The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are back! During the last season, the team traveled to a dystopian future on the fragments of a destroyed Earth, but they were able to return to the present and prevent the catastrophe. Agent Coulson is dead; the Tahiti treatment that brought him back to life finally wore out, and he spent his last few days on a tropical island with Agent May. Fitz had not traveled to the future with the team and instead waited out the years in suspended animation on a spaceship with the mysterious alien Enoch. Enoch died in the future, and Fitz died when they returned to Earth—but due to the magic of time travel, the team is back in a time where Fitz and Enoch are not dead yet, and can be rescued from space before their future deaths happen. And of course the team has new threats to face, including a foe who looks exactly like…Coulson!?!
[Only Agents who are cleared to observe SPOILERS should proceed beyond this point! And not just S.H.I.E.L.D. spoilers, but Avengers: Endgame spoilers. You have been warned!]
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returned for a sixth season on Friday—and, surprisingly, a seventh season has been ordered as well. So, instead of the show being over, as many had expected, fans have twenty-six new episodes to look forward to. Even though live viewing ratings were never high, the show had a strong DVR/digital following, and developed a solid core of fans that has kept the Disney corporation interested in the property.
Moreover, with a new streaming service being debuted later this year, Disney is looking for content to bring in subscribers, and both Marvel and Star Wars properties are seen as major draws. That streaming service, Disney+, will also include shows featuring Loki, Winter Soldier and the Falcon, Scarlet Witch and Vision, and a “What If?” show (based on a popular comic book series) that looks at alternate versions of favorite Marvel characters.
The Post-Endgame Marvel Cinematic Universe
Ever since Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame turned the Marvel Cinematic Universe on its head, fans have wanted to know what the future will hold. After all, those movies introduced not only a cosmic scope to adventures in the MCU, but also the idea of time travel and parallel or alternate timelines and universes. These ideas were also featured in the previous season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which was tightly tied into the movie continuity introduced in Infinity War. Endgame also gave us the first movie acknowledgement of the existence of the Marvel TV shows when Jarvis from Agent Carter (James D’Arcy) appeared during one of the time travel missions.
Our first major hints about the new MCU came from the trailer for the upcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home. In it, we glimpse the “post-Snap” world, and a Peter Parker grieving the loss of his mentor, Tony Stark. Peter goes on an overseas school trip, only to encounter the mysterious Nick Fury, who has a mission for him—and this mission is full of references to alternate realities. It looks like, rather than going back to the old status quo, the MCU will be leaning into the new ideas introduced in Endgame. There was anticipation that this new season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would give us even further clues to the future MCU. So, what did we learn from the premiere?
Nothing. Not a darn thing. It turns out the team that produces the TV show decided not to tie the show into the new continuity presented in Endgame. Perhaps it was because the secrets of the movie were so closely held, and the TV showrunners did not have “need to know” access. Or perhaps uncertainty about when the show would air made the possibility of tying it into the movie too complicated. Or perhaps the TV team felt that incorporating the complexities of the post-Snap world into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would have simply overwhelmed any story they wanted to tell. Whatever the reasons, the show ignores the events of Endgame, and instead of being set in the post-Snap world, continues on its course as if no major event had occurred. After I got over my disappointment, though, I realized that placing the new season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. into the post-Snap world would have turned it into an entirely different show. Perhaps someday the show will address and explain this discrepancy as some sort of ripple in the streams of time, or branching of universes. In the meantime, we are left to accept that the show is now a stand-alone story, standing apart from the continuity of the greater MCU.
The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Show Going Forward
The core cast of Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, Natalia Cordova-Buckley, and Henry Simmons are all back for the new season. Surprisingly, even though the character of Agent Coulson died before the start of the season, Clark Gregg has also returned. Jeff Ward, who joined the team on their journey to the future, has also joined the regular cast, and will hopefully bring the same touch of comedy to the proceedings as he did during the last season. Recurring characters include Joel Stoffer, returning as the mysterious alien Enoch, with Maximilian Osinski and Briana Venskus back as the always dependable Agents Davis and Piper. New characters will include Izel, an intergalactic mercenary, played by Karolina Wydra; Malachi, an alien assassin, played by Christopher James Baker; and Dr. Marcus Benson, a scientist who aids S.H.I.E.L.D., played by Barry Shabaka Henley.
Season Six will take place over thirteen episodes, and as mentioned above, it looked like that would wrap up the series. But while the season was being planned, the production team found out that there would be another short Season Seven. Reportedly, this allowed the writers to end Season Six with a cliffhanger, and have some plot threads continue on into Season Seven. The air dates for Season Seven have yet to be determined.
Daisy Johnson has a new look on the show, with a more colorful uniform and a new hairstyle. This look is influenced by the character’s appearance in the new Marvel Rising cartoon show, where Quake, voiced by Chloe Bennet, serves as a mentor for a group of young superheroes. The other characters look pretty much like they did before, with the exception of Simmons, who now has bangs, and Clark Gregg, who now looks like a cranky member of a motorcycle gang.
