‘Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD’ Boss Talks Shocking Finale Cliffhanger, Skye’s Secret Mission

agents of shield finale spoilers
Image courtesy of ABC

Spoiler warning: Do not read on unless you’ve season the “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” season two finale, titled “SOS.”

ABC and Marvel’s “SHIELD” closed out its sophomore season with a tantalizing easter egg, an emotional wallop and a shocking cliffhanger, with plenty of dangling threads left to be tied up when the show returns for its recently announced season three. Skye (Chloe Bennet) was forced to lose her parents for a second time — after Inhuman leader Jiaying’s (‎Dichen Lachman) fanaticism threatened the lives of every remaining SHIELD agent, including Skye herself — but seemingly found new purpose in a project with Coulson (Clark Gregg) to assemble a group of super-powered individuals; an initiative that may be familiar to Marvel fans, with the codename Caterpillars.

Meanwhile, as Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) questioned her future with the team after her torturous encounter with Ward (Brett Dalton) and her near-death experience while attempting to protect ex-husband Hunter (Nick Blood), her teammate Mack (Henry Simmons) finally embraced his status as a SHIELD agent after helping save Coulson’s life during the battle with the Inhumans (even if saving his life involved cutting his hand off).

Elsewhere, Ward recruited a few remaining Hydra agents to help him find “closure” in his tumultuous relationship with SHIELD, and Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) finally decided to go on a date, only for the mysterious Kree Monolith to escape its container and snatch Simmons up in the episode’s closing moments, seemingly consuming her as it shifted from liquid back to solid. And that’s not even mentioning the Terrigen crystals that leaked into the sea, contaminated the fish and subsequently found their way into fish oil supplements being stocked on store shelves…

To find out where our team goes from here, Variety spoke to “SHIELD” executive producer Jeffrey Bell, who dropped a few hints about season three’s trajectory and potential crossovers with Marvel’s other properties.

Let’s begin with the most pressing concern after the finale — the status of Simmons. How did you arrive at the decision to leave the audience with such an evil cliffhanger, especially since Simmons is the character who has been the most mistrustful of alien artifacts this season?

Bell: I don’t know if it’s evil… Who knows, maybe that thing took her to Disneyland and she’s riding on the “Cars” ride, having the time of her life! [Laughs.] When we first started talking about the Monolith, we knew that it needed to present a threat and we needed to demonstrate some of that threat and the promise of more story, because — this is gonna shock you — we want more people to watch next year, because we like when people watch our show. It’s easy to kill a character for shock value or whatever, and we did have a number of deaths this season, but I don’t think they were so much for shock value as the hopefully understandable logic of the characters and the stories. We prefer to leave you with something to talk about, to walk away with. This is something that came up in the room, we talked about what it meant… The idea of getting Fitz and Simmons — who had been one person — to become two whole people, come back together, agree to go on a date, and then have this happen, felt beautifully poetic and promises some really intriguing stories next season, which is really what it’s all about.

Skye’s search for her parents has been part of the show since its inception. This year, she found them, and it’s safe to say they weren’t what she might’ve hoped for. What are the emotional ramifications of Skye gaining her mother only to lose her again, due to Jiaying’s own betrayal?

In many ways, the whole metaphor at the heart of the show is family — you’ve got Coulson and May and then a bunch of younger people, and it allows us to play out different dynamics; literally, this season, we had Skye’s biological parents versus her surrogate parents. And at the same time, we had Skye growing up. We had her going from a slightly sulky hacker season one to training to become an agent to becoming our first full-fledged superhero and so as we grow up, we separate from our parents. It doesn’t always mean killing them, but sometimes those desires are there… [Laughs.] In our minds, her mom wasn’t a villain so much; she was an antagonist, but if you look at why she feels the way she does, Jiaying really earned that position.

We left Skye and Coulson planning to create a team comprised of super-powered individuals. You’ve obviously been seeding the idea of powers into the show for some time, which led to the introduction of the Inhumans this year, so will that be more of a focus in season three, as a way of broadening the scope of the series?

