‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ producers tease ‘Birth of a Superhero’ return

It's been nearly three months since the last new episode of “Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

The fall finale, titled “What They Become,” was fittingly a build-up to a grand revelation about Skye's true identity. Or maybe we should say Daisy Johnson's identity, because The Inhumans are coming to “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” which is apparently mighty exciting if you're a Marvel fan.

But what if you're not necessarily a devotee of the Marvel comics and you're maybe one of those people who tuned out on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” at some point during its first 32 episodes?

Last week, on the secretive “Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” set, the show's producers chatted with a group of reporters about what's in store for the second half of the season. 

Sitting in the shadow of The Bus, with Lola sitting shiny and red just 10 feet away, I asked the producers how they'd pitch the second half of the season to viewers who may have exited.

“Birth of a superhero?” pitches Jeffrey Bell.

Jed Whedon, who co-wrote the first episode back with Maurissa Tancharoen, agrees.

“Yeah, the origin story, regardless of how she got to that point, we are coming in in [Episode] 11 with the very beginning of her realizing what really is going on and unlike a film, we have many many hours to play that out and to explore the different sort of emotional aspects of grappling with that huge change for someone who we've already seen is on a journey trying to find herself and trying to find a place in the world,” Whedon says.

Bell continues, “Right. Instead of montaging Spider-Man on the subway having fun for about three minutes learning his powers, we can actually explore what it means to go through that. At the beginning of the season, we tried to take Skye, who wasn't a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent at beginning of last year and, coming in this season, really grow her up as a character and as an agent and I think Chloe did a lovely job of that through the first 10 and then, birth of a superhero, now there's a whole new start and sorta entering us into  whole new world of Inhumans and what that means for her and what that means, how it effects other characters, those are all really fun stories for us to explore. We think people get a kick out of that.”

In its absence, the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” time slot has been occupied by a different Marvel property, the post-WWII “Agent Carter,” which has been averaging slightly lower ratings than its contemporary cohort, but “Agent Carter” has almost certainly received better early reviews. 

EP and Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb hopes that even if the audience for “Agent Carter” was huge, it'll have served its purpose of maintaining the creative momentum that many people have felt that “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” has had since “Winter Soldier” gave the plot a nudge last spring.

“[W]e also do feel like, while we are picking up some of the threads, we do feel like there were an awful lot of cards that were put down in the fall finale and so this is a great place to jump on, if you haven't been around, if you've been watching 'Agent Carter' and now you're a new viewer and you want to find find out what's happening,” Loeb says. “And then there's also, let's be honest, between the ABCWatch and Netflix, you can catch up really fast in terms of where you're at and jump on board on what's obviously now an incredible roller-coaster ride.”

It's strange, but this Tuesday's (March 3) return, titled “Aftershocks,” finds “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” not even at the half-way point for its second season. The fall run, which started with Skye as a newbie S.H.I.E.L.D. operative, introduced a slew of new characters including Skye's dad Cal and concluded in the temple of an alien city with Skye and Raina inhaling the Terrigen Mists and undergoing a transformation actually only lasted 10 episodes, which means there's a lot of “Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” still to come as lots of other shows are inching toward either their finales or toward a run of repeats.

Loeb explains, “[W]e are super proud that this concept of 22 episodes, that we've managed to find a way that we think is both exciting and digestible so that we had 10 in fall that came to, as I'm sure everyone here agrees, an amazing climax for the winter finale, as they say. And then what we're super-excited about is that starting on March 3rd, we come back for 12-in-a-row, no interruptions, Tuesday night, 9 o'clock ABC appointment television.”

But what's happening on “S.H.I.E.L.D.” isn't just about television. The ABC series is getting ready for a second appearance from Jaimie Alexander's Lady Sif, but it's the introduction of The Inhumans to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that really has people excited.

Marvel has already set a theatrical “Inhumans” movie for July 12, 2019, which means that Loeb and company have some hefty appetites to be whetting. 

“I've said this before and that is that people look at the Marvel red box and they perceive it as this giant octopus that's going to swallow up the entire galaxy,” Loeb says, before dropping his voice to a whisper. “And by the way, we are. [Back to normal voice.] But, in fact, what we are is a very small company and that was never more clear than when we were doing 'Carter' and Kevin Feige and Lou D'Esposito were actually part of that on a day-to-day basis. We talk all the time, whether it's publishing or whether it's games or it's movies or it's film and so this is just part of that process. It's very exciting for us to be able to be telling this particular story, but like with anything else, we're telling S.H.I.E.L.D. stories that existed both within the world of the movies and has its own mythology to it and opens up all kinds of doors for us. I think that's sorta the best way to look at it.”

Bell adds, “Piggy-backing on that, it's not so much that we have to explain it. By just having it be in our universe over time, it will become something that people understand and that resonates, so I think it's much more about that than us having to lay pipe or anything.”

And what about for fans of the show who have actually grown to like Chloe Bennet's Skye after an additionally bumpy acclimation process for the intrusive hacker. Now that Skye has finally been widely embraced, is she about to go full-Daisy and become somebody unrecognizable?

Jed Whedon insists not.

“She's still Skye, because she thinks she's Skye,” Whedon promises. “I think her dad thinks she's Daisy. And we'll see see if she ever gets to the point where she believes that that's something that she would want to call herself. But right now, she has her own identity. Now that will change over time, but she's definitely still Skye and everybody still sees her that way. For now.”

“Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” returns to ABC on Tuesday (March 3) night at 9 p.m. ET.

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