This article may contain spoilers for Agents of SHIELD that some may prefer to avoid... Don't say I didn't warn you :)
Marvel's Agents of SHIELD has had a somewhat rocky relationship with viewers. Its first season had a constant decline in ratings as it struggled to find its identity. But thankfully, since the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the show has gone from strength to strength!
The first season featured MCU favourite Phil Coulson and his desire to build a team of agents capable of handling the stranger missions for SHIELD. As this was set after the events of The Avengers, it meant that the world knew about aliens and superheroes. SHIELD intended to keep these cases as low key as possible, so this was where Coulson's team came in. At the start of the series, SHIELD had a number of high-tech gadgets at their disposal and often, the team would use a gadget to resolve the problem. But then along came The Winter Soldier...
Briefly, Captain America: The Winter Soldier dealt with a number of secrets being exposed. The main one was the reveal that a number of Hydra agents had infiltrated their way into SHIELD. This led to SHIELD being destroyed in the eyes of the world. It was also the best thing to happen to Agents of SHIELD. This led to a great twist, involving Grant Ward (who at the time was Coulson's best agent) being exposed as a Hydra spy. This reveal was so unexpected that it took the show to new levels. Now, it had a purpose - the war against Hydra! It also portrayed the rebuilding of SHIELD within the MCU.
But it did not end there. This development was brilliant, but the show was still led by events of one of the films. The next logical step was for the TV series to lead the films. Step forward, season 2.
A teaser at the end of season 1 showed Skye's father and heavily implied he had a villainous role. Skye had been an enigmatic presence up until this point in the series- It was known that she was the 0-8-4 (the object of unknown origin) that had been found by SHIELD many years earlier in a village full of dead bodies, but her true origins had yet to be revealed. The mid-season finale of season 2 finally answered these questions - Skye was an Inhuman! This led to the introduction of further Inhumans and, for the first time, was an example of Agents of SHIELD affecting the wider Marvel Universe.
The introduction of the Inhumans was another game changer for the series. Season 3, though only in its early stages, has continued to bring in new Inhuman characters (mainly thanks to a load of contaminated cod liver oil as shown at the end of season 2). Once again there has been a mix of new characters and established Marvel characters. Lash is an example of this. In the comics, Lash embarks on a mission to judge whether his fellow Inhumans are worthy of their gifts and if he deems them unworthy, he kills them. From what we have seen so far, he seems to be on a similar mission in Agents of SHIELD, though we are yet to see his reasons for doing this.
The latest episode of Agents of SHIELD, 4722 Hours, was another groundbreaking episode for the series. The final moments of season 2 saw Jemma Simmons absorbed into the Kree monolith with no indication as to what had happened. The beginning of season 3 dealt with the question of where she had gone and ultimately returned her home. But where had she been for 6 months? It was revealed to us that she was on a distant planet, but the question still remained: how has she survived for all this time? Well, all was revealed in this episode. In a departure for the series, the vast majority of this episode took place off world, with Jemma alone...
Her loneliness is highlighted by the vast, desolate nothingness she inhabits. The unknown planet is a desert that is covered in an endless night. She goes through the whole gamut of emotions but never gives up hope. Eventually, she meets a fellow human named Will, who has been stranded on the planet for 14 years. After talking to a picture of Fitz on her phone, she finally bonds with another human after weeks of solitude. Together, the two figure out a way to get home and set out to find it. Upon their arrival, they find that the portal is over a vast canyon so instead, they choose to send Fitz a message in a bottle. However, unfortunately this is a failure and it seems all is lost. It is only at this point that the ever-cheery Simmons gives up hope. The isolation is finally broken when Fitz arrives to save Jemma, but the audience now know that Will has been trapped on the alien planet...
This was like no other episode of Agents of SHIELD and it was truly brilliant! But why was it important to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole? There were a number of questions that arose from this episode. What happened to Will? What was the strange figure that walked the planet? Where was the planet? Perhaps these questions will be answered in due course over the season, but it got me thinking, how important is Agents of SHIELD to the MCU?
It could be that it is actually the most important part of it! As our most regular visit to the MCU, it means that we can see the world developing at a real pace, and things are allowed to progress naturally. We do not have to wait until the next movie comes out, we simply have to watch the next episode to see how things have developed. It was shown in season 2 that it can introduce new things to the universe with the Inhumans, so who is to say that something else could not be introduced? The possibilities are endless and the connectivity is a beautiful thing. Let's hope that the series continues to thrive - and remember, #ItsAllConnected!