By Marc Strom
Executive Producer Jeffrey Bell has helped usher Agent Coulson and his team through half a season's worth of adventures already in "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," and now they'll face one of their most dangerous missions yet as they search for their missing leader!
While many of the Agents' missions in the first nine episodes of the series seemed unrelated at first glance, the final episode of 2013 took things to a whole new level, revealing connections that hinted at Centipede's long reach. According to Bell, the writer always planned to ramp things up at this point given that, in television, a network typically orders 13 episodes of a series before deciding to commit to a full 22 episode season--a commitment that "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." actually received several months ago.
"We're at the halfway mark in our 22 episodes, [but] when you first start you only have 13, so you know that you have to build towards something awesome in [episodes] 11, 12 [and] 13, because that may be all that you ever get," notes the Executive Producer. "When you're first laying out your season, you realize that things have to be coming together by then or you're doing a bad job.
This week's episode also features the return of Saffron Burrows as Agent Victoria Hand, who will bring the full force of S.H.I.E.L.D. with her to help track Coulson down...though she may not appreciate any assistance our usual time might offer.
"I think initially, as she hinted at in 'The Hub,' she viewed Coulson on the plane as sort of a recuperation period as opposed to doing serious work," Bell remarks of Hand's view of Coulson's team. "One of our challenges with the TV show versus, say, the S.H.I.E.L.D. you see in [Marvel's 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier'] is we're six people on a plane versus 5,000 people on a Helicarrier. To Coulson, he's got talented people on this, and to Hand I don't think she takes him very seriously. Part of the fun of [episode] 11 was bringing what we call 'Big S.H.I.E.L.D.' [in] at the beginning [and saying] okay, this is what happens when you really do this with helicopters and 10,000 men, and this is how you catch a bad guy, this is how you shut him down.
One of Hand's first actions will be kicking Skye, who only enjoys a "consultant" status with the team, off the plane to eliminate any potential distractions or impediments in finding Coulson as quickly as possible. And while that may seem harsh to some viewers, and even some of Skye's teammates, Hand has her own logic.
"I think her looking at Skye and saying 'oh you're a problem, why are you on this plane, go away,' made sense," relates Bell. "[Plus], the idea of sending [Skye] off on her own and her having to prove herself again but the audience seeing all that she had learned from the previous weeks with our team seemed like a really fun story to tell."
Catch the return of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." Tuesday, January 7 at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC, and for even more S.H.I.E.L.D. keep your eyes on Marvel.com for updates and follow @AgentsofSHIELD on Twitter and like "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." on Facebook for all the latest news!