The Premiere Episode (601): “Missing Pieces”
The episode starts with a long recap of the previous season that made me realize that there was a lot of story packed into those episodes. In a format fans are now well familiar with, the show cuts back and forth between two storylines, one following events in space and one following events on Earth. That helps build narrative tension, but makes for a confusing recap, so for the sake of clarity, I will address each of the storylines separately.
In space, we see Enoch and popsicle Fitz on their spaceship, which is immediately attacked and blown up. That didn’t happen in the old timeline! And we get a title card that says, “One Year Later.” Piper, Davis, Daisy, and Simmons have been searching for Fitz on the Zephyr, the newly space-capable S.H.I.E.L.D. aircraft. They have discovered that Fitz’s spaceship was attacked, and are going from planet to planet, questioning locals. Daisy has been using force quite a bit, and has developed something of a reputation—something I think may come back to bite her and the team. The space agents are getting cranky after chasing leads without success for a year. They locate Fitz’s cryo-chamber, and a despondent Simmons climbs in, desperate for any connection to her lost love. She sees a nameplate that mentions a very distant planet, and wants to check it out, but the rest of the team wants to go back to Earth to regroup, resupply, and visit loved ones. Their argument is interrupted by the arrival of a hostile warship, which attacks, and they need to escape to hyperspace. Simmons programs the coordinates, and to the dismay of her fellow team members, they find themselves jumping to the planet she wanted to visit instead of heading home.
Back home on Earth, we see Mack fully absorbed with his new duties as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.. It is an expanding organization, full of new members, and apparently operating openly again. Mack looks confident in public, but in private watches holograms of Coulson for advice. S.H.I.E.L.D. is tracking mysterious energy events around the world, and have sent teams out to investigate them. At an outdoor basketball game where one of these events occurs, a large, grouchy man emerges from a concrete block wall. Another attempts to emerge, but gets stuck partway. May arrives on a quinjet only to be shot down by the grouchy man’s big raygun.
Back at HQ, we are introduced to two new Agents, whose names I didn’t catch, but who I will refer to here as “Hunk” and “the Kid.” Hunk is a handsome and capable leading-man type, while the Kid is clean-cut, well-dressed, and enthusiastic. These two notice that the mysterious events are occurring along paths representing ley lines, which have long been speculated about by fans of the occult. The others are skeptical, but willing to keep an open mind. We also find out the stress and strains of their adventures have driven Mack and Yo-Yo apart; Yo-Yo has already bounced back, however, and has secretly started a relationship with Hunk.
Mack has been trying to rebuild the science side of S.H.I.E.L.D., and May brings someone to his favorite bar for an interview: a science professor named Dr. Benson, who is older, despondent at the loss of his partner, and drinks too much. He reluctantly jumps onboard only after hearing they have the capability to travel in space. Meanwhile, the grouchy man with a raygun meets up with his equally grouchy team, and they head out to where “Sarge,” the leader of this scurvy bunch, will appear.
Back at S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, Benson takes on his first job, checking out the guy embedded in the chunk of wall. The guy comes back to life, mutters some prophecies about not being able to stop what’s coming, drops a device and then dies again. The device shows coordinates and a countdown clock, and Mack deploys a team in S.H.I.E.L.D. vehicles to a museum in Indiana. The scurvy bunch is already there, clashes with the S.H.I.E.L.D. team, sets off explosives, and the countdown clock hits zero. A giant military-looking truck emerges from the smoke and smashes the S.H.I.E.L.D. vehicles. The leader of the scurvy bunch, Sarge, emerges, and the dazed Agents realize he looks just like Coulson. He snarls, guns down the Kid, gathers his team and escapes. (Which is a shame, because I was starting to like the Kid.)
In the stinger, we see someone injecting himself with drugs, who then turns around to reveal strangely glowing eyes. It is Fitz, who obviously hasn’t been having a good time since his spaceship went kaboom.
The season premiere was action-packed and fun to watch. Once I realized that it wasn’t going to deal with the Snap and its consequences, and accepted that fact, I found it quite enjoyable. I had forgotten just how exciting and fast-paced Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has become during the past few seasons. I especially enjoyed the adventures in space, and hope we see a lot more of that going forward. And the mystery around the guy who looks like Coulson is certainly intriguing…
And now it’s your turn to comment: How did you like the episode? What were your favorite moments, be they quips or fight scenes? How do you feel about the directions the characters are taking? Were you satisfied with the show being divorced from the movie continuity?
As we’ve done in the past, this post will kick off a discussion thread that I will shepherd as the season unfolds, adding new comments every time another episode airs. If you want to follow the discussion, the best way to do it is to use your Tor.com user account. If you don’t have one, it’s easy to sign up. Then you will be able to follow the thread using the “My Conversations” feature, which makes it a lot easier to participate in discussions on the website. Feel free to come back each week and discuss the latest episodes, or share any S.H.I.E.L.D. news you might hear. In the words of the late Stan Lee, “Don’t yield, back S.H.I.E.L.D.!”
Alan Brown has been a fan of S.H.I.E.L.D. from its comic book beginning over fifty years ago. He still remembers reading that very first adventure in Strange Tales #135.