The Marvel universe is broad and deep and we try to tell stories from all over that; we had to begin by just introducing these characters — most of whom had not existed before — and getting invested in them, and slowly expanding. So there have been aliens and there have been powered people, there’s been weird science and tech gadgets, and one thing I love about working on the show is we can tell all kinds of stories with all kinds of tone. People seem to respond to powered people on the show and while it’s not going to take over and become what the show’s about, as a texture and flavor of the stories, we really enjoy that. The fact that Inhumans are now out there is something I think we need to investigate and 22 episodes makes for a long season. If you look back over the course of the season, all the different areas we explored, Hydra or SHIELD 2.0 — which is what we called Gonzales’ team amongst ourselves — and the Kree place in the middle, there’s all kinds of stories. But I do expect for us to investigate this plan that Skye and Coulson have about starting something that could be pretty entertaining.

Does that mean we’ll see more of Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) next season?

Luke was an awesome addition and now’s the time for us — now that we’re officially picked up, as of today — we have to sit down and figure out exactly how to tell those stories. But we loved having Lincoln this past year and think he was a great addition so that’s definitely on the table.

The finale certainly seems to imply that Hydra as we know it is gone, with all of its leaders destroyed, allowing Ward to step into that power vacuum. Have we discarded Hydra as this sprawling, faceless entity to focus on a more grounded, personal antagonist in Ward moving forward?

It sure looked like Ward’s starting his Fight Club version of Hydra, but one of our challenges [is] any time you have an evil, villainous empire, what motivates those people? Whitehall this past year was just an old school Nazi — he was literally from the ’40s, and so for him that was about power, eugenics, control, it all made sense, and for Ward to come to this place honestly… This is a guy who, a couple of episodes earlier, was really happy that he got to spend time with the old team and feel like he was part of that, but then after Agent 33’s death at his hands — god forbid he take any responsibility for that — he did discover that he likes being part of a team. So for us, it’s a natural growth for the character, as twisted as he may be, and the idea of him with a personal vendetta against our group of SHIELD gives him all the motive he needs. No matter what other aspect of Hydra he embraces behind that, I think you’ll understand what’s driving him, which is the important quality in an antagonist.

Coulson’s leadership was truly tested this season — both by other members of the team and by his own conscience — so where does he stand at the end of the season? Has he made peace with his decisions at this point?

By the end of the season, he had reasserted his value as director of SHIELD, but he paid a price — that was important to us. You don’t mess with the forces of nature without getting bitten, and the fact that he literally saved everyone on the ship by that crystal not shattering was a wonderful, heroic thing and showed you that at heart, Coulson is a heroic man whose actions back up his words. He’ll do whatever it takes for the team, but that person occasionally has to pay a price, and Mack instituted that price. [Laughs.]

Speaking of Mack, his evolution has been a joy to watch this season, and Henry Simmons kind of stole the show in the finale; he certainly got the best one-liners. Where does Mack go from here, now that he’s accepted his place on the team?

We realized as we did the edit of the finale, “wow, Henry’s got all the good lines this episode.” There’s a humor to him and his character that we weren’t aware of when he first showed up because he’s this giant, handsome man, and then you realize there’s this great, dry sense of humor and you also realize “wow, he’s good in scenes with anybody.” You can put him with Fitz, you can put him with Bobbi, you can put him with Coulson, you can put him with Hunter and he’s really good with everybody. We also wanted to be true to a character who… not everyone in SHIELD is a fighter or a specialist, and so giving him an arc where he has to pick up an ax and fight for what he believes in seemed like a really honest trajectory for him and we look forward to seeing where that takes him next season.

There were rumors of a potential spinoff centered around Bobbi and Hunter that obviously haven’t come to fruition yet, but the finale left Bobbi in a very vulnerable place. What’s ahead for the two of them given that Bobbi is now questioning her purpose?

