Last week, we were blown away by the sheer comic-book spectacle of the "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." premiere. (And judging by the ratings, so were about 16 million of you.) But it also had us wondering what ABC's new hit drama could possibly do for an encore.
Turns out we weren't the only ones.
"I thought after the first episode, with all the visual effects and the action, that the second episode would be me and my team trapped in a Jamba Juice, because we spent all the money," star Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson) confessed to Yahoo TV in a Comic-Con press room. But he was quick to allay our fears about tonight's follow-up: "If anything, it's even more explosive than the pilot."
And the rest of the "S.H.I.E.L.D." cast echoed his sentiments. "Wait till you see Episode 2," Brett Dalton (Agent Ward) hinted. "You thought the pilot was something? [Episode 2] feels like a season finale. It feels even bigger," promised Chloe Bennet, who plays enigmatic hacker Skye. And online rumors are indicating that Nick Fury himself, Samuel L. Jackson, may make an appearance tonight. (Be sure to watch all the way through to the end credits… but you Marvel fans knew that already, right?)
That's not all we learned: Here are five more things to look for as "S.H.I.E.L.D." continues its freshman season tonight.
1. You will see Marvel superheroes… we think
It's the question every Marvel fan wants answered: When will we see superheroes like the Hulk and Captain America on "S.H.I.E.L.D."? Dalton played it coy: "We are investigating all kinds of supernatural and superhuman phenomena, so it's not beyond the realm of possibility." But executive producer Jeffrey Bell assured us there's a plan in place: "We met with all the Marvel movies, and we talked about ways we can connect and ways to help each other." With several Marvel movies (including sequels to "Thor" and "The Avengers") in the pipeline, "S.H.I.E.L.D." co-creator Jed Whedon hinted at a sort of synergy: "We're going to try to weave between them, and maybe deal with the fallout from them or lead up to them in ways."
2. But it's not all about the action
Being a Joss Whedon production, "S.H.I.E.L.D." has a lot more to offer than whiz-bang comic-book battles. "It's not just about shooting guns and looking cool," Bennet said. "It's about how these people are reacting and how it brings them together and pulls them apart." Executive producer Jeph Loeb agreed: "The danger and action and excitement are all part of it, but it's just as much fun to see them sitting around talking about their lives and why they're damaged." Speaking of "damaged," co-star Elizabeth Henstridge (Agent Simmons) hinted at an impending fracture in the newly-assembled "S.H.I.E.L.D." team: "Right now, they're a team that's struggling to fit together, and aren't really sure why they're all put together."
Get a sneak peek at tonight's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." right here:
3. An old married couple, and a brewing bromance
Look for a couple of odd couples to emerge among the "S.H.I.E.L.D." crew… both involving tech geek Agent Fitz. Iain De Caestecker, who plays Fitz, told us about his obvious bond with fellow lab rat Agent Simmons: "They kind of have this air of being an old married couple. They've just spent so much time together in the lab and away from the outside world, so they've created their own family unit, their own language." And Dalton revealed he and De Caestecker have bonded on set ("We hit it off, and they're writing for that now"), so expect to see more Ward-Fitz interaction. As Bennet wryly added, "Skye's gonna get jealous."
4. The mystery of Coulson's death will unravel (slowly)
After his "Avengers" death, Agent Coulson re-emerged in the "S.H.I.E.L.D." premiere without a scratch on him, revealing S.H.I.E.L.D. faked his death to motivate the Avengers. But we later learned even Coulson doesn't know the full truth about his resurrection. So what's the real story? "Everyone thinks they know what's going on, but there's another richer dimension beneath it, or else it wouldn't be a Joss Whedon show," Gregg hinted, even saying he was hesitant about playing a resurrected Coulson. "I had to make sure it was as complex and dark as my understanding of death is, even in a sci-fi world. And from everything I got from Joss, it's all of those things and more." As for the backstory on his death, Jed Whedon promised, "We will unfold it slowly, but not at a pace that makes people crazy."
5. "Funny, sad, wondrous, beautiful"
Those four words, according to Loeb, guide everything about the storytelling on "S.H.I.E.L.D.": "We're looking for those qualities in the story. If we can hit all four, I think we've done a good job." As Jed Whedon put it, "we can hit all sorts of different notes in terms of humor, emotion, and action. Our plan is to do a little of everything." Bell added that "S.H.I.E.L.D." serves as a sort of antidote to TV's current antihero wave: "I like that they're hopeful. Cable is an antihero world. And we love that Agent Coulson is a hero. He's an optimist." Ming-Na Wen, who plays pilot Melinda May, agreed: "A lot of action stuff is very gory and kind of depressing, and that's what I love about Marvel: There's a lot of joy in it, and hope, and the humor lends itself to that joy. It's not like anything else you've seen on TV."
"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.