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The One Line That Could Have Changed Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. In The Future

With its emotional finale in the books, the story of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. officially concluded. It began as a pretty standard procedural drama that chronicled the missions of the more grounded, unsung heroes of the Marvel world, operating within the titular organization, but over its seven seasons, it grew into so much more. The series traveled across different time periods considered the existence of the multiverse, and dealt with the fallout of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe stories, exceeding all expectations. However, for a handful of reasons, its status as a true addition to the box office juggernaut franchise remains a hot topic.

Early on in its run, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. worked overtime to prove itself as a vital component of the overarching Marvel plot. The story beats from the films, such as the Extremis virus from Iron Man 3 and the reemergence of Hydra in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, for example, supplied the show with a strong narrative backbone in its formative years, but it eventually moved away from this approach. In doing so, it started to distance itself from the movies, leaving many to wonder if the showrunners ever intended it as canon in the first place.

Avengers: Infinity War further complicated this connection, especially regarding Thanos' (Josh Brolin) infamous "snap," which wiped out half of all life in the cosmos. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. totally ignored it, thus complicating the timeline and leaving many fans bewildered, even as the show treated the Mad Titan as an impending threat during the program's fifth season. The burning question on everyone's minds was: Why wouldn't his defining moment be dealt with in some way? As it happens, one unused line could've made sense of all of this chaos and severely altered the program's future.

An Infinity War reference in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finale would've saved its canon status

In August 2020, showrunners Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon took part in an interview with the New York Times, in which they discussed the issues behind including Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as a card-carrying member of the MCU chronology. Whedon detailed that they tried to put forth a valiant effort at tying the series closer to the events of Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame via references to Thanos' snap. In the writers room, dialogue came about during their brainstorming that would've referenced Thanos' snap, but it never came to pass in the final product.

"We're following the multi-verse rule. The only way that someone survives Thanos's snap in the movies is go into the Quantum Realm, and we originally did plan to give that a mention — because we used the quantum realm to move between timelines — but it got cut for time," Whedon said. His claim not only would've kept the two continuities as one, but it also would've clarified why the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. cast was unaffected by Thanos' attempt at "balancing" the universe, since they were all knee-deep in the Quantum Realm at the time.

This line could've served as one of the most important in the series, casting aside any doubts to the claim that the events in the MCU were felt on the ground by the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. crew. However, since it wound up on the cutting room floor, one has to wonder what behind the scenes decisions led to its ultimate exclusion — perhaps signaling that the folks in charge wanted to move Marvel television projects away from the Marvel Studios continuity. Either way, it's a shame those in charge couldn't come to a verdict on the matter sooner, thus avoiding this perpetual confusion.