Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4’s “What If” arc gave us the chance to revisit several characters from the series’ past, foremost among them Brett Dalton’s Grant Ward. It even seemed for a moment like the Framework might return Ward to the real world, but producers now clarify why Brett Dalton couldn’t participate in the series full-time.

Even as showrunner Jed Whedon was quick to clarify that the “Project Looking Glass” that built Aida/Ophelia a body in the real world wouldn’t apply to Dalton’s Ward, it seems the process was flawed regardless. For one, Whedon reminded Entertainment Weekly of “scheduling, or personal issues, or other shows that take our people away,” while executive producer Jeff Bell explained that a reborn Ward wouldn’t really be Ward:

Aida rebuilt her body out of dark stuff from a dark, terrible universe, so she wasn’t exactly human. There was a Darkhold filter through which she came, so it seemed that anyone who came back that way was not, in fact, really themselves, but some corrupted version of themselves.

Indeed, if Gabriel Luna’s reprise as Ghost Rider was tied to returning Aida’s Darkhold energy to its own dimension, it wouldn’t make sense of Ward to get a free pass. It’s also possible Dalton’s availability was limited regardless, as the Framework character curiously disappeared after learning of reinforcements at the TV station, with nary a reference thereafter.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. earning a full fifth season was blessing enough, but will Ward find another way to return?

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