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The Entire Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Timeline Explained

"Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." was the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first foray into television, following the adventures of S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson and his team as they handled strange and otherworldly cases. Like its cinematic counterparts, "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." brought in characters from the comics, both classic and obscure, including the Robbie Reyes version of Ghost Rider, the Secret Warriors, Quake, the Inhumans, the Kree, Bobbi Morse ("Mockingbird"), and others.

One of the reasons why "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is required viewing for MCU fans was that the series often referenced events from (and filled in the gaps between) the movies while still managing to cultivate its own lore and function as its own entity. Because the show lasted for seven seasons (in addition to a short digital spinoff series), it covered significant ground while also allowing characters to grow and relationships to deepen. It balanced sci-fi and fantasy elements, and built up a loyal fanbase.

The timeline for "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." became quite complex throughout its run, covering multiple storylines that dovetailed with each other, featuring some characters who would die only to return, and jumping across space and time on numerous occasions. With that in mind, here's a breakdown of the major events that became cornerstones of the show, explained in simple terms even a S.H.I.E.L.D. rookie agent could understand.

Agent Coulson lives

S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) was a beloved element of Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic, serving as a connective tissue between the various solo films that culminated in 2012's "The Avengers." Fans delighted in Coulson's deadpan delivery and use of bureaucracy as a weapon even when dealing with enhanced beings, so it was a bit of an emotional blow when he was killed by Loki (but not before getting in one good shot at the God of Mischief with an experimental S.H.I.E.L.D. weapon).

But the MCU, like its comic book counterpart, is not afraid to bring back a character seemingly killed off for good, so it wasn't long before it was revealed that not only did he survive being skewered with a magical space scepter, but he's ready to jump back into the world of superpowered people and is now putting together a new S.H.I.E.L.D. team.

This new team — composed of Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), and Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) — sets off on their first mission together to investigate the hacktivist group The Rising Tide and apprehend one of their members, Skye (Chloe Bennet). However, while interrogating her, Coulson begins to trust Skye, and instead recruits her as a consultant in their hunt for Mike Peterson (the MCU version of Deathlok), a superhuman who was experimented on by Project Centipede.

HYDRA Strikes

One of the biggest complaints about the first half of season one of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." was that it was too safe and predictable, lacking any real tension or personality. However, that all changed with the second half of the season, as it crossed over into the events of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," where it is revealed that HYDRA has been growing inside of S.H.I.E.L.D. for decades after its apparent demise in "Captain America: The First Avenger."

This revelation was a massive turning point for the series, as it not only put the agents on the run but revealed that Grant Ward had been working for S.H.I.E.L.D. the entire time. It was also revealed that agent John Garrett (Bill Paxton) was himself a HYDRA agent, in addition to being the financier behind Project Centipede.

Agents Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons are nearly killed by Ward, but are ultimately rescued by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who assists Coulson's team in bringing down Ward and Garrett. With S.H.I.E.L.D. in shambles, Coulson is appointed as its new Director and charged with the task of rebuilding the agency. While Coulson rebukes Fury for using GH.325 — an experimental drug derived from the blood of a Kree corpse — to revive him after he was killed by Loki, Fury tells Coulson that he values him as much as any Avenger, because he represents a vital moral compass of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Big changes for Skye

Coulson and his team head to San Juan, Puerto Rico, which is above a hidden Kree city that is home to an ancient alien artifact, the Obelisk. HYDRA leader Daniel Whitehall (Reed Diamond) plans on using the Obelisk as a destructive weapon, and has set up a base over the Kree temple that houses it.

Calvin Zabo, revealed to be Skye's father, wants to atone for not being around in her life by helping her fulfill her destiny — so, Ward kidnaps her. Calvin explains to Skye that her mother descended from a line of gifted people, and that she was captured by HYDRA and butchered by Whitehall, who stole her secret of extended life to use on himself. Calvin planned to bring Skye to the Obelisk so she could receive her new abilities while also luring Whitehall there to exact revenge upon for murdering his wife (Calvin was working with Whitehall just so he could get close to him). But before Calvin can kill Whitehall, Coulson steps in and kills Whitehall himself.

Skye chases Raina, who has taken the Obelisk into the temple; the Obelisk opens and floods the room with a bizarre mist, and the two women are encased in cocoons. As Raina transforms in her cocoon, Skye breaks out of hers using new seismic superpowers.

