It's only a matter of time before Agent Coulson can no longer continue being the consummate company man.
When Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns for a seven-episode uninterrupted run on Tuesday (8/7c, ABC), the super series will explore just how far Coulson (Clark Gregg) can be pushed before he realizes that the company that he lives to serve has been hiding one too many secrets from him. The first crack in his façade began soon after his return to the field, when he realized there was something a little bit off after Loki brutally stabbed him through the heart in The Avengers. Of course, discovering that his resurrection was thanks to a mysterious blue alien didn't help either. But if the truth ever got out — as viewers learned in the most recent episode — that Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) was possibly working against him, it would mark the tipping point for Coulson.
"If that mystery phone line involves a secret being kept from him by the person who's his best friend and the person he trusts most with his secrets, I think it's going to be one of the final straws in terms of everything he believes in as a company man and a dyed-in-the-wool S.H.I.E.L.D. fan," Gregg tells TVGuide.com. "It's going to be a deep crack and fissure in that belief. That's what's been exciting so far, to start as this company man who had a brief setback during The Avengers and then to find out that it's much more severe than that and much more traumatic and he wasn't told the truth about it. Piece by piece, everything he thought he worked for seems to be up for grabs. When Captain America: Winter Soldier comes out, it's going to be even harder to hold on to his old idea of S.H.I.E.L.D."
Regardless of who May is reporting to on the other end of that secret phone line, her betrayal will cause a big shift in the group. "This is the world in which they live," Wen says. "People you think you can trust sometimes turn out to be people you can't."
"It's very clear that there's some fragmentation in the team," executive producer Maurissa Tancharoen adds. "But then it's revealed that maybe there's another player to it than what you anticipate."
This potential betrayal is the least of their worries, though, since the team is desperate to track down the Clairvoyant. "It's tough because we're dealing with a foe that apparently seems to be five steps ahead of us, which is something that S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn't really encountered because usually S.H.I.E.L.D. is the one that's five steps ahead of everyone else," Wen says. "That in itself is problematic for the team. How do we outthink the Clairvoyant?"
Marvel's Agents of SH.I.E.L.D. returns Tuesday at 8/7c on ABC.