Nick and Adrianne were great this season, not just as a couple but as individuals, and Bobbi’s stance at the end, in her defiance to Ward, was amazingly heroic … We also like that just because two people love each other doesn’t necessarily mean that they belong together; but that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t die for each other. She took a beating and it’ll be interesting to see how she recovers, how that affects her and how that affects them moving forward, but we look forward to telling stories with the two of them together and their ongoing journey.

If I have one quibble with the show this season, it’s that it’s hard to tell what the scope of SHIELD is following its destruction at the hands of Hydra — we see and hear mention of other factions with certain resources still remaining, but it’s tough to grasp just how much of the organization is left standing. Next season, do you plan to keep things on a more micro level, or — as with the introduction of Gonzales’ group this year — do you want to extend SHIELD’s reach?

It was pretty decimated and went underground after “Cap 2,” and we found we like our team in that position, as underdogs, as opposed to a giant, powerful, NSA organization that can do pretty much anything. So the fact that we’re covert, the fact that we have to operate in the shadows is a good place for us storytelling-wise, and the fact that there might be other pockets of SHIELD out there, as we learned this season, promises continued growth. But I don’t think Coulson is in any hurry to turn it into this giant corporate structure again — he likes it the way it is.

Seeing what you do with visual effects on a television budget is always impressive, but Skye knocking the quinjet off the aircraft carrier in the finale was particularly cinematic.

We have to give a shout-out to Mark Kolpack — who’s our visual effects supervisor — and his team, who have done phenomenal work for us all season. Visual effects are a big part of our show and some of them are invisible and some of them are very dramatic and the fact that there’s no real planes in our [show], and you just accept the fact that “oh, there’s a plane” is pretty cool. Jed [Whedon] and Maurissa [Tancharoen] and I all love that aspect of the show and the fact that they pull off as much as they do on our budget is fantastic and a tribute to their hard work. “Avengers” spent more money in the first ten minutes than I suspect we spent all season. And it’s fantastic but we have to compete on a different level — we try to tell our smaller, emotional stories with little punctuation marks. We could do it because it was our finale, but to their credit, they had very little turnaround time for any of those effects. The very last shot of the show with the Monolith and Simmons got approved Saturday, so it’s a squeaker, but the post-houses, everybody worked very hard.

Last season’s tie-in with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” was obviously pivotal for the show, but this year’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” crossover was more incidental and allowed the show to stand on its own while still tying into the wider universe. Do you have any upcoming plans for synergy with other Marvel properties?

I think this year worked really well — we got to be our own show and tell our own stories in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and do a nice hand off or a tie-in, but neither are incumbent upon the other to be a follow, and I think that’s a great model for us. “Ant-Man” comes out this summer and will have come and gone before we air again in September, so whether there’s anything vestigial from that or for “Civil War” next season is to be determined. But we’re in contact with the movie people and them with us, and any time we can put little easter eggs in, it’s a lot of fun for die-hard fans.

The “Agent Carter” tie-ins this season were some of my favorite moments — with that series renewed too, do you hope to do another crossover involving Hayley Atwell next season?

It was really fun to have the Howling Commandos and Agent Carter — Hayley is spectacular and we’re thrilled that that show gets to come back. Yeah, if there’s a chance for us to set something in her path, that would be cool. I know she works very hard doing those episodes; bringing her over to our show was a work of clock-like precision… because she was shooting on the other show at the exact same time, but it’s a lot of fun and we try to do as much as we can.

What did you think of the “Agents of SHIELD” season two finale? What happened to Simmons, and who do you think Skye will recruit for her Caterpillars project? Share your predictions below.

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  1. [“They’ve had as much development as anyone else, and a lot better development than they received season 1 prior to the finale.”]

    They were being set up and introduced as characters back in Season 1. Do you have any idea what writing a story with a long arc entails? Do you? Apparently not.

  2. [“Skye (Chloe Bennet) was forced to lose her parents for a second time — after Inhuman leader Jiaying’s (‎Dichen Lachman) fanaticism threatened the lives of every remaining SHIELD agent, including Skye herself — but seemingly found new purpose in a project with Coulson (Clark Gregg) to assemble a group of super-powered individuals; an initiative that may be familiar to Marvel fans, with the codename Caterpillars.”]

