Comics On TV

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Take on Mysterious "Anti-Coulson" In Season 6

Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet, and the rest of the cast tease season 6 of the Marvel drama.

by | May 10, 2019 | Comments

After a year off the air, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns to ABC for its sixth season on Friday, May 10 with a refreshed premise, a seeming departure from its big screen Marvel Cinematic Universe cousin, and a new director at the center of television’s Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division. Luckily, Rotten Tomatoes had the chance to visit S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ and debrief the cast ahead of the new season’s premiere.

As first revealed at the end of season 5, Alfonso Mackenzie — better known as “Mack” — succeeded the dying Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) as the head of the agency after Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet) turned down the position. Season 6 picks up sometime after Coulson’s apparent death, with Mack now firmly entrenched as S.H.I.E.L.D.’s director. It is a leadership role actor Henry Simmons, who plays Mack, said he loves. In previous seasons, Mack was most frequently seen offering a bewildered punchline about the group’s latest adversary or impossible scenario. But now he’s front and center.

“Now, you have to drive the scenes as a director. I was talking with Clark about this,” Simmons said. “The weird thing is when you become director you feel responsible for each person, for what’s happening in the scene. It’s weird. And I enjoy that. I am grateful for the fact that they put it in my hands.”

MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. - "Missing Pieces" - Scattered across the galaxy, the team works to find their footing in the wake of losing Coulson in the spectacular Season 6 premiere of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," FRIDAY, MAY 10 (8:00-9:00 p.m. EDT, on The ABC Television Network. (ABC/Mitch Haaseth)
(Photo by ABC/Mitch Haaseth)

As the actor recalled, Mack started as a mechanic who wound up in S.H.I.E.L.D. prior to the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He first became part of Coulson’s team when another faction of S.H.I.E.L.D. wanted to test their loyalty following the revelation that Hydra had infiltrated the organization. But after years of dealing with demons and traveling though time, Mack grew to respect Coulson and his team.

And as seen in some of the previews for the new season, Mack still refers back to a hologram of Coulson contained within Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) toolbox from earlier seasons.

“This is a daily thing,” Simmons explained. “Mack really relies on this hologram for advice, for direction … there’s a lot to deal with. We have a member that’s out there somewhere, a team member that we have to find. And we have an occurrence that’s happening around Earth that is unpredictable and deadly.”

Both objectives will hopefully allow Mack to prove to himself he was the right choice to succeed Coulson, a theme executive producer Jeff Bell said will recur through the season.

“In the same way that Coulson questioned his ability after Fury — ‘Can I be a director? Do I have what it takes?’ — I think Mack is going through his own version of that,” he said.

Meanwhile, the missing team member Simmons mentioned is Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), who also died at the end of season 5. But thanks to the malleable nature of time travel on the series, an earlier version of Fitz is still alive somewhere in deep space and it’s up to a team comprised of Daisy, Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), Agent Piper (Briana Venskus), and Agent Davis (Maximilian Osinski) to find him.

MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. - "Missing Pieces" - Scattered across the galaxy, the team works to find their footing in the wake of losing Coulson in the spectacular Season 6 premiere of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," FRIDAY, MAY 10 (8:00-9:00 p.m. EDT, on The ABC Television Network. Chloe Bennet, Elizabeth Henstridge (ABC/Mitch Haaseth)
(Photo by ABC/Mitch Haaseth)

For Daisy, the mission is particularly fraught considering the future version of Fitz tried to kill her to prevent the world from ending. (Things got a little crazy last season.) But this Fitz never hurt her.

“I think the one thing that connects all of them is that they’re all trying to be the best versions of themselves, but still at the end of the day, there’s darkness within every character,” Bennet said.

That darkness may be most apparent in Jemma Simmons, whose dedication to finding Fitz tests the patience of the others as the season begins.

“Ethically she’s just so biased on finding him. So she is not worried about other people’s feelings. She doesn’t care what the consequences are,” Henstridge said of her character’s state of mind. She noted the character has become single-minded before, but never to this extent — threatening the lives of the others. “She’s can’t fit anything else in her head at the moment, because as soon as she starts to think about other people, she’ll start to think about the crazy odds of what she’s trying to do and she’ll break down.”

For Piper and Davis, the mission means a certain sacrifice, but for Venskus and Osinski, it means a promotion. After appearing on the series off-and-on for the past four years, both will feature regularly for the first time this season. It means an expansion of the characters and a new role for them to share.

