When Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns from its excruciatingly long hiatus on Tuesday (9/8c, ABC), Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and his team of agents will have their work cut out for them after a fall finale that dramatically altered the fates of several of the series' beloved characters.
The person most affected will be Skye (Chloe Bennet), who underwent the Terrigenesis process and was revealed to be the Marvel character Daisy "Quake" Johnson. But like everything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's all connected, which means Skye's transformation will create shock waves that will reverberate through the entire team.
To add to the ensuing confusion, the loss of B.J. Britt's Agent Triplett and the deluge of grief and guilt the team carries as a result guarantees Tuesday's episode, aptly titled "Aftershocks," is one that's not to be missed. During a recent visit to the show's highly secretive set, the stars and producers told reporters what to expect when the show returns, how the introduction of the Inhumans will play into the rest of the season and more. Here are seven teases about what's to come:
1. No one — not even Skye — knows the truth about what happened to her in the temple: The majority of "Aftershocks" is dedicated to the immediate aftermath of what transpired in the fall finale and is focused on trying to figure out what, if anything, happened to Skye. "It's a lot of her figuring out that, 'Oh, when I got upset down there, an earthquake happened,'" Bennet says. "I keep getting upset and that may be happening again. It's her exploring whether or not it is her that is creating these things, and then her dealing with what she has to tell the team, because people who have powers, from S.H.I.E.LD.'s perspective, are put on the Index. That's not really a place she wants to be. It's dealing with admitting to her family. It's kind of like she's coming out almost as a superhero to her S.H.I.E.L.D. family and moving forward from there."
2. Coulson feels responsible for what happened to Skye: "One of the things that I've liked most about this season is that [the Skye and Coulson] relationship got so tight by the end of last season and only more so this season," Gregg says. "She's risen to a place where she's one of the most effective agents he has. And so he's put in this position where she's a daughter to him — she's the closest thing to a daughter — and what bonds them is their dedication to this cause. He has to make choices that are simply for the greater good that S.H.I.E.L.D. provides, which is protecting the world from the strange, the weird. ... And it means putting her in dangerous situations. I think it makes him feel very responsible for whatever's going on with her."
3. Tripp's death will affect everyone and possibly lead to larger conflicts within the team: "It's huge. It's a traumatic event," says Elizabeth Henstridge, who plays scientist Jemma Simmons. "This is like the Coulson dying in Avengers kind of thing. This is the thing that's going to spur and fuel the second half of the season. It's big for every character." Adds Gregg: "[It] really throws everybody. There's a grieving process. People have serious questions about what we were doing [in the temple]. And Coulson has to, at the same time, entertain those [questions] and also, kind of support [his choices]. He wouldn't make any of those choices any differently, but it's hard not to think about retroactively the logic that he and Skye have the same material inside of them."
4. The Inhumans will remain a mystery for a little while longer: Gregg says the Coulson is still very much in the dark about this group of genetically altered people. "They aren't giving out infomercials about who they are or what Skye's connection to them is," Gregg says. "They're as close to what I would call mutants — the idea that there is evolutionary potential within us that makes some people suddenly evolve differently and represent either... a saving element for humanity or a potential weapon or a threat."
Adds executive producer Jed Whedon: "The realities of the world they're living in now are starting to become much more complicated. We saw at the beginning of the season that Coulson was already dealing with grays he hadn't had to deal with before. He was always a 'don't leave a man behind' kind of guy. ... Now we're opening up another aspect to that. A whole other set of grays. What is this power? What is too much power? What is it like for your friend to have it? And have we opened Pandora's Box by pursuing all of this?"
5. Hydra will still play a large role in the show going forward: As we all know, when you cut off one head, two more grow in its place. So even though Coulson killed Daniel Whitehall (Reed Diamond) in the fall finale, and even though the show is going to divert some of its attention to the growing world of the Inhumans, Hydra is still a thorn in Coulson's (and S.H.I.E.L.D.'s) side. Plus, as Whedon put it: "Their logo's too cool to ever go away."
6. The battle between Cal (guest-star Kyle MacLachlan) and Coulson is far from over: Following their fight in the finale after Coulson killed Whitehall, which Cal viewed as Coulson taking something else that was rightfully his, Cal took off for parts unknown, but he didn't get far. "[Coulson's] love for Skye is deep enough that it's hard to wrap [his head] around killing her father," Gregg says. "And at the same time, he's not so happy with how the last fight went. There's a score he wants to settle, and he wants to protect her from whatever stuff he's got going on."
Adds Bennet: "Let's just say that he was definitely right about how once you change, things aren't going to be the same and people aren't going to treat you the same way. There's definitely a level of discrimination against Inhumans. I wouldn't say that she turns to [her dad], but I would definitely say that their relationship changes a little bit."
7. Skye vs. Daisy: What do we call her? With the reveal that Skye is actually Marvel character Daisy Johnson, many fans have wondered what they're supposed to call the character now. Luckily, Whedon put that confusing matter to rest. "She's still Skye, because she thinks she's Skye," he says. "I think her dad thinks she's Daisy. And we'll 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. That will change over time, but she's definitely still Skye and everybody still sees her that way. For now."
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns Tuesday, March 3 at 9/8c on ABC.
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