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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Who is Will Daniels?

Jamie Udinson Fanny Pack
November 19th, 2015

I'm a secret agent by day, but by night I'm a great pontificator of all things nerd on television. I write for and might be lurking in your Twitch stream. Sometimes I play Hearthstone while I wait for my lattes. Enjoy!

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Who is Will Daniels?

Who is Will Daniels? What is Will Daniels? Our Fanny Pack is here to talk what we know so far about Jemma’s marooned love interest, and what it means for our favorite Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

This article contains major spoilers for Season 3 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.! Catch up and then read on!

For those of us who are die-hard FitzSimmons fans, the last few episodes of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. might have been hard to watch at times. The introduction of Will Daniels as Jemma Simmons’ love interest certainly threw yet another wrench in the deal for Leo Fitz, who essentially had to move mountains to rescue Simmons from whatever planet she was on. In Episode 8, “Many Heads, One Tale,” Fitz becomes exasperated by the fact that he cannot find any dirt on Will Daniels, and despite the success of his rescue mission, declares that the couple is ultimately cursed. We do get to witness the first kiss shared by the duo, but we also learn that Simmons loves Will Daniels as well. What a conundrum this whole thing is turning out to be. But, one thing we know about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., is that things are rarely what they seem and occasionally, those who appear to be allies are often times enemies, and vice versa. Will Daniels may have been just an astronaut who was tasked with protecting a few scientists sent on a mission to a far away planet, but then again, maybe he wasn’t.


What We Know About Will Daniels

Will Daniels was an Air Force pilot prior to his recruitment by NASA.  A “Hometown Hero” with a squeaky-clean past, Daniels was given the opportunity to accompany a team of scientists through a portal to another world. His task was to protect his colleagues while they worked on finding a way home. Daniels has survived on the planet alone for most the last 14 years, having built a system of traps and an underground hideout to protect him from the deadly force that seemingly haunted the planet.  When Will finds Jemma, he puts her into a large cage he has built in his underground hideout as he tries to assess whether or not she is real. The two work together to create a plan intended to help them find a way to get off of the planet using Jemma’s brains and her cell phone battery (with an insanely long battery life). When the plan fails, the two accept their fate as destined to remain marooned on the planet until someone back on Earth finds a way to rescue them.

What We Know About “Project Distant Star Return”

This was the name of the project that Gideon Malick consulted on for NASA, the project that presumably sent Will Daniels through the Monolith portal. We learned from Gideon Malick that Hydra was built on the mission of bringing a deadly and powerful Inhuman back from the other side of the portal, an Inhuman that was banished from Earth eons ago. It seem fairly evident that the ATCU, established as a front for a secret Hydra Inhuman army breeding ground, was all part of the Distant Star Return project as well. After all, Rosalind Price does say she was recruited by Malick back in 2001, the same year that Daniels’ mission was lost. As the final moments of Episode 8 revealed that the container meant to hold Lash featured a Distant Star Return label, a picture of a much more elaborate scheme begins to take shape.

What’s My Theory?

Will Daniels is not Will Daniels; and it will end up being S.H.I.E.L.D., or more specifically Jemma and Fitz, who unleash hell on earth in the form of a deadly, mind-controlling Inhuman.

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So, let’s talk this out. First off, we know that a new backstory can be created for someone at the drop of a hat in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This much was reinforced when we saw the various aliases used by Rosalind Price.  There would be no dirt on Will Daniels for Fitz to find if his hero story was fabricated as part of Malick’s earlier Project Distant Star Return strategy. Now I’m not sure whether I think that means that Will Daniels was never actually part of the original mission, or if I think Will Daniels was chosen because of some Inhuman quality he possessed that made him a candidate to either become the deadly Inhuman on the planet, or prolong its life through sacrifice. One thing is for sure though, Will Daniels was chosen for a reason, and I doubt it was because he was just available.

Now you might be asking yourself, why would Will Daniels “fall in love” with Jemma Simmons if he was the Inhuman all along? Well, it’s clear that the Inhuman that was banished to that planet has mind-control capabilities and is extremely manipulative. When Simmons shows up on the planet, it would make perfect sense for the Inhuman to view her as a vehicle through which it can escape. It killed the scientists many years ago, and has run out of options. When Simmons starts to imagine a way to get home, the opportunity to tag along would only be truly ensured if they became attached. And, if Simmons failed, she mentioned hundreds of times how Fitz and S.H.I.E.L.D., would find a way to rescue her. I’ll add that just because I think that Will was manipulating the situation, doesn’t mean I think he is incapable of actually enjoying Simmons’ company or even fostering actual feelings for her. After all, Grant Ward did at one point seem to have real feelings for Daisy, and he’s an unequivocal lunatic. Yes, Simmons and Fitz are going to find a way to get Will Daniels off that planet; and they’re going to do it with the help of S.H.I.E.L.D., because S.H.I.E.L.D. is going to find out that the key to stopping Hydra is on that planet too. It’s what happens when Daniels gets back to Earth that is going to be tricky and leads me to my final prediction.

