Warning: major spoilers ahead for the ninth episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 6, called "Collision Course (Part II)."
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been packed with surprises this year, and not just because for a while it seemed like the show was doomed for cancellation. The show mixed things up in big ways by killing off Coulson at the end of Season 5 but not cutting Clark Gregg from the cast. Instead, S.H.I.E.L.D. brought him back to play a baddie who just so happened to look and sound exactly like Coulson.
There are still more questions than answers about Sarge, but "Collision Course (Part 2)" raises the question: is S.H.I.E.L.D. losing Gregg after Season 6?
"Collision Course (Part 2)" saw the final showdown of Sarge's forces against Izel and her terrifyingly creepy zombie-esque army. Sarge crossed more lines than ever after he was shocked to learn that the bomb in his truck didn't blow up Izel's ship as intended, thanks to Daisy using her Quake powers to contain the explosion. He attacked the S.H.I.E.L.D. team on the Zephyr, but was ultimately defeated after Yo-Yo talked Jaco into remembering who he is rather than just Sarge's henchman.
The episode came to a surprisingly happy ending before the final pre-credits tag, with Fitz and Simmons back, Yo-Yo and Mack hooking back up, Daisy happy to get a break, and a bunch of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents not dead or destroyed. So, naturally, the pre-credits tag was going to be a doozy.
After May reflected on the entire ordeal with Sarge, she realized that she would have killed Sarge right away if he hadn't looked like Coulson. In the tag, she entered his cell and shot him twice in the chest. He stared defiantly at her, and she stood over him and shot him in the head. For all the mystery that surrounded Sarge, he always seemed like a normal human with normal human weaknesses, and the promo for the next episode suggests that he's truly dead after being shot by May.
The teaser also seemingly revealed that May had been under the influence of someone or something, as she wakes up confused about why she was in a cell, and Coulson's corpse can be seen. Izel also appears in the trailer, suggesting she didn't die in Jaco's epic sacrifice. Obviously there's a lot that's still unknown, and the shot of Coulson's body proves that Clark Gregg is on board for at least one more episode. But what about moving forward?
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has gotten around character deaths, achieved the all-but-impossible in averting character deaths, and even invented new technology for the MCU to justify how Coulson returned to the land of the living after the events of The Avengers. But now, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. killed off original recipe Coulson, seemingly with every intention of honoring his sacrifice, and killed off Sarge. Can S.H.I.E.L.D. get away with somehow bringing back Coulson or his lookalike again? Or, for that matter, introducing another lookalike?
Well, considering that S.H.I.E.L.D. managed to turn the little science nerds into dark action heroes, survive despite the fact that Captain America: The Winter Soldier blew up its premise halfway through its first season, and somehow remain on the air despite the constant threat of cancellation for years now, I won't rule out the show accomplishing anything. Still, killing off Sarge by having him shot in the head -- which can't exactly just be fixed by Simmons, no matter what medical miracles she's accomplished -- seems like it could be Clark Gregg's out.
As difficult as it is to imagine the MCU without Clark Gregg in some capacity, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he's done on S.H.I.E.L.D. It's not like the show can just keep him involved via hologram messages for the next season and a half, right? Mack has really stepped up as the new director of S.H.I.E.L.D., and the show kept on showing even without Coulson. Considering S.H.I.E.L.D. likely already has its end date more or less in sight, S.H.I.E.L.D. wouldn't need to worry about ratings. So could Clark Gregg be gone?
Yes, I would say he could be gone. But is he gone? There are reasons to doubt that the death of his second character means the departure of Clark Gregg once he's done playing Sarge's corpse and/or appearing in flashbacks.
First of all, Sarge didn't actually look like he was in any pain after May shot him the first two times, and was completely unafraid as she pointed a gun at his head. Was this just because he had nerves of steel, knew there was no talking May down, and wanted to die with dignity? Or was it because he knew he would come back somehow rather than just die for good?
Izel did drop the bombshell in the episode that she hadn't stolen his memories; rather, he'd never had any memories. Is he more than human and just doesn't know it? There are definitely still a lot of questions about Sarge, not the least of which is his name.
That brings me to another reason why Sarge may not be dead for good. S.H.I.E.L.D. almost made Sarge more mysterious in "Collision Course (Part II)," which would make it all but nonsensical if he was killed off for good at the end of the hour. His people other than Snowflake are all dead, and Snowflake isn't likely to want to dig into his past in his honor after he left her for dead in the truck. If Sarge is really dead, his story might be done. Why would S.H.I.E.L.D. end his story at this point?
If Clark Gregg does leave S.H.I.E.L.D. before the series finale, my guess is that he'll at least be part of the show through the end of Season 6. After that, I'm not sure how S.H.I.E.L.D. could continue keeping Gregg around if it keeps killing off his characters. Should we prepare to say goodbye to Gregg as a regular on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Or should we count on S.H.I.E.L.D. to pull off the impossible yet again? I know I'd rather have Clark Gregg around rather than lose him, but if S.H.I.E.L.D. keeps him in the mix, I can only hope that the story makes sense.
As much as "Collision Course (Part II)" felt like a finale, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be back with a new episode next week. "Leap" will air Friday, July 19 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC and see the group deal with an enemy that's closer than they think while they learn to trust each other again.