Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5 has seen Coulson and his team boldly go where no S.H.I.E.L.D. agent has gone before. They've been transported to a horrific future - one where the Earth itself has been cracked like an egg. Disturbingly, there have even been ominous suggestions that S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Daisy Johnson is somehow responsible for the destruction of the world.
The problem is, the only man who seemed to know why S.H.I.E.L.D. had been brought to this time is dead - though there may be someone else who has the information they need. Before he was killed, Virgil charged them with a mission: to save the human race. He seems to be assuming that will happen in his time, but can S.H.I.E.L.D. possibly save the Earth itself?
The Present And The Future Are Linked
According to this tweet, the past and future of the wider MCU — the present-day for us, and the future timeline the rest of the team are stranded in — are bound together. Disturbingly, this future timeline somehow seems to be self-fulfilling.
Cast your mind back to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3, which saw the series touch upon time travel for the first time. In the episode "Spacetime," the S.H.I.E.L.D. team encountered a new Inhuman who could give people visions of death. It saw Fitz postulate a model of time in which the past and the future are immutable. The past cannot be changed, and anything you see or experience in the future becomes fixed as well.
So far, season 5 seems to be following the same model. Virgil's knowledge of S.H.I.E.L.D. included an awareness that the team would one day be brought to his time, meaning these actions are part of this terrifying timeline. It's clear that, as part of the established order of events, S.H.I.E.L.D. will ultimately return home. Shortly after, Quake will somehow make a mistake that literally brings about the end of the world.
But there is a reason for hope. The premiere made clear that the Kree have done everything within their power to erase all knowledge of human history. They cracked down on the True Believers in particular, killing all those who believed the S.H.I.E.L.D. team would step through time. It seems as though the Kree know that S.H.I.E.L.D. are a threat to this timeline, and are doing their level-best to prevent Coulson's team learning how to avert the Earth's destruction. Time may not be so immutable as Fitz believed.
How Can This Timeline Be Averted?
If this is correct, we'd expect to see two major plot-threads running through Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5. In the present day, Fitz's quest to rescue his friends will be against a troubled backdrop. We'll see hints and teases of the threat to come. Think of it like a game of chess, and little by little we'll be able to spot the pieces being moved into place for the endgame.
Meanwhile, in the future, the task facing Coulson and his friends will be to learn just what destroyed the Earth. If they can find out enough, then when Coulson and his team return to our time the can avoid the crucial mistakes that destroyed the world. The timeline we're seeing now will become an alternate future, one that branches off from the main MCU timeline, and has been successfully averted by S.H.I.E.L.D..
There's everything to play for in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 5. Right now, two periods of time are linked by the complex spacetime event that is the Kree Monolith. But this future doesn't have to be self-fulfilling. If S.H.I.E.L.D. can learn enough, then when they return to their own time they can actually prevent the Earth's destruction.
Season 5 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues on Friday @ 9pm EST on ABC.