This article contains spoilers for Agents of SHIELD season 6 episode 1 and Avengers: Endgame. We have a spoiler-free review of the season premiere here.
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is back at a time where the Marvel Cinematic Universe couldn’t be hotter. We just came off Avengers: Endgame and find ourselves in a vastly different MCU than where the season 5 finale left us last year. You might think telling stories during and after Thanos’s snap and after Tony Stark’s sacrifice would make for some truly great Marvel story fodder. But not so fast, True Believer.
The season 5 finale of Agents of SHIELD did briefly address Thanos and his armada invading earth. Of course, Coulson, Quake, and the rest were too busy solving their own chronal problems to really focus on Thanos and his battle with the Avengers, but at least the fine folks at Marvel TV found time to mention the universe altering events of Avengers: Infinity War. However, the first episode of Agents of SHIELD season 6 doesn’t really clarify where we are in terms of the season’s relation to the conclusion of Avengers: Endgame.
The season premiere simply says it takes place one year after the events of the season 5 finale, so that presumably means it is right in the midst of the loss of half of the world population. Don’t forget, Avengers: Endgame has a five year time jump early on, so the effects of Thanos’ snap linger for an extended period of time. We have to assume that SHIELD’s new adventure is thus set in the Leftovers-esque world that Thanos left in his wake, but there is nary a mention of anyone disappearing.
To make matters even more complicated, executive producer Jed Whedon told us in a recent interview that Agents of SHIELD season 6 should be considered “pre-snap,” and his production colleague Jeff Bell said in reference to Avengers: Endgame, “It just made more sense for us to take our story before all that happened.” Both producers imply that their best strategy was to avoid addressing the events of the movie altogether.
So while we are left with Agents Mack and May rebuilding SHIELD on Earth and dealing with dimensional breachers while Quake and Simmons search for Agent Fitz in space, there’s no mention of the snap or the fact that over four billion people vanished, let alone anyone familiar to the show. It’s essentially business as usual.
I suppose one can postulate that Agents of SHIELD now takes place in a new timeline or alternate dimension created by the Avengers’ actions in Endgame. The multiverse angle (hello Spider-Man: Far From Home) could explain the breachers currently causing trouble for Mack, Yo Yo, and May. Both of these seem unlikely, however.
Now, this isn’t to say that the season premiere didn’t have its moments. Like the past few seasons of Agents of SHIELD, the premiere was all about character. The stakes are not the fallout of Thanos, but the burning need to find the beloved Fitz and reunite Marvel’s #1 (surviving, sorry Pepper and Tony) couple. The Coulson doppelganger is a fascinating twist and again speaks to the potential for multiversal exploration, but if one is looking for the first stop in the post-Endgame MCU, the new season of Agents of SHIELD isn’t it. Instead, we are left with a void where we don’t quite know where we are. Agents of SHIELD always existed on the edges of the MCU, but now, it seems like SHIELD stands alone unless Marvel has a giant reveal on the way.