    I knew this would happen. I just knew it. The so-called “Caterpillars” will probably end up dominating the show. And Marvel/Disney might as well change the show’s title from “AGENTS OF SHIELD” to “THE CATEPILLARS” or “THE INHUMAN”. And that WAS NOT the show I had wanted to see, when I first began watching it two years ago.

  3. Dr. Fake Name says:

    I think they are going to bring back the gravitonium to try and pull jemma out of the Monolith and will then realize that Dr. Hall is still alive in the gravitonium

    • Dr. Fake Name says:

      I also think that jemma is an inhuman because, skye’s mom quotes “eighter they’re inhuman or they’re dead”, so they must have had a reason for saying that plus, the Monolith only turned liquid when there was an inhuman around

      • Except, that the quote from Skye’s mother was in reference to the diviner metal laced terrigen crystals that Skye’s mother planned to spread and shatter across the Earth. She told Raina that the Monolith was a Kree weapon designed to kill Inhumans.

  4. Mitch Brink says:

    Monolith… Supremor… Kree Supreme Intelligence.. or Kree Sentry 459..

  5. Laura says:

    Just speculating here, but I think Simmons may come back in some way enhanced from her time spent in the monolith, or least changed in some way, and that will set up a really interesting arc for her since she will suddenly be the very thing she was fearful of and biased against this season. She will have suddenly become one of those she wanted to ‘put down’ because she perceived them as ‘other’ and ‘dangerous’. This will naturally have ramifications for her relationship with Fitz and her other friends on the team. I can see a lot of good stories developing from her emotional turmoil arising from this event.

    • Winky says:

      I think she’ll be back too, but changed. And maybe Fitz will be the first to notice, with the whole “let’s get dinner thing”. Either way, there are cameras in that room so if she’s not back, please let them be smart and check those.

  6. katie says:

    Couldnt care less about Skye, Ward, Bobbi and whatever, I’m really angry about the Fitz and Simmons story. They have basically been shoved aside the whole season and then when things finally look like they’re becoming a team again – they ruin it. It’s really not fun. The fans are getting annoyed and exasperated. We know Simmons is in the cast next season but the way the writers are going, they just want to ruin the best characters on the show, I’d stop watching if it weren’t for them. Tread carefully writers.

    • Reggie says:

      Shoved aside?

      They’ve had as much development as anyone else, and a lot better development than they received season 1 prior to the finale. It’s been fun to see them grow as individuals and develop their own relationships with the team, like Fitz with Mack and to a lesser extent Hunter was really enjoyable and strengthened the team and the show. Which fans?

      Some people love Fitz Simmons, others hate them, and some have come around now that their relationship has more depth and complexity. If it’s all sweetness and light it’s boring and there’s no payoff. Also, they haven’t ruined anything. It’s a cliffhanger, and it sounds like they are setting Simmons up to become even more important and pivotal. The ending had me swearing at my TV, but for the best possible reasons. I’m engaged and anxious for the next season.

  7. Benj says:

    AoS has become a good show this season. I thought I’d give up on it after season 1 but when season 2 aired, it somehow promised a better storyline and they actually delivered to the very end. I guess the new characters and brought new life to the show and Skye’s transformation was also one of the highlights of it. I love it! Skye and Bobbi-Hunter’s stories are my favorite and of course, the Inhumans. Looking forward to Season 3!

  8. Pat Smith says:

    Where ever that “planted” Raina’s thorny body, I hope it sprouts new life and perhaps a new version of this complex character. I enjoyed the character’s evolution and the talents of the actress behind the character.

  9. Nate Jastrzemski says:

    A fair article. I merely wanted to share my disappointment in Ms. Prudom’s use of the phrase “moving forward” in her questions. Can we please not perpetuate the use of this pointless corporate placeholder idiom?

  10. Joe says:

    It was a good episode. I enjoy the show very much. But the “Fox News” comment was bull sh#t and if that continues to happen, I will stop watching. Keeps politics out of my entertainment, writers!!! =/

    • Lucy says:

      The Fox comment must have been an order from Director Obama since he takes shots at them once a month.

