This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
At exactly the same time as Thanos was clicking his fingers to erase half of the universe’s inhabitants, some meta reflection of this righteous and clinically brutal act was happening in the offices of Disney and Marvel. The Marvel Cinematic Universe and its TV cousins was over-populated, and beginning to atrophy. Only a cull could ensure fresh growth and re-growth across the universe. While Thanos’ cull was – as far as we’re aware – wholly arbitrary, Disney was a little more Darwinian in the pursuit of its aims. Only the weakest, the worst, and the least-watched would taste oblivion. For a tense time near the turn of last summer, one of those shows marked for doom was ABC’s Agents of SHIELD, placed in the cross-hairs by an ABC that was yet again sceptical about the chances of a return on its investment. While Disney and Marvel weren’t the ones with their fingers on the trigger, the entertainment giants nevertheless made no move to intercede on their baby’s behalf. Thankfully, that real-life cliffhanger was resolved to the satisfaction of discerning Marvellites everywhere, with two more seasons of Agents of SHIELD now having been confirmed for 2019 and 2020.
The show itself may have survived the great cull of 2018, but what effects will the purple one’s glove-based genocide have upon its characters?
It’s possible that the answer to that last question is a resounding ‘none at all’, especially given that Agents of SHIELD‘s sixth season has been pushed back in the schedules to allow Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame first dibs on narrative causality. This makes it likely that Endgame will serve as a big, blockbuster-shaped reset button for the franchise. Some variety of reset is, of course, inevitable. Only those who arrived at Infinity War having never read a comic-book, watched a superhero movie, or seen any number of serialized sci-fi adventures from the 1960s (or a child, for whom the sight of their favorite superheroes dissolving before their very eyes might have understandably traumatized them) could’ve feared for the lives of the majority of those heroes they watched crumble before their very eyes like so much burnt toast in a breeze.
It seems patently obvious – and it seemed so even before Samuel L. Jackson found himself cut off mid-profanity in the post-credits’ sting – that the status quo, or some close approximation of it, will be returned to the MCU by Endgame‘s end, whether by means of time-travel or the application of a freshly-prepared counter-gauntlet. We wouldn’t, and we really couldn’t, have it any other way. While it’s true that today’s big-screen superhero flicks can be surprisingly gritty in tone and content, it’s also true to say that “everybody dies” and “the world is screwed” are two ethoses that aren’t exactly conducive to selling toys. Ergo, Spider-Man, the close pals of Ant-Man and Rocket, plus a few zillion billion others, will all be returning to a fictional reality near you in 2019.
That leaves us with the possibility of Agents of SHIELD season 6 being told in flashback; set between the events of Infinity War and whatever resolution awaits in Avengers: Endgame. It’s a scenario that’s already been hinted at by Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, albeit long before Agents Of SHIELD had been renewed for seasons six and seven. The duo told fans at WonderCon that they were looking forward to the “new playground” that Infinity War might open up for them.
If the show is going to spend its next season exploring the shocked and barren world left behind in the wake of Thanos’ universal quintodecimation, then it’s hard not to feel a galaxy-sized dose of sympathy for SHIELD’s new director, the quietly dependable Alphonso ‘Mack’ Mackenzie. Ascending to the top spot under these conditions would be tantamount to drinking from the poisoned chalice during a baptism of fire while skating on thin ice. It would be easier to succeed Theresa May as Prime Minister.
A few scenarios Mack might face suggest themselves. Perhaps in this new, half-empty world a disproportionate number of superheroes have been wiped out relative to the general population, and relative to the resident baddie population, and as a consequence Mac has to seek out and assemble new heroes, or find thoroughly un-super ways of countering the threats posed by the suddenly-resurgent forces of the enhanced and the extra-terrestrial. Or what if a lot of bad people are using “the snap” as a smokescreen to disappear, feigning death all the better to strike from the shadows? What if Mack is the only member of the original team not winked out by Thanos’ gauntlet? Maybe this new world will have a Leftovers-like vibe, a pervading and pervasive feeling of gloom and grief that renders even the very goodliest of the good too existentially bereft and fatalistically-minded to ply their trade. Maybe the good have given up and thrown their lot in with the bad. Under those circumstances, SHIELD might have to prevent the global mood of hopelessness and ennui from being manipulated by some maniacal cult leader with nihilistic destruction on their mind; perhaps a powerful mutant announcing himself to the world as some evil Space-Jesus, or something equally bonkers and post-apocalyptic.
