The end of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. may be nigh.
With the ABC superhero drama on the bubble, executive producers Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, and Jeffrey Bell tell EW that they’re writing the final episode of the fifth season as a series finale.
“Right now, we’re writing a series end,” Bell says, “because as far as we know, this could be it.”
Though S.H.I.E.L.D. has undergone yet another creative resurgence this season — setting the show in space in a future where the earth has been destroyed, and now returning to the present to save the planet — the series is only averaging 3.6 million total viewers and a 1.1 in the coveted 18-49 demo, season-to-date. ABC boss Channing Dungey said during the Television Critics Association press tour she was “cautiously optimistic” about the fates of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Once Upon a Time, though the latter was later announced as now being in its final season.
All that said, the powers that be over at S.H.I.E.L.D. say they will complete the story while also leaving possibilities open. “We’ll never end something without the potential for more story,” Tancharoen says. “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.”
Whedon adds: “You always want to leave the idea that there’s 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, and we think it’ll work either way.”
The move comes as the series, which will hit its landmark 100th episode on Friday, recently revealed that S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s fearless leader Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) is apparently dying, bringing the show full circle from Coulson’s resurrection following his death during Marvel’s The Avengers.
It appears the show is on track to use Coulson’s fate as a potentially series-ending arc, rather than introducing some new MacGuffin. “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,'” Whedon says. “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.”
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Fridays air 9 p.m. ET on ABC.