Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD returns to television this week with the two-hour Season Five premiere titled “Orientation.” The episode not only delivers on the cliffhanger ending that wrapped up the previous season, but it also has multiple twists of its own that set Agents of SHIELD for its boldest season yet.
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD has been on an extended hiatus in order for ABC to accommodate eight episodes of Marvel’s Inhumans airing during the fall. The long wait only seems to have intensified the speculation and hype surrounding the season premiere, and “Orientation” does not disappoint.
The episode begins, as seen in the lengthy sneak preview released by Marvel Television and ABC, by turning back the clock and showing that Season Four cliffhanger sequence from the point of view of the mysterious agents who took the SHIELD team from the diner where they were enjoying their last meal. This sequence raises more questions than it answers, but quickly explains how Coulson and his team find themselves in outer space, and from there the show is off to the races.
The first part of “Orientation” is all adrenaline. It begins similarly to an episode of Doctor Who, with Coulson arriving on a space station in the midst of a crisis where he’s expected to be the one to save the day and make sure everyone makes it out alive. That doesn’t go so well, and soon the tone shifts to be more like an Alien movie as the team simply tries not to be killed by the Vrellnaxians, alien predators referred to as “Roaches,” that infest this level of the space station.
Fans will know that these episodes are meant to be something special when the episode dispenses with the usual title card treatment and instead implements a logo fade-in that calls back to previous standout episode “4,722 Hours.”
All of this builds up to a big twist in the middle of the premiere that we won’t dare spoil here. This moment of revelation sets up some intense world-building in the premiere's back half.
"It just allows, I think, everything to be new and different," star Elizabeth Henstridge said of the season’s new setting when ComicBook.com spoke to her at New York Comic Con. "The show is just aesthetically very different, and I think the characters, we see them in crisis, so they all react differently."
"The show's really reinvented itself," co-star Iain De Caestecker added, "and it will be the biggest switch in style that the show's ever done.”
The second half of “Orientation” focuses on establishing what will presumably be the status quo for Agents of SHIELD for the foreseeable future. This process manages to bring in elements from the show’s entire four-season run so far, plus break new ground with a second major twist towards the episode’s end, all of which makes Marvel Television head Jeph Loeb's claim of an eventful upcoming 100th episode of Agents of SHIELD seem increasingly exciting.
The Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD Season Five premiere presents the show at its most confident, and after the brilliant “Framework” arc that concluded the show’s fourth season, it's a confidence that has been earned. The actors seem more comfortable in their characters’ skin than ever before (with the exception of Iain De Caestecker as Fitz who – for reasons explained in the episode – is entirely absent from the premiere, but seems to be setting up for a big moment later on in the season) and it shows in the familiarity they share with each other, and the team dynamics that, at this point, are functionally more like a family than an espionage operation.
As mentioned, there are certain huge moments in the Agents of SHIELD Season Five premiere that just can’t be talked about right now. Rest assured that fans will certainly be discussing these moments after the episode airs. Marvel fans should strap in, because the fifth season of Agents of SHIELD is going to be a wild ride.