'Agents of SHIELD' showrunners reflect on Season 1 and its finale
Jed Whedon: One of the things is when we talk about the finale, we can speak so freely, but when we talk about Season 2, our Marvel lockdown goes into full effect.
What was behind your decision to fully kill off John Garrett?
JW: We should start by saying in the Marvel universe, being dead doesn't mean the same thing. Can you ever really kill someone all the way off? Our entire show is based on that. ... One of the things we wanted to have in the finale is it's been such a hard road for these people for so long -- having everybody betray them, having them find out their entire organization has been infiltrated -- we wanted to have some fun in here.
Maurissa Tancharoen: In "killing" Garrett, we give a few people a good win, Mike Peterson being one of them. Basically the man who set him on this path to becoming Deathlok and committing many horrible acts against his will, he's now free from that. And then Coulson. We wanted to give Coulson a big win, and the manner in which he kills Garrett, he has that win and then he throws it away, which I think is pure Coulson fashion.
That moment where Nick Fury essentially calls Coulson one of the Avengers is a really emotional and cathartic one. How long did you have that planned?
MT: The inception of the show is based on "not all heroes are super." So it thematically is something we absolutely had our sights set on. Clark [Gregg] captured that moment perfectly. It was a mixture of, "What did you just say?" with, "Oh my gosh! This is amazing/a kid in a candy store!"
JW: It's an emotional moment. We knew it would be a cool moment, but he really brought out a lot of the emotion in it, which was great.
All season long Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge were telling people that Fitz and Simmons just have a brother/sister relationship, but in the finale we learn for certain that's not the case. Were you two misleading them, or were they intentionally trying to lead people off their scent?
MT: I think it's a little bit of both. I think they saw, as we moved further toward the end of the season, that we started hinting at Fitz's feelings for Simmons, especially with the introduction of Trip, and seeing how that shift in their dynamic now that they add a new person to the mix really sort of got under Fitz's skin. It really rattled him a bit. But he still wasn't able to process those feelings. Put in this extreme circumstance, knowing that it may be their last moment together, that really made Fitz pull through many of his emotional barriers to actually try to tell her. He does it in his own way.
Speaking of Triplett, fans have taken to him pretty quickly. Is it safe to assume he's a full member of the Coulson team now?
MT: He's absolutely a fine addition to the team. We really enjoy working with BJ [Britt] the actor, as well as bringing Trip into the story. He'll be around for a little while.
Ward's storyline was left fairly open-ended. Do you have a set plan for him for Season 2?
JW: We're very excited about that character. We've been thrilled with the way Brett [Dalton] played Ward this year. You glimpse in the finale he's only had one sort of guiding light, and now that Garrett's not acting right, how unhinged Ward becomes. He's lost his bearings. That question that Coulson asks him at the end, "Who are you without him?" That's something that Ward's going to have to come to terms with. We've talked a lot about Ward in the room with the writers, and we're very excited about that character going forward.
Now let's talk about Skye. Was it just coincidence that she was at the center of all this drama, or is there some greater force pulling her to these people?
How long did you have this plan for Skye, or was it informed by Chloe Bennet's performance?
JW: We had some ideas. The great thing about television is you can set out and sort of tentpole the things you want to happen, but as you go and as actors' performances inform story and other circumstances -- it rains, you can't shoot a location -- you have to be able to bend and change things up. So we have some ideas of what we wanted to do, but the others came about organically. The search for her parents was such a heartfelt thing, and she played that emotional stuff so well. The father figure in Coulson and that relationship really came out in their performances. The answer to your question is yes and no.
Back at TCAs, you were asking reporters to be patient and just let you tell your story. Are you ultimately happy with the response from the audience that has gone on this journey with you guys and the feedback you've gotten?
MT: We are happy with the response. We're just happy that for a show we designed from the beginning, the people are responding to it in the way that we had hoped they would. We did go in knowing that there was this big thing that was going to happen to SHIELD in our first season, and so we had to build everything towards that, as well as hiding that all throughout the entire season. Now that that ball is out and up in the air, it's definitely been liberating to just tell the story.
JW: We had to exercise patience. When we talked to you last time, we were saying, "Please be patient with our show." We were trying to be patient with our storytelling and hoping the audience would stick around knowing that we sort of had this bomb planted in the road up ahead. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and even from our friends. We're really happy.
MT: And also I think the patience we were asking for was just in --
MT: [ laughs] Well, there was that and also just the way we sort of gradually laid out the characters and how we allowed the audience to just slowly get to know who these people are. It's just a more gratifying experience that we built and we sort of solidified their bond right as everything crumbled around them and everything was taken away from them. That was also a part of our plan. Hopefully, going into Season 2, we're going to put them through a hell of a lot more, so our audience will be right alongside with them.
Per ABC's 2014-15 schedule, we know that "Agent Carter" is going to air in the midseason in the middle of "Agents of SHIELD," allowing the two halves of the season to air with fewer interruptions. Will that change the way you tell the story at all?
JW: I'll just say that, if we're going to switch with "Agent Carter" and we're going to be off the air for a while, we're going to try to not have the one right before that be boring.
What do you two consider some of your biggest accomplishments in Season 1?
JW: Personally, we're very proud of our and the writing staff's ability to cope with the "Captain America" of it. It's a hard thing. We couldn't talk about it. We didn't know exactly where our schedule would land. We created a "Clairvoyant" because we couldn't say "HYDRA." I think that the lead -up to those episodes and the lead-out, we're very proud of that, and the fact that we were able to pull it off in a way that we find gratifying and it seems the audience did too.
MT: My favorite moment was the Ward reveal, and just the way we were able to keep that concealed through the course of the season. It's just sort of the perfect example of what we're able to do with our show that weaves in with the giant films. We can show the fallout of the big events that happen in the movies, and really deal with the personal and emotional toll of that. To have a traitor in our midst the entire season and to reveal that in the way that we did, I think that is something that I am proud of.
Do you think that Coulson is ready for the task of bringing SHIELD back to power, which is where we left him in the finale?
JW: We're excited about it. There's a lot of questions to be answered plot-wise, but also character-wise. What makes Coulson so special that he was chosen? Is it something that he even wants to do? Will it be easy? Will it be hard? How do they keep the secret now that SHIELD is being hunted by the government? There's a lot of fun to be played [with]. There's so much story there, and just this week we started in the room with the writers again. We're talking about all the stuff that will happen in Season 2, and we do not think it will be disappointing.
MT: There are many, many, many things that are on the board already.
Hopefully what's in the box for you guys isn't the same as what was in the box for "Mad Men."
MT: Oh my god, I still can't get over that!
JW: Just so you know -- I don't know if this spoils it -- but it is the same thing.
MT: It's that guy's nipple.
JW: It's his other nipple.
As fans, what's the one character from the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase 2 you would love to have in Season 2?
JW: If it was even remotely possible, considering all the different studios involved and the millions of dollars it takes to create it: The Hulk. He would be a regular on our show. He would be the lead. [ laughs]
MT: I mean, yeah. I have to agree.
JW: You can just say Bruce Banner.
MT: I also have my eyes on Peter Quill, now that Chris Pratt is playing him.
JW: What she's saying is she has her eyes on Chris Pratt.