Rise of the Inhumans

Skye is kidnapped from S.H.I.E.L.D. and taken to Afterlife, a community for Inhumans. There she is introduced to Lincoln Campbell (Luke Mitchell), who teaches her about Terrigenesis and life as an Inhuman. It's also in Afterlife that its leader, Jiaying (Dichen Lachman), is revealed to be Skye's mother, who had survived Whitehall's experiments and had been searching for Skye for years. The two reunite with Calvin (Kyle MacLachlan), and it seems they'll finally be a family again.

However, unbeknownst to Skye, Jiaying plans to bring her fellow Inhumans to power by unleashing the contents of Terrigen crystals upon the world, which would cause latent Inhumans to undergo Terrigenesis and awaken their abilities while killing off the human population. Jiaying orders some Inhumans to hijack several of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s quinjets and fire missiles at Afterlife, to frame the agency and use the event to enact her plan.

After a confrontation with Calvin, Coulson convinces him to join forces, stop Jiaying and rescue Skye. Coulson, May, Fitz and Cal infiltrate the S.H.I.E.L.D. aircraft carrier the Iliad, which is now under Jiaying's command, to rescue Skye and end Jiayang's plans. Skye faces her mother before she enacts the final part of her scheme, but Jiayang is killed by Calvin, and Skye uses her vibrational abilities to knock the Iliad into the ocean.

In the aftermath, Skye decides to go by her birth name, Daisy Johnson, and lead a new S.H.I.E.L.D. team of Inhumans put together by Coulson to give them a new purpose.

Trouble on Maveth

After kidnapping Fitz and Simmons, Ward tortures Simmons to convince Fitz to join Ward's HYDRA team on Maveth, the alien planet Simmons was stuck on for months with stranded NASA astronaut Will Daniels (Dillon Casey). Ward and his team plan on going on a mission to Maveth to bring the ancient Inhuman Hive back to Earth, to which Fitz reluctantly agrees — secretly scheming to rescue Daniels and leave Ward and his team behind on Maveth.

HYDRA uses the Kree monolith to open a portal to Maveth, and Ward heads there with his agents and Fitz in tow as Coulson manages to jump in after them just before it closes. Once there, they meet Daniels, who agrees to lead them all to the evil Inhuman, only to instead steer them into a sandstorm that allows him and Fitz to escape. However, Fitz soon discovers that Daniels is actually the host of the Inhuman that Ward and HYDRA are after, called Hive. Meanwhile, Coulson kills the HYDRA team and takes Ward hostage to help him find Fitz. The portal reopens as Fitz destroys Daniels' body with a flare gun to prevent Hive from returning to Earth and Coulson kills Ward by crushing his chest with his prosthetic hand.

Coulson and Fitz manage to return to Earth, where Fitz consoles Simmons over the loss of Daniels. On Maveth, it is revealed that Hive is still alive and has taken over Ward's body, having reached Earth just before the portal closed.

Hive Dies, But At A Cost

Hive, still inhabiting Ward's body, hijacks a missile silo with the intent to launch a warhead containing an airborne pathogen that turns humans into "Primitives" that answer only to Hive. However, Hive's plan is thwarted by Coulson and his S.H.I.E.L.D. team, who use a mind probe on Hive to disorient his mind long enough to be captured. Unfortunately, the warhead is stolen by J.T. James (Axel Whitehead) and Giyera (Mark Dacascos), who are under Hive's influence, and free him from S.H.I.E.L.D.'s custody.

James and Giyera set off a bomb at S.H.I.E.L.D.'s base that turns agents into Primitives, as Daisy breaks out of her cell and confronts Hive, who easily defeats and captures her. Daisy is then taken aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. plane the Zephyr, which is secretly boarded by May and Fitz to rescue her. They're soon joined by Coulson and the others, who plan to send the warhead into space in the quinjet to detonate away from the human population.

However, Hive pursues Daisy onto the quinjet as she decides to fly it herself with the intent to sacrifice her own life in the process. That is, until a wounded Lincoln fries the manual control system and ejects Daisy, flying the plane himself. He professes his love to Daisy over the communications system, leaving Daisy devastated with his final heroic act and passionate admission. Six months later, Daisy has left S.H.I.E.L.D. and is now operating as a vigilante who the press dubs "Quake."

