EXCLUSIVE: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will end after its upcoming seventh season.
“When you know that’s what you’re doing, you can take greater risks, of life and death,” Marvel TV boss Jeph Loeb says of the conclusion of ABC’s Clark Gregg-led superspy series, which is currently in the last weeks of its explosive sixth season. “Those kinds of decisions suddenly now are real on the table because you’re not playing how do we undo this when we get to the next season. You’re playing that this is going to be the end of the story.”
A regular and often circumspect presence at Comic-Con over the past decade, Loeb will be joining Gregg, fellow cast members Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet, Elizabeth Henstridge, Iain De Caestecker, Henry Simmons, Natalia Cordova-Buckley and Jeff Ward in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s inaugural Hall H appearance this afternoon. Executive producers Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon and Jeff Bell will also be there for what is surely the first stage in a long goodbye for the flagship show on the first day of this year’s SDCC 50.
Beforehand, Loeb sat down with Deadline to unveil the end of S.H.I.E.L.D., why it is stopping after Season 7, and the “celebration” and possible surprises in store for this lauded part of the Marvel canon.
DEADLINE: So, how does Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actually end?
JEPH LOEB: Season 6 ends really delightfully. That’s all I can say.
Going into Season 7, when you know you only have 13 more stories, you really do get a chance to see what that writers’ room is going to do when they can do anything. It was the best kind of creative situation.
DEADLINE: OK, but with lots of changes going on at Marvel TV, and of course the Disney expansion with the Fox assets and the upcoming streaming service, why announce now that S.H.I.E.L.D. is ending?
LOEB: Well, the bitter side is nobody ever wants anything to end, but it’s going to be amazing, and here’s the best news: Season 6 isn’t over, and you’ve seen none of Season 7. That’s the celebration, there’s still more. It’s not as though we’re going to walk off the stage and say goodbye, you’re never going to see another one of these new stories again. You have to see how this ends, you have to.
DEADLINE: It seemed like S.H.I.E.L.D. was going to end before, especially a couple of seasons ago with the apparent death of Clark Gregg’s Agent Phil Coulson at the end of Season 5. Why wrap it up when you are on a roll and had a new season ordered late last year?
LOEB: The simplest answer is so that we can end on our terms, really.
How many shows do you know that just suddenly ended, and you feel like, but wait a minute, there was more. Yes, in the chronology of this is we thought Season 5 was the end. If you go back and you look at the end of that season, it is written that way. Actually, the last episode of that season is called “The End.” Honestly, we thought we were turning out the lights and going home when we got a call from ABC that said, the material is so strong, do you think you have another season, do you think you have another 13 because we sort of like this idea of doing it again.
DEADLINE: And you resurrected it, so to speak?
LOEB: Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen and Jeff Bell, who have been there from the very beginning, went away and came back and said, we have a cool idea. That cool idea became Season 6. The show started to come in, then about halfway through that season we get another call from ABC’s Channing Dungey, who is a big fan of the show, super supportive, and she says, how about a Season 7?
DEADLINE: Which clearly you said yes to…
LOEB: Yes, but everyone is making plans, like it was at the end of Season 5, we thought it was done. Then we, again, sat down with Jed, Jeff, and Maurissa. We all came to the conclusion that getting another season is so flattering, so lovely, so amazing, but how about if we go back and say, yes, but this is it.
LOEB: So we can actually build a season that will tie up any threads that are there. To make sure that we come to a conclusion that’s satisfying to the fans, to the cast, to Marvel, and to ABC.
When you know that’s what you’re doing, you can take greater risks, of life and death. Those kinds of decisions suddenly now are real on the table because you’re not playing how do we undo this when we get to the next season. You’re playing that this is going to be the end of the story.
DEADLINE: To that, how do you think the fans will react to the news of the upcoming end and then seeing you guys up on stage at Hall H on Thursday?
LOEB: When we first sat down and started talking about what we wanted to do at San Diego and doing it this way just made sense.
You know, we have a number of shows that are starting up, a number of shows that are going to be appearing towards the end of the same year or next year. So who benefits the most in that forum, and the fans so love that cast, particularly when you’re now in your sixth season, your seventh season. Like I said, what we really wanted to do was have a celebration. To have an opportunity for us to be able to say to the fans, let’s take a journey, and that will lead to the acknowledgement that we’re wrapping it up after seven seasons.
