If you’re an avid consumer of both the Marvel superhero films and ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Captain America: The Winter Soldier (hitting U.S. theaters today) will — spoiler alert! — leave you with a flurry of burning questions, if not outright concern for the TV series’ fate.
In the Captain America sequel, it is revealed that the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization has been secretly corrupted by Hydra since its beginning. And by the end of the film, S.H.I.E.L.D. is disbanded, leaving the supercrime-fighting group’s major players to move on, now without a helicarrier in which to hang their Kangol hats.
“[Marvel Studios boss] Kevin [Feige], after a certain point, wanted to bring S.H.I.E.L.D. down, for Avengers [storytelling] purposes,” Winter Soldier co-writer Christopher Markus told TVLine at the film’s Los Angeles premiere. On the big screen, at least, he offers, “It frees people up, because you don’t have the ‘cops’ to turn to anymore.” Adds co-writer Stephen McFeely: “For now, you’re going to have to operate in this lawless world.”
But is TV’s S.H.I.E.L.D. ready to brave that Wild West?
“We were in shock — and still are, honestly,” Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. cast member Elizabeth Henstridge shared at the Winter Solider premiere. “We all had our theories about what might happen, because we knew there was a huge tie-in [between film and TV]. But none of us saw this coming.”
Ming-Na Wen perhaps sums up the cast’s collective response thusly: “We just kind of said, ‘Um… so what happens to our show?'”
So… what does happen? Rest assured, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s top agents — meaning executive producers Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen — were given a heads-up on what was coming.
“We know a lot about every movie a long time before it comes out,” Whedon told us. “We get to read the scripts and see early cuts, so if and when there are things that affect our world… we have a lot of time to prepare. And there are some things in [Winter Solider] that will ripple into our show.”
Rather than see the shuttering of S.H.I.E.L.D. as an obstacle, “Everything’s an opportunity,” Tancharoen says. “Everything is interconnected, which is definitely a unique situation when you have a television show connected to films like this.”
Neither of the EPs would part with details on how the ABC series will weave in this super wrinkle, other than to say, “Things go crazy” during this last run of episodes. But cast member Henstridge promised a variety of reactions from the agents, who already have been dealing with strange behavior (Why’d Ward gun down Thomas Nash?), hidden agendas (What’s up with May’s secret phone line?) and deceptive friendlies (Saffron Burrows’ Agent Hand seems out to snuff Coulson & Co., while Maximiliano Hernández’s Agent Jasper Sitwell, who also was just on board the Bus, is revealed in Winter Soldier to be a Hydra mole).
“Simmons desperately wants to be like, ‘It doesn’t matter,” Henstridge says, “but she’s lost for the first time, as everything she believes in is challenged. This is the first time that she’s not positive about a situation.”
On the bright side, Winter Soldier‘s undoubtedly boffo box office stands poised to give its TV cousin a pop culture jolt, just as May Sweeps nears and with a Season 2 pick-up still TBD.
“Fans — though not true fans — can be impatient sometimes,” observes Chloe Bennett, who plays newly christened S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Skye. “But I think it’s all about to pay off.” (With reporting by Scott Huver)