"Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D." wrapped up several huge storylines in the second season finale, "S.O.S.," including a shocking departure, a shocking removal, and a change so big it'll have repercussions throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And to help process all your emotions (we have several), MTV News got on the phone with Executive Producer Jeff Bell to wrap up season two... And help set up season three.
SPOILERS for "Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D." past this point.
MTV News: Leading into the finale, how did you feel about the season overall? What was it like approaching season two, versus season one?
Jeff Bell: Well, the main difference is people stop saying, "Well after a rocky start..." In fact once we could say the word HYDRA, once we could embrace more of the Marvel Universe and reveal the truth about Ward -- that really freed us.
I feel like this season we were really free to tell the story we wanted to tell; and doing 22 [episodes], we broke it into a two-chunk season. The whole thing was really the rise of superhero, with Skye becoming our first transformed person... Her journey from that, to understanding and coming to terms with her powers during the second half; and that was satisfying for us.
Introducing the Inhumans this year was a way for us to bring more powered people [on to the show], and the fans sure like it when you have powered people on your show. Our ability to do that helped, tying into "Avengers," and the HYDRA hand-off, and just watching all of our characters grow and change so much... To look at where they started, to where they ended up this season, everybody has fairly radically changed.
MTV: Looking back at last year's finale, versus this year ties in nicely to what you were just saying... Last year, you depended a lot on that Samuel L. Jackson cameo; but this year, it's all about the cast. You still had the tie-ins, but it almost felt like the movies and TV were on parallel tracks, versus being dependent on each other.
Bell: Calling it a parallel is a pretty good way to do it... You know, last year our finale was really dependent on everything getting blown up -- that was between our 15th and 17th episode -- and so that really impacted the third act of our season. All of the post-"HYDRA is on our team!" -- and for all those reasons it was incumbent on us to have FURY come in to hand directorship over to Coulson.
That just felt like the necessary thing to do. And now with the world thinking Fury’s been dead, but actually operating in the shadows, it really allowed Coulson and his team -- and us as writers -- to chart our own path.
We continue to touch base with the movie people, and we had Agent Carter in a couple of our flashbacks in episodes to connect you that way as well; but ultimately we were freer to tell our own story within the Marvel Universe... Which was very liberating.
MTV: Okay, let's get into spoiler territory -- and I want to work backwards, because you’re killing my heart here. You have that great FitzSimmons scene early on, but I just knew you were going to do something terrible to one of them... And then in the post-credits, she gets sucked into that monolith in the most horrifying why possible.
Bell: Season one FitzSimmons was kind of one person, they were two halves of a person they weren’t fully formed. After the trauma of last season, at the beginning of this season we tried to make them into two separate people... There were a lot of bumps and bruises along the way, [they were] angry at each other, had a separation -- and then Simmons hardened into this "I don't know if powered people are good;" and Fitz, having been through an experience where he felt different, was feeling judged and protected Skye because of that.
And then finding a way for them to come back together, it just seemed too good to be true... This is our job, to make you feel things! So the idea of bringing them back together as two whole people, we were all for it -- but then sadly, this creepy monolith thing sucks her in, and she’s gone. We are as upset as everybody.
MTV: That scene is going to haunt my nightmares all summer... How exactly did you work out what it was going to look like -- and feel like?
Bell: We talked about the stone for a while... We had set up the idea that there was something in the cargo hold in episode 15 of this season that was dangerous and powerful enough... They were going to destroy the whole ship to protect it.
And so going back and seeing what that was, as we talked about as writers, there were a lot of different pitches. The idea of something that can go from solid stone, to liquid, and back seemed cool and kind of alien to us... It just seemed like a really good mystery around that, and we had ideas soon after that about what should happen, to whom... And we look forward to playing that out in season 3.
MTV: One of the other huge bombshells that I am sure is not only going to affect the series, but the whole Marvel Universe going forward is the Terrigen Crystals falling into the sea. Initially I was super excited that the team would be dealing with superpowered fish during the course of the next season... But sadly it doesn’t look like that is going to happen. So how exactly does this work? Does this mean anybody who has the Inhuman gene will be activated, but the "turning to stone" thing is off the table?
Bell: Well without getting too specific, it looks like to me that the mist is being released in the water in a way that doesn’t necessarily -- no one is touching the metal part of it, you know?
We joked about it, because we were like, "Okay there's fish oil, but also there's sushi, and there's seaweed..." Our intent was, without dropping a Terrigen Bomb and turning gazillions of people, the opportunity is there for anybody, anywhere to have the possibility of coming into contact with this stuff -- which is fun. It keeps us flexible, which means it can be anytime, anywhere.
MTV: I'm definitely going to have a lot of fish oil tablets going forward, just in case. I previously talked to Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, after we found out that Chloe Bennet was Quake/Daisy Johnson, about your guys love for "Secret Warriors." There's a pretty non-subtle hint towards the end of the episode, with Skye saying we have to put together a team that is going to be secret... So how much of those ideas -- knowing you don't directly adapt the books -- will we see going into season three?
Bell: Who ends up on our show is going is a complicated thing, based on rights, and who that character is, and is that person going to be a movie in 2027 or not... But there is definitely a nod to putting together a secret team of people, there is Coulson talking about promoting Daisy Johnson, so already we are giving a nod in that direction. We are a TV show that can do certain visual effects and certain powers really well, and others are a bigger challenge. We looked at the first two minutes of "The Avengers," and we’re like, "Wow that’s our whole season budget." But the idea of finding other people like that seems promising, and I think fans will be excited about it.
MTV: Let's talk about Coulson, who gets his frickin' hand cut off. How'd you decide to do that, and how will it affect him going forward?
Bell: The way it came about in the writers room, there's a complicated process where different things are pitched -- and Mac, who likes Coulson, but who walked away -- comes back and is instrumental in saving S.H.I.E.L.D. at the end... And ultimately ends up chopping off Coulson's arm to save him. It just felt kind of beautiful, you know?
Mac never wanted to be a fighter, he’s not shooting guns -- but he’s swinging an axe trying to save the day. You see that axe for the two episodes before he uses it. We thought that was pretty cool.
For Coulsen, was he right for chasing all of this alien stuff or not is a question that I think he and Mac can debate; but sometimes you pay a price for that kind of dabbling, that kind of experience... We thought that was interesting, and you know... Now he can get a magic hand!
MTV: Before I let you go, last year I asked you to describe season two in one word, which you said was "evolution." That was pretty accurate, so if you had to describe season three, what would that one word be?
Bell: I need three: they’re out there.