SPOILER ALERT: This article contains details of Wednesday doubleheader Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series finale.
That’s the last word spoken tonight in the very last episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson flies off from the superspy HQ in a new version of his very special cherry red 1962 Chevrolet Corvette L.O.L.A., which stands for Levitating Over Land Automobile.
“It also indicates, as you noted, we handed the baton nicely to Daisy,” executive producer Jed Whedon says of the Chloe Bennet-portrayed Inhuman character. “You really get the sense that she’s now doing what he did,” the S.H.I.E.LD. co-showrunner adds. “She’s found a lost person who has potential and she’s building a family and she’s taken his role. To see him get in L.O.L.A. is then the promise for him of a new adventure, and you know, of course it’s souped up just like he is.”
After seven sometimes uncertain seasons, tonight’s Jeffrey Bell-written “The End is at Hand” and the Whedon-penned “What We’re Fighting For” two-part finale was an ambitious and ultimately successful conclusion for the first live-action Marvel television series and its longtime motto that “not all heroes are super.”
Constructed as more of a feature than two episodes of TV, the finales found Agent Coulson, Daisy, the Cavalry herself Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), current S.H.I.E.L.D. boss Mack (Henry Simmons), Deke Shaw (Jeff Ward), Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley), and a reunited Jenna Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) and Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) battling Sibyl (Tamara Taylor) and the history-destroying Chronicoms to the end with a truly out-of-this-world and timeline-busting finish.
The conclusion brought together strands not only of the seventh season, but the whole series for the team’s “final mission,” as Bennet’s Daisy calls it.
Of course, with crossovers, nods to the Marvel movies and clashes with Hydra over the years, the S.H.I.E.L.D. finale had a pre-credits windup too that jumped a year. Reunited digitally, that sit-down at the Swordfish speakeasy teased a “situation in Moscow,” revealed where in the world and cosmos the main characters landed, and showed fans more of FitzSimmons’ daughter and the family life the duo had built to everyone’s joy.
In a finale full of bookends of sorts, I sat down again with executive producers Bell, Whedon, fellow EP and co-showrunner Maurissa Tancharoen, and EP and ex-Marvel TV chief Jeph Loeb like we did for the Season 7 premiere back in May. In what was obviously a bittersweet discussion at times, the forthright quartet talked about ending S.H.I.E.L.D., the legacy of the series, and fulfilling their mission statement of diversity and representation.
DEADLINE: Jed, when we spoke at the premiere, we talked about how had you felt at the end. And I’m going to read something you said to me. You said “Yes, you can always go back, but I do feel like when they closed down the set and they tore them down and the stages were open, we had a good sense of completion.” Now that the finale has aired, do you still have that feeling, and was this the end you always envisioned?
WHEDON: I would simply say we still have that feeling, you know? Not only that, but it ends with a year later virtual call between friends. So, right now I feel like it lands even more.
The goal was to create a feeling, and I think that the feeling remains, which was that you spend a lot of time with people and you get close and then you go your separate ways, and that is part of life and it’s bittersweet, but it is sweet. So, we’re still proud of it, and it is strange to have said goodbye a year ago and now, again, be saying goodbye.
TANCHAROEN: It feels like we’ve had a series of goodbyes to the show, and now with it airing, it is truly the last goodbye.
BELL: Production was over a year ago. So, we’ve lived with this for a long time.
DEADLINE: In that context, what is the legacy of S.H.I.E.L.D. to you now?
WHEDON: You know, hopefully people leave with a sense that they were a part of this family. We set out to build a show about people coming together and forming a bond, and for me, that’s what I hope people feel, that they were a part of that.
BELL: I’ll let Mr. Loeb speak to the Marvel TV of it, which I think is amazing and stellar, but for me, to be on a show for seven years, and for us to have the same cast, crew and writers for almost that entire time, has created an opportunity that I don’t think I’ll ever get to experience again. So the legacy, personally, is a private one because I got to spend so much time with people I really love and admire, and usually you get 13 weeks or maybe a year. A couple times, you know, you get a little bit longer than that, but to get to spend seven years with people, and as Marvel TV went from this one show to all of it, to be on that journey with all these people has been a professional highlight and something that I will always cherish.
