What did Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD Season 3 Tease Mean?

The Agents of SHIELD season 2 finale gave a big nod towards the direction of season 3. We speculate on what that might mean...

Warning: contains spoilers for the Agents of SHIELD season 2 finale, S.O.S.

Marvel Studios’ flagship television project is currently on its second summer break and not due back until the autumn (somewhere around Tuesday the 22nd of September if previous season premiere dates are anything to go by).

Agents of SHIELD’s two-part season 2 finale certainly gave us plenty to talk about in the meantime. Primarily in terms of Skye’s secret superhero team project, and its parallels to the Secret Warriors of the comic books. Here’s a primer on what that was possibly alluding to…

What was the tease?

If you’re thinking “wait, what secret superhero project?”, you may well have taken a little nap during the multiple endings that Agents of SHIELD treated itself to in the final moments of the season finale.

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If that’s so, here’s what happened. Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson and Chloe Bennett’s Skye had just unleashed the MCU equivalent of the Men In Black neuralyzer on Cal, Skye’s loving dad/mentally unhinged supervillain. Now, the memory-wiped Cal is happily offering free neutering at a veterinary surgery, unaware of his prior adventures in super-powers, multiple murders and facial prosthetics.

After a brief chat in which Skye interacted with the unaware Cal for a few moments, the one-handed SHIELD director Coulson was giving Skye a nicely-on-brand blue file full of details surrounding their new project. It is, we’re led to believe, the blueprint for a new superhero team. Crucially, though, this team will be a little different to Earth’s mightiest heroes.

Yes, Skye and Coulson’s new team will be centred on people with powers, too, but it will be a more covert organisation than the Avengers. “People like me need to be kept a secret,” Skye said, citing her mother’s protective attitude towards Inhumans as an inspiration. “Not like the Avengers out in the open,” she specifically requested upon signing up.

“If we do this, we need to be….” Skye continued, before Coulson butted in with the word “anonymous,” as the writers cunningly sidestepped the word “secret,” which is strongly linked to Skye’s superhero persona Quake in the comic books.

“That’s the idea,” he confirmed, before telling Skye “we have to do this, we don’t have a choice. It may feel like things have cooled down right now, but this [gestures to the sling covering his axed-off hand], this is my permanent reminder that we’ll always be paying the price. That we’ll never get ahead of the consequences that I, that you, that SHIELD, have set in motion.”

“This ripple won’t fade,” Coulson added as the season 3 tease became very apparent, “it’ll grow and grow until it’s a tidal wave.” The episode then cut away to a montage of Inhuman-powers-inducing crystal mist dispersing into water, and soon being packaged away into fish oil containers and put on sale.

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If you knew about the team and Quake already, you’ll know that Skye’s hero is a leading player in a team called Secret Warriors. Here’s some more on that…

The Marvel live-action universe of film, TV and Netflix has now delved even further into the comics’ great history of team-ups. First came the Avengers, then the announcement of Netflix’s Defenders, and now arrives the colossal hint that Secret Warriors will soon be joining the world of Agents of SHIELD – but what’s this new team all about? Do all their missions traditionally centre on fish oil?

Well, not quite. But that fishy montage was clearly meant to tell us that Inhumans-enhancing crystals are now out there on the market, like a series of radioactive spiders set loose to endow whomever they deem edible-looking with either superpowers, or death. Remembering, of course, that the act of terrigenesis killed the non-Inhuman-descendant Agent Tripp at the exact same time as gifting Skye and Raina (who are both part of a suitable bloodline) with superpowers. As far as we know, Gonzales died at the hands of one crystal mist, too, leaving only his moustache poking out from a rock formation. Maybe he will return with superpowers, but that didn’t seem to be what the show was suggesting.

Writer Brian Michael Bendis (also known as the inventor of Ultimate Marvel and Powers) created the team with illustrations by Alex Maleev (a frequent Bendis collaborator, particularly revered for his Daredevil work) back in 2008. They originated as separate characters in The Mighty Avengers, significant for presenting the first government-sanctioned Avengers team after the superheroes-must-register conflict of the Civil War comics.

After said introduction, these characters became the Secret Warriors during the Secret Invasion comic book run. Secret Invasion revealed a drawn-out invasion of Earth by the alien Skrull race. It involved replacing Marvel superheroes with evil alien versions of themselves, and ran with the tagline ‘who do you trust?’

After this successful introduction (where the new team tried to save the day, but eventually needed the help some other heroes), the team went onto appear in Dark ReignSiege and a host of other Marvel Comics events. The team, as you probably guessed, was a covert one without the public fame of the Avengers.

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Who’s on the team?

Three sub-teams of the Secret Warriors are known within the world of the comics. However, one of them is much more prominent, and much more likely to have an influence on Agents of SHIELD – this team was led by Daisy Johnson, AKA Quake, AKA Skye (to Agents of SHIELD fans). Her covertly heroic gang was overseen by Nick Fury (who did not look like Samuel L. Jackson in this continuity), and consisted of several super-powered secret saviors. Several of them, it’s worth noting, were young relatives of established heroes and villains from the comic book world.

Quake’s allies included: Alexander Aaron (codename: Phobos), nephew of Hercules and endowed with super strength, fear-inducing abilities and some precognitive powers; Sebastian Druid, who inherited some magic powers from his father Doctor Druid, but was sent to boot camp by Fury for being a liability; Yo-Yo Rodriguez (codename: Slingshot), who could run at superhuman speed and at one point lost her arms (later replaced with robotic super-strong ones, natch), J.T. James (codename: Hellfire), who could charge items with a fire and attack people with them; Jerry Sledge (codename: Stonewall), with stone-like skin, growing abilities and enhanced strength; and, finally, Eden Fesi, a reality warper (a similar power to Scarlet Witch).

