Spoiler warning: Do not read on unless you’ve seen the “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” midseason finale, titled “Maveth.”
“Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” has never shied away from killing major characters, and the season three winter finale proved to be no exception, as SHIELD Director Coulson (Clark Gregg) finally killed former agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), brutally crushing his ribcage with his bionic hand right in front of fellow SHIELD agent Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker).
That seemed like the end for one of the show’s original characters, until the Inhuman monster known only as “It” abandoned its disguise as stranded astronaut Will Daniels (Dillon Casey) — who was revealed to have died helping Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) escape from the planet — and took over Ward’s lifeless body, reanimating the rogue agent in time to make it through the portal, after which he tracked down Hydra boss Gideon Malick (Powers Boothe).
Variety spoke to Dalton about Ward’s surprising transformation, which the actor admitted “was a very bittersweet thing” for him. “That version of Ward is no longer. I don’t know if we want to call him I-Ward, or Ward 2.0, but that version of Ward is no longer. And I was a little sad, but at the same time, I also knew that I was still on the show!”
While it was tough for him to say goodbye to the Ward we’ve come to know and love (or loved to hate), Dalton said he was glad that he got the “opportunity to play another character … even though he looks like me and talks like me and still has the memories, it’s a different entity, so it’s very exciting, actually. I’m very lucky to have a part on a show that is so successful and a part that changes so often and has such a cool story arc.”
Fans will have to wait until the show returns on March 8 to learn more about Ward’s Inhuman makeover, but Dalton promised that answers are coming, thanks to Ward’s alliance with Malick. “I think Malick is asking all the questions that the audience is going to be asking too: Just who is this guy? What does he want? Why does he do that weird head-tilt thing? What is that under his skin, exactly?” he laughed. “These are all the questions that the audience is asking, so we get to figure that out together. It’s not like ‘oh hey, by the way, this is what this guy is – deal with it.’ There’s a process that we’re all going through, figuring out who he is.”
Ward was obviously irreversibly changed by the events of the midseason finale, but arguably, so was Coulson, who resorted to cold-blooded murder in his quest for revenge. Judging by the look Fitz gave his boss after they returned through the portal, that choice will have equally powerful repercussions for the SHIELD team in the back half of season three.
“Coulson crossed a line. Some would say that Ward has crossed every line there is, but Coulson now has crossed a line, and I think this season has drawn a whole bunch of parallels between the two,” Dalton observed. “In some ways, this is the conclusion of those parallels. Coulson, in a way, has become Ward … he’s learned to play my game and has crossed over to my side, so did I win that battle? Is that what that means? I left my mark on Coulson just as much as he’s left his mark on me.”
“Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” returns to ABC on Tuesday, March 8 at 9 p.m., after “Marvel’s Agent Carter” concludes its 10-episode second season, which begins January 19.
What did you think of Ward’s death and Inhuman resurrection in the winter finale? Weigh in below.