Fans of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are used to the show providing big moments and jaw-dropping twists. But the series' most recent episode, "Fun and Games," really upped the ante, both in terms of bloodshed and emotional high points. The fifth season's sixth episode also marked series star Clark Gregg's first time in the director's chair.
We should point out that if you haven't seen the episode yet, you should STOP READING THIS ARTICLE RIGHT NOW. Please bookmark the story for later, but again, STOP READING ASAP. OK, good. Because that's it. No more SPOILER WARNINGS after this.
So, the episode saw some major happenings in the show's dystopian future storyline. Fitz found his way 70 years into the future and into the Lighthouse, the space station where the remnants of humanity are under the thumb of the Kree. Masquerading as a brutal and wealthy galactic gangster out to purchase the Destroyer of Worlds (aka Quake), Fitz went full badass and wound up saving May's life (albeit in an "out of the frying pan, into the fire" type of rescue), saving Daisy, and reuniting with his be all, end all, Simmons. They also got engaged!
As if that weren't enough, the episode, written by Brent Fletcher, saw three key characters in Season 6's storylines bite the dust: Ben the mind-reading Inhuman; Grill, the opportunistic human running his own racket on the Lighthouse; and the most shocking death, Tess. She seemed to be turning into a key ally for the SHIELD team. Gregg's inaugural directing episode also features the reveal of how a young Inhuman known as Flint gains his powers, along with the mysterious is-he-or-isn't-he-a-Watcher Eunuch heading off to who knows where.
Whew! That's a lot to take in. And obviously we have questions.
Thankfully, we had a chance to talk with Gregg this week about helming this pivotal episode, and how he approached it. In particular we wanted to know about the reunion AoS fans have been waiting for, the high body count, and choreographing the stellar fight scene between Quake and the Kree killer Sinara.
Clark, you know that fans have been dying to see Fitz and Simmons reunited this season. Tell me about crafting that moment in the episode when they finally see each other across that hallway. It's such a great moment to see them both right there.
Clark Gregg: To me, it's so moving, and they do it so magnificently. The way the universe just seems, literally the universe, keeps them apart. He's just gone through space and time, and now he's found himself traveling 70 years in the future for her. Nothing can stop the guy, and when he first shows up, I thought it was such a terrific moment. And then this very daunting moment when I read it in the script where he has this passionate conversation with her and then proposes, and he, and even the audience at that point, aren't aware she [Simmons] can't hear a word he's saying.
It's such a fascinating conceit, and really hard to pull off in a way where you believe it. I thought some of the stuff Elizabeth [Henstridge] did to keep the doubt in your mind that she's maybe playing along and keeping her cover but soaking in these words, um ... it was just magnificently acted, and it ended up being a really cool construct to do that scene. And to have the other proposal come later, I said to someone that the episode was two fights and two proposals. (laughs)
Daisy's fight scene was amazing. I'm curious, given the constraints of directing a TV episode where you're under such a time crunch, was it tougher than you expected to block it out and get it to look the way you wanted it to?
It's the thing I had the least experience with as a director. Luckily I've been in [fight scenes] and been involved with them for a hundred episodes now. I've gotten to watch Garry A. Brown, Tanner Gill, and David Wald, our action and stunts team, knock a lot of fights out of the park. I've gotten to be in the middle of a lot of the really big ones, too. And so I had a different perspective, and I was lucky. You pay attention and ... you learn a lot about what you liked to see. I had taken out Kevin Tancharoen, Billy Gierhart, and Jesse Bochco, and a couple of directors we work with a lot who were around, and picked their brains about ways to shoot fights and ways to cover them to keep the kinetic energy going.
And I knew I had Chloe [Bennet] and Florence [Faivre], who plays Sinara, and the incredible stunt team, as well. I knew this was something that would be daunting, so I took the time and was lucky to have it with regards to having a light workload in the previous episode. That way I could really block it out and figure out with the visual effects team how Sinara's, we call them the Balls of Destiny, how those suckers would carom across the room and be a threat to Daisy.
I can't let you go without asking about what it was like to direct one of the bloodiest episodes in the history of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. So many key characters died in this installment.
Yeah, a lot of people bite the dust here.
Especially Tess. I think that's the one that's really going to leave fans shell-shocked. But all three seemed to be characters that were going to be key players all season long.
I did not enjoy that part. I love Eve Harlow ["Tess"], I love Pruitt Taylor Vince ["Grill"] and Myko Olivier ["Ben"]. I had just recently met him, but really liked having him there. But I had to oversee all three of those death scenes. Luckily, they all had pretty glorious sendoffs -- well, at least two of them did. But it was particularly sad for me to be the one killing these actors off. They tear the show apart and reinvent it, and all of a sudden we're in this other world with new people, and then I see Pruitt Taylor Vince walk on to the set, I get chills. Because he's a tremendous actor. Eve Harlow just came in out of nowhere and won everyone's hearts as Tess. It's tough.
What did you think of the latest episode of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Hit the comments and weigh in!