Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the season 5 finale of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Read at your own risk.
After Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. dropped a number of hints that Infinity War‘s jaw-dropping ending would befall our beloved agents, the ABC super series closed out its fifth season with a major tragedy — just not the one fans expected.
During the final hour, the team disagreed over whether to save Coulson — would they give him the Centipede serum, or save the world by injecting the serum with a mix of Odium into Graviton? Daisy insisted on saving Coulson while Yo-Yo fought to protect the world. But May took their choice away by destroying the Odium, effectively forcing their hand to save her love.
Alas, Coulson only tricked his team into thinking he took the serum, sending Daisy in to talk Talbot off the cliff. But when he tried to absorb her — he’d steal her powers and use them to crack open the earth — she injected herself with the serum and blasted him into space. In doing so, she broke the time loop they had been stuck in.
Unfortunately, breaking the loop also cost the team greatly. Knowing they survive into the future, Fitz and May went into the spaceship to save Mack and Polly from a grim fate. But it was Fitz who was ultimately killed in the most heartbreaking of ways — seriously, if you didn’t cry during that scene, you’re a monster.
Here’s the good news: Yes, Fitz died, but that was future Fitz. Present-day Fitz is still in cryo-sleep, floating around in space just waiting to be woken up in the future. So there is hope of a FitzSimmons reunion!
But here’s the bad news: Coulson really didn’t take the serum, and therefore only has days — maybe weeks — to live. The team drops him and May off on the white sandy beaches of — wait for it — Tahiti to live out the rest of his days. (Clark Gregg reacts to that heartbreaking ending in the video above!) And that’s it. Seriously. S.H.I.E.L.D. did not follow in the footsteps of Infinity War. Why? EW turned to executive producers Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen and Jeffrey Bell to get the scoop:
[Editor’s note: This interview took place before Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was renewed for a sixth season.]
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You guys had been hinting at possibly incorporating the Infinity War ending. Why didn’t we see that in the finale?
JED WHEDON: There’s some of that we can’t answer.
JEFF BELL: Part of what happened was, they changed the release date.
BELL: And we move at a different schedule than they do and so suddenly everything was a week earlier, and so we had to make some adjustments and that’s how we end up with our story.
WHEDON: Right. And the other thing is that there’s certain story points that are so — there would really be no way for us to address it and keep our show intact. Given that there’s another movie coming out, and there’s gonna be constant repercussions of their universe, so what we felt was that the safe play for our story, and for the integrity of our universe, was to operate outside of it.
BELL: To acknowledge it was happening, but that we had our own problems and we’re dealing with that.
WHEDON: Right, and also the timeline is a little bit fudged in that we assume that the last couple of episodes of our show take place during Infinity War. We’re running in a lot of real-time at the end of the season.
MAURISSA TANCHAROEN: The last four [episodes] all in real-time.
WHEDON: Yeah, so we sort of thought of it as these events are still ongoing as our season ends.
What would that mean if the show is renewed? Is the team somehow magically exempt from Thanos’ snap?
WHEDON: Yeah, well what we like is painting ourselves into a corner, so that the problem we face is not that our show went off the air, it’s that it’s back on the air. “Oh no, now what?” Yeah, so we’ll have to figure out how that plays, and it’ll depend on what the season looks like and our air dates and all that. So, yeah, that’s a bridge we’ll have to cross.
BELL: We call it a classy problem.
Coulson says he has days, at most weeks. Should the show be renewed, do you feel like an 11th-hour save is in order, or are you saying Clark Gregg is done with the show after this?
TANCHAROEN: We never definitively say anything when it comes to …
BELL: Yeah, he’s been dying for a long time.
TANCHAROEN: Yeah, he’s been dying for a long time.
WHEDON: What we do think is that there’s an emotional impact with everything that happened this season and we would never wanna undercut that. That being said, our show’s founded on a man who had been killed in the movies, and Clark Gregg is the foundation upon which our show is built. So, it’s a good question and one we’ll hopefully get to answer by having another season.
What came with the decision to kill Fitz, even though you guys have this loophole?
