When you title your season-ender "The End," as the S.H.I.E.L.D. climax is named, you automatically trigger anxiety for fans. For good measure, the big finish was set up by the team's realization in last week's episode that they have an impossible decision to make. The once-rock solid SHIELD family has been slowly fracturing from the stress of trying to make the right call. That type of tension is exactly what the show's bosses had in mind when they laid out this season's dystopian future drama.
"This is what we've been working towards all season," executive producer Jeff Bell told SYFY WIRE during an interview to promote this Friday's big finale, which airs on ABC Friday at 9 p.m. "We get those conflicts coming to a head between these people who are really a family."
According to co-creator and executive producer Jed Whedon, who also directed the season finale, the team dynamic has been splintering for quite some time. In particular, Yo-Yo getting the warning from her future self about "letting Coulson die" has really affected her. The weight of that knowledge has damaged her relationship with Mack, and put her at odds with her teammates, particularly Daisy.
"That tension within the team has been slowly building, and it's all going to come to a head, in a big way, I think, in the season finale," Whedon hinted during a phone conversation with SYFY WIRE, just before the show's renewal was announced.
The culmination of the "Destroyer of Worlds" storyline is something that the showrunners say they've been building up to all season, leaving key signposts along the way. "It’s this question of whether they changed the timeline and we have these big clues on how the team does it," said Whedon. "Yo-Yo warned herself that they have to let Coulson die, and Robin has said that Talbot puts the pieces together."
Then there's the #Philinda situation. A relationship between the Agents May and Coulson has been something S.H.I.E.L.D. fans have been asking...nay, DEMANDING, for years. Despite various teases along the way, it has never moved past the meaningful, heartfelt-stares stage. Until last week, when Coulson and May locked lips for the first time — in the middle of a fight with killer aliens, no less. It was a genuinely landmark moment for the show, because these two characters are the parental figures in the S.H.I.E.L.D. family. All the proof you need of that is the look on Daisy's face when she saw them kissing.
But last week's episode ended with the team facing a terrible dilemma: Save Coulson or, save the world? Coulson is dying from the fact that the Ghost Rider's powers, which he temporarily possessed in Season 4, have burned away the Kree science-magic that revived him after Loki killed him in The Avengers. May is the ultimate soldier, but her feelings for Coulson may not allow her to make the judgement calll that benefits the greater good.
"May has shared her feelings with him, and he’s finally shared his with her, through romantic action, kissing her behind his shield. But now they have a decision to make -- he’s not doing well," Whedon said. "How that affects May’s...argument in that decision-making process will be interesting to watch. They’ve reached a new point in their relationship, and she’ll be invested in the decision that’s made."
While the producers obviously wouldn't reveal what happens in Friday's episode, producer Maurissa Tancharoen did say it will trigger all the feels for longtime fans. "You can always anticipate needing tissues on our show," she joked.
Coulson's situation has also been a major problem for his handpicked successor. Daisy has been leading the team as her mentor's condition has worsened, but the mantle of leadership has been a challenge for her. "It’s been an emotional experience for her because her father figure, Coulson, his life is in the balance," said Whedon. "Who helps make this decision, and where they fall tactically and emotionally, is sort of some of the stuff we’re going to explore."
"We didn't just try to focus on the romantic relationships in the season finale either," added Bell. "Some of the most painful stuff is actually between friends. Like Daisy and Yo-Yo, or Mack and Fitz being on opposite sides, when they were clearly best buds before."
Tancharoen added that the team being divided is a crisis they haven't truly explored before on the show, which only adds to the incredible stakes involved as the fifth season comes to an end. "I think we were interested in exploring having the team be in a place where there are cracks forming within the team, as they try to try and save the world from being cracked apart," she said. "The double crack!"
Be sure to check back with us immediately after watching the season finale of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Friday night for a Spoiler-iffic breakdown on the episode from the series EPs!