    • It had nothing to do with politics, Fox News is owned by the same corporation that currently owns the rights to make and produce live action X-Men and Fantastic Four movies and TV shows. ABC meanwhile is owned by Disney who owns Marvel. It isn’t a secret that Disney/Marvel want Fox to hand the rights to X-Men and FF back. That line was just a jab at Fox’s expense because Marvel (rightly so) wants to own and control all their characters rights. ABC by way of their news division is also a direct rival to Fox News, so really this isn’t surprising. I’m certain Fox does similar things on their shows about other networks.

      • mary says:

        Completely agree. It was of BAD TASTE. And I swear it: if this sh-t continues… I will stop watching. Politics or not… there is no justification to be demeaning any other shows… it was not part of the story line… it had no business to be mentioned. I am offended by this attempt to brainwash the views.

    • Reggie says:

      Lighten up. It was a joke, and a lot of people do feel that way about their parents. It gets old having to reassure someone that the sky isn’t falling because of sensationalized reporting that aims to anger and scare instead of inform. It’s not about politics. It’s about a lack of ethics in modern era “infotainment.” Their antics remind me of Bill Murray in Scrooged. They’re supposed to be “fair and balanced” anyway.

      • Bill says:

        Grow up Alex – it was a joke. MSNBC doesn’t control any Marvel Characters – Fox does.

      • Alex says:

        Then they should have had Mack comment about MSNBC, instead.

        The simple fact is, this isn’t new. FOX News is continually demeaned in TV shows, despite the vast majority of cable news viewers watching it. This reflects not so much any “sensationalized reporting” on FOX’s part, but an extreme amount of hostility against their reporting by Hollywood TV writers, who are overwhelmingly liberal.

        That liberal bias, far too often, filters into and corrupts their storylines, ruining shows that would otherwise be enjoyable to anyone, regardless of their political leanings. And by doing so, they risk turning off and LOSING half of their viewership.

        It’s really a stupid and unnecessary move, made simply to make the writers feel better about themselves and their political ideology.

  11. Thanks for the read above, the show is and has been a roller coaster… in the finale it proved that there is someone getting it right. I look forward to the return and the questions to be answers in season 3…

    • mattlove1 says:

      They should go easy on fox news. They need 100% of their fans, they can’t afford to lose the stupid half of their audience.

  12. Kjc says:

    I just want to voice an opinion to the net that’s been bugging me. The ratings for Agents of Sheild are not accurate. Most of the shows target audience don’t watch tv. They stream, they download move the show to Netflix you will get much better results. Everyone I know watches the show nobody I know watches it on ABC when it airs. It’s a great show the critics bash it because it’s the only way they can explain bad ratings because nobody wants to address the elephant in the room TV is DYING juggernauts like NBC, ABC and others just dont want to
    admit it.

    • I love the show, and I watch it on tv. I prefer to watch it on tv. I am in my 30s and don’t care for all the streaming technology and the like. I know many people in my age bracket and younger do look to things like HULU and Netflix for everything, but that isn’t everyone. TV isn’t dying, it is evolving. It will never be what it was decades ago, but that shouldn’t mean that we simply shift everything just because one demographic would prefer it that way. I think they need to look at how things are rated in regards to viewship, as I agree, a great many people do stream it or watch it on DVR and the like. I think Disney and ABC are aware of this. As long as they continue to provide us with quality episodes, which we got all season long, I am fine with it and everything else remaining status quo. Let shows that need an edge like Daredevil go to Netflix. AoS is good where it is.

      • Levi says:

        Actually those are available on the streaming service SlingTV Michael.

      • Disney and ABC should do away with the stupid eight day delay on Hulu. Better yet, Disney should launch their own version of HBO Now, some sort of streaming service that for say about $10-15 a month that offers the same features as HBO Now only for Disney Channel, Disney XD, ABC and ABC Family.

  13. Jason Allen says:

    It was totally awesome! Can’t wait for next season!

