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The Truth About Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Final Scene

Contains spoilers for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Who knew that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would become prophetic when the seven-season Marvel series began writing and filming the final episode of the long-running TV show? While the S.H.I.E.L.D. finale aired on August 12, 2020 during the pandemic, the closing scene of the series that's been chronicling the shenanigans of the secret Marvel agency wasn't an intentional reference to the new (and definitely not improved) reality the world is living in. Looper participated in a roundtable interview with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. co-creators and showrunners Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, where the pair discussed that fateful last scene of the series, and how it came to mirror the current climate.

When asked about the final scene of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Tancharoen admitted that they had no idea they'd be predicting the future when they wrote the episode. Whedon piped in with, "Yeah, Zoom." With the COVID-19 global pandemic, there was no way (sans time-travel, which fans probably shouldn't rule out) for the S.H.I.E.L.D. writers to know just how poetic the last scene would turn out to be. Tancharoen joked about the irony further, referencing that they were, in fact, on a Zoom call during this very roundtable. Is it meta enough yet?

The S.H.I.E.L.D. break-up

Whedon explained the final scene's process: "We knew what the feeling we wanted to have was, which was sort of the feeling that we were having in creating this last season, right?" As they say, life tends to imitate art. He continued, "You've spent all this time with [this group of] people, and you're not saying, 'The show's ending. It's not like we're breaking up.'" Yet the endings of shows do feel like break-ups — whether you're a fan or part of the show itself.

Whedon reminisced, "I'm just used to [seeing fellow showrunner Jeffrey] Bell every morning. We'd pow-wow for at least a half hour, every day, for seven years. That's going to end. And sort of that feeling that everybody was having." The ending of a show is a bit like graduation in that sense: knowing you'll be part of the group chat forever, but wondering when the whole crew will have the chance to get together again. Especially with Hollywood careers that don't hold traditional hours, getting a cast together even for significant anniversaries can be a challenging feat.

"The actor's production, our last production meeting, our last prop meeting... We knew we wanted to sort of hit that idea that life moves on. And as you grow up and these characters who started with their puppy love and their wide eyes are now seasoned veterans, and that you go through life," said Whedon. "As [Henry Simmons' character] Mack says, 'Yeah, it'll be different, but that's okay.'"

He continued, "We knew what we wanted that feeling to be. So the whole game in the writers' room was how to capture that. The year jump was an early idea. I think it was one of the Zuckerman sisters [co-producers Lilla and Nora] who came up with the concept — that it's actually virtual because we were trying to figure out this puzzle of how do we get them there, but keep that feeling?"

Gone, but not forgotten

Tancharoen popped in to say, "But the year jump sort of amplifies the nostalgia of the moment as well, because you're aware that they're now established in their new lives that are separate from one another." Not many series want to show the "after" moments when everything is said and done and the characters have moved on. Still, it's the heavy dose of reality that fans have come to expect from the Marvel Cinematic Universe — made even more poignant by the fact that real-world events have allowed fans to appreciate the vibe that much more.

"It sort of hits harder that they have essentially moved on, but then there's this longing for one another — not only just emotionally — and what you feel in the room. But the fact that they're not in the same room with one another and they cannot touch one another," Tancharoen highlighted.

"That's a feeling everyone can relate to right now. And I think what was done so well in the writing and also the direction of it is [that] we're in tight with each one of them for most of that conversation," she shared. "To be able to capture these looks at one another while they're speaking, especially with May [played by Ming-Na Wen], and that moment when she looks at [Clark Gregg's character Agent Phil] Coulson as he's talking. It's very clear, the love that she will always have for him. The grieving of what once was."

She continued the sentiment, saying, "I think that's very clear in the way they all look at one another. [...] The emotional experience that we all had as writers and as people making the show is definitely the emotional context of that final scene. We're not saying goodbye. We're just not going to be together. It's just going to be different. And we'll always have this experience ... And [it] will bond us forever."

That's certainly something the fandom can relate to. While shows may not last forever, fans' loyalty and love always do.

A happy ending on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

It's difficult to say goodbye to a favorite series, but in the case of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the bitter act of bidding adieu was sweetened by the fact that two of the show's most beloved characters got a particularly lovely ending. Really, all the characters got the send-off they needed — and the S.H.I.E.L.D. team put love, time, and care into ensuring that the way in which the agents departed made sense.

"A lot of thought went into the order that they [left]," Whedon explained. The idea of [Chloe Bennet's Daisy as the last is] because she's the one who kind of clings to it the most. She's the one that cried at Mack, saying, 'I don't know who I am without you.' And that she misses it the most, but she's okay." Tancharoen added, "That's why we leave her alone in the room as the last one in the room."

"In terms of where they were placed, it was just sort of about the promise of a new adventure for each of them and sort of a completion of their arc," Whedon noted. "May having always been this reluctant sort of parental figure to all these people, now filling that role, now with..." Continuing their mind reading trick, Tancharoen provided, "As a teacher at Coulson Academy. It sort of speaks to her whole legacy."

"Right," Whedon agreed. "Yeah. We always knew we wanted Fitz and Simmons to retire and have a happy ending." Tancharoen ended the statement with, "Finally."