Eden is a mutant, though, so his rights are surely held by Fox as part of their X-Men package. The same goes for Stonewall. While we wouldn’t expect those two to make an appearance, any of the other characters listed above are presumably fair game within the toy box of Marvel Studios properties.

This core team isn’t the only task force that Fury brought together to tackle the Skrulls’ invasion attempt. There were two other “caterpillar” teams, one led by Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford’s Winter Soldier character), another helmed by Mikel Fury (who takes up the established heroic identity Scorpio), Fury’s illegitimate son.

Between them, these teams have fought the Skrulls, HYDRA, Leviathan, Norman Osborne and many other nefarious evildoers over the years. They’ve also teamed up with the Howling Commandos on occasion. As mentioned before, a verison of the Quake-fronted team will surely be the Agents of SHIELD take on Secret Warriors. But how exactly could the showrunners condense all this comic book backstory into an entertaining season? Here are some thoughts…

How could Agents Of SHIELD adapt all that?

Welcome, dear reader, to speculation corner. Be warned: we are making all of this up, from this point forth.

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It’s fair to assume that Agents of SHIELD will draw on the groundwork it has already built. For example: it’s fairly obvious at this stage that Skye’s Quake, with all her vibration-based powers, will be the leader of the gang. As Coulson mentioned, she’s the only one on the team at the moment, so there’s not much room for anyone else to take the lead.

At this stage, having not seen Samuel L. Jackson in Agents of SHIELD for quite a while, it seems fairly likely that Coulson will be the organizer of things, doling out missions for Skye to lead her team on. At a long shot, we could see Fury popping up once or twice, but paying for Jackson’s time doesn’t seem hugely necessary to establishing a Secret Warriors team. It could be a ratings booster, though.

It’s also worth wondering what seeds have already been sown for other potential members of the team. Lincoln, AKA Sparkplug, as played by Luke Mitchell, has clearly been on an arc towards full-blown heroism, and his electric powers hold up fairly well effects-wise. Surely he’ll be on the team, especially since he turned against the evil plot of the Inhumans during S.O.S.

Elsewhere, Michael Peterson (or what’s left of him), is still knocking about in the ever-upgrading Deathlok suit. The loss of Coulson’s hand gives him a reason to look into robotics again, which could bring Deathlok back into the fold. As his quest to become a hero and reconnect with his Avengers-loving son has been a recurring facet of Agents of SHIELD since the start, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Deathlok join the Secret Warriors for a shot at redemption, even if he doesn’t have biologically-given Inhumans powers. He’s used to skulking around in the darkness and keeping secrets, too, having been covertly on Coulson’s payroll for months.

Who else might get to join the Secret Warriors? Well, there was also the big cliff-hanger that saw Simmons yanked into the big sloshy Inhuman stone thingy. If that wasn’t a horrible science lab accident that could cause superpowers (copyright: Marvel Comics), I don’t know what is. While Sony would be unlikely to let Marvel call it a symbiote, we’re hoping the slosh monster will have a similar effect – giving her powers, but at significant personal cost.

There’s also a chance that Mack – who had his head meddled with by alien technology in the mid-season-2 episodes – could yet unearth some latent superpowers. That one’s officially a long shot, though.

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Speaking of long shots, perhaps some baddies could even be coerced into signing up to become Secret Warriors in order to clear their criminal records or some other murky motivation. Along with the forthcoming Suicide Squad film (and their previous appearances in Arrow), The CW’s new superhero spin-off Legends Of Tomorrow is currently setting an example in this regard by recruiting the previously villainous Captain Cold and Heat Wave for a heroic mission. In the world of Agents of SHIELD, the likes of Carl Creel, Graviton and even Cal are all out there still, awaiting a relevant plot to pull them back into action. Put that in the unlikely column, but don’t rule it out altogether.

It’s probably more likely that Agents of SHIELD will use that fish oil device to quickly set up a few more heroes as the season goes along. Hellfire could be an interesting one, if only because his heritage as the grandson of Phantom Rider (an old-west-style horseman with an all-white outfit) could make for a hilarious origins episode.

The introduction of the Secret Warriors will surely tie in to the upcoming Captain America: Civil War movie, too. That film lands in April 2016, just in time for a late-in-the-season tie-in. The film will see the Avengers in an argument after a major disaster forces the government to reconsider their stance on heroes. Surely, Skye’s comparatively new team will get tied up in that somehow. If previous tie-ins are anything to go by, though, the film won’t feature any TV-cast cameos.

It’ll also be interesting to see whether Agents of SHIELD will bring the Skrulls (the rights for whom are apparently not with Marvel Studios) into proceedings, or introduce another alien race (a more intelligent branch of the Chitauri perhaps?) to do something equally awful. Infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D. and forcing Skye and co. to branch of on their own, perhaps. Or maybe it will be season 3’s job to seed a Secret Invasion movie a few years down the line, as season 2 did with Inhumans.

Only time will tell exactly what the Agents of SHIELD team have planned, but something secret and superhero-y and team-based is certainly on the cards. Executive producer Jeffrey Bell recently said:

“The idea of a team of powered people is something we’ve seen in the show, and I think there’s a world down the road where we do our version. We do our version of all these things so they may not be Secret Warriors but there’s a whole lot of super-powered people fighting super-powered people. That’s not really what we do or what we can even do on a weekly series. But tipping our hats to that direction I think is something we’re suggesting there in the new season.”

Expect a typical network television slow-build, then, but hopefully we’ll have the Secret Warriors running about fighting super-powered and/or alien battles at some point.

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We’ll let you know when more facts about Agents of SHIELD season 3 emerge.