Slingshot's Personal Mission

Elena Rodriguez (Natalia Cordova-Buckley), aka Yo-Yo, considers signing the Sokovia Accords but wants to hunt down Victor Ramon (Yancey Arias), the man who killed her cousin. She meets with S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Jeffrey Mace (Jason O'Mara) about the document, who tells her that by doing so, she must abide by certain procedures before she apprehends Ramon. Unsatisfied with this new bureaucracy, Yo-Yo steals Mace's S.H.I.E.L.D. access card to obtain more info on Ramon's whereabouts.

While being examined by Fitz and Simmons, Yo-Yo learns that Ramon is in Baltimore. She bumps into May, who tells her that Mace's credentials are missing and confronts her about them. Yo-Yo reluctantly returns the credentials and receives a stern warning about her actions. However, May gives her access to a quinjet that's bound for Baltimore.

Yo-Yo tracks down Ramon and confronts him, but is soon captured by his henchmen. While held captive by Ramon, she learns that he's about to sell a weapon to the terrorist organization, the Watchdogs. However, she's rescued by Quake who was on the trail of the weapon. Quake distracts the Watchdogs as Yo-Yo confronts Ramon. Yo-Yo ultimately chooses not to kill Ramon, who is accidentally killed by the weapon he was about to sell as S.H.I.E.L.D. arrives. Yo-Yo and Quake escape the hideout before they're discovered.

Sometime later, Quake erases all traces of Yo-Yo's presence in Baltimore from S.H.I.E.L.D.'s system, and the two get their stories straight to ensure that Director Mace doesn't find out what really happened.

Ghost Rider

Still on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D., Quake is tracking the terrorist organization the Watchdogs when the fiery Ghost Rider appears; in this incarnation, the Rider's human form is mechanic Robbie Reyes (Gabriel Luna). S.H.I.E.L.D. attempts to apprehend Ghost Rider, but Quake intervenes and decides to help him find out what the Watchdogs are up to. Reyes tells Quake that his uncle, Eli Morrow (Jose Zuniga), was incarcerated for causing a massive explosion, and that he believes that atoning for Morrow's crimes will repay his debt to the Devil and rid himself of the Ghost Rider.

Quake reunites with S.H.I.E.L.D., who Ghost Rider is now working with to track down the Darkhold, a mysterious book that Morrow was studying. It was during an experiment with the book that the explosion was caused which led to his imprisonment.

Morrow escapes from prison and is traced by Rodriguez, Reyes, and Quake to where he's drawing power from another dimension using a demon core that he's created which is about to destroy Los Angeles. The team sends Morrow to another dimension. Reyes turns into Ghost Rider to hold Morrow in place as the team enact their plan, but is dragged through the portal with his uncle. In the aftermath, Director Mace tells the press that Quake was working undercover against the Watchdogs for S.H.I.E.L.D., and that she's officially reinstated.

Rise of the Life Model Decoys

Director Mace is kidnapped by the Watchdogs and tortured by their leader, Anton Ivanov (Zach McGowan), who wants revenge on Coulson. According to Ivanov, Coulson is responsible for the deaths of his fellow SVR agents during a mission years earlier. S.H.I.E.L.D. locate Mace, who is dying from his injuries as well as the super-serum he'd been using to give him enhanced abilities, which has been taking a toll on his body. Quake incapacitates Ivanov, and the team escapes. However, Ivanov's severed head is kept alive by Aida (Mallory Jansen) and given a new android body.

Later at their base, Simmons discovers that Mace, Coulson, Quake, Fitz, and Mack have all been replaced by LMDs, and that they are going to enact Ivanov's goal of destroying all Inhumans. After verifying that they're not LMDs, Simmons and Quake team up to find their real teammates, whose minds have been uploaded to a virtual world, called the Framework, by Dr. Holden Radcliffe (John Hannah).

Simmons and Quake manage to rescue the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who haven't been replaced yet, and are about to escape on the Zephyr One until they encounter an LMD of Agent May, who had been tasked with setting off explosives if any agents tried to leave the base. However, because this LMD was originally programmed with human May's personality, she lets them go and sets off the explosives, which destroy the base and all of the LMDs inside.

