Avengers: Infinity War not only wreaked havoc on the Marvel Cinematic Universe - it also inadvertently damaged Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well. Although Marvel's flagship series on ABC didn't deal with Thanos' finger snap and the ramifications of killing half of all life in the MCU, S.H.I.E.L.D. having to tie into Avengers 3 was the only blight on its otherwise stellar fifth season.
When the show began at the dawn of the MCU's Phase 2 in 2013, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was a bridge between Marvel movies and TV, but that initial synergy didn't last long. It quickly became apparent that the biggest characters from The Avengers like Iron Man and Captain America would not appear in the series. After Nick Fury's two guest spots in season 1, along with Maria Hill and Lady Sif, top names from the films appearing on the show stopped cold. But S.H.I.E.L.D. still clung to the prestige of its ties to the movies, boasting that "it's all connected," despite the series obviously being treated as a red-headed stepchild of the MCU.
After Captain America: The Winter Soldier changed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to reflect Hydra's takeover of the spy organization, to their credit, showrunners Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen spent the next few seasons playing down movie references and focused on building an intricate mythology. They redefined S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra, introduced the Inhumans, and essentially rewrote the history of the MCU. Unsurprisingly, the series - which had a shaky first season as a pale shadow of the films - rapidly improved, got bolder, and took more chances. S.H.I.E.L.D. transformed from a show about spies into one that delved into space travel, with Jemma Simmons getting trapped on an alien world in season 3, the supernatural with Ghost Rider, and virtual reality with the Framework story in season 4. season 5 topped those episodes by going full sci-fi. It was their most experimental - and arguably its best- season.
However, the biggest event in MCU history, Infinity War, had to be addressed, and how S.H.I.E.L.D. did it was awkward, to say the least. Here's how Thanos ended up hurting season 5.
This Page: Infinity War Hurt S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 5
The First Half Of Season 5 Was S.H.I.E.L.D. At Its Best
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5 roared out of the gate and excitingly turned everything upside down. Kidnapped by a group called the True Believers, Phil Coulson's team of agents discovered they time traveled to the year 2091. Both the series and the fans were energized by the surprising new situation that Phil Coulson, Melinda May, Daisy Johnson, Jemma Simmons, Alphonso "Mack" Mackenzie, and Yo-Yo Rodriguez found themselves in. In this post-apocalyptic future, the human survivors were ruled by the Kree in a space station called the Lighthouse, and the central mysteries of the season were how the Earth was destroyed - and by whom? - and whether our heroes could prevent this future from taking place.
The first half of season 5 was constantly surprising. Intriguing new villains like the Kree overseer Kasius and his assassin/lover Sinara were introduced, as were lovable new heroes like Flint, a young Inhuman, and Deke, who turned out to be the grandson of Jemma Simmons and Leopold Fitz. Speaking of Fitz, he soon joined his friends in the future in a remarkable flashback episode that brought back Lance Hunter. Quake, who was believed to have caused the Earth's demise, was unhappy with her new nickname 'The Destroyer of Worlds'. Finally, after causing a revolution in the Lighthouse, the Agents made it back to 2018. This pod of stories was unlike anything S.H.I.E.L.D. had attempted before and it proved the series's ability to adapt to any genre while still delivering gripping stories that focused on their beloved characters.
...Until Infinity War Nearly Ruined The Second Half
When the Agents made it back to present day, with Deke in tow, the second half of the season kept hitting highs. A new teenage villain named Ruby came into the picture, along with her mother General Hale. The series reintroduced Hydra in a big way, with a compelling flashback episode showing Hydra's training academy. The manifestation of a Fear Dimension let the series toy with supernatural horror while Fitz's evil Hydra doppelganger reemerged and revealed his capacity to become a supervillain. Best of all, Fitz and Simmons finally married in the 100th episode, with Deathlok attending the wedding, which surprisingly went off without a hitch. Then Infinity War happened.
Avengers 3 was the biggest event in MCU history and it's understandable Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had to address it. But Infinity War was awkwardly shoehorned into the season's story. Rather than the Kree being the aliens who would be the impetus for Earth's destruction, which was the obvious solution that had been set up since the beginning, Thanos became the real villain of the season, though the Mad Titan would never appear on the series.
Fans learned Hydra initiated a bizarre protection scheme with an alien cabal called the Confederacy; the aliens claimed (falsely) they would defend the Earth from Thanos in exchange for Gravitonium. Meanwhile, the mystery of whether Ruby or Quake was the Destroyer of Worlds was cast aside, with General Glenn Talbot infusing himself with Gravitonium to become the villainous Graviton. Talbot amusingly boasted he should fight in Infinity War and could beat Thanos, which no fan believed would ever happen.
The final episodes of season 5 took place during Infinity War, with the Agents weathering their own alien invasion concurrent to the Children of Thanos' attacks. This put S.H.I.E.L.D. in a terrible position where the super-spies of the MCU had no idea who Thanos was and only referenced the events of Infinity War from television newscasts.
Ultimately, S.H.I.E.L.D. just ended up ignoring Infinity War's ending anyway. Because S.H.I.E.L.D. is so separated from the mainline MCU, the TV heroes can't participate in the universe-shattering movie, but the show still had to pivot so that the complex tale they wove all season long was now caused by the villain of the movie they can have no part in. Ultimately, the series didn't need Thanos and making fear of the Great Titan the cause of the events of season 5 makes Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. look unimportant in the big picture since this unfulfilling tie-in to Infinity War can't have any of the payoff.