SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for recent episodes of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
When "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." saw the exit of agents Bobbi "Mockingbird" Morse and Lance Hunter -- as well as the actors who play them, Adrianne Palicki and Nick Blood -- in last week's episode "Parting Shot," the result was one of the series' most emotionally poignant moments to date, with nary a dry eye in the house (or among the TV audience) as the team sent off their colleagues with the touching "spy's goodbye," where they clandestinely assembled to in a bar to silently bid Bobbie and Hunter adieu.
And members of the cast and creative team were still feeling the combined high and low mood as they visited WonderCon in Los Angeles on Saturday, recalling the real emotions that fueled the scene and looking forward to the possibility of seeing the two characters headlining their own planned series, "Marvel's Most Wanted," on ABC next fall.
"I've got to say, we all read that last scene for the first time and we were kind of a mess," series lead Clark Gregg said. "Suddenly saying goodbye to these two amazing people, and amazing actors. It kind of went up another notch of grief because suddenly people you care about are leaving your family, in a real way. Then I look over and I see what Henry [Simmons] is doing and then I'm just, 'They've got to bring in a mop,' essentially."
"For me, it was the most personal scene I've shot on this show," said Simmons, whose character, Mack, was shown with eyes brimming with tears in the scene. "Saying goodbye, it wasn't just my character, that was my… I use that moment for me personally to tell Adrianne and Nick how much I love them and how much I'm going to miss them."
"Yeah, it was like the most honest moment ever on the show," Gregg agreed. "It was amazing."
Marvel Studio's Head of Television Jeph Loeb said it was a moment that had been in the making for well over a year, after the show's second wave of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents -- Bobbi, Hunter and Mack -- had all been successfully introduced and integrated into the series, and warmly embraced by the viewers. But the cast of characters got a little crowded.
"Suddenly, our little six-unit family now became a family of ten, which opens up the door for more stories, and that's always what it's about: how do we tell more stories?'" Loeb said. "What we started talking about was 'OK, how do we tell stories that are really completely different? That don't have anything to do with S.H.I.E.L.D.?' And that led towards a conversation about Bobbi and Hunter leaving not just S.H.I.E.L.D., but leaving the show."
"There was an opportunity for us to be able to tell a different kind of show, and Jeff Bell and Paul Zbyszewski were the right people to tell that story. We were looking to really not do ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.: New Jersey,'" Loeb explained. "We were looking to really break the mold and start a new direction. The character of Mockingbird has a long legacy in the Marvel Universe. We were very lucky in that almost immediately the fans and the viewers and ABC all very much took to Adrianne and Nick's performances as Lance and Bobbi, and then it was something different."
The episode was penned by Zbyszewski, who along with "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." EP Jeff Bell is executive producing the pilot for the show's spinoff, "Marvel's Most Wanted." "Paul Z pitched the idea of what that last scene was going to be like in the writers' room," Loeb said. "And in the end, the emotions that you were feeling are real because the cast on this show is very much a family and looks after each other, and comes in when they don't have to, and sees each other socially, and hangs out with each other…It wasn't like we said to everybody at the beginning of the season, ‘Oh by the way, this is what's going to happen…'"
But the exit storyline had also been gently and subtly seeded into the series' main narrative as well. Bell was pleased that the characters' departure was well-timed to fit seamlessly into the show's current exploration of the proliferation of super-powers, via the Inhumans, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and what -- if anything should be done about it.
"Their exit has a lot to do with actually the rise of power people," Bell said. "I think you felt their frustration -- Hunter's in particular -- at ‘This isn't fair. We worked so hard, we've trained so hard, and suddenly, [Daisy Johnson] can do that [pantomimes projecting Daisy's quake seismic powers] and it hurts. I know that emotionally that was an aspect of that growing frustration. So you felt a doubt, I would hope, over a handful of episodes."
"When last week's episode aired, it brought all that stuff to sort of completion with, ‘Maybe this is the universe telling us to step back from that,'" Bell added, "So without making it a giant thing, we did try and lay in those little breadcrumbs to lead to it."
That didn't make it any easier, though, for the cast to say their real goodbyes. "I mean, we're so proud of them and we're really excited for them, but for us, it was obviously a huge loss," Elizabeth Henstridge. "They really just fit in seamlessly -- it's crazy that we even had a show without them, in a way. And it's a testament to them and to their acting, and to the characters that were so beautifully written that they can stand on their own in their own series. I can't wait to see it."
"But just reading that scene -- Paul Z was reading the stage directions as we were doing the read-through, and he couldn't get through the stage directions," Henstridge revealed. "He cried and then had to just skip to the end of the stage direction. Then, obviously by that point, I was completely gone, Adrianne was gone -- I couldn't look at her. Nick had tears in his eyes." A second read right before shooting turned out equally weepy, she added.
"We are a family and you spend so long with each other, so many hours, and you go through so much," Henstridge said. "It's a vulnerable position to be in, and we support each other, and that's something that is unique in this business – and it's a shame that it is – but we feel very lucky to have gotten that bond. So yeah, that was a tough day at the office."
"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." airs at 9 tonight on ABC.