Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was bigger and bolder than ever in its fifth season on ABC, but it also wasn’t doing too well in the ratings, and a renewal for Season 6 was hardly a sure thing. As it turns out, fans who pay attention to ratings weren’t the only ones who thought that the end was nigh with the Season 5 finale. According to S.H.I.E.L.D. star Clark Gregg, the cast also thought they were done after Season 5. Here’s how Gregg described the situation:
We had this really wonderful end of season five -- the [season finale] episode was even called 'The End' -- and we had reason to believe that we were done. We’d had these wonderful five seasons and a very tight family, and it was very, very sad. And then they called everyone up and said, we’re actually gonna do two more short, 13-episode seasons, which is really the number we thought we always could do best at.
Apparently, the S.H.I.E.L.D. cast had enough of a reason to believe they were done that they were “very, very sad.” Clark Gregg’s comments to ET at the TCA press tour reveal that he considered the finale a “really wonderful end,” but fans probably consider it far more wonderful that S.H.I.E.L.D. has gotten two more seasons. S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t join the slew of Marvel TV series that did get the axe in 2018!
Clark Gregg’s comments also reflect some of what S.H.I.E.L.D. co-showrunner Jed Whedon had to say about how the show was preparing for a possible end with Season 5. The team was “ready for if this is the end,” and they intended to make it “rewarding,” with last-minute changes that could be made in the event of a renewal.
After having watched the finale, I have to wonder what might not have happened if the show hadn’t been renewed. Would Coulson have been saved, rather than dropped off to enjoy his final days alive with May in Tahiti? Would Fitz have been spared, and/or would Simmons have been pregnant with Deke’s mom? Would there have been a connection to Avengers: Infinity War or Endgame?
We may never know. I do wonder if Clark Gregg’s praise of the renewal for two seasons of 13 episodes each is a sign that S.H.I.E.L.D. is done after Season 7. That really wouldn’t be the worst thing. The show would have plenty of time to wrap things up in the next two seasons, and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s original era in the MCU is likely ending in the not-too-distant future. It would also explain why the show got a renewal for Season 7 well before Season 6 even got a premiere date.
S.H.I.E.L.D. has excelled since it started splitting its 20+ episode seasons up into multiple arcs, or “pods.” 13 episodes could certainly be ideal. Also, those ratings that seemed to spell doom during Season 5 weren’t all that bad, considering the time slot. Few shows break ratings records in good ways if they air on Friday nights, and S.H.I.E.L.D. wasn’t exactly helped by Once Upon a Time’s numbers. The fairy tale-based series was cancelled last season.
The wait for Season 6 won’t end until some point this summer, but the first trailer certainly points toward an intense and intriguing batch of episodes. Clark Gregg confirmed that he’s playing a different character next season, and he may have debunked a certain theory about how that’s going to work.
For some viewing options while we wait for the new season, swing by our midseason TV premiere guide.