Thanos? What’s a Thanos?
Given the new world order introduced in “Avengers: Endgame,” for the first time since Nick Fury showed up at the end of “Iron Man,” there are only hints of what’s to come in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Don’t look for clues in “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (8 p.m. Friday, ABC), either. By fracturing a timeline last season, the spinoff series — which resurrected Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) shortly after he was killed by Loki in “The Avengers” — is doing its own thing, with nary a mention of a snap.
What’s on the horizon
The MCU is clearly at a crossroads. Other than July’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” few outside the Marvel brain trust know what comes next.
Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is getting a stand-alone movie. Sequels to “Black Panther” and “Doctor Strange” are in the works. With international grosses of $1.1 billion and climbing, “Captain Marvel” almost certainly will spawn another movie. And “Endgame” seems to lay the path to “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.”
As for new franchises, “Shang-Chi” will introduce the master of the martial arts, and Angelina Jolie is attached to star in “The Eternals,” which follows a group of godlike immortals.
At some point, The X-Men, The Fantastic Four and some incarnation of Deadpool, the rights to which Disney acquired by buying up most of the Fox assets, will join the MCU.
Life after Netflix
The situation on the television side is nearly as fractured, although the road ahead is more defined.
Marvel’s ambitious Netflix slate — which at one time included “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage,” “Iron Fist” and “The Punisher” — has been canceled, although “Jessica Jones” still has a third season to air, leaving it a dead show walking.
For the time being, the future of Marvel television — “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” aside — will be on Hulu, of which Marvel parent Disney is now the majority owner, and the upcoming streaming service Disney+.
Earlier this month, Hulu announced a live-action series focusing on Ghost Rider as well as one featuring the family duo of Daimon and Ana Helstrom. Those join the animated series “Howard the Duck,” “M.O.D.O.K,” “Tigra and Dazzler” and “Hit-Monkey,” which are in the developmental stages, with Kevin Smith, Patton Oswalt and Chelsea Handler among the creative teams. Similar to the Netflix deal, the four animated series will come together in an event as “The Offenders.”
So far, Disney+ has the buzzier upcoming series. As-yet-untitled shows will focus on Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan will team for “The Falcon & Winter Soldier” while Elizabeth Olsen — and, presumably, Paul Bettany — will star in the unfortunately named “WandaVision,” which sounds like it should have been an experimental, Cinerama-style moviegoing experience from the 1970s.
Return of ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’
All of those Disney+ series are expected to be integrated into the fabric of the MCU in ways “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” could never really achieve. Despite the presence of Agent Coulson and the corporate synergy of airing on the Disney-owned ABC, the drama has been able to muster only a couple of guest appearances from Samuel L. Jackson’s Fury, Cobie Smulders’ Maria Hill and Jamie Alexander’s Lady Sif from the “Thor” movies.
While the drama introduced the Kree, the race of blue meanies from “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Captain America,” to the MCU, the relationship largely has been a one-way street. Not only is Coulson definitively dead in the movie franchise, S.H.I.E.L.D. itself hasn’t existed on the film side since 2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
It may be for the best. After a rocky start, the series has only improved as it’s moved further away from having to shoehorn in references to the Sokovia Accords and Asgardian whatnots.
In fact, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is coming off its best season yet. When Season 5 left off, almost a year to the date before Friday’s premiere, Coulson was on a beach with only days to live, while Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) was left cryogenically frozen and floating in outer space.
Without spoiling anything, Season 6 includes more intergalactic travel, along with Gregg and De Caestecker, as the series continues to find new ways to reinvent itself.
That reinvention is something the Marvel Cinematic Universe can finally take from “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
Contact Christopher Lawrence at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.