Will Daniels is Maximus the Mad

Credit: Marvel

Credit: Marvel

Maximus is the brother of Inhuman ruler Black Bolt, and was a member of the Inhuman Royal Family. He is an insane super-genius who possesses tremendous powers of mind-control. Several Marvel continuities depict Maximus as a deadly usurper of his brother’s throne who used his powers to sway supporters and carry out deadly assaults. Maximus also was known to have negotiated with Kree leaders in order to sell Inhumans as slave soldiers, and was imprisoned for awhile by the Royal Family. Interestingly, Maximus at one point went into a coma after a botched scientific experiment; and with the help of an alien crystal transferred his consciousness into his brother’s body to rule in Black Bolt’s body until he was forced to return to his own.  Maximus is capable of manipulating a person’s mind and making them see what he wants them to see. Which means Jemma could be seeing Will Daniels, the NASA employee who accompanied a mission to the planet years ago, even if that’s not exactly what he is. He could also have made her see the progression of their relationship if that is what he wanted. That pretty much means anything is on the table as far as Daniels is concerned. Maximus also makes perfect sense to be the thing that Hydra worships; he is reckless, seemingly void of conscience, and bent on domination. It would indeed be ambitious for S.H.I.E.L.D. to incorporate such a pivotal character from the Inhuman storylines right now with the Inhumans movie on the plan for Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies; but there is also plenty of Inhuman canon to choose from for the slated 2019 film.

So Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., bring back Will Daniels. And let the (mind)games begin.

Watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on Tuesdays at 9/8C on ABC.


Fanny Pack is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow her on Twitter: @Onapack

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  1. John says:

    The problem with your theory is that Will sacrificed himself to give Simmons a chance to escape. If he wanted to get back, he wouldn’t have called up the dust storm, he would simply have gone through the portal with Simmons. Will could be the vehicle for the entity, but if he is, he doesn’t know it.

  2. JOKER says:

    True but there’s definitely something going on. That last scene where they show him walking away as the sun is setting made me wonder if he had powers to manipulate what is seen. And since all thru out the ep Gemma claims there’s no sun around the planet, makes this article and Will being an Inhuman, somewhat plausible.

  3. John says:

    I think Gemma said that they were near a pole and so the sun only came out once every 18 years – that’s what they were waiting for when Fitz arrived so it makes sense that shortly afterwards the sun rose. The sun setting after the brief sunrise and returning the planet to blue underscored Will’s loss of hope (Gemma).

    Will may be connected to something sinister, but he himself is not. The writing and acting really sold that relationship, which is hard in the face of FitzSimmons. I think maybe people are investing heavily in the idea of Will being evil out of hope in order to make room for their OTP. Personally, I liked that two people were soul-mates without being lovers – it’s so rare on TV.

  4. JOKER says:

    They talked about the portal opening every 18 hours. Pretty sure there was nothing about the sun appearing every 18 hours. I just watched the first act when she is stranded and all alone and she makes no comment on the sun appearing every 18 years. Besides how or why would she even make that supposition/assumption, she had no data to corroborate/theorize that from.

    I don’t really care for the Fitz-Simmons “romance”. I’m not rooting for them at all. I kinda like them the way they are, buddies that are attracted to each other but just not right for each other.

    I just think there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to Will. I felt like the relationship was brought on by the fact that they were there by themselves, kind of a mutated stockhom syndrome if you will. It was an obvious evolution to their relationship.

    And that story about everyone from his original scouting group killing themselves, is after all his version of the story. It could have very well been Will eliminating the other members of his group. If they were sent by this age old cabal, could it not be they were all potential inhumans being sent over, so that they could transform into Inhumans. And once they became Inhumans they fought each other off until only one remained?

    I dunno, like I said Will is too good to be true.

  5. John says:

    Towards the end, when they were heading out to watch the sunrise, she joked that if they missed it it was only 18 years (not hours) till the next one. He told her that wasn’t funny. She did have data to determine that, which she got when the computer was on.

    The time length between portal openings was however long it was between when she arrived and when the opening she calculated was.

    I think there’s more than meets the eye to Will too, but not their relationship. They were compatible, with natural banter, and did you notice that Will is smoking hot? Fitz is more my type, but the body on Will… He respected her feelings and let her make the first move. Will is a good guy, but I’m open to him harboring some evil force he’s unaware of.

    If he’s actually the evil entity just using Gemma, that’s horrible and lazy writing.

  6. callen1592 says:

    A humdrum space-boyfriend love triangle is infinitely lazier writing than Will being a manifestation of an evil entity, and much less characteristic of a story based on a comic book universe. Either way, they could do something much more interesting to avoid implementing either of those tropes.

  7. John says:

    If that’s all that it is, I 100% agree. I think Will will have a much more complex interaction with the story than just that – all I’m saying is that it would be lazy if he only existed to delay Fitz & Simmons from being together and then easily disposed of as a horrible, evil entity. I think a lot of people are investing in that theory because they’re inclined to only believe anything that leads smoothly into their OTP.

  8. callen1592 says:

    Exactly! And what they don’t understand is that a “smooth” transition for Fitz and Simmons was never in the cards and shouldn’t be. This makes the payoff for their relationship so much better if they have to fight for it. I would hate for Will to fall prey to another predictable plot device. Although the actors are saying they never saw what was coming in this finale, I’m still doubtful. Mainly because everyone was saying Andrew was Lash like three episodes prior to the reveal. I was like “no, that’s too predictable”. And I was wrong.

  9. John says:

    That’s funny – I asked a friend “Is it painfully obvious Andrew is Lash?” I almost thought we were being led to believe that so we’d be surprised when it wasn’t…

  10. JOKER says:

    Agreed about the lazy writing. I think we’ve seen too much tv to be surprised with whichever way this goes. Unless they make Gemma out to be the one who’s the host to something sinister n evil!

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