WHEDON: I can say that in the writers’ room, I don’t remember what happened, but it was a big eureka moment for us.
BELL: Right, because the one time loop problem we had was that Fitz was out there in space.
WHEDON: Yeah, and when we brought everybody back, we talked for weeks about how to bring them back. Do they come back to the diner? Well, then he would still be there. Okay, well, how do we fudge this? And this problem we had in bringing them back — and we brought them back after he had left the planet just to avoid that problem — that problem became this great opportunity. What we realized is the thing that would weirdly have the most impact, one of the most painful things that you can experience, could be then experienced and then, not brought back, but a loophole could be revealed.
BELL: Actually, it cleaned up a mess a little bit.
WHEDON: Yeah, exactly. And so, it asks bigger questions about can you change time and all that, but we were pretty excited about that story point. One of the things that we did this year was put them together in a concrete way, because we felt like we pulled them apart too many times, and we realized, “Wait, we can do it again!” So we were all pretty excited.
If the show got renewed, this would be a different Fitz who hadn’t gone through the future experiences, right?
BELL: He would have no idea he was married.
WHEDON: He’d just be trying to find Simmons because he wants to propose.
It feels like Deke made his exit so we wouldn’t know whether he suddenly disappeared or not. Anything you can say of what actually happened to Deke?
BELL: I think it really is a mystery. Did he disappear or did he walk away? But that’s a good thing for people to argue about I think.
WHEDON: Yeah, and we hope they do. Part of this season was about hoping that people on their couches had the same arguments that we had in the writers’ room for hours on end.
TANCHAROEN: Yeah, we wanted everyone’s brains to melt the way ours did in the writers’ room.
WHEDON: Wanted to share that just a little bit.
Anything you can say about Daisy’s new powers, and also why you guys ended this finale without her being the leader of S.H.I.E.L.D.?
WHEDON: Well, she’s definitely juiced up in some way, and how much that carries, we’ll see. We talked a lot about how to change their timeline and the decisions that would be made, and who would ultimately make that decision. And we felt like Coulson had to be the pivotal point of it, in that it became giving it to her. But in terms of her not being the leader of S.H.I.E.L.D, we don’t really think of it that way. We think of it as the strongest move she made as a leader was installing Mack as the head. We think of that as her ascension to what Coulson believes she could be. He says, “I couldn’t have said it better myself. I need you to start figuring out these problems.” And she had a real big one on her hand, which is our team has no cohesive gel, nothing holding it together. And here’s a guy who made a great speech at the beginning of the episode, and she realized, “Wait a second, I still want to be the tip of the steer. I want someone else to be in charge of where I go.”
TANCHAROEN: I think a huge part of the beauty of Daisy as a character, and the reason why we find her so compelling, is that for the past five years, her entire story has been about her forging her own identity. So perhaps, in this place where she is emotionally, and of course with the potential loss of her father figure, this is just another part in her journey. So her stepping down might not necessarily mean that she will never be the leader, but if anything it does show merit in her potential in being a really, really spectacular leader, essentially.
BELL: Yeah, and we think of the two of them [as leaders]. Even at the end of the episode, she’s sitting shotgun, feet up on the dash, she thanks him for the plane, there’s a sense of ownership of S.H.I.E.L.D. and she’s the one who says, “Where we going?” There’s a sense that she’s leading the charge, she just wants someone else deciding where that charge goes.
How important was it for you guys to end up in Tahiti?
BELL: Well, we’ve known that since forever.
BELL: Since we started, since episode 1.
WHEDON: We thought it was a beautiful image and we all latched on. It’s one of the things where you don’t overthink it. We latched onto that and went, “That will be great.” It’s an emotional thing for him. We even heard from Mike Peterson that this was something he always wanted. Our big mystery in episode 1 was, “Never been to Tahiti.” He doesn’t know, and he can never know. And here he is, finding some sort of peace on that beach. We love that image and we were solid on it all the way.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will return in summer 2019. Clark Gregg addresses his future with the show here.
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