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.”