Don't expect Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to revisit The Framework during its fifth season or any season that may follow thereafter. After an explosive season 4 that was complete with a tantalising cliffhanger in the finale, the producers and writers behind Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are gearing up for the team's next set of adventures. Although S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5 is in active development now, the series won't actually return until early 2018 (following the first season of Marvel's Inhumans airing on ABC this fall).
While Phil Coulson, Daisy Johnson and their fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. agents took on Ghost Rider in season 4, as well as the Darkhold and Life Model Decoys, one of the most significant portions of the series took place in a virtual world called 'The Framework'. But will this digital world return to cause problems in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5 and beyond? Well, best to not hold your breath.
Speaking to EW's Spoiler Room, EP Jeff Bell expressed serious doubt that S.H.I.E.L.D. will ever return to The Framework again:
“Everything we do is based on not wanting to repeat our selves. We’re trying to tell different kinds of stories and show our characters in different situations. The last thing we want is for people to say, ‘Oh, they’re trotting that thing out again.’ If there were a way to tell a fresh story with something else to say, I think all storytelling is on the table.”
The Framework placed the characters in a world where Hydra were in control of society. It gave audiences a look into what the MCU might've looked like if things hadn't worked out so well in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It brought back old characters and changed everything for Daisy, Coulson, Fitz and Simmons. While it's a sensible idea to not constantly reuse a large plot element like The Framework, it's also a world of possibilities. It could open the door to plenty of expansive story ideas for Coulson and Co. to tackle. According to Whedon, some members of the show's production team really loved The Framework - enough so that there's still a small possibility that it might return one day:
“The Framework opened up a lot of ideas and a lot of possibilities, and our head of post keeps reminding us of that, because he’s the biggest fan of the Framework, and he thinks it should be its own spinoff show."
From what the producers have said, it seems like they're open to the idea of the Framework returning in the show at some point, but not anytime in the near future. It could be used as a multi-episode story arc enveloped in a larger plot that the team have to deal with - but it seems unlikely that we'll see it return in the next season. The three-act structure of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4 worked well, and really helped the show flow to its final destination. But for now, all focus should be going to where Coulson ended up at the end of season 4 and who put him there. Will Robbie Reyes and the Ghost Rider return too? Who knows.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns for season 5 in January 2018.