'Agents of SHIELD's' Latest Victim Opens Up About Powerful Goodbye

"The whole experience was very, very emotional," Brett Dalton tells THR about saying goodbye to the ABC drama after three seasons.
Kurt Iswarienkio/ABC

[Warning: The following story contains spoilers from Tuesday's Agents of SHIELD season three finale, "Absolution/Ascension."]

After cheating death on Agents of SHIELD multiple times over the course of three seasons, Brett Dalton couldn't delay the inevitable any longer. In the two-hour season finale, his second SHIELD character, the ancient Inhuman Hive, was blown up in space along with SHIELD agent Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) in an attempt to stop Hive from dispersing the Inhuman virus globally with a nuclear warhead. Lincoln sacrificed himself after getting shot, and managed to trap Hive in the Quinjet with the nuclear warhead. He used his powers to fry the machinery of the Quinjet so it flew far up into space where the explosion would be harmless to all the humans on Earth. The two Inhumans shared their final moments before the explosion in a calm and reflective manner, which was surprising to see after all the fighting in the two-hour finale. 

Dalton played the former SHIELD agent turned Hydra villain for two and a half seasons on ABC's Marvel series before taking on the new character of Hive for the back half of season three. Despite changing characters in the past, even Dalton concedes that this fiery death truly means the end for him on Agents of SHIELD. Of course, he still has hope that SHIELD fans could start a petition to bring him back on the show in the future like they did with Coulson (Clark Gregg) after his character was killed in The Avengers.

The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Dalton about his series death, what it was like filming his powerful final moments and more.

Does Hive's death mean you are officially done with this series going forward?

Yeah, that's unfortunately true. It was a sad day from the moment they told me about it. What I will say is that I don't think Hive can ever really truly die. I think that his hosts can because they're mortal. Obviously, as a mortal human would, Grant Ward's body is probably not there anymore. But Hive, as an entity, as an organism made up of millions of microorganisms, I think is still floating around somewhere in space. All it would take is maybe an asteroid floating through that cloud or any one of cosmic events to gently push any one of those particles towards Earth or toward another planet. So I absolutely thing he's out there in space. In some strange way that might even make him stronger. I don't know, this is my own personal theory. I think that Hive is still around somewhere, so even though you may have seen the last of me, sadly, you possibly won't have seen the last of Hive. That would be my hope, anyway. I just love seeing Coulson frustrated. Every time he thinks he's done the job, for this thing to keep on coming back, as it happened with Ward … how awesome would that be for Hive to pop up again? But yeah, the whole experience was very, very emotional.

We have seen that death doesn't always mean goodbye for you in particular on SHIELD so many times in the past already. When you heard this was going to be the ending of the finale, did you question if that truly was your final episode?

Oh, did I ever! Yes. I still am. That's one of the added benefits of being a part of a comic book world is that sometimes the laws of nature don't exactly apply in some ways. The whole reason we have a TV show in the first place is because Coulson, who was killed in The Avengers, was resurrected by the fans. They started hashtagging #CoulsonLives and things like that. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all my fans to start tagging #HiveLives or #WardLives. Perhaps I can get my own TV show after this. (Laughs.) Or at least back on the same TV show. Death is not the same in this show as it is in Breaking Bad. It's a completely different world. But hopefully this means that I'm still around in some way, shape or form. And same with our dear friend Luke, who played Lincoln on our show.

And both of the deaths actually happened offscreen, which generally leaves the door open when it comes to popular TV tropes.

Exactly. You don't see our deaths happening. All you see is that blip on the computer screen disappear. So season four is a wide open road.

It was fascinating to see that Hive's final moments were filled with peace and reflection, instead of him swaying Lincoln to get a final connection before his death. Why was he so calm and resigned in those final moments?

That was my favorite scene, first of all. When I read that, I was like, "Oh, thank God." They're not going to be fighting in space. There's absolutely no reason. They're minutes from death. Obviously, Hive wants Lincoln under his sway because Lincoln is an Inhuman and could serve his purpose, but there hasn't been an excuse to put these two in a scene together. This is a scene that only exists because these two people are in the most unlikely situation and are now forced to share the same space moments before their death. Lincoln is an Inhuman, but he doesn't have the same immortality that Hive has. But even Hive knows that he's going to be experiencing a death. I hope it's a comic book death, but still. Both these people are sharing something that under any other circumstance, they wouldn't be sharing. I think that he sees it's pointless to fight, it's pointless to try and sway this guy, there's no real point. "What am I going to do once I have this guy in my sway? I'd have him in sway for five minutes and then we'd explode? What's the point of that?"

So it's a very beautiful moment shared by two people, two unlikely people, in less-than-beautiful circumstances. There's a peace and acceptance, a kind of reflection that he's afforded in this very strange situation. Normally, I'd think that Hive goes from one host to the next to enact this master plan and probably hasn't had a ton of time for reflection. Now he finally had an opportunity to do that and he had a great deal of regret in failing and not achieving what he wanted to achieve. And also, for someone who thinks so globally, to think even beyond that, he's literally looking at the globe and thinking about all of the things that he tried to change but he's literally beyond that at this point. There's nothing more he can do. I hope fans found it powerful.

It was also so compelling to see Lincoln dying next to Hive in Ward's body, because it was kind of like seeing Daisy's (Chloe Bennet) two loves dying together. What was it like getting to share that death scene with Lincoln?

Daisy has now lost both of her boyfriends, her exes. (Laughs.) Yeah, I never thought of it that way. It's a good point. It was beyond awkward because we were on wires and trying to hold ourselves up and were trying to look at peace when in reality, we were nothing but. We were trying to look like we were floating and weightless and the reality was we were in harnesses, attached to cables and we felt extremely silly. I've done a lot of silly things, but I don't think I've ever felt quite that silly. It was very difficult. I was battling my own feelings at that particular moment and trying to be in the moment, trying to do that scene. So in the end, it was great and I'm glad there was somebody else there who was just as silly with me. Trying to be serious in that situation was difficult, but I think that we both did our best and helped each other through that particular scene. I'm glad it came out the way it did. Thank you visual effects, because otherwise it would have looked very silly. We felt very goofy filming it.

Agents of SHIELD season four returns this fall on ABC.

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