Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the 100th episode 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. brought Phil Coulson’s story full circle during its 100th episode, and in doing so ended up dropping a number of major reveals.
During the landmark hour, the price of the deal Coulson (Clark Gregg) made with Ghost Rider was finally revealed: The Kree serum that revived him after his death in Marvel’s The Avengers would be burned off, so now the wound in his chest is slowly killing him.
But that was almost the least of their worries as the explosion at the end of the 99th episode resulted in a tear in the space-time continuum, opening up a fear dimension where their worst fears are literally coming true — from the returns of Lash and Hive to an LMD Simmons trying to kill Yo-Yo.
Coulson volunteers to close the rift, but comes face to face with Deathlok (J. August Richards), who basically tells him that none of the events of the last five seasons are real, that he’s imagined everything while doctors desperately try to prevent him from dying following the events of The Avengers. For a moment, he almost believes it’s true — and honestly, maybe the audience does, too — but Coulson recognizes that it’s only his worst fear manifested. The real Deathlok then appears, helping Coulson to finally close the rift.
To celebrate their success, Fitz and Simmons end up getting married, with Coulson officiating. It’s the moment many S.H.I.E.L.D. fans have been waiting for basically since the beginning of the series. And to top it off, viewers also learn that Deke (Jeff Ward) is actually their grandson. Twist! EW turned to executive producers Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, and Jeffrey Bell to get scoop on what’s next:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Fitz and Simmons got married! What came with the decision to do it during this hour?
JEFFREY BELL: Part of it was we sat down and thought, as fans, what are the kinds of things we would want to see? Part of that is paying homage to where we’ve come from, part of that is a couple of “oh my God” moments, and something looking toward the future that is hopefully something emotional.
JED WHEDON: And something that really rewards the fans. We felt like we wanted the 100th to be for those people who had watched them all. I don’t think there’s anybody who watches this show who is not rooting for this couple.
MAURISSA TANCHAROEN: Truthfully, it was about damn time. After 100 episodes, they needed to get married.
Deke is the grandson of Fitz and Simmons. Will they discover the truth? What can you tease of their reaction?
WHEDON: We don’t want to tease too much of that out other than there’s obviously fun to be played.
BELL: There’s comedy gold.
WHEDON: We liked it as a reveal also because the wedding is something that you know how that works, you know what it is, you know what it means to get married, and for a couple that we’ve put through the wringer so many times, it was a way of not just celebrating that they’re getting married, but of showing that this isn’t just the hope of a happy ending, there actually is one already attending the wedding. To us, it was not just a cool reveal, but a way of seeing their love manifested. How they’ll all react is a wait and see, but you can imagine that it’ll be fun.
Although we did get a happy ending at the end of the 100th hour, Coulson is still dying. What can you tease of his journey moving forward?
WHEDON: I think it’s very clear in the episode of how he’s approaching it. Though a lot of emotion does come out with Mike Peterson, he’s come to terms with it. It’s something he actually had to come to terms with a long time ago when he was discovering the T.A.H.I.T.I. Project and everything that had been done to him. I don’t think he wants to go through any of that again. He’s ready for nature to take its course. You can sense from everybody else in the episode that they’re not as willing to let go as he seems to be. Some of that will play out. What happens, we’ll have to wait and see, but he seems as much at peace with it as you can be considering there’s so much he’s done in a world that thinks he’s dead.
BELL: He says, “Just because I’m at peace with it, doesn’t mean I’m in a hurry to die.”
WHEDON: He’s not excited for it.
Is this a season-ending arc? Will we get resolution to Coulson’s fate by season’s end? And does that all depend on whether or not the show is renewed?
BELL: Right now, we’re writing a series end, because as far as we know this could be it.
WHEDON: Truthfully, we have our idea of how this season ends and we think that there’s still more story. We would never want to end with, “And there were never any stories after that.” Everybody is going to carry on after the show, so you always want to leave with the idea that there are more stories. It’s a question of whether or not we will tell them. We have our end, and we’ll stick to it regardless, but we think it’ll work either way.
Will you put any hints in there as to what a potential season 6 could be should the show get renewed?
TANCHAROEN: As Jed said, we’ll never end something without the potential for more story. That’s how we’ve ended every season, because whenever we’ve come to the end of all the season’s past, we go into that mostly not knowing until the very last minute, so we’re basically doing the same thing to close out season 5. It can fit well as a possible series finale, and it can fit well as just another season’s end. Hopefully people feel the same way.
WHEDON: What we don’t want to do is get to the end of the series and have gone off of something where you’re like, “Well, now it makes no sense.” We want there to be a sense of resolution for the audience and a reward for the audience for being on this whole journey. We don’t want to leave them hanging with something that didn’t get paid off. That being said, not everybody is going to die in the finale, so those people will live on with stories to tell.
