The following article contains spoilers for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Avengers: Infinity War.
ABC has renewed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for a sixth season. No one is officially calling it a “final” season just yet, but many believe it will be. Season six will only consist of 13 episodes instead of the usual 22, which is a pretty standard move by networks affording a series an opportunity to wrap things up.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. could have easily ended its run with this Friday’s season finale. The entire second half of season five was clearly written with the knowledge that it may need to end the show. This week’s episode is even titled “The End.”
Continuing the show is great news for the cast, crew, and fans. It also creates an interesting challenge, however, as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has put itself in a position where it must address, or work around the ending of Avengers: Infinity War.
The most recent episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have placed its timeline right alongside the events of Infinity War. Earth is already under attack by Thanos, which is explicitly stated in the show, meaning we are coming very close to “the snap.” Once The Mad Titan snaps his fingers, half of all humanity will fade way.
What are the odds S.H.I.E.L.D. makes it out of Thanos’ random selection process without any of its most prominent members turning to dust?
Whoever is still around after “the snap” would presumably have to deal with a planet that is in complete chaos after losing half of its population. It is hard to imagine, however, Marvel Studios going along with a Marvel Television show being the first to reveal what life on Earth is like after Infinity War. The shows usually have to deal with the events of the films, not the other way around.
This leaves Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with some interesting options. One would be to backtrack just a bit to make sure all of next season takes place before “the snap.” Another would be to tell very self-contained stories that all take place within a very limited amount of time after “the snap.” These stories would have to deal with the main Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. characters directly without examining the broader impacts on the world.
There is a way to work completely around Infinity War by doing something the series did this year, only in reverse. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has already spent most of this season a century in the future, so why not journey into the past next season? They could go back in time and then reemerge in the present day to close things out after Avengers 4 hits theaters.
All of this could be moot depending on when the sixth season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actually airs. No dates were given in the renewal announcement, so ABC could hold the season back until Avengers 4 has hit theaters. At the very least, ABC could start start airing it late enough so that all of the episodes that explore the post-snap MCU air after Avengers 4 while earlier episodes in the season either travel back in time or stay very self-contained.
Even if ABC brings the series back this fall, I will be surprised to see Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. dealing directly with the ending of Infinity War. It’s not really their story to tell and it probably isn’t the best story Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. could tell in order to provide a fitting end for each of its characters.