says:

      I’ll take that bet. Ha. No way they go the de- program angle. Too cliche for this show.

  17. John NYC says:

    Odds are Hydra has exploited Ward’s past to their advantage: but he made the decision to join on his own.

    Though I still see that invitation to just shoot Garrett a bit odd (she never struck me as the “favors to others” sort of person…..), enough that that scene might be a plant to get Ward on the inside….

  18. Any word on whether they’re going to deal with the fact that one of their own got raped?

    • Scott says:

      He’s no longer one of their own, and its almost impossible to prove rape of a man by a woman (or in this case a goddess). The fact that the male is physically able to perform pretty much destroys any lack of consent argument. Now if she’d rolled him onto his stomach and done something else..that could be a different story.

      Hardly anyone except for two commentors on here (probably the same person) think there was any issue with that story. Just get over it.

  19. Ashley says:

    This show is getting so good!

  20. Ms Thing says:

    Aside from Coulson, the most interesting characters are May and Fitz/Simmons.
    Ward is a better villain than hero.
    Skye is beyond rewrite. That character needs to die.

    • Christina says:

      Don’t quite think Skye needs to die, but she’s definitely one of my least favorites. Her and Ward really were the worst for me.

      • JC says:

        I don’t really have a problem with Skye as part of the team. I just don’t really think she’s interesting enough to be a lead character, and that’s kind of how they treated her at first. I feel like they’ve found a little better balance with her now. I agree that she and Ward are the least interesting characters though, but I would lose Ward before Skye.

        • Abbie says:

          I think part of the reason I dislike Skye is because I knew right from the very beginning that they were going to force she and Ward on us. It was so obvious and one of the most overused Hollywood tropes ever. I think I wouldn’t mind Skye so much if Ward were gone and I didn’t have to worry about them.

          • JC says:

            That’s fair. I’m not a fan of Skye/Ward myself. I’m fairly convinced that this evil!Ward thing is a fake, but I’m still kind of hoping that one way or another it leads to him being written out at the end of the season and replaced by someone with a bit more personality. May’s already got the “stoic badass” role covered. ;)

  21. greysfan says:

    This show just keeps getting better and better. It started off a little flat but now its just on fire. Its been a great series and bring on what comes next.

  22. I agree with u about losing ward b4 skye

  23. DarkDefender says:

    I think everyone ought to buck up.. Cause they have built to much into the Coulson/Skye relationship to kill her off. Besides, they would have just done that when she got shot. Her and Coulson are connected even more now because of the GH325.. That is going to play out in the long run.. I’m sure of it.

  24. Rocco says:

    I HATE hidden moles in TV shows! Major hate. Major, major hate! It’s a cheap and lazy out for story writers. The only one remotely acceptable was the end of the first season of 24. There was a season long investment, and it made sense. Problem was, it did so well that they had a mole for every season, terrible. AOS is not a murder mystery. They get one pass, one mole, they best not have another or you’ll see the Fonzie waxing his skies. Lol.

  25. Rosemary says:

    Im still going back and forth as to whether Ward is a bad or good guy. But there are a few things that stand out. First, why the look he exchanged with Colson (as mentioned by JC, above) when they were leaving? Second, why did he shoot the two guards in the head, but then shoot agent Hand somewhere in the abdomen first? Third, Why didn’t we see him kill the agent in the bunker who did the lie detector tests? Have I read too many mysteries in my day or is there something here? Inquiring minds want to know…