  14. it really has been a lacklustre season with about 6 really good episodes this whole season. This one was pretty good though. it’s a pity it doesn’t have the same quality throughout

  15. Scotty says:

    I loved the finale and can’t wait until next season begins!

  16. Pop Culture girl says:

    I loved the finale. This show has gone from being a dorky, guilty pleasure in S.1, to being a thrilling, emotionally wrenching roller-coaster ride this season. I’m really looking forward to S.3. I have to wonder if Simmons will emerge from the wave with some sort of power, and what that will be.

    Coulson showed his colors as a true hero (which of course we knew from the Avengers). I wonder if he will return with a Tony Stark style cybernetic hand — which could be sort of a hint of what will happen in Cap.3, with the Winter Soldier.

    And I’m really looking forward to S.2 of Agent Carter! Well, done, Marvel. Two amazing shows to look forward to watching in the fall. I need the summer to recuperate from that finale!

  17. Epic finale and wonderful storytelling. Thank you. My only disagreement with this article is that I thought Fitzroy had the best line. “Science, biatch” was pure gold!

  18. paul says:

    What I liked about this show is that it focused on the human side of the marvel universe where powered people exist ok so how do regular humans handle this how do none powered shield agents deal with the bad ones without having cap or crimson witch on speed dial. I hope they don’t loose this

  19. liberalsuck says:

    I couldn’t help notice that ABC took a swipe at Fox News. It’s always the liberal scum who try but never will topple the king of all media Fox. I like how they used a black boy to haul their trash as they always do. They have and always will treat blacks like slaves.

    • Bill says:

      Looks like someone was swallowed whole by the evil monolith that is Fox News.

      Get over yourself, dude – it was a joke line – and given that Fox owns the rights to the X-Men and FF, I can see why a Marvel show might make a snide remark. But hey, you’re open minded, right? That’s why you picked the LiberalSuck name, right?

    • Well, to be fair ABC (which has it’s own news division and is owned by Disney) is a direct competitor to Fox.

    • Reggie says:

      Partisanship sucks. Also, doesn’t Fox claim to be fair and balanced? As someone whose parents are frequently and unnecessarily scared over something they saw on Fox News, I related to that line. It’s not about politics. It’s about ploys used to generate ratings. And scaring people or making them angry makes for better ratings than reporting facts.

      When Fox News was normal, nobody watched. When they started the us vs. them BS. viewers ate up the abuse with a spoon. Even worse, they allowed it to poison other aspects of their lives, as you’re demonstrating right now.

      If you think Rupert Murdoch, an Aussie who doesn’t even live here, cares about anything other than lining his own pockets, you’re kidding yourself. The more we fight, the better his ratings, the more money he makes, and he doesn’t live in this country to deal with the fallout.

    • garricklives says:

      Black boy? I think we can all tell who the real racist here.

    • Cherry Wood says:

      I missed the swipe at Fox News – was it something about not fact checking facts, or something about far right wing political bias? Either way dude – tone it down – no one wants to read hate speech like that.

      • Reggie says:

        Mack had an off the cuff remark about dealing with his mom after she started to watch Fox news. I think any of us with parents who are easily spooked by anything they see on the “news” can relate.

    • ButTheyWontSuckYou says:

      Wow. You’re a real charmer.

  20. geotheleo58 says:

    That “thing” that consumed Simmons at the end shouldn’t hurt her if one is to believe what Gordon mentioned to one of his Inhuman companions. Gordon said that that thing only have an effect on Inhumans if it trapped one. After it consumed Simmons it looked like a small jail. In the beginning of the 2nd season I didn’t understood what Jiaying’s powers were; figured it was internal youth. Now to realized her powers were to drain the lifeforce from a person to sustain her youthful being was quite a little over the top. I was okay with Shield not killing Cal/Mr. Hyde; after all, his twisted mind wanted to have one of the most sacred thing a man cherish and that’s protecting his child. I need a break away from this show. Going to watch baseball games and basketball playoff games then review this season in August. Have a wonderful summer…

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