'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' Bosses Answer Our Burning Series Finale Questions
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 7 (and series) finale (Episodes 12 and 13) of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., "The End is at Hand" and "What We're Fighting For."]
And just like that, it's all over.
After seven seasons and 136 episodes, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has called it quits (did you notice that cute reference to the episode number as the briefcase passcode, by the way?). It was a wild and explosive finale—we expected nothing less—and the team has officially split up and gone their separate ways. That's all thanks to one special member, fan fave Deke (Jeff Ward), who sacrificed himself to stay behind in the 1980s, where, as he says, he's a "rock god" anyway.
When we meet the rest of the agents again one year later, it's clear a lot has changed and they've moved on, mostly. Mack (Henry Simmons) is still Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., but he's got a killer coat and a whole lot more people to watch over now. His devoted girlfriend Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) continues life as a super speedy badass agent (with some familiar returning faces on her team!). Scientists Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) and Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) have a beautiful reunion and are raising their daughter together.
Meanwhile, "The Calvary" aka May (Ming-Na Wen) is now a professor, at none other than Coulson Academy. LMD Coulson (Clark Gregg) finds himself ready to hit the road in Lola, his 1962 Chevrolet Corvette, which admittedly isn't just a normal Corvette. And Daisy (Chloe Bennet) is out on a new mission, jet-setting among the stars with her sister Kora (Dianne Doan) and new beau Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) in tow.
Naturally, we had lots of questions after what is sadly the final episode and the end of an era for Marvel TV. Executive producers Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, and Jeff Bell kindly filled us in on everything from building Daisy and Sousa's relationship to why May and Coulson didn't wind up together in the end.
So, this might just be the happiest series finale of all time. Everyone pretty much got a positive outcome. Was this always the plan?
Jed Whedon: I don’t know that we always had ‘happy ending’ as a rule, but it was more about the feeling that we wanted to create at the end.
Maurissa Tancharoen: The promise that their story lives on, they’re just parting ways.
Whedon: Right, and that the sadness is that the show’s ending. It’s the thing that we were all feeling in production and with the actors, every meeting we had, it was a ‘last.’ And our studio was being torn down around us, so the whole season was infused with that sense and our goal was to reward the feeling that the audience would be having of, ‘I can’t believe this is over.’
Tancharoen: And also, just in the story saying this is their final mission together, just really nailing that.
Whedon: Yeah, so that was the goal. I don’t know how much we thought of it as happy or sad, as we were trying to capture that feeling. But I guess it is a happy ending, so that’s good. Everybody made it! And Deke’s a rockstar in the '80s…
I love that, by the way. That was so perfect for him.
Tancharoen: Don’t you think there should be a spinoff comic, The Deke Squad?
I would watch or read the heck out of that. Out of all of these characters, whose final outcome did you struggle with writing the most?
Whedon: I don’t remember it being much of a struggle. Part of the thing the year jump helped with—you know, we had just been doing time travel, which in a writers’ room is the worst thing you can do to your friends. We had been drawing diagrams and trying to figure everything out and tie up all these loose ends, so to cut to a year later, and anybody could be doing anything we want, was freeing.
Tancharoen: It was freeing.
Whedon: I didn’t really think of it as a puzzle. It was everybody coming up with ‘what if, what if what if…’ and just picking one.
Tancharoen: The year jump was a way to also amplify the bittersweet quality in them meeting virtually at the end there because they’re already settled into their new lives without one another.
Whedon: Right, they’re starting to get used to not being around each other, and it also allows you to have that feeling of awkwardness when you get back in that group. You still have the same laughs and that same knowledge of each other…
Tancharoen: With a little bit of that superficial chit-chat. These people who have spent so much time in the trenches with each other, and they’ve been through so much together, so to see that sort of awkward like, ‘hey, how’s it going?’
Whedon: And to see Simmons ask a question and Mac say, ‘that’s classified,’ and the look on her face like, ‘right, right.’ The ‘I’m not a part of your life anymore.' That was the goal.
Jeff Bell: The whole season had, I think, a little reckless joy. There was a little of ‘let’s just go for it. Let’s try and tell some fun stories. We’ve had lots of angst and horrible things happen, let’s shake it up and have some fun.’ I think that permeated the whole season and left us where we ended up.
Absolutely. Even FitzSimmons who never wind up together got a happy ending! I think fans are going to be very pleased with where you leave them.
Whedon: I hope so! That was the goal.
Tancharoen: They deserved that happy ending.
Whedon: Put it this way—we wanted them to have that happy ending, but we also didn’t want our home burned down.
Now, I wanted to talk about Mack for a second. Was that your way of tying the show into the MCU a little bit? What exactly was the thought process behind his outcome?
Whedon: Well, you know, he’s director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and directors of S.H.I.E.L.D. get helicarriers.
Bell: Part of it was, let’s give Mack some scale. Mack has been Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., but basically, he’s been boss of six, seven people. That’s really how it’s felt. And because we’re in this little corner of the MCU, to put him on this helicarrier and to really show, ‘Oh no, he’s really in charge.’ It was a way to give him scope, and scale, and the importance that we feel the character deserves.
