Agents of SHIELD season 5 key art

Surprise! ABC renews Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for 7th season; Season 6 set for summer

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Dec 18, 2018, 11:00 PM EST (Updated)

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't start its sixth season until next summer, but ABC has just announced that the show will be back for a seventh year on the air.

The news comes as a complete surprise because it's been heavily speculated the show's sixth season, which will consist of just 13 episodes, would be its last.

ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey didn't frame it that way when Season 6 was announced in May, saying, "We don’t plan it as a final season. The show has a loyal passionate base. It does incredibly well in delayed viewing," but the show has struggled with low ratings for years now.

It was widely believed that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was in danger of cancellation after the end of Season 5, but the announcement of a sixth set of shows was seen as a potential way to give the Marvel Television series a means to properly wrap itself up.

Despite its overall low ratings, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has still been Marvel's most watched show, easily beating out Netflix series like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, Freeform's Cloak & Dagger and other ABC entries like Agent Carter and Inhumans.

According to Deadline, the confirmation of Season 7 was likely due to the cast's contract options coming up. Although the premiere of Season 6 was pushed back to 2019 instead of this fall, parent company Disney/ABC would still have to renew the actors' contracts if it wanted to keep the series going.

Ordering a seventh season now — which will reportedly be 13 episodes as well — also allows both seasons to be filmed back to back and maximize cost savings.

Fans have applauded the uptick in quality during the show's last two seasons, so let's hope that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can continue along that path for what is now its next two years. Season 6 debuts next July on ABC.