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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. bosses on those shocking finale twists

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Eric McCandless/ABC

Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the season finale of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Read at your own risk.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finale was out of this world… literally.

Consumed with rage, now-human Aida aimed to transform the real world into the oppressed version she created in the Matrix-like prison. To do that, she used Daisy doubles to incite real-life fear of Inhumans, and subsequently S.H.I.E.L.D. The only one who could take Aida down was Ghost Rider, since they’re both born of the Darkhold.

In order to trick Aida, Coulson took on the power of the Ghost Rider and killed her. But there are consequences to his actions that remain to be seen. For now, the government plans to shut down S.H.I.E.L.D. once and for all, so the team decides to take the fall together instead of letting Fitz (Iain de Caestecker) go down for the creation of LMDs. But it seems perhaps that it wasn’t the government that arrested them at season’s end, as Coulson wakes up in space. What’s next? EW turned to executive producer Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, and Jeffrey Bell for the scoop,

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why is Coulson in space?!
JED WHEDON: Is he, or is he standing in front of a nice television?
JEFFREY BELL: Could be 4K TV.

Is the whole team there? Or is this as a result of this Ghost Rider deal he was being coy about?
MAURISSA TANCHAROEN: Well, that’s what season 5 is for.
BELL: Those are all great season 5 questions.

Can you speak to Coulson’s mindset in this moment?
TANCHAROEN: In this moment when he’s in space…
BELL: This moment is quintessential Coulson in that he’s…
WHEDON: He’s mildly put upon, but seems to be used to it.
TANCHAROEN: Yeah, he seems very resolved in his new place, wherever that place may be.
BELL: Yeah, which to me is Coulson. It’s like, “Okay, this is what’s ahead of me, this is what I have to deal with. Okay, back to work.” That’s him in a nutshell. “Okay, this is weird, or this is terrible—”
WHEDON: But it’s always normal.

What can you tease about this group that appeared at the end in the diner? It doesn’t seem like they’re government.
BELL: That seems like a fair assessment.
WHEDON: Or at least not our government, but yes.

Is this the new antagonist for next season?
BELL: These are all questions we’re telling stories for next year.
WHEDON: Yeah, you’re not going to get anything out of us.
BELL: We need 22 stories next year! These are questions that if we say yes, no, blue, or this, we can go home, but nobody pays us.
WHEDON: Truthfully, if we hadn’t gotten a season 5, we’d tell you anything.

Can you say how much of a time jump we’re seeing here?
TANCHAROEN: No.
WHEDON: I feel like we’ve reached the end of this section.
TANCHAROEN: You could glean that it’s enough of a jump where it seems like he’s about to commence on a routine that he’s accepted.
BELL: And he’s not cleanly shaven, so it’s at least three days.

We see a glowing blue light in space. Is that a clue, or just getting a sense of how vast it is?
WHEDON: Oh, it’s a clue. Read into it as hard as you can. I can’t wait until you see it. Everything is a clue. We can’t say anything really about the end. It’s all meant to get you asking these questions, so at least we did our job there.

Does the space stuff tie into Marvel’s Inhumans at all?
WHEDON: We can’t say.

The government was planning to shut down S.H.I.E.L.D. once and for all, which seems to be a threat most seasons. What can you tease about what’s next back on Earth since Aida laid the groundwork for humans to fear S.H.I.E.L.D. and Inhumans?
WHEDON: It’s definitely not resolved. We’ve hit a low point in terms of the public view of S.H.I.E.L.D. because after the Triskelion fell and Hydra took over, it was vanished, and it gave them a gleam of hope this year of, “Okay, we’re going to try to do it right. We have this new director and this new PR mission,” and that could not have gone worse with Daisy now on tape committing a horrible crime — it was, of course, not her. The public perception of S.H.I.E.L.D. is at an all-time low, so we have not resolved that, and there will be still more fallout from it.

Will the storyline primarily take place in space next year, or will you have dual storytelling between what’s going on with Coulson and what’s going on back on Earth?
WHEDON: Next year is going to remain a mystery until next year.
TANCHAROEN: Only because it’s still a mystery to us.
BELL: It goes back to these are why we hope people show up, to get these questions answered.

