The mood at the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. panel at Comic-Con International: San Diego on Thursday was surprising emotional and elegiac. As executive producer and co-showrunner Jed Whedon explained, the cast assembled earlier in the week for the series finale table read. And this time, it is definitely the end.
Prior to the show’s Hall H debut, word broke that the program’s seventh season, to air sometime in 2020, will be its last. As executive producer Jeph Loeb characterized it, it was a mutual decision between Marvel Television and ABC. Nonetheless, he also said, “It’s the flagship show of Marvel Television and it’s the show I love most.”
Originally a spearhead for Marvel’s television initiatives, the series found its own footing as it grew apart from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although, a clip reel of Seasons 1 and 2 highlights played during the panel definitely indicated the show was still connected to the films. The Season 1 connection to Captain America: The Winter Solider gave the show a certain vitality, but the mystery surrounding Agent Coulson’s (Clark Gregg) resurrection following his apparent death in The Avengers certainly added momentum as well.
“That clip had people, like Ron Glass and Bill Paxton, who have passed. I stand in awe of them,” said Gregg after the Season 1 reel concluded. “I also stand in awe of the writers and the people who started Coulson Lives,” he added.
“Watching that made me tired,” he continued. The rest of the cast, which included Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennett, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, Henry Simmons, Natalia Cordova-Buckley, and Jeff Ward, agreed the show is something of a miracle as they essentially make a mini Marvel movie every five days.
“We are literally remembering it when we’re seeing it. They we have the memory of shooting it,” Whedon explained. “How long it took to get the shot. In those early days, none of us knew each other.” But in working out what S.H.I.E.L.D. would become, the cast and crew became a family.
That initial family would expand to include Simmons as Mack, Cordova-Buckley as Yo-Yo, and Ward as Deke. Each had similar stories: their characters were meant to be guests for a handful of episodes, but were soon upgraded to long-term status because the producers fell in love with them. Whedon and executive producer Jeffrey Bell recalled an early shot of Mack working on a bike and hearing “the money sound.”
Simmons recalled the day he was told Mack would be the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. “We have a tradition on this show: when a character is going to die, the producers come to the actor for a chat.],” he said. “I saw Jed and Jeff coming and I ran from them. I thought, ‘If they can’t catch me, it won’t happen.'” Instead, they were planning to make him the boss. “He was just a mechanic work on some cars, things grew. I got my shotgun axe. But then Coulson died and someone needed to step up. They gave it to me,” Simmons said.
As the the clip reels from season 1-5 played, the amount of story S.H.I.E.L.D. pulled off came into focus. From Coulson’s semi-rogue team, to the fight against Hydra, to Ghost Rider and time travel, the series has very nearly done it all. But Loeb said the conclusion will be “an ending you deserve because S.H.I.E.L.D. fans rock.”
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Fridays on ABC.