What about Coulson? He already sacrificed himself to save the world at the end of season five. Once he discovers that half of that world got wiped out anyway it might piss him off to the point where he decides to come back from the twin brinks of death and retirement to kick some ass. What, though, if he re-joins the fray as an accomplice to the aforementioned evil Space-Jesus? Or even takes on the mantle of an arch-baddie himself? Perhaps a combination of malfunctioning alien DNA and the reality of surviving the cull when he’d already settled on death could serve to tip him over the edge.
And what of Fitz: the living version of Fitz that’s still cryogenically asleep inside a pod that’s crawling through space towards a lost future? It’s inevitable that season six will dedicate at least a portion of its run-time to retrieving the plucky-but-unlucky Scotsman, but what if they track it down only to find it filled with nothing but dust? Or what if it’s empty because Fitz has been removed by person or persons unknown, and his rescuers leave, assuming he’s been a victim of Thanos? Ah, the possibilities. Maybe, maybe, maybe…
read more – Avengers: Endgame Trailer Breakdown and Analysis As entertaining as a season of SHIELD set in the lost world between movies would undoubtedly be, with all its potential for darkness and big shocks, that pesky reset button would render the whole thing as inconsequential as saying it was all a dream. It’s also worth noting that Agents of SHIELD has already played the ‘what-if’ game in season four, when its characters were trapped inside the Framework, an artificial environment that at least threatened real-world consequences for the characters. There are only so many times you can go back down the rabbit hole before the journey starts to lose its appeal: unless, you know, you’re an actual rabbit.
About the only way they could make a flashback season work would be if some specific set of circumstances, only made possible by the gauntlet’s effects, led to some harrowing revelation or discovery – Coulson is Hydra, the president is a reptilian shape-shifter, Ward is still alive etc – that is then ‘forgotten’ when reality resets itself. We, the audience, would then know that some or all of our favorite characters were in jepoardy, but the characters themselves wouldn’t, creating a beautiful web of tension. So, I’m ready to assert two things: one, that the movie universe will be restored to its original factory settings, and, two, Agents of SHIELD won’t set its upcoming season in that pre-reset, between-movie reality, because it would render everything that happened completely pointless (notwithstanding the outline, em, outlined in the previous paragraph). Which begs a further question: if a reset is too much of a cop-out/contrivance for the small-screen, then why should it be any different for the big-screen? Why would Marvel pump billions of dollars into the intergalactic equivalent of the infamous Dallas shower fake-out?
read more: Complete Schedule of Upcoming Marvel MCU Movies I don’t believe it would. Reset would be a lousy way to pay-off not just the cumulative build-up of two movies and six hours (three and eight, if you count Captain Marvel), with a year of anticipation and speculation in between, but it would squander every tease of Thanos since he first jutted his square-jaw into the MCU. Why bother building a vast machine to harness the molten expectation of billions if all you’re going to do with the resultant energy is release it silently and inconsequentially into the atmosphere like air from a birthday balloon? No, something is afoot. Something big.
While our big-screen heroes will undoubtedly triumph against the titan, it won’t be without cost; otherwise, what’s the point? Maybe the reset will only be partial. Maybe a few of our big league heroes – Captain America among them – will perish during the big showdown with Thanos. Maybe the reset will precipitate some larger disaster that, perversely, Thanos’ psychopathically misguided cleansing would’ve bypassed. Maybe all of the people who were originally winked out of existence will retain some harrowing feeling or memory of oblivion when they return to this plane of reality, a malevolent stain upon their souls that propels them towards darkness? In the world after Thanos, Agents of SHIELD will get its whole new playground. Theirs is a fate, and a universe, whose terrors and delights we can only imagine, and dread. Here’s to the future. (And maybe the past) Good luck, Mack. You’re going to need it.