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“You are now cleared to Level 7,” Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb declared to the PaleyFest audience on Sunday afternoon before screening the next episode of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. “End of the Beginning,” which will air on April 1 on ABC, sees the return of agents played by Bill Paxton, Saffron Burrows, Titus Welliver, Maximiliano Hernandez and B.J. Britt as they assist Coulson’s (Clark Gregg) team in tracking and identifying the mysterious Big Bad known as The Clairvoyant. Another familiar face, now somewhat altered: J. August Richards’ Mike Peterson, revealed in action as the fearsome cyborg Deathlok.
The episode, which kicks off a continuous seven-week run to conclude the action drama’s freshman season, contains a number of revelations and twists — none of which can be disclosed at this juncture. That top-secret theme, no surprise given the highly connected nature of Marvel’s cinematic and now television universes, pervaded the session.
“Marvel is SHIELD,” said Ming-Na Wen, claiming that life imitates art and denying that she has any privileged intel on the many secrets her Agent Melinda May holds. “They know stuff, and we try to get it out of ‘em.”
Chloe Bennet, whose character, Skye, is an 0-8-4 — “Object of Unknown Origin” — copes by obsessively browsing Wikipedia and Marvel sites on set and asking the writers: “Am I this? Am I this?” When Gregg noted the blue jumpsuit Bennet was wearing onstage, the actress smiled and shrugged, “Kree?” — one of the blue-skinned alien races rumored to be the hapless alien blood donor revealed in a recent episode.
“I want Skye to be the love child of May and Thor, and then flash back to those scenes,” Wen joked.
The showrunners did divulge a few tidbits about the season’s remaining seven episodes: Paxton will again appear, as will Patton Oswalt. And in response to a question about movie tie-ins, Loeb urged fans not to miss the April 8 episode, which airs four days after Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens in theaters: “It would not surprise anyone if things that happen in the movie you mentioned are in the show we’re talking about. I wouldn’t miss it if I were you.”
ABC has yet to announce a season two renewal for Agents of SHIELD, but the producers are optimistic. “We know where we want seasons two and three to end,” says executive producer Jeffrey Bell (who recently received staples in his head after a bicycle accident — “Now we call him Jefflok,” Gregg quipped).
Other memorable moments from the panel:
— Castmembers, fans and moderator Felicia Day all had fun objectifying Brett Dalton, whose square-jawed Agent Grant Ward has seen a variety of physical action. On the evolution of his character: “He was a lone wolf, and he’s learned to play with a team,” he smirked. Later, when asked what one object she would bring to a deserted island, Bennet remarked, “Agent Ward’s abs. To wash my clothes on.”
— “We are Fitz-Simmons,” said co-creator Jed Whedon of his and wife/fellow creator Maurissa Tancharoen’s inspiration for the adorable geek duo played by Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge. Tancharoen adds that Ocean 11’s bromantic Casey Affleck–Scott Caan duo were the original models, “until Miss Henstridge came in and stole [her role] away.”
— “It feels like they’re more brother and sister,” said De Caestecker of the way he and Henstridge play the relationship between the show’s resident scientists. “Which will be weird if they get together later.”
— “I’d like to have a scene with Loki,” added Henstridge when asked which Marvel character she’d like to play with. “We’d sit down, have a cup of tea, talk about his daddy issues.”
“I’ve been in a scene with Loki,” Gregg remarked, in reference to his fatal scene in The Avengers. “Somehow I think it’d turn out differently for you.”
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