“We are kind of like the ‘everyman’ of the show,” Osinski explained, adding, “We don’t have superpowers; we don’t have robotic arms or special weapons.”

Said Venskus, “We’re the ones who are more surprised by things still — which is kind of cool. We provide that comedic relief of being, like, ‘This isn’t normal, right?’”

They are, however, highly trained S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who managed to survive just about every upheaval since S.H.I.E.L.D.’s initial fall in The Winter Soldier. As Venskus put it, that means Piper went to from learning about aliens in her first episode to treating space travel like “no big deal” in season 6. And if previous seasons are any indication, the duo’s deep space adventure will continue for quite awhile.

MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. - ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." stars Elizabeth Henstridge as Agent Jemma Simmons, and Iain De Caestecker as Agent Leo Fitz. (ABC/Matthias Clamer)
(Photo by ABC/Matthias Clamer)
Back on Earth, Mack and the rest of the team face those anomalies Simmons mentioned. They crisscross the planet in something resembling a pattern. And as previews have hinted at, it may have something to do with Gregg’s new character, Sarge; a sort of “anti-Coulson” who is as much of a mystery as the anomalies.

“They have a similar drive and focus,” Gregg said of Coulson and Sarge. “They’re both, I think, not someone whose willpower you want to question. But everything else, the moral framework, all that stuff, is different.”

According to executive producer Jed Whedon, Sarge’s frame of mind will be “so shocking to people” that it “actually has its own power.” At the same time, watching Sarge make the choices he does while looking and sounding like Coulson “gives those moments more weight than they normally would have.”

“It was very, very hard to get my balance,” Gregg said of switching gears into Sarge. “It really felt odd. There’s a part of [his thinking] that’s so clean. He has a mission and he does [it] … life means nothing to him. He wants what he wants. And he’s going to get it done. And that’s very freeing, and it’s kind of sexy, it feels like it’s fun. And yet I had a lot of questions about how he’s justifying that.”

One character also having a hard time justifying Sarge’s presence is Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen). She stayed with Coulson during his last days and returned to S.H.I.E.L.D. a “freer” person. As Wen put it, “She doesn’t have the burden of dealing with either him being sick or die or come back after he died and die again.”

MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. - ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." stars Ming-Na Wen as Agent Melinda May. (ABC/Matthias Clamer)
(Photo by ABC/Matthias Clamer)

Of course, that sense of freedom gets “skewered” when she first sees Sarge.

“It’s a moment of disbelief and major angst for her,” Wen explained. But once May understands the real story behind Sarge, the character will have a familiar Melinda May reaction. “She’s pissed,” Wen added. “She’s really pissed.”

Beyond her reaction to Coulson, May brings her experience and honesty back to S.H.I.E.L.D. This includes an advisory role to Mack and Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova- Buckley). The latter continues to serve as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and, but Cordova-Buckley noted that her character has undergone a shift from the rebellious Yo-Yo we first met.

“It was really interesting for me to go from a girl that’s so [about] her word, her mind, her beliefs, and always really going against anything that goes against that,” Cordova-Buckley said, “to now saying, ‘You know what, there’s a bigger picture. I need to be more diplomatic. I need to settle the fire down and find my way within the institution, the bureaucracy, and all that stuff.’”

That said, Cordova-Buckley said Yo-Yo may still decline a leadership position within S.H.I.E.L.D., although she would become a great leader if circumstances forced the role upon her.

“I get a sense that she would rather be a mentor of sorts to young children, to Inhumans coming up, to sort of be the leader underground,” she said. ” Not the face of [a group].”

MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. - ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." stars Ming-Na Wen as Agent Melinda May, Clark Gregg as Sarge, Natalia Cordova-Buckley as Elena "Yo-Yo" Rodriguez, Henry Simmons as Director Alphonso "Mack" MacKenzie, Chloe Bennet as Daisy Johnson, Iain De Caestecker as Agent Leo Fitz, Elizabeth Henstridge as Agent Jemma Simmons, and Jeff Ward as Deke Shaw. (ABC/Matthias Clamer)
(Photo by ABC/Matthias Clamer)

Circumstances always change quickly for S.H.I.E.L.D., both within its world and without. Last season, events appeared to coincide with Thanos’s (Josh Brolin) arrival on Earth to collect the Time and Mind Stones. But as the series was unclear when it would coming back — or even if it would come back — they could not plan a proper connection with the events of Avengers: Infinity War or Avengers: Endgame. That means the slightest bit of retconning will be on display in the season to come.

