Warning: The following contains major spoilers from tonight's mid-season finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Consider yourself warned.
Excuse us for paraphrasing from that lunatic Gideon Malick, but: Well, we'll be damned.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s big mid-season finale delivered on the big Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Ward (Brett Dalton) showdown we were promised—and not everyone made it back from that alien planet alive. That's right: In their brawl, Coulson used his robotic hand to straight-up crush Ward's chest, leaving him for dead.
Of course, we said not everyone made it back alive. Ward still made it back to Earth, except, well, it just isn't Ward anymore.
So, just who's occupying the Hydra hothead's husk of a body? That'd be the original Inhuman who we learned killed Jemma's (Elizabeth Henstridge) beloved Will (Dillon Casey) as she was rescued by Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) earlier this season. After Fitz burned Faux Will alive, a creepy slug slid out of his ear, finding himself a new host—and somehow, a surprising ticket back to Earth.
You know what they say: Grant Ward is dead, long live Grant Ward!
The day the S.H.I.E.L.D. cast learned about Ward's death was a dark one, no matter how many dastardly deeds he'd done, Dalton tells E! News. "I was real sad, real sad. There was a group hug at the first reading of that particular episode," he reveals. "There's this thing that happens right after they get back through the portal and there's this look that [Coulson] shares with Fitz that's like, ‘Crazy things happened back there, right?' And I think there was some description in the script like ‘Coulson can't quite come to terms with what he's done' and I remember saying out loud, ‘That serves you right! I hope you do feel bad about that.' There's no coming back from that. There's no take-backs for that particular thing. I think that was probably Brett talking more than it was Ward, but, you know, I was really liking that character."
As Dalton tells it, he didn't have much time to prepare for this latest adjustment to his role in the series. "Well, it was the episode before, pretty much—much like the big turn that happened in season one," he says. "I would say that the difference with this big one is this is a bigger shift than the one in season one. I'm not even playing a human anymore, so this is a very big shift. You'll have to see exactly how that plays out in March, but what we do see is that the Ward we've grown to know and love, I hope, is no longer and there's a different person. A Ward 2.0."
So, what exactly do Ward 2.0 and Malick (Powers Boothe) have in store when the show returns this spring, now that the original Inhuman is back on Earth, ready to lead his army? Par for the course on the Marvel series, Dalton's lips are sealed, but we can rest assured it won't be more of the same precisely because it can't be. "I can't say much other than it's a really wonderful opportunity to me to get to play another version of this character that I've grown so attached to," he teases. "It's different, and yet parts of it are the same, and I'm just very grateful that I've gotten to play so many iterations of the same character on a show. It's been really exciting. It's been a big, crazy, incredible character arc that I'm very happy to be a part of."
What did you think of the big Ward and Will reveals? Are we in for the Rise of the Inhumans when the show returns in March? Sound off with your theories in the comments below!
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns Tuesday, March 8, 2016 at 9 p.m. on ABC.