The use of pods in season 4 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. not only served a narrative purpose, but a practical one as well. After a brief delay for the first season of Inhumans, the upcoming fifth season of SHIELD is all set to premiere this December. When it does, it will be dealing with the fallout of last season and Coulson's arrival in space. More intriguing, however, is the fact that the show will explore the cosmic side of the MCU by reexamining past brushes with the otherworldly.
During New York Comic Con this past weekend, we learned quite a bit about the new show thanks to the footage that was shown from the new episodes. One of the biggest reveals was that aliens and cosmic entities will heavily factor into the show this year. While SHIELD has touched on this before with the Kree and Inhumans, it looks as if this season will dive even deeper into those waters. In fact, the Kree themselves will even be returning. And to balance all of these new elements, we might see the show look back to one of last season's best innovations.
Speaking during NYCC, Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb spoke about why the story pods were so useful last year. Not only did they allow for a different narrative flow, but they helped the show weather the logistics of TV scheduling.
“It gave an opportunity to the writers to tell a complete chapter so that as the audience… It came out of necessity of the fact that ABC runs the shows and then needs to take breaks to have specials and things like that and you go into the holidays or the Olympics or something like that. So rather than waiting and having the audience have to play catch up because we’re not on for three or four or sometimes seven weeks, they said, ‘OK let’s try to do this in bites.’ And so this first bite is the first 10 episodes of this season.”
For a show with upwards of 20 episodes spread out over a TV season, gaps are bound to emerge. When they do, they often derail storylines or have the audience return without a clear memory of what happened last. When it comes to shows you can binge, this isn't an issue. SHIELD's story pods, however, offered the next best thing.
While each pod was connected to the last and the entire season paid off in the final episodes, you could still drop in at different points in the season. And by breaking the story up, SHIELD was able to explore the mystical side of the MCU with Ghost Rider, dive into personhood and A.I. with the LMD arc, and finally deal in alternate history while referencing the past of the show. In the end, the entire story tied together and even set up the events of season 5. As such, it wouldn't be surprising to see SHIELD return to this tactic when it comes back this winter.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5's two-hour premiere airs Friday, December 1st at 8pm on ABC.