Will you be going the subtitle route again like you did this season?
WHEDON: Truthfully, some of that comes down to how the season is broken up in terms of airing. If everything is running back-to-back, it feels weird to start calling it different things, but we’ll know more when we know our schedule. We will try to have it in bite-sized chunks.
BELL: A 22-episode arc is a lot for people to hold onto. By breaking it up into either smaller arcs or different pods, by introducing a set of antagonists and putting them down, or moving from space to space, our experience has been that it’s something the viewers enjoy, and it makes it a little easier to digest when you’re telling some of these stories.

[Editor’s note: As announced Tuesday morning, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will move to Friday nights, debuting later this fall following the eight-episode run of Marvel’s Inhumans.]

May and Coulson seem to admit there are feelings between them. But they want to take a few steps back. What’s going through their minds, since this is such a big step for both of them to open up in this way?
WHEDON: In classic May-Coulson fashion, they’ve managed to take a step in their relationship without actually stepping anywhere. What they agreed to at the end is sort of a reset and to take it one step at a time, but at the same time, they both admitted something they never actually spoke out loud. They both sort of said, “Maybe that was real,” “Yeah, maybe that was.” Classic May, they’ve managed to communicate without having much communication, so how that affects their relationship going forward should be interesting.

Even though Daisy gives a great speech at the end of the hour, how will her doubles causing all this drama affect her? Will she revert at all, or continue moving forward with this growth next season?
BELL: The arc of this season was Daisy finally stepping into a leadership position that Coulson believed was always there. At the end of the year, rather than Coulson giving the big speech to Fitz or rallying the troops, without prompting, Daisy does that. For us, that’s a really wonderful next step for her. I think her moving into a leadership role as we go into the next season in a larger capacity is a really organic development for her.
WHEDON: Yeah, it’s not something she did consciously.
BELL: I agree, it wasn’t, “Oh, I better do this”; it’s now seeping into her DNA of who she is.
WHEDON: Right. At the end of last year, she thought, “Okay, I have to take all these burdens on my own shoulders,” and it became a personal mission. But then in rejoining that team, that personal mission starts to include them. So we’ve seen that progression of her starting to step up and getting confident that she can handle each problem.

Daisy says to Fitz that it’s not all his fault, but is this something that will stick with Fitz moving forward?
BELL: Yeah, it’s the sort of thing that even if other people forgive you, it takes much longer for you to forgive yourself.

Simmons said this was Fitz’s fault. Yes, it was an LMD version, but can she ever forgive him?
WHEDON: It’s safe to say, from episodes 21 and 22, we know that the two of them will always love each other and probably won’t love anybody else. But whether or not that means they can be together and that their relationship will survive, I think that’s a question that is still out there. If he’s ever going to get over it, she’s the only one who can help him. There’s a big rift between them right now; one hopes that they can mend it.

Mack seemed to handle coming out of the Framework pretty well. Is it fair to say he got some closure when it came to his daughter?
WHEDON: It was different for him than it was for Fitz. He was the only person who got something he really wanted. In that last scene with Yo-Yo, you get a sense that sure, it’s resonating and painful, but he sees it as a bonus that he got to have that time with her at all. It will always be a wound, but I think he would’ve much rather had that time with her than not have it, regardless of how long it lasted and the price emotionally that he had to pay for it. I don’t think he came out as damaged as everyone else by what had happened.

Ghost Rider can now travel between realms. Does that mean we will see more of him in the future?
BELL: Anything is possible.

Can you speak to this deal Ghost Rider made to take over Coulson?
WHEDON: We can safely say that having that thing inside of you is no small occurrence. It happened to Mack because Robbie was being pulled through dimensions, so it’s a pretty large price he paid to have the Ghost Rider inside. Robbie carries it around; it’s the biggest weight on his back. It’s not like he can just hop into Coulson with a thumbs up. Whatever the deal is, it’s fair to say that it’s serious. And you get that impression from Robbie when he says, “I don’t envy you.”

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is expected to return in late fall on ABC.