Agents of SHIELD Season 4: What We Learned

Agents of SHIELD season 4 came to SDCC 2016 and gave fans reveals both big and small.

Marvel Television brought the cast and creators of Agents of SHIELD to Ballroom 20 and press room at San Diego Comic-Con this weekend, and dropped a few hints about what to expect from the show’s fourth season. Here’s what we learned…

Agents of SHIELD fans are no joke

I’m always struck by how passionate Agents of SHIELD fans are. It’s not exactly my favorite TV show, despite the fact that I very much like all of the talent involved. So for an “outsider” it’s easy to forget just how serious Agents of SHIELD fans are.

While the line for San Diego’s Ballroom 20 isn’t the grueling long-term haul that the Hall H line is, it’s still not always easy to get into. But once you’re in there with a few thousand fans, well…it gets loud. With Agents of SHIELD Season 4 moving to a less-than-optimal timeslot (it now will air at 10 pm on Tuesdays), all I can say is this: woe to the ABC exec who cancels this show if anything at all is left unresolved. 

Brett Dalton Won’t Return

After his surprising heel turn at the conclusion of season one, his role as an ongoing antagonist/manipulator in season two, and his final apotheosis as a full blown supervillain in season three, you could safely say that Agent Ward is the best villain Agents of SHIELD has ever had, by a considerable margin. And since villains have never really been the show’s strong suit, you’d expect him to return.

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Well, you may want to lower your expectations. Jeph Loeb confirmed that Mr. Dalton won’t be back for Agents of SHIELD Season 4. Sure, he could be lying, but it would take considerable work to bring him back this time, right?

Marvel’s Most Wanted?

There’s no denying that the arrival of Agents Morse and Hunter during season two gave Agents of SHIELD a shot in the arm. Seriously, how could you not love Mockingbird, right? 

It’s possible that one of the reasons the proposed spinoff focusing on Morse and Hunter, Marvel’s Most Wanted, didn’t get off the ground was simply because Agents of SHIELD needs that Morse/Hunter chemistry more than Marvel needs an Agents of SHIELD spinoff. The thing is, they’re playing it coy about whether or not More and Hunter will actually return for Season 4.

“It’s classified,” was Jed Whedon’s only response when asked by a fan.

Daisy’s Love Life

A fan asked what might be going on with Daisy’s love life, since her most recent romances haven’t exactly worked out. “She needs to get laid,” Ms. Bennet cracked, much to the amusement of the rest of the panel. Clark Gregg offered that they’ve been trying to cast a new love interest for her but “nobody wants the job,” to even greater amusement.

Then again, now that Daisy is pretty much fully-formed as Quake, and therefore the closest thing to a genuine superhero the team has, maybe her love life isn’t the most important thing for the show to explore. Just let her kick some ass.

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Ghost Rider is Coming

Throughout the panel, and I mean all the way through it, almost from the first moment, Clark Gregg was bugging Executive Producer and panel moderator Jeph Loeb to “do the thing.” And since production on Agents of SHIELD Season 4 only began the day before the panel, there was obviously no actual footage to show. But clearly, there was something big cooking.

“The thing” in question was the reveal that “Vengeance is coming this fall” with Ghost Rider joining the show. It was a dramatic note to end on, and it certainly raises questions about what the tone of the fourth season will be, especially since it was later revealed that True Detective‘s Gabriel Luna will play Robbie Reyes/Ghost Rider.

EP Marissa Tancharoen teased in the press room: “We’re doing the Robbie Reyes version of the character, who is a young, Latino man from East L.A. We were attracted to that because of that fact, just to see what he would be like in the dynamic of the show.” Tancharoen and co-showrunner Jed Whedon hinted that it would be Daisy who would “stumble upon” Ghost Rider during the course of her vigilante adventures.

Notably, Agents of SHIELDis moving to a 10 p.m. time slot this fall season, which means the show could get a bit darker because of that. When asked if the time change influenced the decision to bring Ghost Rider onto the show, Jed Whedon said: “We’re hoping that we can skew a little darker because of it, but all those decisions are sort of made at the same time.

Doctor Strange will affect the show.

The upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe movie Doctor Strangewill affect Agents of SHIELD, if only in tone. Speaking to members of the press, EP Jed Whedon teased…

There were a lot of factors that went into [bringing Ghost Rider to the show]. One is that Doctor Strangeis coming out and, if you’re familiar with the comic, it’s sort of a different side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that’s going to be opened up and we felt like now is the time to do this because it plays in that world. It’s not exactly the spy world we live in, but we feel like — with that entering the MCU — this is us sort of dipping our toe into that world as we open things up.

In general, there were a lot of questions about how this change to the rules of the narrative universe — i.e. the supernatural blending with the science fiction — would affect the show. Whedon and Tancharoen assured that this was something the writers room had discussed at length and, as Tancharoen put it: “[This question] is exactly what our team may be asking as they encounter something like Ghost Riders. They’ll basically be trying to science the ‘why’ of things.”

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Whedon compared the transition to the introduction of fantastical Thor into an MCU previously dictated by a very technological Iron Man, saying: “When you put Thor into that world, it starts to be like, ‘Well how are these things gonna work?’ And they worked, so they’ve started to open up into the world of the fantastic, and we will be doing that this year in terms of trying to blend the two.”

The Sokovia Accords are alive and well in SHIELD.

Given the timing of Civil War’s release, we have yet to see how the Sokovia Accords will affect the world of Agents of SHIELD.Though Whedon and Tancharoen wouldn’t go into details about the accords’ effect, they did tease that the internal changes we saw within SHIELD in the season finale’s jump forward were, in part, inspired by the accords.

Tancharoen teased: “It’s very clear that many things have changed, and just Coulson stepping down as the director is just an indication that, within SHIELD, things are very different. Whether or not SHIELD will help to carry out the Sokovia Accords, that is something you will see.”

Life Model Decoys will slowly start to develop this season.

One of the most exciting parts of the season finale epilogue jump forward was Dr. Radcliffe’s Life Model Decoy project, a reference to the androids from the comics. It sounds like the LMD storyline might be a bit of a slow burner compared to the Daisy-as-vigilant storyline that seems to be more of the focus in the season’s early episodes.

Whedon teased: “We’re going to slowly start to develop some very advanced technology this season and, maybe, as that becomes more advanced … those things somehow merge down the line.”

Tancharoen added that the LMDs are just an extension of the body mortifications we’ve seen from the very first season — i.e. Mike Peterson’s Deathlok or Coulson’s hand. John Hannah will be back as a recurring character in season 4 as Dr. Holden Radcliffe. Whedon teased: “We’re gonna see this side of him that’s trying to do better than he did last year. He’s a good guy at heart, he means well, so we want to see him sort of brought into the fold.”

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We’ll have more on Agents of SHIELD Season 4 as we get closer to that September 20th premiere date!