TANCHAROEN: When we spend this much time on a show together, 12 to 14 hours a day, as a married couple [Tancharoen and Whedon are a couple] as well, so much of our lives, our personal lives, bleed into the work of it. Much of the entire story of the series is fueled by what we are experiencing personally and emotionally going through this life together. So in a sense like, as Jeff said, so many people that work on the show have been with us since the very beginning, and we became a family in a show that is about this found family.
DEADLINE: Is that what you expected seven years ago?
TANCHAROEN: It is about that very feeling, yes. Going into Season 7, we were already having this overwhelming sense of nostalgia of leaving this experience. So, yeah. I think that’s the legacy of the show, of this found family that will live on in our audience’s imagination, but for us also, it’s about this family that is parting ways.
A farewell from the cast and creators of Marvel’s #AgentsofSHIELD to fans after seven amazing seasons.
— Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (@AgentsofSHIELD) August 11, 2020
DEADLINE: Jeph, you had a different POV because you were getting Marvel TV up and running with shows on Netflix, later Hulu and elsewhere, but you were also an EP on S.H.I.E.L.D. too…
LOEB: Look, this show has a very special place, again, on a personal level because this was Marvel Television’s first show. Having said that, it will always be a show about a group of people who, whether they knew it or not, were looking for a family, and they found one on this show.
The thing that’s amazing to me is that all of us, in some way, and in particular Jed and Maurissa, actually had a family during this show, and my relationship with my daughter, and Jeff’s relationship with his daughter was intertwined too. You know, my daughter Audrey and I still watch the show every night that it’s on. I was going to say every Wednesday night, but I think we’ve been on every night of the week in every time slot (laughs).
DEADLINE: Speaking of family, we discovered in the finale that the truly star-crossed FitzSimmons have a child, a daughter, and that the protecting of her has been a subplot of sorts throughout this final season. I want to get a sense of why you guys chose to do that and how you chose to do that because it was such a beautiful and such an un-superhero ending. It was about real superheroes, which are parents raising families every day, protecting their children.
WHEDON: Part of it was the necessity of how much Fitz we were going to have available to us, that’s just a fact. But also, we always talk in the writers’ room about a forever love. Fitz and Simmons are our forever love. We feel the same way that the audience feels about them. We want them to end up together. We think they should be together, and so…
TANCHAROEN: And with all the torture that we put them through throughout all of the years, their happy ending was well deserved.
WHEDON: Right. All you can do, when you know they’re forever love, all you can do is put obstacles in their way. And we’ve done enough of that over the series, and so we wanted them to have that happy ending.
DEADLINE: May sound cruel to ask, but why?
WHEDON: Because we were only going to glimpse the idea that they had already had it and that it was already in place and they were trying to preserve it. So, we felt was a way to give the audience something that they wanted. Something that we wanted and that they wanted too, and a way to reflect their love for each other in its manifest. So giving Fitz and Simmons a happy ending was on our list of things that we were always going to do.
DEADLINE: Talking about another a happy ending in the series’ ending, it seems in some ways that when you ended the finale with Clark and Chloe and how the student has become the new teacher and then, Mack’s gift of a new L.O.L.A., there was a determination to go out with sense of joy and fun…
WHEDON: Bell, I remember having a conversation with you a few years ago when because we had done the end of Season 5 and we were talking about what do we go off of? What’s the feeling? And talking about this feeling of nostalgia, and I remember, us saying like it’s probably L.O.L.A. We probably ought to just have them fly off and…
TANCHAROEN: Well, it’s such an iconic image from the pilot of the show. It just made sense to bring that back.
BELL: A bookend. Yeah.
WHEDON: It was the spirit of the show, which was the fun of it.
