Major spoilers ahead for the two-hour series finale of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC.
Another Marvel Cinematic Universe era has come to an end with the series finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which was tasked with not only wrapping a project that spanned seven seasons but also explained some of the twistiest time travel on television, brought back a long-lost beloved character, and said goodbye to each member of an ensemble cast in the span of two hours. Fortunately, showrunners Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, and Jeffrey Bell delivered a finale that tied off a lot of loose ends and left fans with plenty to ponder.
The showrunners spoke with CinemaBlend and other press outlets about the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series finale. They shared what they would have done differently if they could, the characters' endings, and more. Interestingly, what they would do differently has nothing to do with plot twists or storylines, but something far more practical. They said:
Jed Whedon: I wish we'd had a million more dollars in VFX every episode.
Jeffrey Bell: Yes. I wish we didn't live in so many corridors because we had no money.
Maurissa Tancharoen: Everyone's like, 'Why are they back in these gray halls?'
Jed Whedon: 'We can't afford red paint!'
Jeffrey Bell: The great thing about being in space is you don't have to go on location because we can't afford to go on location.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. may have delivered plenty of visual effects between the various superpowers, fight sequences, and trips around the world/into space, but that didn't put it nearly on par with the big-budget MCU films, and there were a lot of scenes set in corridors. In fact, a decent chunk of the first half of the two-part finale featured Daisy, Simmons, and Deke running around the corridors of the Chronicom ship.
Gray corridors undoubtedly didn't ruin S.H.I.E.L.D. for viewers, but the showrunners apparently would have liked more money for effects. But hey, at least the bets were off when it came to space! Fortunately, the actors were always able to deliver performances that sold the fantastical elements of the series even without Avengers-level effects, and I would argue that some of the most effective sequences of the series simply involved the cast members playing their LMD versions.
All of this said, Maurissa Tancharoen elaborated on the ending of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and why they accomplished what they needed to with the finale:
But as far as where we leave the characters, I feel that what we had intended is definitely what we pursued. And in the whole experience of the show, seven seasons is a long time to be working on the show, to be invested in these characters, to be living in this story, as well as in the production aspect of things, our relationships with each other, the writers, our relationships with the actors, and everybody involved in the show. The emotional context of saying goodbye to this experience is definitely something that's reflected in where we leave our characters at the end of the show. So it is very personal to us.
The story of S.H.I.E.L.D. from a character standpoint wasn't impacted by budget or visual effects, and the finale was really more about wrapping up the time travel plot in time for fitting goodbyes than space battles or explosions. After all, fans have been watching these characters brought to TV by this team for the better part of a decade; sticking the landing is likely what will matter the most in the long run.
Maurissa Tancharoen elaborated on how S.H.I.E.L.D. ended for the characters who made it back to their original timeline:
And I do think there's a sense of hope for what's to come for each of them. Especially that we see them, the time jump one year ahead and that they're already established in their new lives. But then there's still a longing for what was and I think that will always be there, that bond between them will always be there. So hopefully that sort of hits home at the end for you guys.
In a twist that likely surprised Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fans who went into the finale expecting a Game of Thrones-esque bloodbath, the entire cast of good guys and even Kora survived the finale, and the bad guys were all defeated. Deke did have to stay behind in the 1980s timeline to guarantee that the rest of them would make it home, but he was alive and poised to become the director of that timeline's S.H.I.E.L.D., so he didn't get an unhappy ending.
The showrunners went on to address the process of deciding how the series would end for the characters, with Jed Whedon saying:
I don't remember struggling with that too much. I mean, it was fun. One of the things that's fun about that, and it's the same feeling we would have at the beginning of seasons, especially coming off of a time travel [season], I mean, you can tell from the first half that episode it was like, 'There's so many moving parts to this time thing. My brain is gonna explode!' And this was just blue sky, what could it be? Just fun to think about and so there are tons of great options and we sort of tried to put everybody in a different feeling thing and then in a different place and separate them as much as possible. But I don't remember struggling with that. I think that was more just the fun of the end.
