Agents of SHIELD: What is the Director Hiding?

Photo Credit: Marvel/ABC
October 28th, 2016

Agents of SHIELD dropped a teaser for fans during the most recent episode that confirmed what many fans have long suspected about the show: if you’re not a member of the core cast, there’s a good chance the audience can’t trust you at some point. The show has seen its fair share of guest stars betray the agents at the center of the story (and even one main character). While the most recent episode didn’t tee up a betrayal per say, it did show that the new director is hiding a big secret.

Jeffrey Mace (Jason O’Mara), it was revealed this week, was chosen as director of SHIELD partly because of his very public heroics. During a bombing at a United Nations summit in Vienna, which audiences saw some of in Captain America: Civil War, he was photographed pulling a woman out of the rubble. He then became the poster child for heroism in the wake of the Avengers being preoccupied with infighting. Earlier in the season, we even learned that former director Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) recommended him for the job. During the news broadcast in which he was debating Senator Nadeer (Parminder Nagra), Mace revealed himself to be Inhuman, something that could aid SHIELD’s work in trying to help Inhumans all over the world as knowing that there’s a similar individual leading their ranks could inspire trust.

Also revealed in this week’s episode though is that he’s lying about something having to do with that bombing. Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) called him on it in a bid to get him to stop making her go through mandatory lie detector tests. After all, if he’s hiding something from everyone that he doesn’t want them to know, why can’t she have a few secrets. She doesn’t specify just what he’s hiding, and it’s entirely possible that she doesn’t know the details yet, bluffing her way through her blackmail (extortion in this case, maybe?) to keep herself and her friends safe from further inquiry about things like android development and working with renegade SHIELD agents.

Before now, Mace hasn’t presented himself along the same leadership lines as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), so he’s not really been pushed at the audience as someone with a bevy of secrets behind him. The question does have to be asked though: if what Director Mace is hiding is big enough to lead him to exempt Jemma from mandatory lie detector sessions to prevent her from telling anyone, just what is it? There are, of course, several possibilities.


He didn’t actually save that woman

This seems like the simplest option. Something happened during the bombing that wouldn’t make him look good to the public. It could be that he froze up when the blast occurred. It could be that he just happened to be in the right place at the right time. It could even be that someone else saved her and he took the credit. Any of those options would be a public relations nightmare for SHIELD when their new director was chosen precisely because he looks good in the public eye.

If it came out that he was less heroic than he first appeared, the public would have even less of a reason to trust SHIELD than they did before. Given that the series has been pushing the parallels with the Inhuman storyline and modern politics too, I’d say uncovering that a heroic politician was actually a coward wouldn’t be an unlikely storyline for them to use. Would Mace be able to recover from the public humiliation he would endure if that secret got out? Maybe. He has a PR specialist for SHIELD, after all. It would just be all the more difficult.


He knew the truth about the bombing

Whether he had intelligence that the bombing was coming or he knew that the Winter Soldier wasn’t responsible before anyone else had proof, this idea seems a little farther fetched to me. The only way this would really work is if Simmons doesn’t know what he’s lying about and just took a gamble, honing in on his micro expressions without actually figuring out the lie. I don’t think she would feel comfortable leaving someone in charge who had information about such a catastrophic event.

That being said, if she was bluffing and sets out trying to figure out just what Mace has been lying about on her own time, for Simmons to be the one to uncover something like this would be a great arc for her. Jemma Simmons is the one character on the show who never passes up a chance to feel guilty about something - whether it’s her fault or not. It’s one of the things she has in common with May (Ming-na Wen), though May’s better at using her guilt as motivation for her job than Simmons is so far. If she learned that the truth was worse than she thought, it would be interesting to see how she handled it - would she take the information to former director Coulson first, or would she ask May for help, knowing that May hasn’t like the new SHIELD structure?


He used the bombing to cover something up

Like the first option, this one is also a relatively simple storyline to work into the show. Perhaps Mace’s secret isn’t about the bombing itself, but something that happened in Vienna that was overlooked as a result. I doubt he’s involved with Hydra or anything like that at this point. As much as Marvel loves Hydra as a villain, they seem to be done with the group in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the time being.

What could he have covered up? A theft, an assassination attempt, something unethical with whatever his previous position is… really the sky’s the limit here. If he utilized the bombing to his advantage to get rid of evidence of any kind of impropriety, or to take out some political competition, that would also be a PR nightmare for SHIELD. It would also be a little harder for Mace to come back from while he’s in the spotlight. And Jason O’Mara is still a guest star.


He’s not actually an Inhuman

Though the lie does seem to focus on the bombing in Vienna, that’s not the only thing Mace is talking about when Simmons’ interest is piqued. He actually references both the bombing and his transformation through terragenesis when she senses something is off. Perhaps the lie isn’t about the bombing itself, but about his transformation.

As we saw when he demonstrated his Inhuman abilities to Coulson to help stop May from hurting anyone in episode two, Mace has super strength, and possibly some sort of invulnerability or unbreakable skin. Not only is he able to pick May up and swing her around like she’s nothing, but when she hits him with a piece of metal, it doesn’t even leave a mark.

If this particular set of abilities sounds familiar, it should They also happen to be the changes that Luke Cage ends up with in his solo series after some experimental science. Luke Cage, of course, isn’t Inhuman, but an “enhanced” individual, like Captain America or the Hulk. It’s entirely possible that the director isn’t actually an Inhuman, but that he volunteered for some sort of experiment instead.

This line of thinking is my favorite, though perhaps least likely of the bunch. If the writers wanted to give themselves a connection to the Netflix shows without being overt, this would be one way to do it - have Mace get his abilities from the same scientist that Luke Cage (or even Jessica Jones since where her abilities came from are still a mystery) dud. It’s a tiny way to connect the shows that doesn’t require that fans watch both, and it also adds a layer to the can-Inhumans-trust-SHIELD debate. After all, the only reason to lie about being Inhuman would be because you want to get Inhumans on your side, right?



With all the different storylines going on throughout Agents of SHIELD’s episodes these days - from androids to ghosts to Inhumans to power struggles in the workplace - there’s a lot of ground to cover. This might be one question we’re left speculating about for the long haul.

Catch Agents of SHIELD Tuesdays at 10PM on ABC to gather more hints until the writers reveal just what the new director is hiding.