“However the Time Lords want to work it out, all of this had to happen before the Snap,” executive producer Jeph Loeb explained. “Otherwise, we’d be living in the world that was brilliantly showed in Endgame.”

Then again, perhaps Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will employ the notion of tangent timelines to explain itself in some yet-to-be-written episode. The show always excels at finding the odd corners of the MCU to examine and that would be a fine one to use. In the meantime, though, S.H.I.E.L.D. has plenty of personal crises and intergalactic stakes to keep themselves busy ahead of the already planned season 7.

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.


Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Fridays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Tag Cloud

Disney Channel what to watch ratings Film Festival Cosplay jamie lee curtis movies Vudu Trivia south america discovery Film Tarantino MCU BBC America ESPN Warner Bros. dc robots YouTube Red Black Mirror AMC Calendar supernatural Sci-Fi zero dark thirty Red Carpet stand-up comedy space Sneak Peek spy thriller CBS All Access E3 political drama cars spider-man 2015 Horror toy story ABC Family See It Skip It Acorn TV Nat Geo Mary Tyler Moore Winners justice league Crackle 2017 Spectrum Originals revenge golden globes cults elevated horror adventure science fiction comiccon Reality Competition Christmas Apple Polls and Games 2019 serial killer Britbox animated festivals Stephen King crossover nature Set visit Character Guide Dark Horse Comics USA Network PBS streaming medical drama TV Elton John Hulu TIFF book Arrowverse Food Network RT21 war Trailer Shudder Western 007 Comics on TV spain theme song Mary poppins BET Trophy Talk Superheroe First Look mockumentary Comedy travel mutant technology SXSW DirecTV HBO FX A&E historical drama Women's History Month television Awards Tour transformers Action TCM 2016 composers period drama TLC Pixar teaser Photos OWN Oscars Pride Month miniseries Universal Writers Guild of America Freeform Captain marvel 45 President Emmy Nominations SundanceTV sitcom Fox News National Geographic History latino strong female leads Extras Bravo Emmys Paramount Network Fall TV 20th Century Fox crime drama Animation Disney streaming service Drama Election aliens cops Marathons hist Spring TV Masterpiece talk show TruTV Song of Ice and Fire Star Wars Summer Fantasy Podcast MTV American Society of Cinematographers X-Men psychological thriller E! Mystery Schedule Cannes Superheroes Musicals foreign CW Seed based on movie Adult Swim RT History psycho blaxploitation thriller Awards The Witch Martial Arts natural history crime Star Trek Year in Review MSNBC Paramount YouTube Premium dramedy Reality Lucasfilm Rocketman children's TV Sundance CBS hispanic biography PaleyFest Country diversity 2018 award winner BBC unscripted Tumblr Nickelodeon Spike Winter TV Grammys Pop Esquire DC Comics kids Certified Fresh Music Quiz Infographic Epix docudrama Disney game show WGN YA ITV adaptation LGBT witnail police drama GIFs spinoff TCA Lionsgate Netflix series Family TBS Rock Countdown Shondaland TCA 2017 Ellie Kemper Columbia Pictures social media Amazon Prime Amazon Biopics Best and Worst CMT zombies Chernobyl Holidays DC Universe LGBTQ crime thriller binge dragons USA HBO Max singing competition Logo Sony Pictures Interview Anna Paquin boxoffice Walt Disney Pictures Pirates Creative Arts Emmys anthology cooking Premiere Dates Pet Sematary NBC Binge Guide Marvel cinemax disaster zombie Chilling Adventures of Sabrina NYCC Video Games Super Bowl First Reviews DC streaming service romance Toys cats Musical Comedy Central Comic Book Heroines Tomatazos quibi VICE 21st Century Fox TNT Valentine's Day Teen GLAAD finale The CW ABC comic sequel Box Office IFC Films harry potter Mary Poppins Returns richard e. Grant ghosts Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt TV Land Watching Series Cartoon Network Syfy VH1 FXX true crime Thanksgiving Kids & Family APB politics IFC tv talk Sundance Now 24 frames green book vampires SDCC Showtime anime Lifetime Mudbound GoT sports El Rey WarnerMedia doctor who Ovation Rom-Com Ghostbusters CNN Opinion Rocky FOX San Diego Comic-Con dceu Mindy Kaling The Arrangement Amazon Prime Video casting spanish language game of thrones Starz facebook Nominations New York Comic Con DGA Brie Larson