It’s time to accept Agents of SHIELD, it’s not the Canon MCU
Loki’s first episode proves Marvel Studios will never refer to or be coerced into Agents of SHIELD – but the series still matters regardless.
WARNING: The following contains SPOILERS for Loki episode 1, “Glorious Objective”.
It’s time to accept Agents of SHIELD is not canon at Marvel Cinematic Universe. When Marvel Television was launched Agents of SHIELD in 2013, the show was positioned as the official MCU TV series. Unfortunately, it soon became clear that the connections would only work one way; the television series would follow the lead of the films, but the films would never reference it in turn. Joss Whedon even used Agent Phil Coulson in Avengers: Age of Ultron. “As far as I’m concerned, in this movie Coulson died,“he explained at the time.”If you come back to the sequel and say Coulson is alive, it’s like putting the fucking John Gielgud in Arthur’s suite. It was important that he was gone. It’s another world now. And you have to run with that.“The relationship between Marvel Studios and Marvel Television became even more strained after a corporate restructuring in 2015 that separated Marvel Studios from the rest of Marvel Entertainment.
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Agents of SHIELD managed to continue to stick with the movies regardless, sometimes on thematic levels rather than in terms of plot, and there’s a sense in which Thanos himself was the villain of Season 5. When ABC got Unexpectedly renewing the series for two more seasons, it caused something of a continuity nightmare as Marvel Television had absolutely no idea what the movie studio had planned in the aftermath of the Snap. There is simply no way to reconcile the timeline of Seasons 6 and 7 with the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. For all that is the case, however, fans of Agents of SHIELD have desperately tried to figure out how things can fit.
But the last few months seem to have settled the issue. Marvel and Disney have implemented an option to view the MCU in chronological order on Disney + – and the new timeline has subtly snapped Agents of SHIELD. WandaVision featured a completely different design for a black magic book called Darkhold than the one featured in Agents of SHIELD, and now Loki followed Joss Whedon’s lead in avoiding reference to Coulson’s resurrection. As warmly as Kevin Feige can speak Agents of SHIELD, it is clear that the following Disney + films and series never intend to refer to it, and the studio will in no way be forced to. For all purposes, Agents of SHIELD and, by extension, the rest of Marvel Television’s productions, are not canon.
But Agents of SHIELD may not be canon, the Multiverse introduced in Loki provides a way to adapt it. Viewers who wish to enjoy the series because of its relationship to the rest of the MCU can just assume that it takes place in a branching timeline, in which Coulson was resurrected and things played out in a different way, in which Thanos’ Snap never happened due to changes made earlier in the timeline.
But even that is not really necessary. The debate on Agents of SHIELDThe canonicity of has always been driven by a flawed assumption, that the show’s status relative to the rest of the MCU is what’s worth watching. It’s easy to see why this mistake crept in, as connectivity was at the center of its marketing when it launched. But in its seven seasons, Agents of SHIELD forged his own path and developed his own rich mythology, embracing Inhumans, a new Ghost Rider, and even his own model of time travel that was more cohesive than Avengers: Endgame. Connectivity isn’t what makes this show worth revisiting, it’s the ever-improving quality of its writing and the growing skills of its cast and crew throughout the seven seasons. Canon does not dictate the quality, because Agents of SHIELD proves.
Loki releases new episodes every Wednesday on Disney +.
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