'Agents of SHIELD' postmortem: Jeff Bell and Jeph Loeb on that finale
[SPOILER ALERT: The following article contains spoilers for the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season finale.]
Now that was a finale.
Are you recovered, agents? Have you had enough time to get some theories together? Are you asking yourself how the heck you’re going to wait until fall? (Or at least until Comic-Con, where we’ll hopefully get some new footage and insight about next season?) If you’re anything like me, I’m betting that you have questions. Questions that need answers. And although we can’t divulge much, we thought that it might be best to let the experts — S.H.I.E.L.D. executive producer Jeff Bell and executive producer Jeph Loeb, Head of Marvel Television — share their thoughts. Read on for more. (And yes, although not finale related, we did ask about Buddy the Dog. In true Marvel fashion, both Bell and Loeb were coy about confirmation of his survival…but let’s just say that I choose to believe he’s living a long, happy life.)
[ed. note: at the time that this postmortem was conducted, the series had not yet received an official green light for season 2.]
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I know that it’s hard for you to speak at this point about where things are going next season, but obviously, all characters have a certain planned trajectory — so can you at least speak vaguely about how the events of the finale are going to impact the show going forward?
JEFF BELL: We hope we brought certain relationships to a conclusion and opened new doors. And Fitz had said big words to Simmons, and so what will that mean? And Coulson has a new job and we, the audience, know things about Skye, that Skye herself doesn’t know yet. And so we’re hoping that we’ve suggested either new threads or threads that have been in the background moving more to the front. And Mike Peterson is like Cain, wandering the earth…
Am I right to assume that’s not the last we’ve seen of Deathlok?
BELL: We hope to find other stories for him. He’s terrific.
JEPH LOEB: And a large part of that has to do with the fact that he’s played by J. August Richards, who, from the pilot, gave humanity to the character of Mike Peterson and through the various transformations and evolutions, finished his story so far. But like any origin story, there are still twists and turns to come.
Let’s talk about FitzSimmons. I really loved how after so many episodes of back and forth, they finally got to come full circle in the way that they did…but did it need to be in THAT way?
BELL: It’s almost always about what generates the most story, the most conflict, the most pain, the most delight, and getting those two in a box together, having to figure that out was a lot of fun.
And Sam Jackson! I wasn’t sure what to expect from his appearance, but to me, it really solidified that link between the movie world and the television series, and helped bring the finale full circle.
BELL: Anyone who comes in from the Marvel Universe, whether it’s Lady Sif, or Fury or anyone else we hope that we can go to them and say, “we have a very good reason and a very good story for you to come play with us.”
Now that we’ve pretty much closed the book on The Clairvoyant, does that mean there’s going to be a new Big Bad for season two? Maybe someone else involved in Hydra?
BELL: I don’t know if that’ll necessarily come out of Hydra. Villains are hard to sustain in season long arc because you know it’s a villain. You catch them, they get away, you catch them, they get away, and then it goes on and on forever, like the coyote and the roadrunner. And so part of the reason we held off on the reveal — we talked about The Clairvoyant, but even that came later, and then the reveal was later so that you didn’t feel like you were going back and forth. And we have people on the villain side who survived, like Raina, like Quinn, like Ward, who still exist. And so we have a through line, but I think there’s also an opportunity for us to make season two wholly its own rather than just a continuation of season one.
I gotta admit, I was sad to see Garrett go, as much as he deserved all of his deaths…
BELL: Mr. Bill Paxton came in and he was such a good friend to the show. He knew from the beginning that he was going to be The Clairvoyant and arise to be the Big Bad, but he just played it with such relish. And he and Clark [Gregg] hit it off so well that was really fun to watch that relationship grow, and then the onscreen betrayal…and then after Garrett gets shot up with GH-325, the wild spin that sends him on. Bill just leaned into that as much as possible.
I was so beyond stoked to see the return of Patton Oswalt, and I love how cleverly you wove that into the story.
BELL: When we first approached him…he’s a big Marvel fan —
LOEB: And makes no bones about it.
BELL: When he walked on set for the first time, he goes, “I know I appear very calm but inside of me a comic book store is on fire!”
LOEB: And when we called and we asked him to be on the show, the first thing he said, “can I be M.O.D.O.K? Can I be M.O.D.O.K.? I want to be M.O.D.O.K!” So when he found out he was going to die, it was a sad, sad day…until we told him that was not the end of his story.
I know this is going to come off as geeky, but I have to ask: was there any significance to the fact that out of all the Avengers, it was the Hulk toy that Skye gave Ace in the hotel room?
LOEB: We certainly always like to know that Hulk is not only a hero, he’s the strongest there is. So if you want to inspire that in a child, that’s a good place to go. On the flip side of that, it was also to show that there was never a bomb, and that there was just a backpack filled with children’s toys.
BELL: And we had also had that in the pilot. It starts Ace is looking at the heroes of New York, and he’s looking at the toys, and it was also another way to bring that back.
Fess up – how long has May been waiting to have that fight with Ward?
LOEB: [laughs] Probably from the first time she slept with him.
I love how this finale brought together all the characters in a way that allowed to them have their “moments” with the people who had been their biggest adversaries. And that it brought some closure to certain storylines while opening up new ones.
LOEB: I think one of the things we don’t get enough time to talk about is that it really is quite the undertaking to put 22 hours of original programming together in the amount of time that we have. And to do it without having the gigantic help of decades of comic book stories…these are original characters coming out and doing original things, and for you to care as much as you do about each of them really speaks to the power of the cast and the extraordinary work of our producers and the writing staff. It’s very rewarding when people talk about these characters that were brand new to the scene. And here we are at the end of the season, and they really do want to know more. That’s a big victory.