“What They Become,” the winter finale for season two of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, gave us a lot of big developments for some of the characters — especially Skye (Chloe Bennett). Rotten Tomatoes got the chance to talk to the show’s executive producers, husband and wife team Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, about the latest revelations in the episode and some of their experiences playing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe sandbox.
A quick warning: there are some pretty hefty spoilers for the latest episode ahead.
Rotten Tomatoes: How much of this element of Skye’s transformation had you guys planned when you first started the show in the first season? Was this something you had planned all along?
Jed Whedon: Yeah, we had a couple notions of exactly where it might land, but it was something that we knew from the beginning — that she would have this sort of strange origin story that we would uncover — and then get to a point where, obviously at Marvel… there’s so many different moving parts, so if you want to make a character and make the show, you have to go through a few hoops. We had a couple different options but this was definitely what we had our hearts set on, so early on, we started setting it up early on in season one.
RT: Those look an awful lot like Terrigen Crystals inside that Diviner. Can we conform that that’s what those are? [Editor’s note: Terrigen Crystals are part of what brings out superpowers and even physical transformations in Inhumans in the Marvel Universe. There is more information about Inhumans here.]
Maurissa Tancharoen and JW: Yes, we can.
RT: So can we confirm that Skye is, in fact, Daisy Johnson? That’s been one of the leading fan theories that’s been out there.
MT: She is.
JW: We say his name and we say her name, so…
MT: In the last week’s episode, it was very important for Jeff Bell to play the lullaby that has the lyrics that include her name, Daisy Bell.
RT: That was a pretty big tell. But I have to say I was really sad to see that Trip [Antoine Triplett] didn’t survive the episode. When you guys cast B.J. Britt, did he know what was going to happen to his character?
MT: We are all very sad to see Trip go as well. It was a very long and hard decision to make. We’ve all grown to love the character and the actor as much as the audience has, and for that very reason, his death has a huge impact. We also knew we wanted Skye’s origin — or Daisy’s origin rather — to have a very complex, emotional current underneath it and so [by] juxtaposing that moment of her breaking through the petrification with seeing Trip die, we knew that we were setting a very complicated journey for her. You know, it’s a reminder of what these agents’ lives are like. They take risks every day. It’s a reminder of the stakes in this world that they’re living in. Again, it was a very hard decision to make, but we hope story-wise, people understand why we did it.
RT: It seems like the loss of Trip will wildly complicate things, not just for Skye/Daisy, but it’s going to complicate the already-strained relationship between Fitz and Simmons too.
Is it an uncomfortable conversation to have with your actor? I imagine when you guys finally made that decision, B.J. Britt was understandably disappointed that he’d be leaving the show.
JW: Yes, well first of all, when B.J. came on the show, we had no idea how long he’d be around. He just found his way into every episode.
MT: It’s just a testament as to how likable he is as a person and as the character.
JW: And one of the things that we’re really proud of on this show, regardless of the content, is the process and how well everybody gets along, and the sense of family that we have here. A lot of shows say it, in some cases it’s true, and in this case it is. Everyone is pretty close and all the actors go through so much together and they become very close.
MT: There were many teary eyes when we broke the news.
JW: But he was a pro about it and understood right away. But it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t just suck on every level. But we felt like it was necessary for story. And it is the Marvel Universe, so you never know. Our whole show is based around a dead guy.
RT: You know, I’m glad you brought that up because I was just going to say that the only people who ever stay dead in comics are Batman’s parents and Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben.
MT: Right [laughing].
RT: As you mention, this is the Marvel Universe. We’ve seen Deathlok show up, we’ve seen Bobby Morse and Carl Creel and Glenn Talbot and now Daisy Johnson. You seem to have a fair amount of freedom with characters that you can bring in.
JW: Well… yeah.
MT: Yeah. We do, but there’s always a process of clearing them. And you know on the feature end of things, their plans are set for years ahead. So it’s just a system of checks and balances. But thus far, we’ve been really pleased with who we’ve been able to bring on the show.
JW: Though they did balk at our initial [idea] that Iron Man runs in there.
MT: And Thor [laughing].
JW: Yeah, they didn’t like that idea.
RT: Without naming any specific names, have you guys pitched a character that you wanted to use and someone said, ‘Oh no, this is one we have to save for a movie story?’
JW: Sure, that happens. You know, we have our list of things we get our hearts set on and sometimes, it’s like, ‘You can’t use that because there’s a possibility we’ll use them.’ And sometimes it’s like, “Read the script,” and then we go, “Oooh, sorry.”
MT: ‘Nevermind. Backing away slowly.’
RT: Does that get frustrating sometimes? Or does it just present a writing challenge to figure out a different way to approach a story that you’re working on?
JW: We have plenty of toys to play with so it hasn’t frustrated us yet. As they add more movies and the Universe gets bigger, it seems like it would start to sort of limit our options, but really, what it has done is opened up new options. And we’re seeing at the end of this episode that we’re actually opening up a whole new world. So the amount of characters available to us is ever-expanding.
RT: On a different note, as a married couple working together, does it feel like you’re always taking the writers’ room with you and constantly discussing stories? That seems like that would happen a lot.
MT: Do you have a camera that follows us around in our lives?
JW: We don’t know what you’re talking about! Our whole life is extremely romantic!
MT: Yeah, our whole life is completely separate from our work [laughing]. No, we live, breathe and sleep the thing. We have to make a concerted effort to say, ‘No, this dinner will be romantic, dammit!’
JW: There’s nothing like crawling into bed with your wife who has two scripts on the bed.
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD will return in March. You can see more about the show at the official site.