The seventh and final season of Agents of SHIELD will be a time travel story that could give the Marvel TV series its own Avengers: Endgame plot. The first Marvel show to go to ABC in the aftermath of The Avengers' success, Agents of SHIELD has had to try and strike a delicate balance; it needs to both stand on its own and also try to tie itself into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As most viewers would agree, the series has been at its best when it focused on its own story and not what was happening in the movies.
After the fall of SHIELD in the middle of season 1, Agents of SHIELD dealt with the return of Hydra in season 2, Inhumans in season 3, and Ghost Rider and Life Model Decoys in season 4. When season 5 arrived though, the idea of time travel entered the equation for Agents of SHIELD. This was not a factor in season 6, but time travel will be the basis for season 7. Even though Marvel TV wasn't dealing with time travel and alternate timelines, that is something that became a big part of Avengers: Endgame.
Following a five-year time jump, Avengers: Endgame saw Scott Lang return from the Quantum Realm with the knowledge that time works differently in there. He used this to propose the idea of time travel to the remaining Avengers, and it wasn't long before Tony Stark cracked the code. This led to the Avengers devising a plan to travel across their past to collect the Infinity Stones and save the day - which also gave Marvel Studios the opportunity to celebrate some of their biggest moments. While the decision appears to be coincidental, Agents of SHIELD may now do its own time travel story.
How Agents of SHIELD Used Time Travel Before
Agents of SHIELD was actually the first corner of the MCU to deal with time travel, and did so during season 5. The season premiere showed that the majority of the team (excluding Fitz) were captured and transported through time using one of the monoliths. They wind up 74 years in the future and out in space, where Earth has been destroyed and the Kree have become a dominant force again in the galaxy. As the main team attempt to find a way back to their rightful place in time, Fitz awakes from a cryogenic chamber to reunite with them. Once he is back, the team utilizes the powers of Flint, a rock bending Inhuman, to recreate the monolith so the team can return to their time.
Now back in the present day, Agents of SHIELD revealed that these actions were all part of a closed time loop that the agents were stuck in. This explanation for time travel is vastly different than what Avengers: Endgame would use a year later. In Endgame, the Ancient One said that you cannot change the past, but any tampering with past events would create branched timelines. In using the time loop explanation, Agents of SHIELD was able to show how the team was able to break the loop eventually, which saved the Earth. The team allowed Coulson to die, only for another version of him to appear in season 6 - and another new Coulson is coming in season 7. It also saw the future version of Fitz die (leaving a version of him frozen in space) and explained how Deke is still around.
The fallout of the team's time travel adventure did not receive much attention during season 6 of Agents of SHIELD. The biggest story to come from it was the search for the earlier version of Fitz and him learning of everything that happened when he was frozen and missing. But now, the series looks ready to re-incorporate time travel into its final season.
Season 6 Set Up Time Travel For Season 7
The season 6 finale of Agents of SHIELD tied up almost every dangling thread from the main Sarge and Izel storyline, but the same can't be said about the Chronicoms. Sarge, a Coulson lookalike with a body made from the power of all three monoliths (Space, Time, and Creation), was killed by Daisy Johnson, while Izel was killed by Melinda May, who is severely injured. She and the rest of the team are saved by Simmons, who spends the majority of the finale with Fitz and Deke at SHIELD's base trying to survive an attack by the Chronicoms. As shown in the closing moments of the season, the team uses a jump drive aboard the Zepher-One to escape the Chronicoms - but they don't just go to a different location to hide from them.
To evade capture or death, Simmons uses the advanced jump drive to travel back in time. The team sees the Empire State Building towering in the New York skyline, but still under construction, which places them at some point between 1930 and 1931. The reason for the team going back in time is not only to evade the Chronicoms, but also to try and stop them. The alien race acquired Nick Fury's Black Box filled with SHIELD secrets and wants to wipe out the spy organization so they will be unopposed in their conquest of Earth. While we've only seen the team arrive in the 1930s, before SHIELD was even established, this may be one of many time periods that season 7 visits.
Season 7 Could Be SHIELD’s Version of Endgame
If season 7 of Agents of SHIELD does mess with time travel on a larger scale than just putting the team in the 1930s, then the show's finale could mirror how Avengers: Endgame wrapped up an eleven-year story on the big screen. There was a clear plot reason for Avengers: Endgame to include time travel, but it was also a smart way for the film to be a celebration of everything the MCU accomplished through a retrospective lens. Key events like the Battle of New York were revisited, loose threads like how Hydra obtained Loki's scepter were tied up, and it allowed for several major cameos to be possible.
Now that Agents of SHIELD is also set to have time travel be integral to the plot of its seventh and final season, it can also do many of these things. The Chronicoms' interest in destroying SHIELD could mean the team has to go to various essential points in the history of the organization. This could include moments like when SHIELD was founded - which could give them a chance to crossover with Agent Carter as recently rumored - or even when Hydra's takeover happened - which would take them back to the show's first season. If more recent events are revisited too, then cameos from fan-favorite characters like Grant Ward or Ghost Rider could become possible. All of this time-traveling could also allow Agents of SHIELD to fix one of the show's glaring issues.
Time Travel Can Help SHIELD Fix Its Place In The MCU
When Agents of SHIELD launched in 2013, it was sold on the idea that the series was directly tied to the MCU. The first season of the show tied directly into Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. From that point on, though, the references to the movies have been much more sparse. They played a small part in Avengers: Age of Ultron, as the show explained how Nick Fury got his old helicarrier back. All of these moments made it easy enough to bend Agents of SHIELD's story into the movie timeline, but the end of season 5 and the story of season 6 have made it impossible to connect the two.
Season 5 directly mentioned Thanos and his impending attack on Earth that happens in Avengers: Infinity War, but then season 6 picked up one year later. Based on Avengers: Endgame, this should put the events of Agents of SHIELD in the early years of the Decimation. However, there have been no references to such events, with Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb saying that this is because season 6 takes place before Avengers: Infinity War. The confusion over what happens in season 6 is somewhat forgivable considering everyone involved with the show thought season 5 was the end (hence the finale being titled "The End.") Then ABC surprised them with a renewal, and the showrunners said that season 7 would be the last.
This has made it impossible to place Agents of SHIELD on the MCU timeline, leading many fans to come to the understanding that this must be a branched reality created from the team's earlier time travel mission and breaking the time loop. Even if that is the case, Agents of SHIELD now has a chance to end the show with a clearly defined placement in the MCU. Now that the series has gone back in time, Agents of SHIELD has free reign and full knowledge of the MCU's history for the first time in a long time. This gives the series an easy way to tell their own story, but end it in a way that Agents of SHIELD's place in the MCU is apparent. Not only will Agents of SHIELD end on its own terms with season 7, but longtime viewers will finally be able to rest knowing how it does fit in the MCU - or if they've actually been in a branched reality for the last few years.