Longtime Marvel TV fans were shocked when it was announced two weeks ago in SDCC that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would be ending after its seventh season next year. Just yesterday, the cast and crew took to social media to celebrate and lament the show’s last day of filming ever. The final season isn’t slated to premiere until next year but here were are already preparing one of our many goodbyes to the show.

It’s been a long for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Debuting off the back of the original Avengers film, the show had a lot of promise early on. This was our opportunity to continue to explore the Cinematic Universe that the movies had set up, on the small screen for the first time. But that original season lost a lot of fans quickly.

I was one of the few people that actually supported and enjoyed the series in its original days. It wasn’t perfect by any means but there was a lot of fun to be had in this sci-fi world. There were only a few loose ties to the comics which wasn’t great, although it was clear that the writers were just finding their feet. Of course, there was a lot of potential too. While the original team doesn’t reflect the current one too much, there was a lot of promise within them. It was clear that the showrunners wanted to create an initial set of characters that would allow for any plot to move forward, each with their own unique role.

Yet as the series evolved so too did the characters in completely unexpected ways. The series took risks, not just with major plots but with the people themselves. They were never afraid to completely change the status quo, something you still don’t see too often on TV these days. Those early days were a little rough therefore but looking back they really managed to set up something special, underneath the flare, gimmicks, and cameos. At times it did feel like the showrunners were a slave to the movies, playing off of any story arcs that were started on the big screen. But as many fans will know, this also allowed for the turning point of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Captain America: Winter Soldier, is by far one of the best films in the MCU and managed to catapult the ABC show onto the next level. The infiltration of Hydra into the team gave the show some genuine stakes, especially with Ward being revealed to be a member of the Nazi group. This opened the way for further comic book properties to join the team, as the writers demonstrated their ability to weave wonderful stories with the Marvel world. The introduction of the Inhumans to the show was the first time we really saw that Marvel was allowing the team to move into new territory, writing their own history rather than relying on the storytelling of others.

By this point, the flood gates had opened. Amazing villains were starting to be introduced and the show actually started to resemble something from a comic book. LMDs, alternate realities, going to space, Ghost Rider, the Patriot. All of these elements allowed for the MCU to become fleshed out further and demonstrated that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had actually become one of the best sci-fi TV shows overnight. This was a huge change for a series that was originally mocked for its lack of direction and villain of the week formula. The ratings started to improve as the success of the program started to spread. Before we knew it, it wasn’t a secret anymore that the world loved the crew behind this ABC project.

The cast continued to deliver some truly emotional and brilliant performances and the writing never seemed to drop in quality. It’s rare to find a show that manages to continue its momentum all the way through a season without deviating in tone or sacrificing some of what makes the final product successful. Even the CGI budget clearly improved as time went along, with the series becoming even more fantastical to look at.

We’re now at a point in time where the end of this beloved show is looming in the distance. It’s been a hell of a roller coaster and I’m glad I am one of the people who stuck with the show for so long. It’s incredible to think about how much has been achieved after the initial speculation of what this could be about. It defied expectations and managed to show the world that the mold is made to be broken. It’s unpredictable, it’s well crafted and it has genuinely compelling characters, which is a rare set of traits for any series.

What’s so refreshing about the ending, however, is that there’s time for the showrunners to prepare. They can tell the story they wish to craft on their own terms. We’ve seen other Marvel programs get the rug pulled out from under them just as they were exploring something new. Agent Carter and the Netflix heroes are prime examples of that. But the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. deserve better than that. They deserve to have an actual conclusion to this long-running saga.

It’s clear that this can’t be replicated again. And all things must come to an end. But it’s been a great run and I’m excited to see what could happen in the future! While it’s true that the series will end, I wouldn’t be too surprised if the characters live on in some way. I doubt fans would be against finally having Quake join the heroes on the big screen for instance, or we could finally see a return of the secret organization to the movie world.

To the showrunners, the writing team, the cast, and the crew. To the producers, directors, extras and catering staff. To everyone who worked on this fantastic show, thank you. You’ve taken it a long way and your dedication shines through. You’ve achieved something that many thoughts were not possible when the series first hit the airwaves. It may never be replicated again but that’s the point. If there’s one thing to learn from this, it’s that unpredictability and bold choices create success. If a show wants to follow this mold, don’t. A show needs to be just as wild and fun and full of surprises. That’s the point. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. lived and died on its own terms and it’s difficult not to salute that!