Executive producer Jeph Loeb spoke to Hypable about the defining theme of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3 — and its repercussions for all our favorite characters.
“What we’re going to focus on this season is really this word ‘inhuman,'” Loeb disclosed at San Diego Comic-Con.
According to Loeb, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3 will be a lens through which to examine what it means to be human — or not — in the Marvel Universe. Along with fellow executive producers Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon, and Jeff Bell, Loeb intends to start at the top.
“Take a look at Clark [Gregg], [Director] Coulson,” Loeb said. “He’s lost his arm and he came back to life with alien DNA inside him. Right there you’re dealing with this idea of “How human am I?””
These radical personal changes — which Coulson had only scant televised moments to process in the season 2 finale — may take the Director down unexpected pathways. Coulson may even be forced to reconsider “that question of what he’s going to do with his life,” Loeb hinted.
The word “inhuman” will also hold repercussions for the opposite side of the Marvel morality spectrum.
“You look at someone like Ward,” Loeb said, addressing the presumed Big Bad in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3. “You saw what Ward was doing at the end of last season. And so when he is now out on his new mission, one could argue that he acts in an inhuman way.”
Loeb also addressed the Marvel-specific definition of “Inhuman,” which refers to the descendants of humans genetically altered by Kree aliens.
“At the end of last season, what we saw was that the Terrigen was actually out there,” Loeb explained, alluding to the Terrigen-infused fish oil pills which accidentally hit the market in the season 2 finale. “If you have the gene inside of you and you come into contact with Terrigen, you get triggered. Once you get triggered, you are now Inhuman.”
According to the executive producer, the resulting dilemmas faced by newborn Inhumans will lead many to grapple with their own humanity.
“If you’re enhanced, how are you going to deal with it?” Loeb asked. “How would you deal with the fact that you woke up one morning and your whole house is on fire, and you set this fire? Is it terrifying? Is it empowering?”
“Then you bring S.H.I.E.L.D. into that, in order to — contain? Maybe you have to put down? Or maybe recruit?” Loeb wondered. “And as we’ve seen in the past, when S.H.I.E.L.D. gets involved in those situations, it doesn’t always go the right way.”
Ultimately, Loeb is eager for the thematic elements of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3 to resonate with modern issues.
“What we want to be able to do is tell stories [that are realistic,]” Loeb said. “When you look around at us now, at today’s society, the subject of tolerance is so important. The differences between us — whether it’s race, or religion, or your sexuality — all of those things we are either becoming more tolerant to, or more intolerant of. And that’s a great place for us to start.”
“If you use that as your metaphor for people who wake up and they’re different,” Loeb mused, “And then now S.H.I.E.L.D. gets to get into that… we can have the same action we love — and at the same time be able to tell stories that have a really nice meaning to them.”
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3 returns on Tuesday, Sept. 29 on ABC.