"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." has had a somewhat tumultuous relationship with fan expectations in its first year, but series star Clark Gregg (Agent Phil Coulson) said he thinks viewers will be surprised by events as season one nears the finish line.
"When people see the remaining episodes of the season -- what they're doing here is a slow build to something I don't think you've seen before," Gregg told reporters on the red carpet before Sunday's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." PaleyFest event. "I can't really elaborate."
Gregg has some authority on the subject -- he's been part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2008's original "Iron Man" film. Though he hasn't been in a Marvel movie since 2012's "The Avengers" -- which didn't end well for him, though he got better under still-mysterious circumstances -- he said he's definitely relishing taking a more hands-on role on "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
"A lot of the time in the movies when things got really hairy, Coulson would vanish," Gregg said." In this show, it doesn't happen that way. He's a veteran agent who can hold his own physically. As the s-word hits the fan in our final episode, you're going to see more and more of that. The stakes get higher."
Even with with the latest entry in the Marvel movie canon, the Coulson-less "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" -- a film said to affect the world of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." -- in theaters next week, Gregg said there's still nowhere he'd rather be than on "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
"I can't do anything but feel grateful," Gegg said to CBR. "Any time I see Steve Rogers I show up, there's a Coulson-y part of me that just wants to be nearby. But to get to really have my own plane, my own beautiful team, to explore these stories, do the fights myself? I feel like the luckiest nerd who ever lived right now."
Show executive producer Jeffrey Bell -- stressing the inherent restrictions of a 22-episode network television season -- told CBR News the final episodes of season one will be big both emotionally and in terms of spectacle.
"Let's be honest, our season budget is half of one of [Marvel's] movies," Bell said. "We don't try and go toe-to-toe with the finale of 'Iron Man 3.' But we have some big stuff, and more important, I think we have some big emotional explosions. "
An admitted comic book fan since the age of 11 and a screenwriter, Gregg expressed interest in one day writing his own comic book -- though he's holding out for the right collaborator.
"I wrote a screenplay recently where I was like, 'I really want to do a graphic novel of this first,' but I couldn't pull it off," Gregg said. "I'm going to try to make a lot of money so I can hire Jim Starlin to do one with me. He was the guy that kind of turned me on to comics. I just loved his 'Warlock' stuff when I was a kid. I was obsessed."
As a comic enthusiast, Gregg said to CBR that he's personally enjoyed seeing J. August Richads' character move from Mike Peterson to the show's take on long-running Marvel comic book character Deathlok.
"I'm really excited with where that's going," Gregg said. "The evolution of Deathlok as a character, as it gets closer and closer to the Deathlok character we know from the comics -- every time we see Deathlok, he seems to have some new toys. It's getting really intense."
"He's someone Coulson kind of connects with," Gregg continued. "He started out trying to do the right thing, and has just been eaten away by doing this, and now he's working for the wrong people, but doesn't even seem like he has a choice in the matter."
Bell defended Deathlok's TV show appearance, which has received criticism from online outlets.
"The Deathlok outfit was designed with the creative people at Marvel," Bell said. "If people don't like it because they're haters -- he's in full Deathlok mode, and that's not a happy place to be. I think [Richards] plays that really well. He gets to do some cool stuff in episode 16 going forward."
Chloe Bennet's Skye is another character that's had an eventful first season. First introduced as a gifted hacker who found herself on S.H.I.E.L.D.'s radar, she's now an agent-in-training and has been revealed to be an "0-8-4" -- an object of unknown origin, and another mystery yet to be fully revealed.
"They've been so generous to my character, and I knew nothing going into it," Bennet told CBR. "Getting to play that arc for any character is so much fun, and it's so good to grow as that person.
"I get really attached to Skye," Bennet continued. "If I read something that someone betrayed me or something happens, I get upset about it for days. My friends are like, 'It's not real, but I'm glad to see you're getting really into your work.'"
"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." returns with new episode "End of the Beginning" 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 1 on ABC.