Agents of SHIELD

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. EPs Take Us Inside Creation of Framework Arc — Including the Evil Haircut They Didn't Ask For

Ghost Rider is back to heat things up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but dare we say, we’re going to miss that far-out Framework world?

Constructed by Radcliffe’s android assistant Aida as a hellacious bit of heaven (at least as far as Coulson & Co. were concerned), the third “pod” of Season 4 creatively re-energized the ABC drama and stabilized its ratings — perhaps enough, one could argue, to score it a Season 5 renewal last week.

With the Season 4 finale arriving Tuesday at 10/9c, TVLine spoke with co-showrunner Jed Whedon and executive producer Jeffrey Bell about why the Framework’s “What if?” premise popped, as well as tease the “something quite different” on tap for Season 5.

TVLINE | Was there any point in breaking 4C that it hit you that this arc might be some next-level kind of greatness?
BELL | No….. [Laughs]
WHEDON | [Laughs] I wish that moment ever happened.
BELL | No, we’re writers, so… we hate and are afraid of everything. And then we do out best to not make it terrible, and sometimes people like it — like this year!

TVLINE | It’s been so much fun.
BELL |  It is fun.
WHEDON |  I will say that going in we knew that it would be rewarding for longtime viewers to be able to flip things on their head. We knew we were going to have fun with it, because we’re in our fourth season, we’ve done a lot of stories and we knew we’d get to play in a new world. So, we knew it would at least be fun, and usually that leads to stuff that the audience loves. We did have a sense that we were going to enjoy it, and we’re glad the viewers did as well.

TVLINE | Do youAgents of SHIELD Season 5 Ward think “What if?” storylines are just inherently entertaining, or is there something “extra” going on here?
BELL |  What you choose for the “What if?” is really what it’s all about. “What if?” can be crazy or whatever, but I will give the writers room credit that everything that was chosen had an emotional resonance. It was something you hadn’t seen, or wanted to see or wondered about, so for us it was really rich territory to mine.
WHEDON |  And there’s the fact that it was rooted in our own characters’ choices, not to mention characters the audience has spent many years with now. It wasn’t just, “OK, let’s go Wacky World!” It was, “What if you’d made different decisions?” That made it for us a much more fun puzzle. And as Jeff said, it gave it resonance.

TVLINE | Do you get on set often? Did you get any feedback from the actors on being re-energized by it all?
BELL |  One of the nice things about shooting in Los Angeles is our offices are right down the studio from the stages, so it was fun to see. They were excited for each script, to see what’s going to happen next.
WHEDON |  It’s funny seeing the different reactions. For Clark [Gregg], it was just so fun to get to play a fish out of water, a bit of a bumbling history teacher. And Iain [ De Caestecker], he was very uncomfortable at first trying to play someone with such a stillness and taking such a  dark turn, but he definitely started to enjoy it the more he got into it — which was scary in its own way!
BELL |  One of the fun things was we got a photo one day — “Iain would like to wear his hair like this” — and we were like, “Oh God, that alone is a huge change!”
WHEDON |  It turns out he’s a Nazi. Who knew!
BELL |  For the actors to find little physical things like that…. For Clark to be wearing glasses, and at the end when he comes out as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. he takes them off, that for him was a key to the character.

TVLINE | As you broke Agents of SHIELD Recaplast week’s episode, had you almost forgotten how much May had missed out on?
WHEDON  Yeah, there was a lot of talk in the writers room about, “Wait, she hasn’t been here for a long time! The last thing she saw was Robbie Reyes.” So we knew that once she came out [of the Framework], she had a whole arc that she was not a party to. We knew there would be some fun to it.
BELL |  I also want to point out that we had not had all of our characters together all season. The whole team has not been together. There have been different variations of them and groups of them and fake versions of them, but that was a challenge for us as well, in terms of that playing in a good way, not in a bad way.

TVLINE | Looking ahead to the finale: What will Ghost Rider’s return bring to the mix? What kind of mood is he in?
BELL He’s never in a good mood. That’s why he’s Ghost Rider!

TVLINE | Does he have a specific objective?
BELL Based on the stories you’ve seen, you could answer that question. But yes, he does.

TVLINE | And Yo-Yo, she has just arrived in the same Framework as everyone else?
BELL |  She woke up where everybody had been, but things have gone horribly, horribly wrong there.

TVLINE There’s a photo of Mack hugging Hope, and it looks pretty heartbreaking. Does he have a difficult decision ahead?
BELL |  I would say yes.

TVLINE And as far as Season 5, is it about introducing a  new character a la Ghost Rider, or is there a different kind of wrinkle planned?
BELL | Each year we’ve tried to reinvent the series in some way, in concept. And we will try to do that again. Without talking about characters, I think the end [of Tuesday’s finale] really does suggest something quite different….
WHEDON |  …and we’ll see what that means. But yes, there’ll be a little bit of a tease.

Want more scoop on Arrow, or for any other show? Email and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.

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  1. “this arc be some next-level kind of greatness”

    Calm down, it wasn’t all that great.

  2. Callie says:

    Wonder if they read the cap Secret Empire comics or not. Red Skull changed the reality and made Steve Rogers hydra… it kind of reminds me of how Aida manipulated the darkhold and made May and Fitz hydra too

    • g says:

      probably not influenced by the comics or if AoS was in anyway – it was only very generally as the episodes were likely written long before the current comic books were finished
      but it’s possible Marvel Comics & TV have occasionally “co-operation” meetings to draw certain inspirations from similar topics & sort of feed off the the same tree but still doing their own separate things

  3. Noel says:

    I hope Brett Dalton comes back to stay!!!