DEADLINE: That’s going to be a bitter pill for a lot of your fans….
LOEB: Look, every single show has a fan, who doesn’t understand why it has to go away. By the same token, the sweetness, which is it will always be there. It’s like a great novel, it’s always on the shelf, you can take it down, interact with it. You know that’s the joy now the world of streaming, which is you can watch the whole thing for the rest of your life all at once and not have to really look around for it, and so 136 hours of being able to enjoy these stories over and over and over again.
DEADLINE: This was the flagship Marvel TV show…
LOEB: This is the flagship Marvel TV show, so don’t even speak of it in the past.
DEADLINE: Point taken, but let me ask you this – is it really over? I mean, this is Marvel, shift a timeline or two and the gang is back together, right?
LOEB: I personally believe that every great Marvel story ends to be continued, but the short answer is, yes, it will conclude in a way that is incredibly emotional and in the best ways. It’s funny, it’s heartbreaking, it’s…
DEADLINE: Sounds like It’s a classic Marvel speedball.
LOEB: (laughs) It’s a classic, exactly.
DEADLINE: So, to that end, what are we looking at, is it a two-hour finale or how does the finale happen?
LOEB: I don’t think we want to get into specifics, yet, I just know that it’s coming. When Season 7 comes, and that’s the other thing, all I can say is that seven is sometime next year, and we’ll see what ABC does with scheduling. But. we’re pretty close to done, and so that’s the other reason for Hall H is that this is a chance for our actors to really say thank you to the fans.
DEADLINE: They do love the cast, especially that Agent Coulson…
LOEB: Who wouldn’t?
One, everyone roots for the everyman guy. What Phil Coulson brought to the table was a kind of golly, gee-whiz of it all, like everyone remembers, like you got all goose bumpily when he met Captain America. We’d all be that way, but then he was also really good at his job. Just think of the number of times that he could he figure it out when nobody else could figure it out, and that most of the times was unflappable.
The second is you can’t divorce the character from Clark Gregg. He’s just this incredibly warm, delightful man, that’s who he is that’s how he’s built. So you spend five minutes with him and suddenly he’s your best pal, he’s the guy you’ve known since high school, like he’s that guy, and that somehow connects to the audience. I don’t think there’s ever been anybody who sat and watched an episode of S.H.I.E.L.D. and looked at any of the characters and went, I don’t know who any of those people are.
DEADLINE: Obviously, Marvel TV has had a lot of fires going, and a lot of those have burned very bright, and there’s a whole new slate coming down the line. But this was your baby, this was the first born in live action, so from a producer and creator point of view, what were some of the lessons you learned from getting S.H.I.E.L.D. up and running, getting it going this long that you brought to other shows and you brought to other projects?
LOEB: Most importantly was, and it became sort of the running joke, and yourself did it, which was no one talks about the show without saying after a rocky start …but I don’t think it should be gauged like that.
DEADLINE: What do you mean?
LOEB: I know you doing ratings and that’s part of your job, but for us, it was just a straight line of 136 great hours of television. In hindsight, when you go back and watch it, you don’t remember what the ratings were in Season 3, you just go, that was a really cool scene, I loved that, and so that’s the place that Marvel Television lives.
At the end of the day, it’s let’s look at the portrait, look at the entire landscape of the story, and see whether or not you feel satisfied.
DEADLINE: Having a conclusion to S.H.I.E.LD. now, are you satisfied with the totality of those eventual 136 episodes?
LOEB: Yes, and from what I’ve learned we’ve been able to do things as radical, and I mean radical in the best artistic way, as Legion and as romantic, and I mean that in the most artful way, as Agent Carter. You really get a sense of how this catalog of characters has existed for 75 years. It’s because each one of those voices and the way that they’re told, and if you’re a comic book fan, you know this, but if you’re a television person, you’re going, wow, these all feel different, and yet, it all feels like it’s part of the same world.
DEADLINE: Speaking of that same world, are we going to see … we have seen Nick Fury, on the show, we’ve been close to the hem more than once with Winter Solider, Ghost Rider was with the show for a while. Are we going to see any special guests for the last season or are we staying straight S.H.I.E.L.D.?
LOEB: You have to wait and see. Or as we used to say, that’s a level seven question.