“Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” comes back in a big way Tuesday (Jan. 7) with episode 11, “The Magical Place.” In addition to resolving the cliffhanger of Phil Coulson’s kidnapping by Centipede, it also promises to reveal the truth of what happened to resurrect him after he died in “The Avengers.”
Like fans of the show, star Clark Gregg had to wait for months to finally discover what brought Coulson back from the dead. From “Agents of SHIELD’s” pilot on, it’s been clear that there was a dark mystery surrounding the character’s returned life, and its resolution is one Gregg says fans will find “satisfying.”
“People have been patient in really wanting to know the true nature of the secrets. … We’re going to get a big fat window at the real truth, and it’s going to be very, very surprising,” Gregg tells Zap2it. “When I read the sequence, I just stopped and put the script down and went ‘Wow. That was worth waiting for.'”
Gregg explains that the secret of Coulson’s death will have clear repercussions through the second half of Season 1. “The way our team has kind of turned the back half of this season into a reveal that uses the mystery of Coulson’s death not just as a standalone reveal but as an integral part of the bigger reveal, which is that this organization Centipede, run by this person the Clairvoyant, has been part of almost everything we’ve done and connects on a deep level to everything going forward. [Centipede] is determined to destroy SHIELD and, to Coulson’s chagrin, has some of the same questions about SHIELD that Coulson himself is starting to evolve,” Gregg explains.
The slow-in-coming answer to Coulson’s mystery has caused some frustration for fans, and Gregg admits that “it’s time, d*** it” to reveal the truth about Coulson. From “The Magical Place” on, he says that “Agents of SHIELD” will pick up the pace through the end of Season 1.
“The fact that they’ve already managed to kind of make the reveal of what Coulson’s doing alive [be] the one thing that the Clairvoyant wants is just part of the way the back half of this season is going to be — more exciting and more satisfying than the first half of this season, where so much work had to be done to kind of set up this world of these people and this team, and all these separate pieces get kind of woven together,” he says.
Coulson’s mystery isn’t the only one being dealt with when “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” returns. Episode 12, “Seeds,” focuses on the secret of Skye’s (Chloe Bennet) parentage, which Coulson and Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) are doing their best to keep a secret from the hacker.
Considering the frustrations Coulson has had with SHIELD keeping details of his death a mystery from him, it’s something of a surprise that he opted to not give Skye the information she wanted about her own past. Gregg acknowledges that Coulson will have to wrestle with SHIELD’s protocol of not telling people more than they need to know versus his own desire to be true to his team.
“While this tragic secret doesn’t really have a satisfying answer that he initially seems to feel would benefit Skye, on some level he decides not to tell her,” Gregg explains. “I think it remains to be seen how comfortable he is with that, and one of the things that’s being executed quite artfully by the writers is the more that Coulson is denied the truth by Nick Fury and the people he works for, the less comfortable he is keeping secrets from his own team.”
In “The Hub,” fans saw Coulson begin to question SHIELD’s motives. Considering he used to be the organization’s biggest fanboy, the shift from supporter to questioner is something of a shock. But Gregg says this is a sign of a new Coulson.
“In the present day and age, I don’t think you can have an organization like SHIELD exercising that kind of power without raising questions about the possibility of having power like that without abusing it. What I think they’ve done so artfully that’s just starting to be revealed is that Coulson after this traumatic near-death experience is not the same kind of company man that he was in the films,” Gregg says.
He continues, “Yet he’s trying to stick to that idea, but everyone who knows him from before kind of shows up with a plan and goes ‘something’s different,’ and then he himself starts to realize something’s different. … [It] seems to be manifesting in a kind of lack of ruthlessness or a discomfort with some of the kind of pragmatic decisions that people like Victoria Hand within SHIELD are all too comfortable making.”
“Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” returns from its fall hiatus on at 8 p.m. Tuesday on ABC.