As we inch ever closer to the April 27 release of Avengers: Infinity War, it appears that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is finally crossing over with the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe once more.
In last week's episode of the ABC series, currently in its fifth (and possibly final) season, we learned that the villainous General Hale (Catherine Dent) was really the last vestigial element of Hydra, hoping to continue Daniel Whitehall's work and turn Daisy (Chloe Bennet) into the Destroyer of Worlds via the Particle Infusion Chamber while also hoping to team up with S.H.I.E.L.D. in asking the mysterious alien Confederacy for protection against the war coming to Earth.
"Your world will soon become a battleground," Qovas (Peter Mensah) warned Hale and Coulson (Clark Gregg) "We will ensure humanity's survival." The terms for their protection? Oh, only all of Earth's gravitonium and Inhumans. A steep price, to be sure, but "much smaller than you will pay if this comes to Earth," he said while giving Coulson a vision of the massive ship heading the planet's way. While the ship didn't really look anything like the one belonging to Thanos that we got a glimpse of in the final moments of Thor: Ragnarok, the parallels are too clear for this to be a different war heading Earth's way.
While the episode, which detailed Hale's upbringing as one of Hydra's star pupils, was full of Easter eggs as well as what appears to be some serious aligning with the MCU's upcoming release—which promises to irreparably alter the Universe as we know it—it's hardly the first time S.H.I.E.L.D. has crossed over with its cinematic brethren. While we await more potential clues in the coming weeks, let's take a look at all the times S.H.I.E.L.D. and the MCU have synced up in the past.
When Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. first got off the ground, Marvel and executive producer Joss Whedon were able to cash in a few favors with its secondary MCU stars, beginning with episode two's cameo from Samuel L. Jackson, whose Nick Fury popped up in a post-credits tag to scold Coulson about damaging the Bus while attempting to secure a weapon powered by the Tesseract, a nod to the Hydra macguffin from Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers.
In episode eight, we got our first direct tie-in, with "The Well" depicting the immediate aftermath of Thor: The Dark World. The episode opened with a montage of events from the film, briefly showing Chris Hemsworth's Thor, while the episode saw the team tasked with literally cleaning up the film character's mess.
In "T.A.H.I.T.I.," the season's fourteenth episode, we not only found out how Coulson was resurrected after his death in The Avengers, but alien race the Kree was introduced to the MCU. The following episode, Jamie Alexander's Sif made an appearance, tying the show back to Thor: The Dark World, while Maximiliano Hernandez's Jasper Sitwell made an appearance, setting up events for the upcoming Captain America: Winter Soldier.
The sixteenth episode, "End of the Beginning," featured Hernandez yet again, as his character exits the episode to get on the boat that his character appears on at the beginning of Winter Soldier. It's implied that the events of Winter Soldier and this episode run partly concurrently, with the episode ending with a scene from the film, acting as a teaser for it.
In the very next episode, "Turn, Turn, Turn," the events of Winter Soldier played out on and forever changed S.H.I.E.L.D, with the revelation that Hydra had infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. and Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) and Garrett (Bill Paxton) were among the infiltrators. The rest of the series would continue to grapple with this momentous turn of events. It was this moment that all of season one was building towards—though some critics felt it was too little, too late after a relatively staid first half of the season that bled viewers.
In episode 20, Cobie Smulder's Maria Hill popped up for a cameo, carrying out a phone conversation with an unseen Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow's character from the films), while Jackson's Nick Fury returned in episode 22.
The show's second season started off with Hayley Atwell, Neal McDonough and Kenneth Choi reprised their respective roles of Peggy Carter, Dum Dum Dugan and Jim Morita from Captain America: The First Avenger in the premiere, with the flashbacks helping to set-up Atwell's short-lived spin-off series, Agent Carter. Atwell returned in the eighth episode, while in the ninth, Raina (Ruth Negga) explained season one's unspoken introduction of the Kree, which was done to help set-up The Guardians of the Galaxy.
In "What They Become," the tenth episode, we learned that Raina and Daisy were both Inhumans, which officially introduced the species to the MCU. Initially, before Inhumans became a failed ABC series, there were plans for a film about the species. This moment was meant to help usher that feature to the big screen with some public awareness. Alexander's Sif returned in the twelfth episode. Her appearance helped the team—and us—learn more about the Kree and Inhumans.
By the time episode 19, "The Dirty Half Dozen," aired, it was time to tie-in to Avengers: Age of Ultron. More nuanced than season one's tie-ins, this episode featured appearances from Smulders' Maria Hill and Henry Goodman's Dr. List, with Easter eggs and plot threads leading up to Age of Ultron's opening scene. The following episode, "Scars," saw the team dealing with the aftermath of the film's events, but, again, in more subtle ways. Most notably, Coulson was allowed to be the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. thanks to his team's part in helping the Avengers rescue the Sokovians.
The season premiere, "Laws of Nature," made mention of several films already discussed on the series as well as newcomer Ant-Man, while William Sadler reprised his Iron Man 3 role of President Ellis. Ellis' announcement of an anti-superhuman task force marked the beginning of the series tying in with Captain America: Civil War. By episode 20, the film had been released and we were watching the team deal with the aftermath, particularly the powered individuals among the team, thanks to the newly-drafted Sokovia Accords. The episode, entitled "Emancipation," also made reference to Peggy Carter's death in Civil War. The character's own show would be canceled shortly thereafter.
With Doctor Strange and that story's mystical and supernatural elements coming to theaters, the season four premiere of S.H.I.E.L.D. introduced Ghost Rider (Gabriel Luna) as a way of preparing fans of the MCU for that film's uniqueness. Again, though, it was more of a subtle introduction, rather than a direct tie-in. As the season progressed, the series also introduced LMDs (Life Model Decoys), which were first referenced in The Avengers.
Do you think Hale's dealings with the Confederacy, and their promise of the war coming to Earth, are leading to an Infinity War tie-in? Sound off with your theories in the comments below!
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Fridays at 9 p.m. on ABC.