How the 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' finale setup 'new rules' for Clark Gregg's role.
ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." - Season Three

Warning: This contains spoilers from the season 6 finale of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which aired Friday night. Read at your own risk!

The season 6 finale of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. just set up one of hell of a final season.

In the two-part season-ender, the Chronicoms invaded Earth intent on turning it into their new home-planet. Recognizing that the MCU’s favorite security organization is the only thing standing in their way, the aliens decide to use time travel to attack S.H.I.E.L.D. through history. Thankfully, Enoch (Joel Stoffer), the friendly Chronicom, arrived in time to save Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) from the Chronicoms’ initial assault on the lighthouse and offered them a way out of their predicament, which involves changing the natural course of their lives forever, natch.

While all of that was going on, the rest of the team was busy battling Sarge (Clark Gregg) and Izel (Karolina Wydra). After the incorporeal beings were destroyed, Simmons arrived in the Zephyr, which has been transformed into a time machine, and transported Daisy (Chloe Bennet), Mack (Henry Simmons), Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley), Deke (Jeff Ward), and a wounded May (Ming-Na Wen) to 1930s New York, which is where their next adventure begins. But that’s not the only twist Simmons threw at her teammates. Simmons also unveiled a new Coulson LMD, because they need an expert in S.H.I.E.L.D. history to help them fight the Chronicoms. In other words, Gregg isn’t going anywhere. (Read EW’s full recap of the finale here.)

Below, showrunners/executive producers Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, and Jeff Bell tease what this all means for the show’s seventh and final season.

Credit: Mitch Haaseth/ABC

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What does this ending mean for the seventh and final season?
JED WHEDON: It means that we’re going to have some adventures.
MAURISSA TANCHAROEN: We hope to explore what that means.
WHEDON: It’s safe to say that we’re going back in time. Cue Huey Lewis!

When the season ends, we find them in 1930s New York. Can you tease other time periods we’ll see them visit?
WHEDON: I think we can say we’re definitely going back there and that’s where the adventure begins. Right now the Zephyr is a time machine —
TANCHAROEN: And wouldn’t it be fun to explore different time periods?

Avengers: Endgame set up some very specific time travel rules. In Endgame, time travel is more like multiverse travel and you create new timelines, as opposed to the traditional “change the past to change the present/future.” Are you guys following those rules, or are you doing your own thing?
WHEDON: Well you’re going to have to wait and see.
TANCHAROEN: These all might be things that our characters are debating.
JEFF BELL: Marvel’s not going to let us do anything they don’t want us to do.

Did you always know you wanted to end here when you started breaking the story for season 6?
BELL: The time travel aspect wasn’t [part of it] because we didn’t have a [seventh season] at the time.
WHEDON: We knew we had a couple things we wanted to do in terms of how to come up with a new paradigm for the last season, and the Chronicoms were a nice way to do that. It was the first time we had an ongoing tag story that was unrelated to our main story [and] setting that up so that they could come in as a left turn in the last episode and screw things up for our people. With every season, we’re trying to find a new sandbox to play in, and we think this will be a fun one.

Sarge is killed in the finale, but very soon after that we meet this Coulson LMD. Did you ever consider a Clark Gregg-less season, or did you know you needed to find a way to keep him in the mix?
BELL: We’ve always said —
TANCHAROEN: — There’s no show without Clark.
WHEDON: In introducing Sarge, we felt like we were left with a question: If you end up with Sarge being a good guy, then you end up with a watered-down version of the guy we loved, which we didn’t want. If you end up with him staying a bad guy, we felt like we just played that for a season. So, there was a lot of discussion about what do we want to do with Clark and what do we want to do with Coulson, because we didn’t want to buy back the end of season 5, which we liked. We wanted to honor that.
TANCHAROEN: And truthfully, we missed him. Just like the team misses Coulson, we missed Coulson as well.
WHEDON: So we thought for the audience and the writers and for him, it would be nice to bring him back — but, again, bringing him back as a 2.0 version. He’ll have new stuff to play and there’s new rules to his existence.

How does LMD-Coulson differ from the Coulson that we knew?
BELL: That’s a great season 7 question.
WHEDON: You’re going to have to wait until next summer!

I didn’t expect the monoliths to play such an important part in the season or even on the show overall. What attracts you to them as a storytelling device?
WHEDON: We wanted to bring back a new version of Coulson, so there are limited ways we could do that. The reason we like the monoliths, to be honest, is that they’re magical. They are extremely powerful objects that can do anything, like Infinity Stones would be.
BELL: They have clear rules and they’re easy to understand, and visually, they look cool.
WHEDON: For us, it was in our mythology and it was a way of combining those three things — creating something backwards in space and time was a way to do it. It served a lot of purposes in that way. Also them coming from [Izel] — and her vibe being this Incan temple, swords, [and] monoliths — it fit with her tone.
TANCHAROEN: It gave us a reason for Sarge within our own mythology.

When you guys first introduced them way back when, did you ever expect them to remain such a part of the show?
WHEDON: No, truthfully. [In the episode where] we introduced the aircraft carrier, the Iliad, we said it had something very important down in the cargo hold. This HYDRA thing. We had to figure out that was, and I think it was Jeff Bell’s pitch that it was a rock that turns to liquid. Then, it just sort of grew from there. That’s actually one of the fun things about TV and having a show that’s on for this long, is that you plant a seed and here you are six years later —
BELL: And it grows into all kinds of cool stuff.

One of my favorite moments in the finale is when Deke goes off on his grandparents about not being taken seriously or even liked and then teleports into the action. Can you talk about why you wanted to give him that beat?
WHEDON: Deke’s a fun character for us in that he started as this survivor in an apocalyptic environment. When he got dropped back in our world, he was a blank slate. We saw this year what that turned into, how he used it to his advantage. That was one of the things we always talk about: a person’s reason for doing something and that he’s not just this wacky egomaniacal CEO-type. There is a reason he sought that out and he went to do that. It’s a misinterpretation of what people want with him. It’s important for us to get to the heart of Deke because he’s been so funny and so ridiculous.
BELL: For a guy who never really had family and tries to fit in and feels ultimately rejected by the very people who are his grandparents, it felt like a great motive for him to do something stupid and heroic, and doing it out of pain as opposed to, “I’m a great guy and I’m going to do it.” What we love about Deke is there’s a lot of humor and there’s a lot of pain, and the pathos of that, I think, makes him a really compelling character.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will return for its final season in 2020.

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ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." - Season Three
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) assembles a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to handle strange new cases.

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