So the sixth season of Agents of Shield has been underway for a few episodes now. You might have expected the season to take place in the aftermath of the Thanos snap but it seems like that is not the case. This would seem to cause trouble for the timeline with respect to how Shield fits in with the overall MCU timeline given references in the finale of the fifth season. I’m not so sure, however.
Endgame established conclusively the notion of a multiverse in the MCU canon. It also established the notion of branching timelines which is also something that Shield suggested as well, and looks like they have explicitly established it now based on events moving forward. That means that Shield can actually still be in the same continuity as that established by Endgame yet not be in the same timeline.
Endgame established a timeline where Thanos never gathered the infinity stones on account of him leaving that timeline to the future depicted in Endgame where he subsequently died which would seem to preclude him going back where (when) he came from. That means there is a whole timeline where the infinity stones were never collected from their previous locations. It also means that many of Thanos’s ravages never happened which would have some massive knock on effects in the timeline leaving the present basically unrecognizable from the perspective of most of the main characters of the MCU movies. However, those events would likely have had minimal impact on anyone not directly involved in them. For instance, the events of Guardians 1 would not have had any impact on Earth. Even so, references in various episodes of Shield indicate that it cannot exist in a timeline where Thanos did not follow his infinity stone collection quest to its conclusion.
That leaves us with an apparent conundrum. On screen evidence indicates that Shield shares a timeline up to some point near the conclusion of Infinity War. Barring some sort of reveal later on in Shield, that would suggest we need another explanation than Shield being in the “non-Thanos” timeline. I can think of two explanations. One is more compelling than the other in my opinion. I’ll save that for second.
Suppose Shield season 6 really is in the post-snap MCU? But wait! Where is all the fallout? Why was there no mention of it? How come none of the main cast were dusted? Well, considering the main cast all did the time travel thing, they may not actually count as part of “all life” or might otherwise be immune. We don’t know what the consequences of that time travel macguffin actually are. Or maybe one of the weird phenomena that occurred in the Lighthouse had some impact. After all, there is a *lot* of stuff there. Also, since randomness is lumpy, it’s actually not impossible that nobody in the Lighthouse was dusted. And, as far as not seeing the consequences of the snap, well, we don’t see a lot of the world outside the Lighthouse in the few episodes we’ve seen so far. We also didn’t see a lot of it in Endgame so we don’t know what else may have happened in the five year time jump in Endgame that left things the way there were. And, while you would expect some mention of it, they have been rather busy so far. Still, this is a major stretch and doesn’t seem all that compelling so unless Word of God says otherwise, I’m going to assume this isn’t the case.
The other, and more compelling, option is that some sort of butterfly effect thing lead to their timeline having a slight difference in the final battle(s) of Endgame. There were several points where the battle could have gone in the heroes’ favour. Starlord could have not hesitated. Thor could have taken a head shot. That sort of thing. If any one of those things happened, the resulting timeline would have been identical up to the points referenced in the finale of Shield season 5. At that point, things could diverge. This feels like the most satisfying explanation to me so barring some sort of reveal later on, this is what I’m going with in my head canon.
Incidentally, one such reveal that is possible comes to my mind: It may be that the references in Shield season 5 were to some other events that we haven’t seen. It’s entirely possible that much less time has passed on Shield than we think over the past several seasons and that we’re still somewhat pre-snap in the timeline. I kind of hope they don’t use this trick, but it’s not entirely unlikely. I hope they don’t go this way because it still leaves problems for the other Marvel shows. But if the Marvel TV shows are all in a universe where Thanos was defeated conventionally by heroes not screwing up during the final battle(s), then it makes things less complicated and we can just get on with having a multiverse.
Anyway, as I said, my head canon is going with “alternate universe where the Avengers and allies didn’t completely fuck up the final battle(s) in Infinity War” until such time as an alternative explanation is provided. Regardless, though, what we’ve seen so far on Shield season 6 is not really irreconcilable with the MCU movies. There are options. (Actually, the current story arc on Shield could lead to any number of those options.)
I will finish by saying that given that the current season of Shield was in production before Endgame was released, I expect the producers didn’t actually know how things would proceed after the snap so it’s not surprising there are apparent contradictions. Since there is apparently going to be a seventh season, it will almost certainly be addressed then if not before.