"Agents of SHIELD" Showrunners on the Midseason Finale's Marvel "Gamechanger"

SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for the recently aired midseason finale of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," "What They Become."

There won't be a new episode of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." for a couple months -- starting on Jan. 6, the ABC series is yielding its 9 p.m. Tuesday time slot for seven weeks to make room for "Marvel's Agent Carter". But the show gave fans plenty to think about in the interim on Tuesday night's midseason finale.

It's been speculated for weeks that the mysterious writing first seen carved by Director Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) was connected to long-time Marvel Comics characters the Inhumans, and this episode confirmed it definitively -- complete with the release of mist that granted Skye (Chloe Bennet) what looks to be earthquake-causing powers, in a process strongly resembling the "Terrigenesis" of comic book lore. If that power sounds familiar, it's the superhuman ability of Marvel character Daisy Johnson (created in 2004 by Brian Michael Bendis and Gabrielle Dell'Otto and a major character in the Jonathan Hickman-written "Secret Warriors" series), and tonight's episode also happen to reveal that Skye's real first name is, indeed, "Daisy."

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There was also a death toll in this latest "S.H.I.E.L.D." installment -- including one of the team's own, Antoine "Trip" Triplett (B.J. Britt), caught in the crossfire of Skye's transformation; and Hydra higher-up Daniel Whitehall (Reed Diamond), shot by Coulson to the grave disappointment of "The Doctor" (Kyle MacLachlan) -- who finally met face to face with his daughter, Skye, also in this episode. (It was an eventful episode.) And oh yeah -- "The Doctor" revealed his name to be "Cal," which matches up nicely with Daisy Johnson's comic book biological father, Calvin "Mister Hyde" Zabo, a villain that's been around since 1963.

CBR News spoke with showrunners Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon about some of the episode's major moments, including how Inhumans have now given the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole the opportunity to introduce people who are born with superpowers (much like mutants, under the purview of 20th Century Fox, who have long controlled the live-action fights to the X-Men characters), and what the show will be like going forward with a super-powered Skye -- er, Daisy.

CBR News: So, Jed, Maurissa -- can we say the "I" word? Can we talk openly about Inhumans now?

Jed Whedon: You can do whatever you want.

Maurissa Tancharoen: And we'll nod or shake our heads. [Laughs] But yes, we can talk about the "I" word.

Well, now that we've seen things unfold up to this point, what can you share about the decision to introduce Inhumans in this season of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."? It's been teased since the first season finale, so it must have been a plan for a while.

Whedon: It's been something in the works for a long time. It's an important property in the comics, and they have obviously announced plans for a feature in the cinematic universe. It's one of the first instances where we get to start planting the seeds on the show before the film.

It's a process, because they have their big ideas and their big plans in the feature world. It was always something we wanted to do, and early last year we landed on the idea that we would do it.

Tancharoen: That's how everything works in the Marvel Universe. S.H.I.E.L.D. the organization, you started to see bits and pieces of it throughout the films, and here we are with a series. Everything affects the other. How directly linked we will be to the movie -- that's a future question. But we are thrilled to be able to dive into it on the show.

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What did you find intriguing about the creative prospects of this? Not just introducing one Marvel character, but a whole classification, a whole society.

Whedon: One of the things that, early on was very important to us last season was, there were so few people in the Cinematic Universe who had powers. Really, only two humans had powers, Captain America and the Hulk. We had to be very responsible -- we didn't want to dive into this show and have a new one every week, and have it feel like we disregarded everything that they spent so much money and time building in the films.

Along those same lines, the origin of a power is always a complex thing -- Marvel cares about it feeling grounded, it feeling scientific at some level. Even on "Thor," he says, "In our world, magic and science are the same thing." So this is a way for us to sort of open up our world. It's a way to introduce, into the MCU, the idea that people can be born with a power. They don't have to be engineered in a lab, they don't need to have some freak accident with a vat of acid. They can be born with this. That's sort of a gamechanger, not just on our show, but in the cinematic universe -- for people on Earth, at least.

Tancharoen: We're opening up a part of the Marvel Universe. It's a property that we've been interested in for a very long time, and it's essentially us exploring a possible community of people with abilities.

And it seems like only the starting part -- the subsequent creative possibilities seem abundant.

Tancharoen: Well, we certainly hope it's abundant. [Laughs] That is our goal.

Whedon: We'll run out of stories in Season 17!

Obviously I wanted to ask about one of the big revelations from the episode -- that Skye is actually named Daisy, and by the end of the episode has powers that certainly appear very similar to Daisy Johnson/Quake from Marvel Comics. It's been clear for a while that there was much more to Skye than originally presented, but was it always the plan for her to be revealed as that character? How did you arrive at that decision?

Tancharoen: That has always been the plan. We are big fans of "Secret Warriors;" Daisy Johnson is a character that we always liked. We always knew there was a potential to evolve Skye into something else. It took a little bit of time, but we were happy when we were able to land on Daisy Johnson, and actually have that work in our mythology.

But as with everything that we do on the show, we pull from the properties, and we do our own spin to it. So we are kind of merging a few concepts and storylines. We've spent a season and a half with Skye. We've seen her evolve as a person, we've grown to like her as a person, we've seen her evolve as an agent. And now, finally bringing her to her origin story -- I think there's just a lot more emotional weight to it, because you already know her as just Skye, and now she will have this ability that she may not understand, that she may not want, and plus it's compounded with the fact that it coincides with Trip's death. It's going to be a very complicated journey for her.

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How much do you see it as changing the show as a whole? A lot of the premise at the onset was that these were "normal" people on the ground floor with folks with superpowers, but now with one of the main cast having superhuman abilities, how does that change the show going forward?

Whedon: One of the things that we're focused on doing is treating it realistically in terms of, yes, this is an organization of people who have dealt with people like this for a long time, but this is personal. What does it mean when one of your own turns? And not only that, because it's an emotional situation for her, and she doesn't totally understand what's going on, and because it was tied to all this dark, Hydra stuff, and stuff with her father, and Raina -- it might not sit well. We're going to walk her through the steps of discovering what this really means, and coming to terms with it. All that stuff is really interesting to us, and in television, because we have time to explore, we can take her origin on all sorts of different paths. We're excited about it. But we aren't going to turn into a show where there's a new person with powers every week.

Tancharoen: We're going to focus on Skye, and how that affects the people around her, and how the relationships may shift. Because we've seen through the course of our series so far; we've spoken about how S.H.I.E.L.D. treats gifteds or views them, and they're categorized, things like that. What does that mean when one of your own is now considered someone with an ability? How do you categorize her?

Is there any insight you can share on the post-credits scene, to keep people guessing before the show comes back in March?

Whedon: That is one of our new mysteries.

Tancharoen: That is a new mystery that you will learn about in the back half [of Season 2].

Whedon: We've obviously opened up a whole new world.

"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." will return with new episodes on ABC in March 2015.

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