Launching in 2013, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was the first #Marvel television series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's an epic spy drama, starring a small team who are dedicated to protecting the world at all costs. Although the show had something of a rocky start, a smart tie-in with Captain America: The Winter Soldier transformed the first season. Since then, it's gone from strength to strength!
The Story So Far
A lot has changed in the last four seasons. When Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. first launched, we were introduced to a crack team led by Clark Gregg's mysteriously-resurrected Agent Coulson. It was the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier that breathed life into the series, though, revealing that S.H.I.E.L.D. had been compromised by #Hydra from the get-go. That launched Coulson and his band into a shadow-war to take down the evil organization, even as they worked to learn the truth behind Coulson's resurrection — and the identity of a mysterious hacker, Chloe Bennet's Skye.
Season 2 revealed that Skye was actually Daisy Johnson, an Inhuman known to comic book fans as the superhero Quake. Exposed to Terrigenesis, Daisy unwittingly kicked off a war between S.H.I.E.L.D. and a rogue group of #Inhumans, leading to Terrigen being released into the world's water and fish stocks. As new Inhumans began to emerge across the world, Season 3 saw S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra race to gather Inhuman allies, even as the world began to panic. It all led to Hydra's bringing the ancient Inhuman known as Hive to Earth, a parasitic creature who threatened the entire planet.
With the threat of Hydra finally eliminated, Season 4 saw S.H.I.E.L.D. go public once again. Unfortunately, this coincided with the discovery of the Darkhold: an ancient book of arcane science, guarded over by the Ghost Rider himself. Moving to a later timeslot, Season 4 saw Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. embrace a far darker tone than ever before, and it truly suited the show. The arcane science of the Darkhold proved to be a terrifying threat, with a mad scientist attempting to use it to conquer death by creating a twisted virtual reality world. It really was a phenomenal series, tightly plotted and lacking the filler you usually get in a 22-episode series.
Meet The Stars Of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The abiding mystery of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1 was the resurrection of Clark Gregg's Agent #Coulson, who was killed in The Avengers. We eventually learned that he'd been resurrected by a top-secret project known as T.A.H.I.T.I., using a mysterious formula derived from the blood of an alien Kree.
Season 1 ended with Coulson forced to step up his game, becoming Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., at a time when the line between S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra became pretty blurred in the world's view. By Season 3, Coulson's quest had become something of a grudge match between the Director and Brett Dalton's phenomenal Grant Ward. Agent Coulson has grown considerably as a character since Season 1; not only is he now a confident leader, he's also got a cyborg hand containing an iridescent energy-shield!
No character has changed more than Chloe Bennet's Daisy Johnson (a.k.a. Skye, a.k.a. Quake); she's essentially the star of the show, discovering her Inhuman heritage and (in Season 4) struggling with survivor's guilt after the death of a man she was beginning to love. Chloe Bennet took on the role as something of a fresh figure in Hollywood, but her acting skills have developed massively since Season 1. She's easily become the strongest actor in the show.
Ming-Na Wen plays the taciturn Agent May, a badass warrior-woman with a troubled history. At first fans felt she was essentially Black-Widow-lite, but over the years she's developed into a pretty well-rounded character. One of Season 3's major subplots explored her romantic history, fleshing out her backstory and helping us understand what makes Agent May tick.
Elizabeth Henstridge's Jemma Simmons and Iain De Caestecker's Leopold Fitz have become the show's emotional heart. Their will-they-won't-they relationship finally seemed about to blossom at the end of Season 2, then poor Simmons got sucked through a wormhole and stranded on another planet! They've finally become an item in Season 4, but it's hardly been plain sailing; Fitz wound up brainwashed into becoming one of Hydra's greatest leaders in the virtual reality of the Framework, and the horror of what he did there is sure to scar him for life...
Rounding the core cast out are Natalia Cordova-Buckley's tremendous Inhuman super-speedster, Yo-Yo Rodriguez, and Henry Simmons's brilliant Alphonso 'Mack' Mackenzie. Mack's a loyal S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who was left devastated by the death of his daughter Hope, while Yo-Yo is a determined freedom-fighter-turned-S.H.I.E.L.D.-agent. Together, they make a wonderful couple!
What Do We Know About Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 5?
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been confirmed as returning for a fifth season, and sadly most fans are pretty confident this will be the show's last. In a surprising twist, the 22-episode season won't launch until January 2018, and will run without the traditional mid-season breaks. ABC have explained that this allows them to air The Inhumans first, and then replace one Marvel show with the next when that eight-episode series is done.
Fans are divided over this decision, not least because Season 5 has been moved to Friday nights — often described as the "kiss of death" for a genre show. On the plus side, though, the later launch will mean Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will still be airing when Marvel Studios releases Avenger: Infinity War. Given Season 4 ended with Coulson mysteriously in space, the series looks set to tie in with Infinity War, which will surely be an explosive end to Marvel's flagship TV series.