Fitz's return packed in a lot of exposition to explain all the unanswered questions spanning from the end of Season 6 all the way through to the Season 7 finale, but the episode was able to focus on the characters' journeys once all the timeline pieces fell into place, resulting in the secret FitzSimmons daughter reveal, Kora bringing Daisy back, the Chronicoms gaining empathy, and the farewell sequence.
Maurissa Tancharoen explained one ending in particular that really made sense for them:
I think it made perfect sense to us that May would be a teacher at Coulson Academy. All of that just sums up her relationship with Coulson… The reluctant teacher. She has always been the wise teacher amongst the group, the sort of mother figure, and also just to put her with Coy [Stewart, who played Flint] at the end there and just knowing that she is helping to foster the lives of all these potential agents. That just made beautiful sense to us.
Even though the Cavalry showed up one last time to show off Ming-Na Wen's action skills and May flew one final S.H.I.E.L.D. field mission, May got one of the more peaceful endings of the heroes in the series finale. She was still involved with S.H.I.E.L.D., but in a teaching capacity at an institute named for Coulson.
That said, the characters who got the most peaceful ending in terms of S.H.I.E.L.D. were arguably the two who deserved it the most: FItzSimmons, who are clearly no longer cursed! Jed Whedon explained why they got their happy ending, and what led to Daisy's conclusion:
I think for a long time, we had a sense that Fitz and Simmons would be sort of out of S.H.I.E.L.D. and living the simpler life while secretly working with Daisy on the side. And then in terms of space, one of the things about that was that what we loved when we went to space... that feeling of just, especially as our budget constraints became a real concern, it made [the show] feel vast at a time when that was hard to do. And so we wanted someone to be out exploring that, and it felt right to put [Daisy] in there, having the Zephyr, sort of in command.
While Daisy didn't exactly retire to picnics and peace, she found her future in space with Sousa by her side and Kora learning the ropes of a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. As the character who had been most apprehensive about the "family" splitting, Daisy seemed to be doing as well as could be, and the sisterhood with Simmons seemingly continued, even if from a distance while Simmons lived the retired live with Fitz and Alya.
Two heroes didn't retire from field work, but that didn't mean anything unfortunate, as Maurissa Tancharoen noted:
And then it's clear that Mack and Yo-Yo are still together in a relationship and working with one another and proud of one another. And yeah, it all makes sense.
With Mack as new S.H.I.E.L.D. director (presumably with his shotgun axe) and Yo-Yo making the most of the powers that no longer required her to bounce back, they're a formidable duo whose endings definitely are open enough to allow for potential future appearances in the MCU. Coulson seemed somewhat adrift, but a reunion with Lola and an invitation to visit the academy indicate that his future has plenty of potential sweetness to go with any bitterness about his status as an LMD.
Of course, one member of the team couldn't make it to the reunion at the end of the finale, and his fate was one that required some discussion among the showrunners. They explained:
Jeffrey Bell: The one thing we talked a little bit about was leaving Deke behind, having him make what was truly a big sacrifice. But also we went, 'Yeah, it makes sense.'
Maurissa Tancharoen: Plus he's a rock god.
Well, if anybody was going to stay behind in a different timeline, the guy whose original timeline was already gone seems like a solid pick! His sacrifice allowed Daisy a happy ending with Sousa and guaranteed that his grandparents could return to their timeline's version of his mom, and it was at least better than Deke dying! And, as Maurissa Tancharoen noted, Deke is a literal rock star in that timeline, so he has more than just S.H.I.E.L.D. going for him.
So, while Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. technically ended with the major characters still alive and the MCU undoubtedly still with plenty of crises on the way that could use their assistance, their journeys seem to be over for now. You can always rewatch the first six seasons streaming on Netflix now, and a whole lot of Marvel content streaming on Disney+. If you're ready for a break from the MCU now that S.H.I.E.L.D. has wrapped, be sure to check out our 2020 fall TV premiere schedule!