It’s the question that will plague Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fans all summer: Who’s the new director of S.H.I.E.L.D.?
The finale flash forward revealed that Coulson (Clark Gregg) was no longer the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., and actually looked a little worse for wear while trying to track down missing former agent Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet).
The turn came as a big surprise to Gregg, who learned the night before the Captain America: Civil War premiere. “I texted the [writers] immediately,” Gregg tells EW. “I wasn’t pissed about it at all. They had an episode very early on after he was made director that said heavy is the head that wears the crown. I think that’s true. It was a job he was given. Maybe in the back of his mind he dreamed of being the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. someday, but it wasn’t his lifelong dream.”
“I think Phil Coulson’s happiest as a field agent,” he continues. “I feel proud of a lot of the choices that he’s made, even some of the choices that he’s made to deal with some of his own mistakes. But to build S.H.I.E.L.D. back up from nothing in the wake of Winter Soldier, I’m sure he has regrets, but I’m sure he feels pretty good about what he was able to accomplish. Other than the regrets he has about where Daisy seems to be, I suspect there’s a part of him that’s very happy to return to Agent Phil Coulson.”
While it’s not yet clear why Coulson was demoted, it could be a result of the organization dipping its toe back into legitimacy with the fall of Hydra. However, in the wake of the Sokovia Accords in Civil War, Coulson’s tendency to bend the rules when it comes to his team, particularly the Inhuman Daisy, could’ve been his ultimate downfall.
“Since it’s clear that Coulson is Team Cap, Jed [Whedon] and Maurissa [Tancharoen] have fiendishly put Coulson on the spot, because Hive [Brett Dalton] turned out to be the living embodiment of all the reasons why you would be afraid of Inhumans,” Gregg says. “He was the greatest argument that the people who support the Sokovia Accords could ever have for locking them all up. Coulson had to ride the line where he was trying to respect these new iterations of humanity as friends and allies, and at the same time stop Hive at all costs.” Fortunately, S.H.I.E.L.D. was able to stop Hive, but it certainly came at a steep price with Lincoln’s death, Daisy’s disappearance and Coulson’s demotion.
So, who is the new director of S.H.I.E.L.D.? The executive producers played coy ahead of the finale, which means Gregg is in the dark, too. “I was not given a clear answer,” he says. “I don’t know that it’s been determined. I thought I was going to find out when I saw Civil War, but it’s not at all clear. It all depends when the glorious Nick Fury [Samuel L. Jackson] returns from the cold and the shadows. I suspect, in the wake of the Sokovia Accords and the end of Civil War, the people involved in choosing who the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be are other than in-house S.H.I.E.L.D. people. If I know my government bureaucracies, I have a feeling it will be someone somewhat less qualified than Coulson to run S.H.I.E.L.D.”
However, Gregg does have one person in mind who may rival Coulson’s leadership skills: Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), who did not appear in the flash forward. “I’d love it if it was [her],” Gregg says. “That would be magnificent. She has earned that right and she is a commander that Coulson would absolutely follow with absolute loyalty.”
But don’t hold your breath for a kick-ass lady leader just yet. “I didn’t get the sense from Captain America: Civil War that S.H.I.E.L.D. was going to be turned over to autonomous management,” Gregg says. “The governments of the world have always been very wary of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s hard to image the actions of Team Cap have necessarily allayed those suspicions or fears.”
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will return this fall on ABC.