"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." received a vocal reaction from fans in its first season, with viewers not shy about expressing what they liked -- and didn't -- from the Marvel Cinematic Universe-set show over the past year. Following a well-received stretch this spring sparked by a "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" tie-in and culminating in last May's season finale.
In the first season, showrunners Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon twice answered questions from fans in CBR-facilitated Q&A sessions. With the second season premiere -- the Tancharoen & Whedon-written "Shadows" -- airing tonight on ABC, the husband-and-wife executive producer duo return to once again answer your burning questions about what the new episodes may have in store.
Curious about the future of Skye (Chloe Bennet) and Ward (Brett Dalton)? What about a possible "Guardians of the Galaxy" tie-in, or links between "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and upcoming Marvel Television post-World War II period piece "Agent Carter"? Tancharoen and Whedon don't exactly tell all, but they do share insight on a variety of topics -- including the coordination process between Marvel's multiple live-action divisions and if Coulson (Clark Gregg) has time for love while he's the newly installed director of a very much work-in-progress rebuilt S.H.I.E.L.D.
CBR News: Maurissa and Jed! Thanks for once again being up for this. Before we get into fan questions, I'd like to warm up with one from us: From our multiple interviews in the past year, it was clear how difficult of a challenge Season 1 was -- producing a show with that kind of production values and that many early expectations, over the course of the 22 episodes. On the other side of that experience, how much higher was the confidence level entering Season 2? And how do you see that as helping to shape the creative approach?
Jed Whedon: The most challenging part of Season 1 was introducing a Marvel fan base to a cast of characters who never existed in the comics. Coulson had been in a few of the movies, but most Marvel productions start with more established characters, so it took time for the audience to get to know our team of agents and develop feelings for them, good or bad.
Maurissa Tancharoen: Without that kind of heavy lifting going into Season 2, it allows us to kick off with the types of stories we were telling at the end of last season, giving us momentum. But never confidence. We're writers. We have no confidence.
Let's dip into the fan questions, starting with juggling enthusiast EJ: "It seems like with the MCU, the upcoming Netflix series and 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' your job is almost akin to a juggler's who has several balls (or chainsaws) in the air at once. How often do you confer with other creative teams to make the seamless cross-media universe? Are there ever full conference rooms full of the creatives where a hard outline is made to keep continuity going?"
Whedon: We're always in communication with features and the other TV projects, and yes, at times there is a conference room filled with creative types slouching in their chairs, hands anchored in the pockets of their hoodies. But mostly it's a process of reading each other's upcoming scripts (or seeing early cuts, don't be jealous), and building our mythology to set up storylines or fill in cracks.
Not shockingly, multiple folks had some version of this question, in this instance asked by Ashley M.: "Towards the latter part of Season 1 when Ward was revealed to be a double agent, it seemed straightforward that he would become a villain. Yet we got to see more of his backstory and the complicated life he had that brought him there. He's also shown genuine attachment to Skye. Would you say there's any way for Ward to be redeemed in the eyes of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the audience, or will his story focus more on a spiral into darkness?"
Tancharoen: Every person has a reason for being the way they are. As we peel back the layers of the sweet Maui onion that is Ward, it's up to the audience to decide whether or not his past experiences excuse his actions. Some people have already decided, hence #StandWithWard.
Also got a few along these lines, with this one emanating from Chris G., who actually sneaks two questions in for the price of one email: "Nothing I have seen says Triplett will be joining the cast as a regular this year. I really liked his character and am hoping that it is just being kept hush-hush. Can you shed any light on this matter? Also can you give us a rough estimate on how many episodes [Patton] Oswalt has signed on for?"
Tancharoen: We love Trip, and BJ Britt. He's in every episode so far. We also love Patton Oswalt -- as does every other television show he appears in, which is at least a hundred. A lot of "regular" vs. "recurring" has to do with the complex game of scheduling multiple actors for a fixed budget who each have multiple projects.
Whedon: So all we can say is -- both these actors will be in as many episodes as possible.
