Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will crossover with Thor: The Dark World on Tuesday's episode (8/7c, ABC) when Coulson's (Clark Gregg) team is sent in to pick up the pieces after the Dark Elves' attack on London. The episode will serve as a history lesson, of sorts, on the people of Asgard when the team comes across as Asgardian relic.
"One of the things that S.H.I.E.L.D. does that we never deal with is clean up," executive producer Jed Whedon tells TVGuide.com. "After the fallout of the film, we're in charge of the clean-up. We spilled into more of the ancient aspects into Asgardians and how they visited us long ago, so we get into a little bit of that aspect of Asgard and how it's affected our planet in the past and currently."
The Thor-centric episode is part of the producers' plans to begin expanding the world of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the second half of the season. "We're trying to flesh out the world," Whedon says, pointing to the S.H.I.E.L.D. introductions of Agent Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernandez), Agent Blake (Titus Welliver) and Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows) in recent episodes. "The Marvel brand carries with it a lot of familiar faces. We're trying to flesh out the world of S.H.I.E.L.D. with the established characters and the characters we're introducing to build out the larger organization that we operate in. That's where some of the fun can be had."
But dealing with the mechanics of S.H.I.E.L.D. will also bring Coulson closer to discovering the truth about his death, which we saw in The Avengers. "It's a question that burns inside of him, but it's a question that maybe he's afraid of the answer," Whedon says. "But soon enough he's not going to let it slide anymore. It's one of those things where you feel something wrong, but you don't know what it is. Finding out might make it much worse."
Coulson's first indication that something was amiss came after visiting one of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s offices in last week's episode. "It was a very significant thing in the episode 'The Hub' for him to deal with Victoria Hand lying to him and facing the fact that the organization that he's been dedicating his life to lied to his face about the people within his team, which prompted him to make that phone call about his own file and again not getting the answer that he wanted," adds executive producer Maurissa Tancharoen. "That's significant in his journey.
The producers recognize that most fans have guessed that Coulson is actually a Life Model Decoy, but they're trying to exceed those expectations. "We know that there's going to be a lot of theories and there's no chance that whatever we reveal won't, at some point, be written on the internet," Whedon says. "We're just trying to come up with ways to make it surprising or make it not how they expected it to unravel. We know what it is, but we know that no one else does yet."
As S.H.I.E.L.D. expands the world of its organization, the producers appear to be actively planning their role in the release of the next Phase 2 film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which will hit theaters on April 4, 2014. "Nick Fury [Samuel L. Jackson] is in that one, and S.H.I.E.L.D. makes an appearance, so we will definitely try to tee-up some stuff and probably play a little bit of the fallout from that film," Whedon says. "We're hoping to do some cool stuff."
But a potential Captain America crossover might not be the only connection to the larger world of Marvel. It's common knowledge that comic book writer and former president and chairman of Marvel comics Stan Lee makes an appearance in just about every film — most of which you can watch here. "I would say there's a strong chance," Whedon said of Lee making a cameo on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
What do you think is going on with Coulson? And do you want to see Stan Lee make a cameo? Hit the comments and check out an exclusive sneak peek from Tuesday's episode in which we'll also discover more about Agent Ward's (Brett Dalton) background:
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on ABC.