That’s awesome. The Daisy-Sousa pairing – did you know when you invited Enver onto the show that would be a thing? Or did you kind of have to feel out the chemistry and such first?
Bell: It was a hope.
Whedon: Yeah, we hoped. We knew we were going to bring him in, we had worked with Enver in the past and loved him as an actor and a person and so we knew he would be an easy fit. And we thought that the character would be a great fit in terms of pulling a character out of time and the fun that comes with that. So yes, it was a hope that they would have chemistry. Once that worked and we found the angle for their romance, which is sort of him being that solid guy. You keep bringing up, Jeff, that scene that Drew Greenberg wrote, where he explains why he’s there waiting for her and watching over here because, ‘people like you will run into a wall, you need people like me to pick you up.’ He knows who he is. He’s not intimidated by her strength. He’s turned on by how powerful and awesome she is, and is totally willing to let her take the lead and be the rock for her. That, I think, paid off beautifully. And then when we came up with the idea that she falls in love with him during a time loop, it felt like, you know, he’s there and he’s doing the right thing, and she keeps seeing him be the nice guy like, ‘stop it!’
Plus, I got the sense that she needed that extra time to get used to the idea of falling for someone again after all the heartbreak she’s been through.
Whedon: And [falling] for someone who’s such a square.
Right. And what exactly are Daisy, Sousa and Kora looking at in that final scene? Is it supposed to be something specific?
Whedon: I think it’s more just taking in the beauty. We say that they’re astro-ambassadors, so read into that what you want, but you know, it’s also, they’re all sharing this experience and the wonder that comes with it, is sort of the goal. Wouldn’t you like to see a nebula?
Bell: Honestly, a big part of it is, we’re big fans of space. You look at images of space. We’ve had friends at JPL that have invited us out to take tours and stuff. And so, there’s a beauty to space, and part of that was just our joy of that and getting to depict some of that into our characters.
Whedon: And to say it, they were looking at a green wall…
Bell: Whoa! That’s not true!
Well, of course! Now, May and Coulson had a very complicated history, but they were together for a long time. Was there ever any consideration that they would end up together in the series finale?
Tancharoen: We had them together at the end – at the end of Season 5. That was the promise of their relationship right there. And so, what has happened since, I think adds to the layers of their already very complex [relationship], and adds to the depth of the love they already have for one another. And I think where we leave them at this point, again, as with all of our characters, we’re sort of leaving it up to the imagination of the audience and how they feel their story carries on. But I do think her being a professor at Coulson Academy is definitely an indication of her feelings about him and the importance of continuing his legacy. Her even saying, you know, to LMD Coulson, ‘please come by and share some of your stories’…
Whedon: And to that point, the biggest question mark, I think, that we leave is what he’ll do. They’re all wondering what [Coulson will] do, how much longer he’ll go on. Will he live forever, like he talked about with Enoch [Joel Stoffer], or is he going to turn off tomorrow? Even Daisy is saying, ‘look what you did here.’ It’s so clear that he was the gel that held them all together. He’s the reason that they’re no longer a team. Without him, you don’t have a team. And he’s going off to even figure out what he wants to do. So, it’s up to the audience now to fill in that blank for themselves and decide what they want that story to be.
Was there anything you didn’t get to fit into the series finale, that got left on the cutting room floor so-to-speak?
Tancharoen: Twenty minutes.
Whedon: Twenty minutes, but nothing of substance. You only get 43 minutes, it turns out.
There’s little bits here and there, nothing major. We did not get to do the storyline where Sousa dresses up undercover as a cop to fight with the Avengers in the first Avengers movie, because Enver was in that.
Tancharoen: That would’ve been fun to chop in.
Whedon: That would’ve been nice, but a little bit too hard to work in while we were stuck in the 80s. One thing I’ll say is, and we’ll have to give it up to everybody in production. We, for seven seasons, did things that were well beyond our time constraints and our budget constraints. And they always figured out a way to get them done, and beautifully. So creative, and coming up with ways to tell the story in the writers’ room, in production, without the resources that it seemed like we had. There aren’t a lot of things that we wished we could do that we didn’t do.
Tancharoen: And I do think that we’ve had some distance and time from the actual wrapping of production. We’ve had many goodbyes with the show.
Whedon: This is the last goodbye. The goodbye to the goodbyes.
Tancharoen: But I do think that we’re in such a place of feeling nostalgic about it, it’s like, ‘we wouldn’t have done anything differently!’ at this point. It was all meant to be!
That’s true. You’ve lived with it a lot longer than the rest of us.
Whedon: You know what we would’ve done differently? We wouldn’t have had that whole pandemic storyline. We would’ve ditched that.
Oh, I know, right? Well, I have to ask the obvious final question—is there any chance of a spinoff series in the future with this world on Disney+ or wherever? Any one of these characters would be fun to follow around after seeing where they all land in the series finale. Is that something you could ever see happening?
Tancharoen: I would hope! But you know, the landscape is different now from when we were making the show.
Whedon: It’s Marvel, so nothing is ever impossible. I would say there is a very, very, very small chance.