Agents of HYDRA

Quake and Simmons enter the Framework to retrieve their friends, only to discover a completely altered reality, one in which Simmons is dead; Fitz is wealthy and in a relationship with Aida (now going by the name "Ophelia"); Coulson is giving lectures about Inhumans instead of working for S.H.I.E.L.D.; May is working for Hydra; Mack's daughter, who died years earlier, is alive; and Quake is romantically involved with Ward, both of them working for HYDRA. However, there is a group, called the Resistance, aiming to take down HYDRA from the inside that includes Ward.

Meanwhile, Fitz is working on a project for Ophelia called Looking Glass, which would enable her to enter the real world with a new human form.

Now that Quake, Simmons, May, Coulson, Mace, and Mack are aware of what's truly going on, they escape the Framework and return to reality, along with Fitz who is still in love with Ophelia. Once out of the Framework, Fitz begins to confuse the memories of his two lives and eventually comes to his senses. He rejects Ophelia and makes clear his true feelings for Simmons, which enrages Ophelia and sends her back to Ivanov. He plans to use the Darkhold against the Inhumans and to apply the reality of the Framework to the real world. However, their plans are stopped by a surprising return from Ghost Rider, who takes the Darkhold to another dimension to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.

Struggle in the Future

Enoch, a member of the ancient alien race the Chronicoms, kidnaps Coulson and his team (except Fitz), forcing them through the White Monolith that transports them to the Kree's station, the Lighthouse, in the year 2091. It's in this future that Earth has been destroyed (because of Quake, somehow) with the surviving humans living as slaves under Kree rule.

The agents are joined by Fitz, who — with the help of Enoch (Joel Stoffer), Robin Hinton (Lexy Kolker) and old S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) — was put into a deep sleep in a cryogenic pod for 74 to join his friends in the future. It's also at this point that he and Simmons decide that they'll get married when their mission is complete. Now with the entire team reunited, they split into factions to achieve their mission.

One faction returns to Earth where they encounter the rebel group True Believers, led by an elderly Robin Hinton. The agents learn that the way back to their timeline lies with the Inhuman Flint (Coy Stewart), who can rebuild the White Monolith. The other faction stays behind on the Lighthouse to start a rebellion against the Kree ruler Kasius. The two factions reconvene and have Flint build them a new White Monolith to send them back in time — but before the team can return, future Yo-Yo warns present Yo-Yo that Earth was destroyed because of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s attempts to save Coulson's life.

HYDRA and the Confederacy

Coulson allows himself to be captured by General Hale (Catherine Dent), who has been tracking down the agents for their involvement in the assassination attempt on General Talbot (Adrian Pasdar). However, it's revealed that Hale has been working for HYDRA, who had previously made a pact with the alien alliance, the Confederacy. Hale intends to go against this alliance with Whitehall's particle-infusion chamber and gravitonium by creating a "Destroyer of Worlds," hoping for it to be Quake.

General Talbot, now out of his coma, decides to atone for his mistakes and fuses with the gravitonium himself, becoming powerful enough to fight the Confederacy. But his new powers consume him, so he takes over the Confederacy and believes himself capable of taking on Thanos. Talbot heads to Chicago to retrieve more gravitonium to boost his powers, but is met by the agents. During the fight, he nearly absorbs Quake, which would have resulted in Earth's destruction, as revealed in previous episodes.

Luckily, Quake was given the last of the Centipede Serum by Coulson (which was initially reserved for him in his now-dying state), increasing her powers enough to defeat Talbot by blasting him off the planet and into space. Fitz was crushed under the rubble from his efforts to evacuate the city, but the team decides to get back to 2091 to get Fritz, who was put in a cryogenic sleep, as future Fritz' help is no longer needed.

Fitz is found

A year after Coulson died (due to his brief time spent as Ghost Rider during the team's fight against Ophelia, which took a significant toll on his body), having spent his final days in Tahiti, S.H.I.E.L.D. is operating under the leadership of Mack.

Simmons and Quake are in space looking for Fitz, who is with the Chronicom Enoch. When the two land on the planet Kitson, their ship is stolen from them, so they head to a nearby casino with the hopes of winning enough money to buy a new ship.

