Jed Whedon has been chatting about the "thematic ties" between Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5 and the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. The connections between Phil Coulson’s gang and the wider MCU used to be a lot more explicit, with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, Cobie Smulders’ Maria Hill and Jaimie Alexander’s Lady Sif all appearing in the spinoff spy series during its early seasons.
But as the series has progressed, it has moved away from overt crossovers with the films. Gone are the days when you’d get a specific S.H.I.E.L.D. episode to tie-in with a topical movie release, like that time Zephyr One touched down in London shortly after the events of Thor: The Dark World. This was an interesting storytelling device, with the episodes timed to coincide with Captain America: The Winter Soldier providing a particularly strong example of how well it could work. Nowadays, though, the links between the show and the films are a lot less blatant.
As Whedon has explained to CBR, the current approach with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is to “follow in the wake of the films as they plot new territory in the MCU.” Last season, Whedon and co. achieved this by introducing magical elements (the Darkhold, Ghost Rider) around the same time as Doctor Strange hit theaters. This time, as Whedon explained, Coulson and the gang’s trip to space will serve a similar purpose:
“[Season 5] is us expanding out even further into the world of space which they very much are living in now in the features. It’s the great unknown, and we hadn’t explored it yet.”
Indeed, thanks to the recent cinematic events of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Thor: Ragnarok, the cosmic side of the MCU has grown a great deal. And next summer, Avengers: Infinity War will broaden the galactic scope of the MCU even further. Whedon sees Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s spacefaring sojourn as a way to link up with the wider MCU on a different level, one that doesn’t depend on tricky-to-arrange cameos and shoehorned references:
“It’s a thematic tie. We try to make it feel like that the whole thing is moving in this swelling direction. We’re not in space for no reason. We wouldn’t have gone there if they [the movies] hadn’t. The overt ties were a necessity of starting out, but those have faded over time, basically because we have our own mythology.”
However, although it is fun to see Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spreading its wings, developing its own stories and connecting to the wider MCU on a purely thematic level, there are still members of the fanbase that yearn for crossovers. Phil Coulson actor Clark Gregg seemed to nip that idea in the bud recently, stating his belief that the Avengers have “moved on” from Coulson’s death. But on the other hand, MCU overlord Kevin Feige has hinted that the film and TV worlds will collide “at some point.” Until that day arrives, the fans will have to live with thematic crossovers.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns tonight on ABC.