Joining Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in Season 2, Nick Blood's Lance Hunter was a roguish merc who wound up becoming so popular that Marvel actually tried to launch a spin-off series, Marvel's Most Wanted. Sadly though, ABC didn't bite and unfortunately for Nick Blood, his character had already been written out of S.H.I.E.L.D. As a result of this, the whole of Season 4 went by without a hint of his return.
Now though, it's officially been confirmed that Nick Blood is reprising his popular role in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 5! The news was exclusively revealed by Entertainment Weekly, and then confirmed over at Marvel.com. Both sites only provided us with sparse details, not even hinting whether or not we'd see Adrianne Palicki — Blood's colleague and lover — return too. So where have Hunter (and Morse) been for the last couple of years?
How Hunter And Morse Were Written Out
There's a sense in which these two characters were victims of their own success. Hunter and Morse had both built a strong fan following, helped by the fact that Agent Morse was the #MCU equivalent of the Avenger known as Mockingbird. Blood and Palicki shared tremendous chemistry onscreen, and their troubled relationship was a real highlight of the second and third seasons of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Recognizing their popularity, #Marvel dared to dream of launching an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff show starring the two characters, but first, they had to be written out of their current schedule.
The Season 3 episode 'Parting Shot' was one of the highlights of the series so far, which saw Morse and Hunter choose to sacrifice themselves in order to prevent a potentially disastrous international incident. Saving the Russian Prime Minister meant that they both had to reveal themselves to the Russian Government, which led to their arrest following the death of the General. Although President Ellis was able to arrange their release, the pair were forced to dissociate forever from S.H.I.E.L.D.. The Russian Government could never be allowed to prove a link between the two spies and S.H.I.E.L.D., as they already knew the U.S. Government was secretly working with the secret organisation. The plot ended with a beautifully emotional scene, which numbers among the strongest seen on the show to date.
The idea behind this of course is their departure from Agents of SH.I.E.L.D. was also intended to help set up Marvel's Most Wanted, which would have seen Hunter and Morse work together against an international criminal conspiracy. Unfortunately, ABC pulled the plug on the series, and it was never made. Hunter and Morse disappeared into the background, not even returning in the virtual reality of the Framework last season.
How Will Lance Hunter Return?
So far, we've only heard confirmation that Nick Blood will be returning as Lance Hunter. That in itself is interesting, as S.H.I.E.L.D. closed with Hunter and Morse in a pretty stable place; they were even considering getting married again. That said, the reality is that this couple was always shown to be incredibly turbulent. There's no reason to assume their relationship worked out, not least because both agents would have been black-listed, and would have struggled to gain employment in secret service circles.
The most likely scenario for their return though is as specialists who possess experience dealing with 'enhanced' individuals. Working as agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Hunter and Morse took on a wide range of superhuman foes. The pair went head-to-head with Hydra's best and brightest, they tussled with the Absorbing Man, and they even played a key role in the initial fight against Hive's Inhumans. It's also worth noting that the events of 'Parting Shot' mean that the U.S. Government is fully aware of their skill-sets and experience.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 closed with Coulson and his team captured by a mysterious task-force. It's most probable that Hunter (and possibly Morse, too) will return as members of that as-yet-unrevealed agency, which many fans believe to be an organization known as S.W.O.R.D.. Created by Joss Whedon in the comics, S.W.O.R.D. is dedicated to protecting the world from alien threats. The end-scene of Season 4 made it pretty clear that S.H.I.E.L.D. is embracing the cosmic, likely intending to tie in with next year's Avengers: Infinity War, so this development would be very much appropriate.
I've mentioned that Hunter and Morse would have struggled to find employment with any spy group, but S.W.O.R.D. is the exception. While the pairs involvement could leave any Earth-bound operation compromised if they were identified, the reality is that nobody in space will be particularly interested in them.
Marvel's been keeping quiet about #AgentsOfShield Season 5, which is due to return as soon as the eight-episode Inhumans series has aired on ABC. This is actually the first concrete information we've heard to date regarding the upcoming season, and as such, it's hard to really put Nick Blood's return in context. However, when the fan favorite agent does return, we're sure that Mockingbird won't be far behind...