Quake and Simmons encounter Malachi, a bounty hunter looking for Fitz, who tells them he's heading to Kitson, where they land and are briefly reunited with Fitz before Malachi absconds with him. The two women are then captured by Chronicoms led by Atarah (Sherri Saum), whose planet was destroyed and need Fitz to crack the secret behind time travel to restore their planet. Simmons surrenders to reunite with Fitz and to let Quake return to Earth and gather the other agents. Fitz and Simmons are forced to work together to solve the time travel dilemma while imprisoned, until they're freed by Enoch. On their way back home, Fitz and Simmons encounter a mysterious mercenary named Izel (Karolina Wydra), who asks for their help in finding an artifact on Earth. However, Izel has other, more nefarious, plans of her own.

Who is Sarge?

On Earth, a S.H.I.E.L.D. team led by Mack contends with bizarre reality distortions which lead to the arrival of a group of mercenaries. Their leader, who goes by the name Sarge, looks exactly like the deceased Phil Coulson. Sarge's squad robs a jewelry store and evades capture by S.H.I.E.L.D., but the agents manage to get a clue via one of the corpses left behind by Sarge. Through an autopsy of the body, which is covered in unusual crystals, S.H.I.E.L.D. surmises that Sarge may have a dire fate in store for Earth. Also discovered inside the corpse is a bat-like creature called a Shrike, which escapes and infects Damon Keller, Yo-Yo's boyfriend, who manifests crystalline protrusions before she kills him.

May is captured by Sarge and his squad, and learns that they're actually trying to destroy the Shrike, which are beginning to infect Earth. However, she still suspects them, and manages to apprehend and hand them over to S.H.I.E.L.D. custody. S.H.I.E.L.D. tracks down two new Shrike hosts and captures them, but when they put them in the same Containment Module, the Shrike violently react and put the entire Zephyr One plane in danger. Mack is forced to ask Sarge for help, who agrees but only if he gets his truck and crew back, to which Mack complies — ultimately saving the plane and everyone aboard.


Sarge informs the team that an army of Shrike will assemble at a specific destination to mark the arrival of someone he refers to as "the Beast," who happens to be Izel. Meanwhile, Izel's true plans are revealed to Fitz and Simmons who are on their way to Earth from their previous adventures in space. Before they're killed, Fitz and Simmons are rescued by a team led by Mack, but Izel escapes before being apprehended by S.H.I.E.L.D.

May confronts Sarge and stabs him, but he heals himself. Fitz ascertains that when the monoliths were destroyed, they resulted in the creation of a new Phil Coulson who they now know as Sarge. However, there's more to Sarge's story, as it is revealed that he's actually Pachakutiq, an entity from Izel's world who took control of Coulson's body and has his memories entangled with him. Meanwhile, Izel continues her search for the monoliths that reside on Earth.

The agents have their work cut out for them as they face assaults from both the Chronicoms — who are targeting Earth to build a new home world — and Izel's invasion. With help from a disguised Enoch, Fitz and Simmons manage to keep the Framework technology out of the Chronicoms' hands, while Quake, Mack, and a Shrike-infected Yo-Yo take on Pachakutiq, and May faces off against Izel. While they manage to kill Pachakutiq and Izel, May is seriously injured from her fight, and is placed in a stasis pod.

Adventures Across Time

Immediately after the success of their previous mission, Fitz whisks the team back to 1931 New York City to buy themselves time to find which S.H.I.E.L.D. secrets the Chronicoms are looking for in their quest to invade Earth. To aid them on their mission, Simmons introduces the team to an LMD version of Phil Coulson. This version of Coulson wrangles with his new life, as two years of memories following his demise flood his mind.

The agents travel across time, visit important eras from S.H.I.E.L.D.'s history, and encounter the ancestors and younger versions of various S.H.I.E.L.D. acquaintances and enemies. With the help of Enoch, May wakes up from her time in the stasis pod with her injuries healed. Her empathic powers (which she acquired from her brief stay in the Fear Dimension) are vital in convincing the Chronicoms to end their invasion of Earth.

One year after their final adventure together, the team gathers virtually to catch up on old times, reveling their current whereabouts: Fitz and Simmons have left the S.H.I.E.L.D. life to raise their daughter; Mack is still leading S.H.I.E.L.D. with Yo-Yo by his side; Quake is exploring the galaxy on Zephyr Three; May is a professor at S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Coulson Academy; and Coulson is traveling the world with an updated version of his beloved flying car, Lola.