The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. cast and crew reflects on the moving coda to their series finale.
The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series finale, “What We’re Fighting For.” took the team-turned-family through the motions of their final mission, defeating the Chronicoms and Nathaniel Malick, and saving Earth from disaster one last time. But when the dust settled, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series finale focused in on what really made the series special: The deep and bonds between our dear agents.
Coming together in what Enver Gjokaj called a “weirdly prescient” virtual meeting space, the team regroups in the original Swordfish speakeasy, year after the events of the finale. It’s a scene that represents Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. at its best — funny, bittersweet, and profoundly honest about enduring relationships, and the way they are effected by time apart.
“It was tough, because we knew that it was truly going to be our last scene together as a group,” says Ming-Na, whose Agent May becomes an instructor at S.H.I.E.L.D.’s new Coulson Academy. “We still had other scenes to shoot days later, but for us as a unit, we knew that this was it. And so there were quite a few moments where the reality, versus the show’s reality, intermingled.”
Chloe Bennet felt a similar synthesis between the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series finale’s ending scene and her own experience on the show.
“It was really surreal to sit there and do that. So much of life has imitated art in the show,” she says. “It was really, really emotional. But I thought they did such a good job with giving everyone a good ending, and I thought that was just such a creative way to bring us all together, but it doesn’t overdo it in any way.”
Daisy Johnson concludes the finale exploring space with her half-sister Kora and boyfriend Daniel Sousa… but one relationship particularly stood out for her as the show came to a close.
“To have everyone go, and to have Clark [Gregg] and I staying there at the end was… That was hard to shoot, for sure,” she adds. “They definitely had to reel us all back. They’re like, You can’t all just be crying for this.”
“It’s the nature of a TV show. You basically live together for most of your time for six or seven years, and then the show’s over,” he says. “There are people you’re gonna be still having your life forever, and there’s others you’re gonna wanna have in your life, but you don’t see them because of life. And others just drift away, and it’s a really sad thing about working toward a goal that isn’t permanent, that changes.”
“I felt like they captured so much of the reality we were living in that moment, and has really proven to be real.”
“It just felt real,” adds Bennet of the final scene. “It so perfectly mirrored, I think, how we were all feeling. How this is so momentous. This is such a huge chapter of all of our lives and it just kind of ends. And it wasn’t tragic, it just kind of was for each character, and we kind of each went in our own way, and that’s kind of just how life is… It’s just odd, but real.”
According to show runners and executive producers Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, and Jeff Bell, that sense of authentic nostalgia was quite intentional.
“As we were approaching the end in the writers room, the nostalgia part of it, the idea of wrapping it up and trying to give something rewarding to ourselves, to the actors and to the fans, it started to really just reflect how we were feeling about approaching the end,” says Whedon. “We were writing our own feelings about all these people we worked with.”
“I think that was very clear in that final scene at the speakeasy, with all of our characters,” says Tancharoen.
That intention wasn’t lost on Henry Simmons, although Mack hasn’t departed quite as far from his prior path as other team members. One year after the finale, he is successfully directing S.H.I.E.L.D. from a helicarrier, while his girlfriend Elena (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) carries out missions around the world.
“I know that [showrunner] Jed [Whedon] wanted the writers to come up with something where it reflected real life, in essence, where we are moving on,” Simmons recalls. “We shared something together, something that was special, and it may end up where we just become people that some may be close, others may be people that we just worked together. He wanted to have a scene that reflected that, and personally, I thought it was good… this is something that we shared. It was something that was great, and it’s time to move on and that’s quite honestly the truth.”
For Elizabeth Henstridge, the bar scene, like the finale as a whole, was an “intense” experience.
“Shooting that last episode felt very big and heavy,” she says. “But they wrote it so beautifully. It was so, kind of, awkward and perfect for people who hadn’t seen each other for a while, and there was so much to say, but maybe they’re not great expressing their emotions.”
“But,” she adds, “It felt so good to be in a little team with Iain [De Caestecker]. It kind of makes all those too-big-for-the-body moments a bit more digestible.”
Henstridge’s Simmons, along with De Caestecker’s Fitz, wrap up their adventures having retired from S.H.I.E.L.D., focusing instead on raising the precocious daughter born as they constructed the time-leaping Zephyr. De Caestecker, who returned for “What We’re Fighting For” in a special guest role, found the experience fulfilling.
“I just think it’s a great [scene,]” he says. “I think that’s something that writers always manage to do so well, is it’s just a very fitting end. I think it’s a satisfying end.”
And while there was plenty of bittersweetness to go around (Ming-Na and Cordova-Buckley both refer to the finale as “melancholy”) Clark Gregg found a fitting rejuvenation in his last scene.
Coulson appears officially unattached one year after the events of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finale, and uncertain of his path moving forward. But in a moment that brings the series full-circle, the man at the heart of S.H.I.E.L.D. is reunited with Lola — the flying Corvette that so impressed Daisy (then Skye) way back in the series premiere.
“That was very satisfying.” says Gregg. “Like everything else, it feels very familiar what they did there in the finale, but then it’s got a whole twist to it that’s very high tech… The way that [the writers and CGI team] delivered in these last couple of episodes was really mind bending.”
“It just made sense to us to call back that iconic image that we established at the start of this whole story,” says Tancharoen. “But of course, as Colson has essentially been upgraded, it made sense to us that Lola should be upgraded as well, and to have two of them fly off into the sunset, and the promise of what’s to come for him and for all of them really.”
“That’s the notion, the promise of the thing that that represents for us is Coulson’s excitement,” adds Whedon. “His geek feelings about the world of S.H.I.E.L.D., and so the idea of going off with that promise ahead of them — something we were trying to do with everyone.”