Last season was a shocking one for fans of Agents of S.H.I.E.LD., with even long-running cast-members like Brett Dalton's Grant Ward finally leaving in a blaze of glory. But S.H.I.E.L.D. have suffered no sadder losses than Nick Blood's Lance Hunter and Adrianne Palicki's Bobbi Morse, who were written out with the intention of starring in their own show, Marvel's Most Wanted. ABC passed on the opportunity to make that show, and it's left the two characters in a sad kind of limbo.
Today, at SDCC, one fan asked about the chance of those two characters returning in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4. Jeph Loeb's response was intriguing:
"I think we're best saying that's classified. It's definitely classified, but keep watching."
Why Do We Want Hunter and Morse Back?
The two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are the best in the game, and the chemistry between the two practically sizzles. Over the course of the last two seasons, the characters have developed to the point where Marvel felt they were strong enough for a stand-alone. Their relationships with other characters are poignant and entertaining, and both actors absolutely shine in any scene they're in.
On top of that, action fans will always have a lot of respect for Adrianne Palicki's Bobbi Morse. From her very intro-scenes (one of which is in the video above), the character has been portrayed as a kick-ass warrior woman in the pattern of Black Widow. Given how popular that trope is, it's no surprise she's a firm fan-favorite! Nick Blood's 'roguish charm' perfectly complements Palicki, making the two a powerful team.
How Did Hunter and Morse Get Written Out?
The episode "Parting Shot" saw Hunter and Morse captured after they assassinated a Russian General, who was actually an Inhuman with deadly superpowers. With the Russian Government aware that S.H.I.E.L.D. still exists, and is tied to the US Government, the assassination risked causing an international incident. Coulson had to work with US President Ellis in order to persuade the Russian Government to release them, on the condition that they never worked for the US Government - or for S.H.I.E.L.D. - again. If the two were ever found to be tied to S.H.I.E.L.D. again, then an international crisis would ensue.
It's probably the most comprehensive way I've ever seen two secret agents written out of a series. What's more, writer Paul Zbyszewski and director Michael Zinberg crafted a powerful, emotional episode that was easily one of the strongest in Season 3.
How Can Hunter and Morse Return?
With the two characters written out so comprehensively - in part as setup for Marvel's Most Wanted - any workaround will be difficult. It seems to me that there are two options:
The first is that, in the time between Season 3 and Season 4, S.H.I.E.L.D. has somehow become disassociated with the US Government. Perhaps the new Director (whoever they may be) has chosen to cut those ties, and S.H.I.E.L.D. has become a maverick force, doing good but pretty much unaccountable. As intriguing as this concept may be, tonally it runs entirely opposite to the overall direction of the wider MCU, so I find it doubtful.
The second, though, is more likely. Chloe Benett's Daisy is on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D., although we don't yet know why. It's entirely possible that Daisy could run into the two; and, as she's not working for S.H.I.E.L.D., there's no reason they couldn't work with her. That would be a fascinating plot, not least because it would place Hunter and Morse in direct opposition to S.H.I.E.L.D.- Morse versus May, anyone?
The loss of Hunter and Morse is a real blow for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. While Jeph Loeb hasn't committed to bringing them back, the fact he's describing the possible return as 'confidential' suggests that Marvel hasn't given up on the characters just yet...