'Agents of SHIELD' EP on Melinda May's Past, 'Civil War' Connection (Q&A)

"This all ties into whether or not powered people should be investigated or left alone," Jeffrey Bell tells THR. "Does SHIELD have the right to do that?"
Patrick Wymore

Agents of SHIELD has seen a major shake-up as Robert Gonzales' (Edward James Olmos) "True SHIELD" staged a successful coup against Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg).

Since its midseason return, ABC's SHIELD has delved into whether it is ethical for the organization to determine what to do with those who possess abilities. Should they be hunted and locked away or should they be left alone?

Tuesday's episode will tackle this very question by taking a trip back in time as viewers finally learn how Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) became known as "The Cavalry," a nickname May constantly shows her disdain for.

With the anti-powers sentiment growing within SHIELD, The Hollywood Reporter caught up with executive producer Jeffrey Bell to discuss SHIELD 2.0 and the series' connection to next year's Captain America: Civil War.

Coulson lost control of SHIELD to Roberto Gonzales in the second half of the season. He's now a rogue agent working with Hunter as they're on the run. What can we expect from Gonzales' SHIELD?

Post-Hydra, SHIELD was broken and scattered to the wind. Coulson, with his mandate from Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), rebuilt SHIELD with the magic box with everything he needed to know. So you think, "OK, Coulson's our hero and this is our team," but then, somewhere out there, there is another group of people who had been SHIELD that banded together to form it differently, because Fury had too much power and power corrupts. That's what happened with Hydra. Legitimately decent people form their own version of SHIELD, and upon learning about Coulson, they begin to investigate [to see] if he's just like Fury. We have Mack (Henry Simmons) and Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) come in and spy, but not really for terrible reasons, but for fact finding. When Hunter discovers the truth and escapes, they have to invade. The question for us is, what is SHIELD? What defines SHIELD? And how is SHIELD going to go forward in the future? Is it Coulson and Fury's vision or is it what we internally call it, SHIELD 2.0, the Gonzales SHIELD, where a group of people discuss things and come to a consensus? I think the future of SHIELD is very much hanging in the balance right now through the end of the season.

SHIELD 2.0 seems to be very anti-superhuman-enhancements. Will we be seeing the seeds being planted for Captain America: Civil War's Superhuman Registration Act?

We already brought that notion up. Skye has powers, and in episode 11 Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) was going, "I always supported him, but now I'm not so sure. All our chasing has led to death and destruction." She's reevaluating her stance. Internally, we're having that same debate. If there weren't super-powered people doing bad things, we wouldn't need super-powered people doing good things. I think that's just good conflict within our team. Then you have the larger version of that, which is Gonzales and his team, who have been attacked by an enhanced person. If you have a bad experience with one enhanced person then you're suddenly profiling all enhanced people and saying it's bad. There are a lot of good metaphors here, especially when we head into the Inhuman world, about people being different, about people changing, [and] how others react to that and how they are controlled. We have had an index since season one of people who have powers or might have, and put them on a gifted index list. That's certainly alive in our world. Some people think that's a good thing while others find that to be a terrifying idea.



One of the big revelations from last week's episode is that Skye's (Chloe Bennet) mother is still alive. She's a bit scarred up, but alive. What can we expect from the mother-daughter relationship?

It's a huge emotional reveal. For Skye, she thought this person was dead, and now she is back. Jiaying (Dichen Lachman) is like her and shares a gifted ability. There will definitely be a natural attraction there.

What can you tease about Tuesday's episode, in which we learn how Melinda May acquired the name "The Cavalry"?

Going back to your earlier question — how SHIELD interacts or treats powered people has been a long and complicated issue, whether you're an Inhuman or not. Last year, we talked about the Welcome Wagon and it turned out there was a woman who had terrible powers. She was, in fact, being haunted by a man trapped between dimensions. It was SHIELD going in as a Welcome Wagon because they heard someone might have a power and want[ed] to investigate it. That is something that has been going on with SHIELD for a long time. Look at Coulson in the movies: A hammer appears in the movies and he's the man to show up. The idea is to show you back in the day, when May had an opportunity to investigate as part of a Welcome Wagon in Bahrain. May went in and lost someone and that someone was herself. We're going to look at that. This all ties into whether or not powered people should be investigated or left alone. Does SHIELD have the right to do that? What's the responsibility in that situation? Who gets to make the hard call? All those things, even though it's a backstory with May in Bahrain, does a nice job reflecting on the larger story as we're moving forward with Skye and her powers.

What are you looking forward to seeing? Agents of SHIELD airs Tuesdays on ABC.