What Does the 'Agents of SHIELD' Season 5 Premiere Mean for the MCU Timeline?

Tonight’s fifth season premiere of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD had a major twist right in its center that raised some big questions about the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline.

SPOILERS for the Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD Season Five premiere follow.

The Season Four finale of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD suggested that the team would be headed to outer space, and the Agents of SHIELD Season Five premiere follows through on that promise. However, it goes a step further and delivers something that most fans didn’t see coming.

The previews for Agents of SHIELD’s Season Five premiere suggested that Coulson and his team would be welcomed into outer space by humans – or at least humanoids – who have been waiting for them as if Coulson was a prophesied messiah returned to save humanity. So how then did stories of Coulson’s supposedly covert team end up spreading through outer space?

It turns out they didn’t have to spread far; they just had to have a solid shelf life. The SHIELD team is all rounded up with the exception of Agent Fitz, who is left behind at the diner the rest were taken from. The team is then placed in a room with a monolith similar, though of a different color and pattern, to the one that sent Jemma Simmons to Maveth. When they wind up teleported to outer space, they assume they’ve all undergone the same process.

As the episode continues, the team eventually starts to put things together. Simmons recognizes constellations ,and their new friend Deke is confused by the SHIELD team’s dress and behavior. Finally, they figure out that there was something different about that monolith. It didn’t transport them through space, but sent them forward in time.

The Lighthouse space bunker that the team ended up on is actually in orbit around what’s left of planet Earth, which isn’t much. The uninhabitable surface of the planet that birthed humanity is shattered and floats through space. To make matters worse, a second twist at the end of the premiere reveals that, according to what Deke says he’s put together of the history destroyed by the Kree when they arrived, it was Daisy Johnson who destroyed the Earth using her quake powers.

This brings up a number of questions. Deke says that SHIELD was trying to save the world when Daisy shook the Earth to death. But save the world from what? With Avengers: Infinity War on the horizon, it's hard not to wonder if SHIELD was doing its part to protect the Earth from Thanos and the Black Order.

However, if it were Thanos, then why weren't the Avengers the ones fighting? Even if it weren’t, where were the Avengers in this moment of crisis? And where are they now? Many of them may have perished in Earth’s destruction, though it's not hard to imagine Tony Stark and Bruce Banner would have a found way to save as many people as possible. But even if that failed, Thor is a god and Vision is practically god-like. There’s reason to believe a least a few Avengers should still be hanging around the universe.

That's not to mention the questions about how time travel works in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If Daisy was sent to the future before she destroyed the Earth, then how was the Earth still destroyed by her in that future? The answer is likely that time travel works similarly to the way it does in the Marvel Comics universe, where every instance creates a separate timeline in the vast Marvel multiverse, but that still hasn't been addressed on screen.

And then there's Fitz, who must have been the one who kept the story of SHIELD alive and passed it down and who also managed to get a message through time to his SHIELD teammates at least 90 years in the future. What exactly is he up to, and does it involve man-made time travel?

Between whatever caused Earth to be destroyed inAgents of SHIELD and the imminent threat of Thanos, there’s a lot of questions that need to be answered for the MCU.

Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.