Credit: Eric McCandless/ABC
ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." - Season Three

When Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns, Director Coulson is still on the warpath.

In the wake of losing Rosalind Price (Constance Zimmer), Coulson (Clark Gregg) tracked down and killed Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) in the fall finale — though we all know a version of him has come back to life, sort of, as the villainous Marvel comics character Hive.

“I’m pretty sure Coulson feels very conflicted about what he’s just done in a world where it’s constantly being pointed out to us how important it is that the people responsible for protecting us adhere to a higher standard, don’t carry out personal vendettas, and don’t respond to anger,” Gregg tells EW. “Coulson has crossed that line. It’s a moment that’s between him and Fitz [Iain De Caestecker], because Fitz witnessed it, and that dynamic between them and their mutual ambivalence about what’s happened and what they both did on the planet, to a certain extent, will play out in those first episodes. I don’t think Coulson has any idea that by doing this thing, that there will be anything more than the karmic moral implications that are upsetting to him, but he’s going to find out that the literal payback for what he’s done is beyond anything that he can possibly imagine.”

Still, believing he already killed Ward back on that planet, Coulson will set his sights next on taking down Gideon Malick (Powers Boothe), which may cause him to make some reckless decisions. “Definitely he sees Malick as the final point in terms of the chain of responsibility for her death,” Gregg says. “I don’t think he’s going to sleep at night until that circle has been closed. That said, I think the person he really held most responsible was Ward. As big of problem as Malick is, that he’s as powerful and formidable an über-Hydra goon as Alexander Pierce [Robert Redford] from Winter Soldier, just when you think that you’ve cut off all the Hydra heads, the biggest, nastiest one seems to pop up, and that’s before he even knows what handsome Grant Ward is about to show up as.”

It won’t be long, however, before Coulson & Co. learn that their former comrade-turned-Hydra baddie is now inhabited by a supervillain. “The universal feeling will probably be something along the lines of, ‘Are you f—ing kidding me?'” Gregg says with a laugh. “What is this guy from Halloween? He’s like Michael Myers, if you imagine either him or Jason a little less ghoulish and a lot more handsome. You just stab and stab, and it just won’t stay dead.”

With the rise of this new big bad, it’s even more imperative to bring Secret Warriors to life. “That’s one of the factors that makes it very important to get Secret Warriors up and running,” Gregg says. “It’s all the stuff that’s happened with Hydra and the ATCU that’s gotten in the way of doing that, but it does feel like it moves into a new level of high priority in the back half of the season.

But Coulson won’t be going it alone, since next week’s episode finds him working alongside General Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) once again. “At this point, they’ve realized that they trust each other to a certain extent, but I wouldn’t say that they’re homies,” Gregg says. “They’re not setting up guy dates to go out and watch Deadpool together. There’s a lot of suspicion still, but they need each other. That said, nothing is what it seems. That episode has a lot of spectacular twists and turns where nobody is doing what you think they’re doing.”

In fact, the logline for that episode teases that a traitor is revealed — something the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have had to deal with on more than one occasion. “Coulson will deal with it, unfortunately, the way he seems to deal with it, like, ‘Damnit, really?! They got me again!'” Gregg says. “He doesn’t seem like, ‘Yes, I knew you were a traitor, and your underwear is filled with explosives.’ He seems to be taken by surprise every time.”

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

Episode Recaps

ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." - Season Three
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) assembles a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to handle strange new cases.

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