Season four of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t like previous seasons — in a lot of ways. The group has been disbanded, there are fractures in certain relationships, the Accords are in place which means everyone is on high alert when it comes to Inhumans, and perhaps most strangely, Agent Coulson is no longer the director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
“All we know is that he’s not the Director. We don’t know how that came about,” Clark Gregg told us at New York Comic Con. “And that’ s something we explore. A lot of people have ideas, some people think he walked away, some people think he was fired, and that’s a mystery we play with. I think he’s very ambivalent about his new role, in that I don’t think his goal in life was to be the director of S.H.I.E.L.D.. I think if it was him and Nick Fury and if he was the field guy for Nick Fury he would have been happy, as much as Coulson could be happy. But when the guy shows up and gives you a Cube of Destiny and The Destroyer weapon and says ‘rebuild S.H.I.E.L.D., here’s a few dollars and a credit card, you do it.”
So, does that mean there’s a connection between new top gun, Director Mace (Jason O’Mara)? I don’t think it’s clear they have any big past,” Gregg admitted. “There’s a need for S.H.I.E.L.D., and he says he’s gotta make this organization legit, and to have Quake out there causing trouble is a big problem. And suddenly, it’s a bureaucracy again. What I think is interesting about this character they’ve come up with is that he’s a very different kind of leader who has to answer to committees, and he doesn’t seem inherently evil right away.”
We’ve already seen that this season will continue to deal with the fallout of last season’s biggest storylines, namely, Lincoln’s sacrifice and Ward/Hive’s return and death. “One of the things I really like about what Jed [Whedon] and Mo [Tancharoen] and our writers have done is that we’ve lost people, and everyone is messed up by it. Daisy’s messed up, and I think Coulson understands why she’s gone. He doesn’t like it, and he’s terribly worried people are going to hurt her, but it’s a lot of heartbreak.”
But above everything else, it seems we can count on Coulson to still be the leader of the group of people he’s grown to love and care about. “That’s the conundrum they’re exploring,” said Gregg. “Whether he makes those calls or not, he feels responsible for them, and they get themselves into dangerous situations he didn’t order, and he can’t counterman. So it’s gonna come back on him no matter what.”
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET on ABC.