It’s a point that’s been repeated the past few years, but that doesn’t make it any less true — Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is really, really good. Great, even. This show has come so far since its uneven first season, and isn’t just one of Marvel’s best TV shows. It’s one of the best sci-fi shows on television. With the kickoff of Season 5, that trend only continues.
Spoilers ahead for “Orientation Parts 1-2,” the Season 5 premiere of ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which aired December 1, 2017!
“No reason to send a message to earth. We’re already here.” - Simmons
The fourth season ended on a cliffhanger of Marvel movie proportions, with Coulson and his team kidnapped and transported into space. Season 5 picks up the baton right where it left off, as we see the gang transported via a monolith similar to the one that trapped Simmons on an alien planet a few seasons ago. But that’s only the beginning of the story. The writers do an excellent job of teasing out that something’s not quite right, throughout the first hour, and all the questions finally come to a head when Coulson exclaims that monolith wasn’t like the last one.
Not at all.
Instead of transporting the team through space, it’s transported them through time — to decades in the future, to a point where the Earth has been ripped in half and the Kree are ruling the remaining remnants of humanity, who are huddled on a makeshift space station. It’s a shocking twist, and for a show that has featured everything from an avenging demon with a flaming skull and muscle car to an alternate reality in a Matrix-like computer system, this is bold. Mack jokingly notes this is the one thing they haven’t done yet, and in addition to being a good gag, it’s a good point.
Over its first four seasons, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has reinvented itself again and again. It’s been a straight-up procedural; a riff on X-Men’s themes; a street-level Ghost Rider tale; a magical, ghostly adventure; a conspiracy thriller; a stealth battle against Hydra’s forces; and a whole lot more. They really have done almost everything — but sending the team into the future, to a world where humans are on the brink of extinction, is the definition of oneupmanship in the best possible way. Where shows like Daredevil, Runaways, and Luke Cage play in their own little corners of the Marvel universe, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t afraid to swing for the fences. This is a story unlike anything else on television right now, and more than being original, it’s also crazy fun.
They’ve honed this cast into a well-oiled machine over the years, and it’s a group you would follow to the ends of the Earth. Or in this case, what’s left of it. The Season 5 premiere drops them in the most unlikely and unbelievable of circumstances, and they positively nail the execution. It’s an exciting setting, complete with alien overlords and crazy killer monsters. They’ve set up a central mystery around the Coulson prophecy and how Fitz’s mission to save them fits into the twisting timeline, and it should be an exciting tale to unravel over the next several weeks. The new casting additions also serve as a breath of fresh air around the core cast, led by Deke, who is basically a poor man’s version of Star-Lord, complete with his own Ravager-esque gear.
Put simply: With its fifth season, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. solidifies itself as a show genre fans should absolutely be watching. If you’re not, you’re missing out.
*We get a lot of answers, but also a whole lot of questions in this two-hour premiere. We still don’t know exactly why these aliens sent the S.H.I.E.L.D. team forward in time, or how their foretold arrival has become the thing of legend over the decades. You have to assume it has something to do with Fitz’s mission to save them, though time travel is a finicky storytelling device to fool with (and one we haven’t seen explored very much at all in the MCU). This is one of the show’s most ambitious stories to date, and that’s saying something.
*So did future Daisy really destroy the Earth? That was a fascinating thread to just drop and leave dangling. It certainly looks like a super-quake, right?
*This show has gotten funnier with each passing year, and they’ve nailed the tone this season. The jokes are clever and natural, from Mack quoting sci-fi classics to Coulson cracking wise about not being Inspector Gadget.
*The fact that there’s no clear record of what happened to the Earth is an interesting twist, and considering the apparent passage of time, a clever connection to how real-world misinformation works. If no one can remember the mistakes of the past, you take away their power to avoid those mistakes again. By letting a generation or two die out, the Kree have effectively erased most of human history. It’s positively fascinating.
*The Kree areas of the space station look like the day spa from hell.
*The Framework is still around! Turns out Deke has repurposed some of the tech to create an escape for the survivors, giving them a peek at how the Earth looked back before the apparent cataclysm that ripped it apart.
*It’s amazing how Simmons finds herself in truly awful situations year after year, and the latest predicament takes the cake. She’s forced into the harem of the Kree leader, and now has a bug in her brain that makes her deaf to anything but his voice. Twisted.
Up next: The team tries to literally save the world. Even though it's already destroyed. Did we mention time travel is complicated?