Warning: SPOILERS ahead for Avengers: Infinity War
Fans have wondered how the events of Avengers: Infinity War would impact Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. This week's episode "The One Who Will Save Us All" was the most overt link to a Marvel film by S.H.I.E.L.D. since season 1, when Captain America: The Winter Soldier's reveal that the spy organization was infiltrated by Hydra permanently altered the series.
It turns out Thanos attacking Earth to capture the final two Infinity Stones was the impetus behind the events of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5! The first half of the season saw Phil Coulson's team of agents whisked decades into the future, where the Earth was mysteriously destroyed. The rest of the season takes place in 2018 and explores the what roles Hydra, an alien alliance called the Confederacy, and the unstable element Gravitonium played in the destruction of Earth. To borrow a phrase, it's all connected to Thanos.
Here is the timeline of how Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5 syncs up to Infinity War:
In 2012, after the invasion of New York led by Loki as seen in the first Avengers film, Hydra stockpiled salvaged Chitauri weapons and technology (including Loki's scepter containing the Mind Stone). Hydra discovered a Chitauri communication device, which they used to make contact with a group of aliens called the Confederacy. Comprised of Kallusians, Rajaks, Astrans, Remorath, the Kree, and one other race, the Confederacy has existed for 1,000 years and is led by a Kree warlord named Taryan Kasius (whose son would rule the remains of the human race in the Lighthouse in the future where Earth was destroyed).
In 2014, S.H.I.E.L.D. was taken over by Hydra, but by 2015, the Avengers had largely dismantled the evil organization as seen in Age of Ultron. In that film's end credits scene, Thanos finally declared "I'll do it myself!" - meaning he began his quest to collect the Infinity Stones.
In 2016, Hydra was finally eradicated during season 3 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. As we saw via flashback in the season 5 episode "Rise and Shine", General Hale, one of the last agents of Hydra, used the Chitauri device to contact the Confederacy. She then learned that Earth would soon be attacked by aliens (meaning Thanos). Hale struck a bargain to supply the Confederacy with resources, primarily Gravitonium and Inhumans, in exchange for the Confederacy protecting Earth from Thanos (an arrangement the aliens never truly intended to honor as they knew they were no match for Thanos).
Now, in 2018, Infinity War has occurred. However, the current episodes of S.H.I.E.L.D. seem to take place during the events of the first half of the film. A throwaway reference to "what's happening in New York" last week in "Option Two" indicated that the Black Order trying to take the Time Stone from Doctor Strange had just happened, just as a Confederacy starship attacked S.H.I.E.L.D. in the Lighthouse in Lake Ontario just 280 miles north of NYC.
Seeing as how no one on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has faded away into dust yet, it can be assumed the Battle of Wakanda, which concluded with Thanos' finger snap and the eradication of half of all life in the universe, is still to transpire. After all, it's not clear exactly how much time passes during Infinity War, so S.H.I.E.L.D.'s current batch of episodes seem to be happening in the interim.
It's worth noting that Coulson's team is totally unaware of the Black Order's invasion or that Thanos has come to complete the Infinity Gauntlet, reflecting the creative separation between Marvel films and TV (as does the Confederacy's desire for Gravitonium and not Wakanda's Vibranium). And given what fans saw in Infinity War, General Talbot, who is now Graviton, saying he wants to defend the Earth with the Avengers and boasting he has the power to beat Thanos is kind of hilarious.
With Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. bearing down on its (possible series) finale, could it all end with our heroes also fading away to dust?
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Fridays @ 9 pm on ABC.