Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has come a long ways since its early days as a basic TV "extension" of the Marvel Cinematic Universe brand, attempting to tie-in directly with major events transpiring in the MCU on the big screen. The TV show has, in a way, developed its own standalone mythology within the framework of the larger MCU at this stage, having explored storylines about the aftermath of Hydra's infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. being exposed, the emergence of the Inhuman population into the public's eye and most recently, the introduction of Robbie Reyes' Ghost Rider (Gabriel Luna) to the MCU.
Between the continued expansion of the MCU on Netflix - through The Defenders individual character TV shows and later this year, the Daredevil TV spinoff The Punisher - and relatively recent developments such as the cancellation of ABC's Agent Carter and the S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff Marvel's Most Wanted not being picked up by ABC, there has been fair reason of late to wonder if Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will indeed continue on ABC for a fifth season after its current run is done. The TV show has proven to be a limited, but consistent ratings draw for its home network, in addition to being generally well-respected critically in recent seasons - something that ABC's president assures has not gone unnoticed either.
Speaking with EW, ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey offered the following response, when asked about the current state of all-things Marvel on ABC:
Look, we are incredibly encouraged. Season 4 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been creatively the strongest season we’ve had yet. The episodes just keep getting better and stronger. And that’s another one for us that we moved from 9 to 10 and yet even though the HUD levels are softer at 10, the live-same-day has remained the same and that’s another one of our shows which regularly goes up triple digits over the seven-day period, anywhere from 100 to 110 percent.
As was mentioned and further illustrated by Dungey's comment, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is not a huge ratings draw for ABC but it is a steady draw, in terms of overall viewership. The TV show also continues to break new narrative territory and is currently moving beyond the Ghost Rider story arc that served as the central thread in the first half of its fourth season, onto the Life Model Decoy storyline that was set up over the course of those same episodes. When asked by EW if she believes there is anything in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s future after said LMD arc and season 4.5 have been finished, Dungey answered:
Absolutely. I’m very bullish on S.H.I.E.L.D. and we’re also really excited about our production with Marvel, ABC Studios, and IMAX, which we are working on for next fall as well.
The join ABC, Marvel and IMAX production that Dungey mentions here is the Inhumans TV series that is set to debut its first two episodes in IMAX theaters, before premiering on the small screen (on ABC) this September. Given that the Inhumans (the Inhuman Royal Family, in particular) are soon going to be featured in the spotlight of their own Marvel TV show, the decision to shift Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. away from being too Inhumans-focused with its recent storylines, was a wise one on the part of the show's producers. As such, should S.H.I.E.L.D. indeed get a season 5 pickup, it will be in a good position to continue distinguishing itself as something different, yet worthwhile from all the other corners of the MCU, the Inhumans TV show included.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns tonight (January 10th) with ‘Broken Promises’ on ABC.