WARNING: This post contains SPOILERS for the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5 premiere.
The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5 premiere just dropped a hilarious reference to S.W.O.R.D., the Marvel Comics organization. There's been speculation for some time about whether S.W.O.R.D. would show up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and with many wondering about the location of Phil Coulson in the season 4 finale - he was shown waking up in a room and looking out into space - it seemed possible the Marvel TV series could introduce the Marvel organization in season 5.
In the comics, the Sentient World Observation and Response Department, S.W.O.R.D. for short, is a division of S.H.I.E.L.D. that deals with extraterrestrial threats to Earth, though they operate largely separate from their parent organization. S.W.O.R.D. is headquartered on the space station called Peak and is lead by Special Agent Abigail Brand. However, in the opening sequence of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5, the show seems to reference S.W.O.R.D. in a way that indicates the Marvel Comics organization won't appear on the TV series.
In the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5 premiere, Coulson and the rest of the team travel through a Kree monolith and awake on some kind of space station. As they're scrambling to figure out what exactly is going on, Simmons asks Coulson, "Fury never said anything about a deep space outpost being developed did he?" The S.H.I.E.L.D. director responds, "There was nothing like this in his black box." Following up this exchange, Yo-Yo gets to drop a multi-layer Marvel Comics reference:
So wait, S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t have a space division called SPEAR or something? Really? I always thought you guys had people hiding on the moon.
While Yo-Yo referencing a space division of S.H.I.E.L.D. is no doubt a nod to S.W.O.R.D., there is also a separate organization in Marvel Comics called SPEAR. This organization is completely unconnected to S.H.I.E.L.D. and is, in fact, a Chinese intelligence gathering organization created to ensure the country's homeland security and headed by Director Xian Zheng. So Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. made not one, but two Marvel Comics references in one sentence. Further, Yo-Yo's final comment about people hiding on the moon could be a covert nod to Marvel's Inhumans series, which featured the Royal Family and their society of Inhumans living in secret on the moon.
As for what this reference means in terms of S.W.O.R.D.'s inclusion on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it seems to debunk all fan theories that the space-focused division will appear in season 5. Certainly, if anyone were to know about a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. outpost in space, it would be Coulson, and with no reason to keep it a secret as they're trying to figure out their situation, viewers can believe he's telling the truth that S.W.O.R.D. doesn't exist.
Of course, without a space-based division of S.H.I.E.L.D. to lend them a hand, that means Coulson and his agents are stuck on that space station without any Earth-based help. As the season 5 premiere unfolds, viewers will get a better idea of just how much trouble Coulson, Daisy and the rest of the team are in this year on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues next Friday at 9pm on ABC.