(WARNING: The following story contains MAJOR spoilers for the two-part series finale of ABC’s “Agents of SHIELD” on Wednesday.)
It may have taken until midway through the show’s series finale, but Fitz finally showed up in “Agents of SHIELD’s” final season and put an end to the season-long mystery of just where the other half of FitzSimmons while the rest of the team was hopping through time.
“We knew we were gonna have a challenge with building a story for Fitz this season,” co-showrunner Jed Whedon told TheWrap. Because of scheduling conflicts, Iain De Caestecker had very limited availability for the final season, which led the Marvel TV series to work in a story that saw Fitz stay behind, in an unknown location, while the SHIELD team was trying to prevent the Chronicoms from messing up the timeline (spoiler: they were not very successful).
But since “Agents of SHIELD” exists in the same Marvel Cinematic Universe as Iron Man, Captain America and the rest of the Avengers, the show found a creative way to both explain Fitz’s absence while at the same time, not upend the last 12 years of continuity. The timeline viewers saw Coulson, Daisy and company travel through (with a very still much alive Daniel Sousa) all season was a different reality than the one MCU fans have been watching for years. In layman’s terms: all the changes to the timeline, from Project Insight being some 30 years ahead of schedule, to John Garrett getting superpowers, created a branch reality.
If that feels familiar, it’s because it’s exactly how the MCU rules of time travel were explained by the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in “Avengers: Endgame.” Changing the past doesn’t change your former present, it only creates a new reality.
“When we first started talking about it, it was before ‘Endgame’ had been released,” Whedon explained. “We knew that there were certain things we could not do… It’s one universe and we tried to be true to it.” He added they didn’t want it to seem like they were doing the same story as “Endgame,” which centered on the Avengers try to un-do a present-day calamity.
“We didn’t want to play the same game that they were going to play,” he added.
Meanwhile, Fitz stayed behind in the “prime” universe, knowing he would eventually use the Quantum Realm to travel to this new reality at a very specific point, so he could take them back to their universe and save the day from the attacking Chronicoms (which basically saw everyone travel back to the Season 6 finale). The finale revealed that he and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) had figured out how to beat the Chronicoms, even if it took them years (and one kid) to study the timestream and figure out how to get to the one future where they win (it involved Kora, Daisy’s sister who is long dead in the “prime” universe).
But part of the plan meant keeping the team, including Simmons, in the dark about the full scheme. That allowed for yet another tearful reunion between the two star-crossed lovers, who finally get their happy ending. “We put enough obstacles in their way,” Whedon said. Added Co-showrunner Maurissa Tancharoen: “They deserved their happy ending.”
The show fast-forwarded one year later to show how the team had all gone their separate ways, even if many of them remained with SHIELD (Mac sports a very Nick Fury-esque trench coat). The creators said they wanted the finale to mirror the feelings the people working on the show were going through. “Find a way where everyone’s still gets their own little happy ending, but separate,” executive producer Jeffrey Bell said.
Though they didn’t expect the fact that last scene saw everyone reunite virtually (though in this case via holograms) would hit a little too close to home, given the current state of the world amid the coronavirus pandemic. “We had no idea that we would be predicting what is actually our predicament as people right now,” Tancharoen said.