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Agents of SHIELD to play hot potato of death in finale

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ABC/Richard Cartwright

From the moment Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. revealed that an agent would perish in a space-bound quinjet explosion, fans have been wracking their brains over who could possibly die.

“We’ve set up in pretty solid fashion that you cannot change the future,” executive producer Maurissa Tancharoen tells EW of the premonition. “Even people with powers cannot change the future.”

The question of who dies will be definitively answered in Tuesday’s two-hour season finale, but not without a few twists and turns along the way. The ABC drama will play a game of hot potato with Yo-Yo’s (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) necklace, which eagle-eyed fans noticed was aboard the quinjet during the flash forward in the midseason premiere.

As nervous as fans are over who will end up with the necklace, which was last seen in the possession of Mack (Henry Simmons), the cast spent the final episodes on edge, furiously flipping through scripts as the necklace was passed amongst them. “They were cruel with it,” Chloe Bennet says. “It hopped to like five different people. Every time, you know the audience is going to be [scared].”

“We were very aware when someone would pick up the cross,” Clark Gregg adds. “There’s a lot of sleight of hand with the cross. You don’t want to be the last person holding the cross.”

And it’s no accidental symbol, either. “We like that the hot potato of death is this delicate little cross,” Tancharoen says. Adds EP Jed Whedon: “We’re fighting the devil; it’s a question of faith.” Whedon is first to admit some of the potato-tossing in the finale is just to mess with viewers. “Some of it’s pretty meaningful as it passes hands, and some of it’s painful for the audience,” he says.

But the necklace isn’t the only grim symbol fans should be paying attention to; whoever was inside the quinjet happened to be wearing a S.H.I.E.L.D. flight jacket, which could rule out at least one member of the team. “Henry was hilarious during the episodes we were shooting because he was like, ‘How come you don’t have the jacket on? We all have the jacket on, but you don’t,'” Ming-Na Wen recalls. “I’m like, ‘May never wears it. This is May’s uniform when it comes to going into combat and being on mission.’ He’s like, ‘So, pretty much you’re safe?'”

“Everybody has the jacket on at some point,” Elizabeth Henstridge says. “I was nervous who would end up with it, rather than what if it’s me? You really don’t want anyone to have that necklace. There was excitement, but it was followed swiftly by a bout of trauma.” However, Henstridge promises a bit of good news on Simmons’ end, at least when it comes to being in the field. “We see her accomplish something on her own, which she doesn’t even think twice about,” she teases. “Even though she is braver, we still see in everything that she has to do that’s brave, we see a flicker of doubt. This is the first time that she’s gone full force, didn’t even question an order from Coulson.”

While Team S.H.I.E.L.D. plays a game of hot potato of death, big bad Hive (Brett Dalton) sets his sights on turning all of humanity into Primitives — humans simultaneously transformed through terrigenesis and placed under Hive’s sway. “Hive hasn’t been secretive about the fact that he wants to reclaim our planet for Inhumans and, at best, subjugate humanity and, at worst, get rid of us,” Gregg says. “It’s safe to say those closing moments that are in Daisy’s premonition are very tied up with Hive’s final solution for humanity.”

The question is: Can Hive even be stopped? “We have no idea,” Wen says. “We really don’t. We’re going by certain old procedures. May knows that a lot of it is ineffective. It’s really trial and error at this point.”

Hunting down Hive is made more difficult by the fact that he could turn any of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Inhumans to his side at any point. That includes the recently returned Daisy, who will be struggling with an immense sense of guilt for her addiction to Hive and her actions while under his sway. “At the end of the season, we see the repercussions a bit and how much it’s affected her,” Whedon says. “We see what she tries to do with that feeling, how she tries to repair it, and how deeply it’s affected her in terms of what she feels, how she couldn’t atone for those sins, and how she feels she must. With the events of the end of the season, it will affect her going forward probably forever.”

“The finale is the most heartbreaking episode we’ve ever had,” says Bennet, whose character will have an epic scene three years in the making during the finale. “This is the end of a chapter — more than a chapter; this might be the end of the first book of S.H.I.E.L.D. This finale feels like the end of something bigger and the beginning of a whole new tone for the show. It’s completely nonstop. It’s shocking and it’s also just really sad. It’s genuinely tender and sad. You really see the high stakes that this team is constantly working at.”

There’s just one thing the cast asks — at least Henstridge does. “Please just see it live,” she says. “Don’t wait to find out who is going to die and then watch it, because the way it’s crafted is so clever. Please have that experience.”

The two-hour Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finale airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.