Last night’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season three finale was full of plenty of twists and near misses as one of our S.H.I.E.L.D. agents was killed off in heroic fashion. And although it was hinted that the writers intended on treating reveal in the finale like a game of “hot potato of death”, the amount of twists they managed to throw in were still surprising as we saw multiple characters nearly die before the Quinjet even made its way to space. Of course, as we all know now, though, it was only one agent that actually died – Luke Mitchell‘s Lincoln Campbell. (Although he definitely wasn’t alone as Hive was by his side in the Quinjet.) So what led to the decision to kill off Lincoln? While talking to the folks over at Entertainment Weekly, showrunners Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon, along with Executive Producers Jeph Loeb and Jeff Bell, discussed why they ultimately killed off the character, stating that “he earned it.”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What came with the decision to have Lincoln be the Fallen Agent?

JEPH LOEB: It was the most heartbreaking decision.

JEFF BELL: He earned it.

MAURISSA TANCHAROEN: He did earn it. With Lincoln, like Daisy, he has always struggled to find a place to belong. He found a place in Afterlife and realized, “No, not so much.” Then he was floating on his own. Then right when we see that he is finally at home with S.H.I.E.L.D., he’s given himself over to them and he’s committed to the cause, and he also admits to himself that he can’t offer Daisy anything — I mean all these things that gain him points… BELL: After what she felt with Hive, and as Hive says to him, “She thought she loved you until she was with me, and she understood what it truly means to be connected and to belong,” which is true. As an Inhuman who has been swayed, these people truly feel better than they’ve ever felt.

JED WHEDON: It’s the addiction metaphor. He’s someone who has gone through it. The other thing that the decision was based on was that we don’t want to be a body count show, but it is a real world with real stakes. What we had not done is the heroic death and the full-sacrifice death. This was a conscious decision. We also think that there’s a poetry in the fact that the person doing it doesn’t consider himself a hero. That’s the beauty of the moment — it’s not just for her, but it is, and it’s not just for him, but it is.

During that final scene between Daisy (Chloe Bennet) and Lincoln, many fans were quick to note how it paralleled the final moments between Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) in Captain America: The First Avenger. In fact, as shown here, if you line them up, they are incredibly similar. Yet, it apparently wasn’t meant to mirror Peggy & Steve at all.

That final scene with Daisy and Lincoln on the comms seemed to mirror Captain America: The First Avenger with Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter. Was that on purpose?

WHEDON: No. [Laughs.]

BELL: No, actually someone else pointed that out recently and I went, “No, we suck.”

WHEDON: There’s something heartbreaking about not being able to be face-to-face with the person. TANCHAROEN: And having the comms be the lifeline to the other person.

WHEDON: Something heartbreaking about, “I can’t even see you right now. I’m losing my connection, and I’m being pulled away from you.” It’s the reason that Captain America did it and other movies do it, “I just want to see your face and I can’t.” It’s not like, this is your last goodbye; we didn’t even get one. So that’s the idea behind it.

As I mentioned above, while Lincoln’s death was the main focus of the final moments of the season finale, he wasn’t the only character to see their story come to an explosive end. Brett Dalton, who has been a part of the cast since season one, was killed off once and for all as the Quinjet he shared with Lincoln exploded in space. Still, just because Hive/Grant Ward died alongside Lincoln, it’s easy to understand why one may believe the writers are far from done at this point. After all, we saw Coulson kill Ward during the season three mid-season finale, only to have him be brought back as Hive shortly thereafter. When asked if this was definitely the end for Hive/Ward, the showrunners were quick to say that just because he’s dead, it doesn’t mean he can’t come back. Case in point? Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg).

Brett Dalton has certainly gone through the wringer over the past three seasons – with Hive being obliterated, are we finally losing him for good?

Tancharoen: In the Marvel universe, you can never say that you lose anyone for good; our entire series is centered around a man who was brought back from the dead. But we sustained Brett Dalton’s character as an antagonist for the past three seasons and that’s just a testament to how much we love and respect the actor as well as what he’s given to the character. But as with everything, we don’t want any story to ever lose steam; we don’t want any character’s arc to ever lose steam. We felt like we could give Grant Ward/Hive his glorious ending that he deserved, because Grant Ward essentially died halfway through Season 3, but we didn’t want to let go. [Laughs.]

Whedon: We definitely want to leave people wanting more – we don’t want them to lose steam and we don’t want anybody to get burnt out on people always turning up, but I think that by the end, you’ll wish that he was around, which is our goal.

Tancharoen: It’s never an easy decision to kill off any of our characters.

Whedon: Unless the actors were pricks, which in this case they aren’t, so that makes this very difficult. [Laughs.]

Much like they did with the season premiere, the writers opted to introduce another time-jump at the very end of the finale, skipping ahead six months to a very surprising story as Daisy is on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D. and someone else is apparently acting as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. – someone that, unfortunately, isn’t Mack. So why did they decide to include another time-jump this season? It was a fun way for them to tease what’s ahead in season four.

Why did you decide to cap the finale off with a time jump rather than waiting until the Season 4 premiere?

Whedon: We’ve done a time jump each new season and so we just thought “hey, let’s do it early!” We thought it was a fun way to get people excited and also to see the way the game will change without knowing totally what all of it means.

As the time-jump showcased, Daisy is now on the run and not operating under S.H.I.E.L.D., so with her gone, does that still mean the Inhumans will continue to play a large role heading into the fourth season? The showrunners assure us that we’ll still see plenty of Inhumans next season.

With Daisy out in the cold, will we see much of the Inhumans next year?

Whedon: Yeah, we love all those characters.

Tancharoen: We now have a fairly sizeable group to call upon if we need them.

Last but not least, perhaps the most important question from the interviews. With ABC, unfortunately, deciding to pass on Marvel’s Most Wanted, which was set to serve as a spin-off for S.H.I.E.L.D. favorites Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki) and Lance Hunter (Nick Blood), fans have been eagerly awaiting confirmation that we’d at least get to see them return to S.H.I.E.L.D. in season four. While they won’t confirm it, they do hint at the possibility.

Since “SHIELD” spinoff “Marvel’s Most Wanted” isn’t going ahead, will we see Bobbi and Lance back next season?

Tancharoen: We adore those characters and we’re always open to that possibility, but we can’t say much on that subject right now.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will return for its fourth season this September on ABC with a new time-slot.

Sources: Entertainment Weekly and Variety.