  4. Hank says:

    I enjoyed it, but it and the lmd arc have been eerily similar to what Eureka did. But then that was probably similar to something before it and before that and so on.

    • Alichat says:

      I thought about Eureka as well, but the big difference is what Jeff and Jed said above. The world of Eureka was made to be as close to their real world as possible, but with the avatars of those not in the framework becoming the villains/controllers of that world. While it was psychologically scarring for those who were mistreated by the avatars of those they loved (Carter and Alison for example), they left that world knowing that it wasn’t really that person. So Alison knew that Carter didn’t really do those things to her, but it was hard to deal with seeing him do those thing. The world of the Framework, as we saw it, was driven by that one regret that was altered. Fitz, May, Coulson, and Mack made these decisions within that world. These were their choices. The emotional resonance of that one change, most especially with regard to Fitz and May, created that dark world and the horrible choices they made. Well…that and Aida’s obsession with Fitz. But it does raise the question of acceptance of the world around you and how that drives the person you become. Fitz’s father and his influence on his moral development turned him into a Mengele-like person. Aida’s influence, having no real morality…no soul, assisted in him rationalizing all the horrible things he was doing. Same with May. Her regret was corrected, and the young girl was saved. But that girl then went on to cause a violent incident. So another regret for May, saving the girl, then drove her to rationalize putting her support behind an evil organization bent on controlling the world and wiping out those who are different.

      So I see the similarity with Eureka and AoS, but to me the AoS storyline is so much deeper and complex and heartbreaking.

  5. T.W.S.S. says:

    Please make Yo-Yo a main character next season. And please, no season-two level cliffhangers.

    • Ian Fleming says:

      I would love for Natalia to join the cast as a regular. That would be awesome. As for the cliffhanger, I think that you might be out of luck on that one. From what I’ve been reading this season ends on a “how am I going to make it through the summer?” humdinger of an ending. Sounds like fun.

    • Ben says:

      Yo-Yo being a regular is my number one hope for the show next season. But, lets take one step at a time… I just hope she makes it out of the finale alive first.


    I wonder if there’s a way to strip Aida……. and I’m back,,, strip Aida of her powers and have her just be a regular human. She can then take on the persona of the real Madame Hydra aka Viper in an attempt to return Hydra to it’s frame work glory and get revenge on Shield. She must have retained all of the knowledge from the frame work as far as the experiments and such. Maybe she knows of secret Hydra bases and resources.

    • I sort of want to see that happen. Madame Hydra is a *major* villain, someone the movies might have used if they wanted to continue to pursue Hydra beyond Captain America: The Winter Soldier (obviously, they didn’t, hence the quick and anti-climactic disposal of Baron von Strucker). Once AoS got that Marvel got-ahead to use her, and an actress as terrific as Mallory Jansen to portray her, it’s a bit of a waste to let go of her so quickly. (I’m talking specifically about Madame Hydra, who was in 4 or 5 episodes, not AIDA in any form who’s been there all season.)

  7. Sarah says:

    Absolutely hate this framework storyline!! I cannot wait til they go back to having a new inhuman that they meet up with. If anything a new bad guy instead of this man versus robots.

  8. Phil says:

    This interview does not give nearly the credit due Mallory Jansen for holding this season together! Yes, it is well-written, and good story decisions have been made, but without her as the crux, it wouldn’t work nearly as well, or look so well-executed.
    Also, I really liked how Ward and Tripp were used this season.

  9. Joey Padron says:

    Great interview with the producers. Excited to see what happens in season finale tomorrow night! Season 4 been a great season for the show.

  10. Betty says:

    Shield, Legends of tomorrow, Originals, Beyond, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Mortal Instruments, these are the TV shows that are most interesting to me. Their cast and crew are always fantastic.

  11. John Honey says:

    AoS is the best show on TV now! Best character development and acting…and good grief, they asked a LOT of their actors this season, playing multiple versions of themselves. It’s the best storytelling I’ve seen on TV since “The Following” IMHO. That said…I was so ready for The Framework arc to be over! I was pretty tired of it. Get back to the real world, the greater Marvel universe. It should have been a three-episode mini-arc, not the, what?, six or seven episodes now? Like a third of the season. Anyway, I’m hoping the Framework is done with after next week!

    • Exactly, all of the AoS actors had a big challenge this season – and they wer all able to rise to it, which is why it all worked so well. Without a doubt, the best comic book show right now. The CW shows can’t touch this on their best day.

  12. klonerism says:

    Interesting stuff. I’d like to see the time between US and international release come down a lot. By the time we get it in the UK it’s all been spoiled (Yes I spoilt this myself, I’m a sucker for a good spoiler!)

  13. Best comic book show on the air right now bar none. Yes, including Netflix. So glad it was renewed for Season 5.

  14. Micheal Briacz says:

    I think it is brilliant just sit down whatch what next

  15. Cynthia says:

    This season was phenomenal for me! I loved each arc and will miss the characters in the Framework a LOT!
    Ward, Trip, Hope…. may someone make it out of the Framework. (My heart is set on Ward 💛)
    So thrilled for a Season 5 and I’m looking forward to a few more seasons!!