It feels like the last day of school as the cast of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. gathers for what could be their final crew lunch, on the last day of production on season 2. It’s a crisp mid-April afternoon, weeks before ABC announces that the Marvel series has been renewed for a third outing. Yet everyone is still in good spirits about the future. Clark Gregg and his cast sit around tables adorned with S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra logos as they watch outtakes from the year—which include a fake May (Ming-na Wen) and Coulson (Gregg) make-out session and a faux-flatulent Brett Dalton. Afterwards, they sing “Happy Birthday” to newest cast member Luke Mitchell.
But once the cameras start rolling, this cast is anything but cordial. That’s because Tuesday’s two-hour finale finds the Inhumans and S.H.I.E.L.D. in a dramatic and deadly confrontation after Jaiying (Dichen Lachman) incited a war between them under false pretenses. Filming on one set finds Coulson spinning in circles as he tries to capture teleporter Gordon (Jamie Harris), who flits in and out of a room on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s aircraft carrier, bashing the S.H.I.E.L.D. director with crushing blows. Elsewhere on the carrier—which houses the mysterious Kree rock that will play a vital role in the finale—Skye (Chloe Bennet) finds herself outnumbered in a brawl with a woman who can replicate herself. It’s not a very fair fight when it’s four against one. Yes, even Skye will be pulled into the fray as she’s torn between the family she was born into and the one she’s created for herself.
“She’s really put in a very hard position in the last episodes,” Bennet says. “She’s blinded by her mom. Everyone is questioning what side everyone is on and what everyone’s intentions are.” That will be especially difficult to discern in the aftermath of S.H.I.E.L.D. supposedly firing the first shot of the war. “Skye doesn’t even know what side she’s on,” says Bennet, who sports the inhibitor gloves that have been conspicuously locked onto her arms—though whether that’s by the Inhumans or by S.H.I.E.L.D.’s doing remains to be seen. “Someone very close to me does not want me to be using my powers.”
Ultimately, the battle does cause a divide between Skye and her S.H.I.E.L.D. family, so much so that you’ll actually see Skye go toe-to-toe with May. “How do you convince someone to go against their own mother?” Wen says. “Blood is thicker than water. It’s trying to convince her that Jaiying is the one that’s evil,” which won’t be an easy feat. “Jaiying’s ultimate goal is to protect her people and she’ll put anyone down, and that makes her extremely dangerous.”
“At first, Skye tries really, really hard to believe her mother is doing the right thing,” Bennet says. “The betrayal of her mother is horrific for her. Last season, she was told her parents are dead, and then to find out they’re not dead and then get to know them, really have hope and imagine a future with her family, and then to have it all torn away is just devastating.”
In trying to find a peaceful solution with the Inhumans, Coulson will come up against resistance from S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0, who see the Inhumans as nothing but a danger to humanity. “There’s real different ideologies within these two different surviving groups within S.H.I.E.L.D.,” Gregg says. “There are people within S.H.I.E.L.D. who view people who are Inhuman or have powers with great suspicion. Coulson sometimes is one of them, but his perspective has shifted because of his relationship with Skye.”
Once it becomes clear that there are forces within the Inhumans who return S.H.I.E.L.D.’s distrust, Coulson will stop at nothing to protect his agents—including the MIA Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki), who was kidnapped by Ward (Brett Dalton) and Agent 33 (Maya Stojan) in the penultimate outing. “He’ll be willing to make whatever sacrifice is necessary to protect S.H.I.E.L.D. under his stewardship and protect his surrogate daughter,” says Gregg, even if that means trying to find common ground with Skye’s murderous father Cal (Kyle MacLachlan) in the process. “Coulson has to try to find a way to make Cal less of a threat, and the way to do that isn’t always by killing someone. That’s what makes Coulson different as a leader,” the actor continues before dashing off to get pushed around by the teleporter again. All in a day’s work.
Who will win the war between the Inhumans and S.H.I.E.L.D.? Tune in for Tuesday’s two-hour finale at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.