BELL: You can’t kill everyone.
Are you confirming there will be death in the finale?
WHEDON: We are not. All we are confirming is that not everyone will die. [Laughs]
It’s going to sound like I’m about to ask whether Coulson dies or not in the end…
BELL: Every year, every story that we set up, we try and pay off in a meaningful way. Whether you’re getting a hard yes or no to that, we try and give you a satisfying emotional resolution. That’s our goal this year.
That’s fair year to year, but since you’re looking at this as a potential series finale, does it almost feel fitting for you as writers — whether it happens or not — that because this show started with the rebirth of Coulson, that it end with the death of Coulson?
BELL: Those are your words.
WHEDON: Yeah, if that were the way that it went, it would have the emotion you’re talking about.
BELL: Poetically it makes sense, the way you said it.
WHEDON: But there’s a lot of story left to tell. We know that he’s not going to go down without a fight. He might be ready to go down without a fight, but the rest of the team depends on him. So there’s a lot of story left to tell.
What was it like for you to bring the story full circle to the beginning of these series by revealing that Coulson is actually dying from his original wound in The Avengers?
BELL: It was really fun for us. The idea of bringing J. August Richards back as the voice of that, as the first person S.H.I.E.L.D. encountered in the series, was super exciting for us. To let him be the one to articulate every doubt and fear Coulson had ever had, and to be able to point to all those other moments or markers of the first 100, meant a lot to us. It was really great that he was able to come and do that, and to tie it back to the pilot that way.
WHEDON: One of the things going into it that was a bit daunting in writing the 100th is it came after episode 11, which was our first one back after that break. It came in the middle of stuff. We had to make it special, but not just a one-off. There was a lot of different ideas of how to pack it in, but the Mike Peterson of it and that conversation became the core of it in that we knew we had an excuse to have Coulson flashback on all these years and to reminisce and question. That became the tentpole that we built everything around.
TANCHAROEN: It was important for us to have Mike Peterson back not only because of how he’s symbolic of the very first mission the team had together, but in him pointing out Coulson’s possible doubts and fears, he’s also pointing out his reason for everything, his reason for the team, which is he wanted to establish a family, and over the course of five years, he has that connection with all these people. To at all imply that it’s not real is the heartbreaking part, not only for Coulson, but for the audience, which all the more makes it impactful.
Can you talk about toying with the audience a bit and making it seem like the entire series was some sort of comatose coping mechanism in Coulson’s head?
WHEDON: You can take from it what you want to take from it.
TANCHAROEN: Were there moments when you watched it like, “No, they are not doing this right now?!”
WHEDON: The question is out there, so people can debate it forever.
Does that explosion and destruction of the monoliths mean the team can’t go through the time loop again?
WHEDON: They have some stuff to figure out. No, the time loop could still be in effect.
BELL: Right now, as far as we know, we are just reliving a loop that’s already happened — as far as the character’s know.
WHEDON: And so far, we have not broken it.
How much are people going to fight against that and try to change the loop in the coming episodes?
WHEDON: That’s the game we’re playing is: Can we change the future we saw? We know there’s differing opinions on that. We know from that episode that Fitz believes time is fixed and therefore cannot be changed. Yo-Yo even said to herself in the future, “Are you telling me to change the future or telling me I can’t?” That question is still out there.
TANCHAROEN: That question may fracture the team.
BELL: The good thing about having a bunch of different people is lots of different points of views.
That’s tough for Yo-Yo, because that future has already come true for her in certain ways. What can you say of her journey moving forward?
WHEDON: Yo-Yo’s in a terrible position. She’s the only person with any knowledge of what could change this future, and it’s basically that you have to let Coulson go. That’s going to create some tension within the team.
And how will the team react to that piece of information? Because we haven’t actually seen Yo-Yo tell anyone, right?
TANCHAROEN: No, we have not.
WHEDON: Right, and now knowing what’s happening, it won’t be necessary to tell someone unless something else comes up, because he’s already going [to die]. I don’t know, there’s a lot of implications, and that’s the stuff that will be explored. All your questions will be answered.
TANCHAROEN: Just watch the show. [Laughs]
Daisy brings up a good point that there is no S.H.I.E.L.D. anymore. What is really left of it, and is that something that Daisy will be determined to keep alive to honor Coulson?
WHEDON: The quinjet showed up with a few reinforcements, so that’s everything we have right now. Part of the issue moving forward is it’s really just us against everything else, because we have the few resources that came with Deathlok and that’s about it. We’re going to have to see how they manage with such limited resources while still being hunted. The one good thing they have is a completely hidden secret base.
And with Coulson on death’s door, will we see Coulson and May act on their feelings for each other?
WHEDON: They’re starting to express them a little bit, so that’s another wait and see.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.