Spoilers below for anyone who hasn’t seen last night’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Last night’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. gave fans all kinds of craziness to gnaw on while waiting for next week’s episode, and a major bit of fan service came with the Framework return of dead-in-the-Real-World S.H.I.E.L.D. operative Trip Triplett. That was super exciting for all the obvious reasons, but arguably the biggest moment came during his rescue from the HYDRA facility, when Jeffrey “The Patriot” Mace heroically sacrificed himself during the building’s destruction, and his death carried over into the real world as well. So does that mean The Patriot is really gone? Here’s what co-showrunner Jed Whedon says.
This season is proof that death is, at times, fleeting on our show, but he is really dead. One of the things [we decided] from the very beginning in talking about doing some version of an alternate world was the stakes had to be real, so our decision to make it a virtual world came with great bonuses but also came with the challenge of, ‘How do you still make the stakes high?’ In order to make it life or death, we felt like we needed some death.
It wasn’t the longest of authoritative tenures in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s history — legitimate or public front — as Jason O’Mara’s Jeffrey Mace just joined the ensemble cast at the beginning of Season 4, when it was revealed he would be the new acting director of the organization in its reactivation. And while he brought some decent changes with him in terms of security procedures, Mace wasn’t so interested in the bureaucratic side, and aimed to be more of a superhero like those that S.H.I.E.L.D. has worked with in the past. He forced that issue by using the Patriot serum, and it’s indeed his powerful alter ego that takes down May and allows for everyone to escape safely by the end of “No Regrets.” Well, everyone but himself.
While he won’t be around to realize it, either within the Framework or in the real world, Mace made a decision that will almost definitely have a huge carryover as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. enters the final stages of Season 4. His fight with Framework May revealed to her that HYDRA was perfectly down with sacrificing children for the sake of villainy, and that did not sit well with her at all. So there’s the chance that his death will, in part, lead to everyone getting the hell out of this awful alternate reality, where Fitz’s daddy issues have turned him into an evil douche.
So even though Jason O’Mara’s time as Jeffrey Mace on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. wasn’t extensive, it meant something. Here’s what executive producer Jeffrey Bell told EW about why the creative team chose to take him out like this.
Jason came in and played this new version [of a character that] we’ve never seen, this slightly corny guy who had always wanted to be a hero, and the fact that in the Framework he got to be that hero was really fun, but there’s also real consequences of being that hero; a real hero would sacrifice himself for the greater good. As sad as it was for that character to end, for the character to go out in such a powerful way was super moving.