Rednour D. eloquently expresses affection for Skye, and also asks: "I really appreciate what Chloe has brought to the table as Skye. The role of the positive newbie is often a thankless one on most shows, but I think that Chloe and the writing team presented a realistic portrayal of a curious and intelligent woman who happens to have mad hacker skills. I hope that Skye can still present her positive outlook and continue to be a beacon of lighter elements for the team this year even if the overall effect of this season continues to explore dark spaces. It also seems like she will have a central mystery this season when you gave her perhaps the most compelling mystery of the show with the search for her true origin. What can you tell Skye fans about her arc for this season?
Whedon: Only that it's awesome. And that Kyle MacLachlan is playing her dad. Skye has been through a lot, as has every member of our team. You'll see a more confident, hardened version of Skye this season. She's not a newbie anymore.
Speaking of Skye, this one from Ace seems likely to be a big ol' "yes," but let's ask anyway: "One of the relationships I found most interesting during Season 1 was the involuntary emotional pull between Skye and Ward. Will that continue to be mutual and explored in Season 2?"
Tancharoen: Explored? Yes. Mutual? Not telling.
Looking back at a couple characters introduced in Season 1, Brian C. asks: "Are there any plans for Blizzard [Donnie Gill] and Graviton [Dr. Franklin Hall]?"
Whedon: We have plans for both Gill and Hall, some short term, some long term. It is never our intent to introduce something without milking it for all it's worth.
Michael J. keeps it simple, asking: "Just wondering if we'll see Audrey again in the future?"
Tancharoen: We hope so. Everyone needs someone, especially after the trauma of your whole entire world falling apart. But Coulson is very busy rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D., trying to put that world back together. He may not have time for love, but he'll pine for it. Which is sad. We like sad.
In the "unlikely to yield an answer but let's give it a try anyway" department, Joseph F. asks, "With Bobbi Morse added to the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will we see Clint Barton [played on the big screen by Jeremy Renner] make an appearance on the show?"
Whedon: We won't say no to it. But only if he begs.
Returning champion question-asker Spidey616 queries: "Will the new season touch on any of the cosmic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that 'Guardians of the Galaxy' helped establish?"
Whedon: A tie-in with "GotG" is a bit more difficult than the other properties because it takes place across the universe. But -- it's the same universe. So you never know…
Ezke is looking to pull deep from the Marvel bench: "The tagline 'Not all heroes are super' is great. Will we see some more non-super Marvel Universe characters? (Like Damage Control? Code Blue? AIM? Roxxon? The Night Nurse?)"
Tancharoen: That's the plan, man.
Looking at the Marvel Studios release schedule, Christopher B. wonders, "'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' faced a game-changer with the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. and rise of Hydra during 'The Winter Soldier.' That was certainly a challenging plot line to keep under wraps and still hold an audience in S1. What character and arc freedoms are you enjoying most in the writers room without a 'mid-season' game-changer this year and will we see ties to both 'Guardians of the Galaxy' and the upcoming 'Avengers: Age of Ultron'?"
Whedon: What's Avengers?
Let's squeeze one more from Christopher B. in, who even went through the trouble of numbering his questions, old-school lettercol style: "How closely have you worked with the 'Agent Carter' team to help them build a world 70 years younger than your own and other than the teased scene in the first episode, will we get to see ties (albeit small ones) between the two series from this point forward?"
Tancharoen: Absolutely. There is a natural thematic (and possibly plot-rific) crisscross between a show that features the rebuilding of S.H.I.E.L.D. and a show about the history of one of its founders. Our HQ, "The Playground," is actually an old S.S.R. base that Fury refurbished.
OK, we'll wrap with one more from us: You're obviously paying very close attention to all aspects of Marvel in your jobs -- what are some of your personal favorite recent Marvel comic book stories? (That's purely out of curiosity and not fishing for hints of upcoming storylines -- honest!)
Whedon: "S.H.I.E.L.D." #1, out this December!
"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." Season 2 debuts 9 tonight, Sept. 23 on ABC.