[SPOILERS for those not caught up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ahead.]
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. looks like it's going to be a very different show when it returns for a recently confirmed fifth season. The show's fourth season concluded last night (May 16th) with an episode that was explosive, emotional and action-packed with some fantastically gory scenes courtesy of the returning Ghost Rider, all of which provided a fitting end to the Darkhold, Life Model Decoy and Framework story arcs.
Never a show to rest on its laurels, the S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4 finale set up a number of intriguing new mysteries to lead viewers into the fifth season. Perhaps the most significant is the unknown nature of the deal Phil Coulson made with Ghost Rider and Robbie Reyes (the Rider's usual vessel) seemed to suggest that the monster was getting more out of the arrangement that just AIDA's death and the return of the Darkhold. The episode's final sting - which may or may not be related to the Ghost Rider deal - was arguably even more shocking and saw the S.H.I.E.L.D. team captured by a mysterious group and taken into space, later hinting they'd been there some time.
In an interview with IGN, co-showrunner Jed Whedon and executive producer Jeffrey Bell were asked to clear up some questions from the S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4 finale. Although they were predictably coy about revealing too much ahead of time, several key points were confirmed, or at least hinted at. Regarding the potential time skip, Bell simply stated "We acknowledge there's a time jump," refusing to be drawn on how long the team had been in space. The duo had more to say about season five's potential new intergalactic setting, however, with Whedon stating:
"The sandbox [of M.C.U. material available] we're playing in keeps getting bigger, and we want to explore all sides of it, and tell as many different stories as we can. Fortunately deep space is very different. We've gone there a little bit with Simmons. We felt like we enjoyed that, so maybe there's more to come...We're all, I think, properly terrified of what we're doing next season the way we were properly terrified going into this season."
Thankfully, Whedon also confirmed that the space tease wouldn't prove to be a red herring, claiming "Bait and switches aren't as fun." However, when asked whether the team's capture and relocation to outer space had anything to do with Coulson and Ghost Rider's ominous deal, the duo refused to comment conclusively, with Whedon merely answering:
"We'll see what it all means, but it didn't come for free. It wasn't like, "Hey bro, can I borrow that? Can I just borrow that Ghost Rider thing for a second?"
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. took a number of dramatic measures in its fourth season to avoid going stale, such as the addition of Ghost Rider and the alternative reality known as The Framework, and largely, these were well received. Heading into space for the next outing will likely serve to keep the show feeling fresh and exciting and may also tie into upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe space-fare such as Thor: Ragnarok.
However, some fans may feel that the show's galactic relocation takes the show too far away from its original territory of spies, superpowers and secret organizations. Only time will tell whether the gamble will pay off.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5 premieres midseason in 2017-2018 on ABC on Fridays, following the first season of Inhumans.