One of the pivotal moments in The Avengers saw longtime supporting character Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) meet his end after Loki stabbed him in the chest. While his death was used as the catalyst to form the team itself, it also was used to spawn the first television series to exist within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been airing on ABC since 2013 and is currently in the last week of its final break for season four.
This season has been split up into three separate pods, each with a different focus that will connect together in some way by the end. The first pod introduced Ghost Rider (Gabriel Luna) to the show, but his disappearance opened up the door for LMDs to take over. As Daisy and Simmons currently look to rescue the rest of their team from The Framework, they will only have six episodes to do so - but the showrunners are already planning beyond this point.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is currently awaiting word on whether or not it will receive a renewal for a fifth season, but that has not stopped Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon from planning for the possibility. While their focus is currently on finishing out this season in a way that closes off its story, they told EW that they still have other stories they want to tell.
Whedon: We are going to make it a thrilling end regardless, but we don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
Live ratings have never been kind for the series, but it consistently pulls in a much larger audience with on demand and DVR options. This is not to the benefit of the network as people are then skipping the ads that help fund these shows, but through the four seasons it has established a very consistent audience.
Even if ABC is not comfortable moving forward with a full 22 episode fifth season, they could have options to keep the series alive. Inhumans is currently set to debut in September and run for eight episodes, the equivalent to one of the pods S.H.I.E.L.D. has been using this season. ABC could wait to debut a fifth season until closer to winter and shorten the season length to 14 or fewer episodes. This would allow the show to make two pods if wanted, or tell one longer story that is typical for a 22 episode arc, but have the ability to cut out filler episodes.
That said, the future for S.H.I.E.L.D. is very much in limbo, but official word on a fifth season should arrive in the coming months. With Tancharoen and Whedon continuing to plan as though that will be the case, it at the very least shows that ABC hasn't already told them this will be it. If the series does get the chance to return, it will be interesting to see what ideas they plan to explore next.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns with ‘What If…’ April 4th on ABC.