This article contains spoilers for Agents of SHIELD.
No matter what varied opinions arise about each character’s ultimate fate at the end of the Agents of SHIELD series finale, many fans likely finished their viewing with a few questions lingering in their minds. Although the end result is one of satisfaction and bittersweet tears for the conclusion of this seven year journey, the intricacy of the time travel twists and turns may have melted a few brains along the way. Between the Chronicom defeat and the “one year later” epilogue, there’s plenty of room for interpretation and speculation.
Let’s first take a look at how Fitz used time travel to undo the changes to history brought about throughout Agents of SHIELD season 7. With the Lighthouse brought down by Garrett’s bombs and every other SHIELD outpost destroyed from space, the Chronicom victory seemed assured, so how was Sybil’s plan completely erased? Well, the short answer is… it wasn’t! According to Fitz, the team has been dealing with parallel worlds or, more accurately, divergent timelines this whole time.
Fitz’s plan appeared to hinge upon waiting until the correct moment to be called forth from his hiding place to bring the team back to the point at which the timelines diverged, leaving the Chronicoms behind to rule the Earth in an alternate 1983 and beyond, but of course Coulson was reluctant to leave the enemy in charge of any version of Earth. Interestingly, Fitz’s hideaway was a chamber placed at the same location and time that started this whole adventure: the Temple of the Forgotten from season six.
How Fitz was able to follow the Chronicom jumps through the decades and guide the Zephyr from there with only Enoch’s stolen time stream to assist him is anyone’s guess; Agents of SHIELD left that purposely vague. What’s more important to understand, though, is that Fitz, Simmons, and Enoch had years to plan the rescue at the end of season six and the subsequent journey to the past. That’s the beauty of time travel that few other shows have explored: if you can return only moments after you left, it doesn’t matter how much intervening time passes.
That fact also explains how Fitz and Simmons not only had time to modify the Zephyr and build LMD Coulson, but also to conceive a child together and allow her to grow to preschool age. The couple spent years in the star system after which they named their daughter, perfecting the plan which included installing the brain implant known as Diana that would cause Simmons to forget the existence of Alya and the whereabouts of her and Fitz.
The quantum bridge was cleverly scattered throughout the decades by Enoch, who viewers will recall was left behind in 1938 and was not reunited with SHIELD until the 1970s, leaving him plenty of time to orchestrate things. Each of the pieces was given to an agent to bring to Koenig’s New York bar at such time when the many bases were in disarray and the signal was given. Simmons may have been even more likely to put the device together through reflex since the rest of her higher-level thinking was addled, leaving no barrier to her muscle memory.
Poor Piper and Flint had no idea the adventure they missed by staying behind to guard the chamber containing Fitz and Alya. For them, mere moments passed between fleeing the temple, promising to keep Fitz safe, and seeing the couple return to retrieve their daughter from the room around back. Once Daisy took care of Nathaniel and Sybil while May and Kora turned the Hunters into friends with amplified empathy, a new future could proceed from that point forward with preceding events exactly as they remembered them in this original branch of the timeline.
Only Deke is left to experience the alternate history which included all of the changes wrought on SHIELD and the world at large. We can only guess whether his music career took precedence over his second chance at leading the broken organization, but he’s already done both before. Meanwhile, Mack is still the director in this timeline, and he’s looking very Fury-like in his long coat aboard the helicarrier. With Yoyo as his top agent, it appears that she and Piper will have plenty of adventures in store, especially with an LMD Davis along for the ride.
Elsewhere, the presence of Daisy, Sousa, and Kora aboard Zephyr 3 in space indicates that SHIELD is going strong and perhaps rebuilding in the same manner as Daisy is rebuilding her relationship with her sister or building a new one with Sousa. Melinda May, on the other hand, might be a bit out of place as the head of the Coulson Academy, but she’s helping the next generation of agents, including the Inhuman Flint, rise through the ranks.
As for Coulson, it feels right not to know exactly what he might get up to. He’s still trying to figure himself out, and part of that process may someday bring him back to a life alongside May; Agents of SHIELD didn’t rule that out. But the series had to come full circle with more than just Fitz’s time loop, and it was therefore incredibly appropriate and almost nostalgic to see Phil don his original aviator sunglasses and drive away in a brand new, modified version of Lola. It’s as if to say nothing has changed even though everything is different, and one thing’s for sure: none of us will ever be the same.