By Ani Bundel

It was a little heartbreaking when the news came down that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is finally drawing to a close. The little show that could has kept on keepin’ on since 2013. This despite ratings that crashed through the floor early on. It survived despite a refusal by the movie division of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to acknowledge them. And it was renewed season after season even with the difficulty of trying to tell prestige-TV-style, eight-episode stories in a 22-episode broadcast format. But finally, it’s time to say goodbye. The news hung heavy over the S.H.I.E.L.D. panel in Hall H on Thursday afternoon.

But for those running the panel, it as obvious this news was not a surprise, and in fact, the entire event was predicated around the show’s announced ending. In short, moderator and head of Marvel TV Jeph Loeb was here to do “Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. cast, this is your life.”

The panel was comprehensive. From one end there were the actors, Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet, Elizabeth Henstridge, Iain De Caestecker, Henry Simmons, Natalia Cordova-Buckley, and Jeff Ward. On the other, there were the producers Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon, and Jeff Bell. And Loeb was ready to tug at the heartstrings with sizzle reel after sizzle reel of S.H.I.E.L.D. highlights from Season 1 to Season 5. (There was a little bit of a Season 6 teaser at the very end, but with the season finale coming in the next weeks, we won’t talk about that.)

Bennet marveled at the footage from early seasons when the show was still finding its feet: “It feels like we shot that 900 years ago but also yesterday.”

Everyone on the S.H.I.E.L.D. panel reminisced about their time from when the show was new, or in the case of Simmons and Ward, when they first joined the program in their respective seasons.

Gregg stated, “I am very moved about the end of this journey.”

And there was high praise for those behind the scenes as well. Ming-Na Wen noted, “The people behind the cameras also contribute so much, it blows my mind.”

The actors were dealing with a lot emotionally, as it was revealed they had just had their final table read for the last episode of next season. But Gregg still found time to crack jokes to lighten the mood: “The dragons look amazing.” Somewhere, Game of Thrones producers are probably not amused.

But the real emotional trip was for the fans in the audience, who cheered at every clip of heroics, sighed sadly at every tragedy and applauded every actor on cue. #SHIELDfam was trending on Twitter long before the panel concluded. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has lasted far longer than anyone expected, even outlasting the far more prestigious Marvel TV offerings on Netflix. It will be hard for fans to say goodbye when the final season comes.

But until then, there’s still the Season 6 finale to go. The current season ends with a double episode on Friday, August 2, 2019, on ABC.

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