Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the midseason finale of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Read at your own risk!
The Ghost Rider may be gone, but a new threat emerged in the midseason finale of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
During Tuesday’s episode, S.H.I.E.L.D. teamed up with Ghost Rider (Gabriel Luna) to take down Eli Morrow (José Zúñiga). Mace (Jason O’Mara) also wanted to use AIDA (Mallory Jansen) to help, forcing Coulson (Clark Gregg) to reveal that she’s an android. Fearing a repeat of Ultron, Mace plans to use AIDA, but to dismantle her after.
Though Eli believes he’s creating matter out of nothing, he’s actually pulling it from another dimension, causing quakes as he rips through the fabric of space and time. Robbie pulls Eli and the demon core into another dimension, and Daisy prevents further quakes and subsequently reveals herself to the public, and Mace assures everyone she’s not a danger, but an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. who saved the day.
During the chaos, AIDA shields Fitz (Iain de Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) from being shot, fulfilling her purpose. Mace decides to keep the AIDA program running — but under S.H.I.E.L.D.’s guidance. When an agent heads back to Radcliffe’s (John Hannah) lab to gather all the intel, he discovers something shocking hidden in the lab, and AIDA kills him to keep it secret. What’s behind the door? The real Agent May (Ming-Na Wen) being kept alive. But May is back at HQ drinking with Coulson! What does this all mean?! EW turned to executive producers Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen to find out: (Read our postmortem with Gabriel Luna here.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: To get this straight, the real Agent May is behind that locked door, and an android version is with Coulson?
MAURISSA TANCHAROEN: Correct.
How long has the Robo-May been in the field? Since May essentially went crazy?
JED WHEDON: That will unspool, but there are many stops to the process of being able to make one. That will unspool later.
Why has AIDA planted a robot version within the team, and why May in particular?
WHEDON: I’ll just say that you’ll know that in the first episode coming back.
AIDA says she’s learning, and she’s now able to kill. This seems like you’re gearing up for something similar to Ultron. How will her evolution be different?
WHEDON: AIDA started as something that was supposed to mimic human behavior. Ultron came out almost a fully fleshed-out creature with his own agenda, where she’s been discovering hers along the way. What we will learn is that AIDA is different than Ultron in many ways; that’s all I can really say. She started with the base of trying to be human.
Considering Life Model Decoys have played such a huge role in the comics, has this been a moment you’ve been waiting for since the beginning of the series?
WHEDON: A little bit, yeah. There were reasons that we couldn’t do it earlier. We were gunning for it this year. She obviously took a leap when she learned that new technology in episode 7, so we felt like there was a way, with what Ghost Rider introduces into our world, that there was a way to launch this that would be rewarding.
Clark Gregg had teased that it looked like fans would finally get the Philinda relationship. Is this an android trying to get close to Coulson in the way that Ward got close to Agent May in season 1?
TANCHAROEN: That would be interesting. You can reason it either way. This android is built on May’s actual memories, thoughts and feelings, so…
WHEDON: What her mission is has yet to be revealed, but you can see they opened that bottle at the end of the episode, so it feels like they’re not waiting around anymore, so we’ll see where it goes.
Coulson knows her the best, so will he notice something amiss? Or will a potential budding romance blind him to the truth?
WHEDON: We’ll see! [Laughs.]
Were Robbie and Eli sucked into another dimension?
WHEDON: We don’t yet know exactly where it is, but the hints we got along the way are that when Mack was the Rider, the Rider says to Robbie, “I know where you’re going. I don’t want to go back there,” so we get the sense that some of these otherworldly elements might be coming from this other place, wherever that may be. In Doctor Strange, they painted a Dark Dimension and other dimensions, so we don’t know exactly — or, at least, we haven’t said. But we do get the sense that things can come from there, things live there. He’s been dragged to that place, wherever that is. What happens to him there or where that goes is a “wait and see.”
The end of the winter finale indicated that we haven’t seen the last of Ghost Rider. Will you explore where that place is, or are you leaning away from that in the second half of the season?
WHEDON: We have three different pods this season, and they will all feel distinctly different. We’re moving into a new pod.
TANCHAROEN: That doesn’t mean that he is gone.
WHEDON: Or that he will not be involved at some point, but it will definitely have a different feel.
Speaking of the next pod, what is the subtitle?
WHEDON: It’s LMD, so it’s not a big shocker. For the comic book fans, it has a nice draw. For the people who don’t know what it means, the ad will spell it out for them a little bit. We’re going to play in that sandbox for a little while.
Now that Daisy is back in S.H.I.E.L.D., how do her ideas conflict with Mace’s moving forward?
WHEDON: In the first episode back, in episode 9, we’ll explore that a little bit. She’s been a fugitive, but she’s not a bad person, and I think the audience will agree with that. While he may have other agendas, he presents as not a bad person. They should be able to reconcile in some way early on, but where that goes, we’ll see.
TANCHAROEN: Ultimately, they’re on the same team. Despite their differences, they will work together.
How does her relationship with Coulson change moving forward?
WHEDON: You got a little sense in the first pod where she came back and was like, “You’re not going to give me a speech?” and he goes, “No.” He’s treating her almost like the kid who has left the house and he’s got to let her make her mistakes. They’ll always have that father-daughter dynamic, but I think he’s being a little more hands-off now, letting her be her own person.
Will Daisy, Fitz, and Simmons be hunting down that Inhuman, a.k.a. Nadeer’s brother?
TANCHAROEN:Yes, at least an episode’s worth.
Does Nadeer have something more on Mace than just what he said?
WHEDON: There might be more. What he said she had on him was the presence of Daisy and Ghost Rider, but we also know that Simmons, at one point, observed him telling his story and caught him in a lie, so we know there’s something there.
TANCHAROEN: There is something there that has yet to be uncovered.
Are you going to dig more into Mace and how he came to be what he is?
WHEDON: We will.
What’s next for Mack and Yo-Yo’s relationship?
WHEDON: Well, what’s next after a kiss? I’m pretty sure it’s second base and then third base.
TANCHAROEN: What’s after third base? [Laughs.]
How do they navigate the challenges of working together while in a relationship?
WHEDON: That will be a hurdle for them to get over, that it’s hard for them to work with a fellow spy. We like the two of them together. It’s a pairing we’re happy with, so we think they’re going to just head down that road a little bit, and we’ll see where it goes. We like the two of them together a lot — both as actors and as characters.
Are you getting more into Mack’s history in the back half of the season so we can find out more about Hope?
WHEDON: I hope so, yeah.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will Tuesday, Jan. 10 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC. Read our postmortem with Gabriel Luna here. And stay tuned for some FitzSimmons info in this week’s Spoiler Room.