Marvel Cinematic Universe fans have been wanting to see more interaction between the universe's movie and television heroes for some time, but could it be that Marvel has stealthily been giving fans what they want without anyone noticing yet?
Spoilers for the fifth season of Marvel's Agents of SHIELD and the first season of Marvel's Runaways follow.
Marvel's Agents of SHIELD ended its fourth season on a cliffhanger. Phil Coulson – the SHIELD agent who befriended the Avengers and sacrificed his life in battle against Loki in Marvel's The Avengers, and whom the Avengers still don't realize was resurrected afterward – was captured by a mysterious group along with his team and then apparently sent into space. The Marvel's Agents of SHIELD Season Five premiere revealed that the SHIELD team hadn't actually traveled in space but in time and are now stranded in the future.
Marvel's Runaways hasn't sent its heroes into the future, but it has offered a glimpse at things to come. Victor Stein, the Pride member who is the father of Runaway Chase Stein, is a brilliant inventor who has been interested in time travel since he was young. He finally figures it out and creates something like a television set that can receive transmissions from the future. However, he doesn't realize that he's succeeded and throws the device aside in a fit of rage.
What both of these time travel tales have in common is that they both show a cataclysmic event in Earth's near future. In the case of Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, the team arrives in the future on a space station called the Lighthouse that is embedded into the remnants of what once was Earth. Earth had been destroyed decades ago and while most of the remaining human population have no idea what the cause was, one person, Deke, has managed to piece the history together and blames Earth's destruction on Daisy "Quake" Johnson.
In the case of Runaways, the future is less clear. All we know is that Victor Stein's device received a transmission that showed buildings toppling.
While the characters within the Marvel Cinematic Universe are just now learning about their potentially apocalyptic future, Marvel Cinematic Universe have known that darkness was coming to Earth for some time. After all, Avengers: Infinity War opens in theaters in May 2018 and we know that Thanos making landfall on Earth, based on the trailer alone, is going to be bad news.
Could Thanos' arrival be the cataclysm alluded to in both Agents of SHIELD and Runaways?
For Agents of SHIELD, it would make a lot of sense. This series is a direct spinoff of the first Avengers movie and so has always interacted with the Marvel Studios films more directly than Marvel Television's other projects. Two episodes of Marvel's Agents of SHIELD tied into Avengers: Age of Ultron, serving as prologue and epilogue to the second Avengers movie. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a major turning point for Agents of SHIELD that led to a guest appearance by Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, and the series also had multiple tie-ins to Thor: The Dark World, including a guest appearance by Jaimie Alexander as Lady Sif. With the series' 100th episode coming up later this season, a tie-in to Avengers: Infinity War would make a lot of sense.
As far as Deke blaming Daisy for the cataclysm, he did indicate that the destruction occurred when SHIELD was trying to save Earth. Perhaps Thanos is what they were trying to save Earth from. There's also the possibility that Deke simply got the history wrong or that he's lying to Daisy, though Kasius, the Kree in charge of the Lighthouse, also seems to believe Daisy is to blame. Of course, with the multiverse now in play, literally, anything is possible.
As for Runaways, it's a bit more of a stretch. Runaways is set in Los Angeles, which follows a decision by Runaways comic book creator Brian K. Vaughn that was intended to keep the Runaways from becoming too caught up in all of the superhero business that takes place in New York City. To have the series tie directly into Avengers: Infinity War would be a breach of that spirit, and also a little jarring since Runaways is a show that hasn't acknowledged the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe yet. If it wasn't for the "Marvel's" in the title and Stan Lee's cameo viewers would never know that this was a Marvel Television production. The destruction that is seen on Victor Stein's screen more likely has to do with whatever Jonah and the Pride are up to.
Fans will have to wait and see if and how this all comes together when Avengers: Infinity War is releases on May 4, 2018.