The thing that’s so great about Coulson, and I love him in this season because he gets to be such a geek, but I love that geek thing that when he first said to Captain America in the movie I have all your trading cards, you know? That part of him that loves L.O.L.A., loves the S.H.I.E.L.D. history.
It also indicates, as you noted, we handed the baton nicely to Daisy. You really get the sense that she’s now doing what he did. She’s found a lost person who has potential and she’s building a family and she’s taken his role. To see him get in L.O.L.A. is then the promise for him of a new adventure, and you know, of course it’s souped up just like he is.
— Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (@AgentsofSHIELD) August 13, 2020
BELL: Also, with that scene in the speakeasy with Coulson and Daisy after everyone’s gone, I think it was really important to us to really tap into the bittersweet feeling that we were all having ourselves about saying goodbye to the show.
DEADLINE: How so?
BELL: That’s what’s so beautiful about that last scene that Jed wrote is they’re in this room one year later. It’s very clear that they’re already settled into their new lives, and that kind of amplifies that bittersweet feeling that they have moved on, and that yet they’re still longing for one another. They’re still longing for the time that was. They’re awkwardly speaking about it and catching up.
DEADLINE: So, I’ve asked before and I will ask again, is it really over?
LOEB: Well, there’ll be a holiday special because, as you know, Jed and Maurissa are musicians, and Jeff Bell writes great lyrics. So, an all musical, maybe three and a half hours, something like that we could do that.
DEADLINE: And also, with all the time travel this season, you could have all these great genres you could play with. I mean, you got 1983 synth pop, and 1930s bebop.
LOEB: As long as Deke Shaw is there, we own all the music. So, it’s really great. Yeah.
DEADLINE: This season, but also before, S.H.I.E.L.D. never avoided harder topics — issues of race, class, gender and more — and not always cloaked under the veil of sci-fi or fantasy. Why was it important for the series to be part of that larger real-world conversation, that is more in the spotlight now that in perhaps the past several decades?
TANCHAROEN: Well, we’ve always looked for opportunities to address social issues, racial issues, but in metaphor. We did understand with the divisive time travel that we would be able to address them head-on through Deke. I think it was a really wonderful device to have Deke, a man out of time, now understanding or coming to terms with the concept of white privilege or pointing out how absurd it is that there is any sort of inequality or racial inequality.
DEADLINE: Seems pretty unmetaphorical to me …
TANCHAROEN: OK, that’s true, but I think the most invaluable part of this whole experience is that it was very clear from the outset that we all were very like-minded in what we wanted to do and convey with this show.
I know I, personally, as a woman of color who’s navigated this business for as long as I can remember, I’ve had my own personal experiences and obstacles and what not. So, I did know that going into this and creating a show and being a showrunner that I would be able to give opportunities to people that weren’t available to me. I am very fortunate to work with a group of people who, like Jeph Loeb, like Jeff Bell, like my husband, obviously, but we all feel as strongly about that mission statement as I did.
It was always very clear that diversity and representation was going to be a part of this show, and it’s very clear in front of the camera, behind the camera, in the stories that we tell, in the characters that we’ve developed that, you know, I think that’s an important part of the legacy of the show as well. It’s not only about a family, but the way the family was represented, and…
BELL: Can I jump in?
BELL: Dominic, going back to your question about our legacy really reminded me that this has been a growing process for all of us. But, I’m reminded now one of the things that moved me the most over the course of the years was we go to Comic-Con.
BELL: When go to Comic-Con or WonderCon, we’re end up at one point sitting on this long panel, and people are coming and you know, getting their posters signed and moving on. One thing for me was watching a young Asian girl after a young Asian girl come by so excited to meet Chloe or Ming, and to see themselves represented that way. Then, addition to that, to see Maurissa as a boss as part of that as well.
To see these young women have role models represent them. As a guy who grew up having that all the time, I was so touched by how emotional these young people were at seeing themselves represented, and that’s true with Natalia. That was true with Henry. That was true with the entire diverse cast.
So, I just wanted to say, seeing fans react to seeing themselves on camera, that might be our best legacy honestly.