Time Travel is a concept that many films and shows have made an attempt at. Till the last year, most of those shows & films had a similar attempt at the sci-fi concept where time is a loop, and making changes in the past will wipe the current timeline and change the present (The basic rules of time travel). But then came Avengers: Endgame, which brought in a totally different concept of time travel. In the MCU, making changes in the past will not cause any changes in the current timeline, but it will rather create a new timeline from that point onwards. And this alternate timeline will be a part of the Multiverse. Since Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pretends to be a part of the core MCU, it is logical to believe that time travel on the show will be similar to what was shown in Avengers: Endgame. But as we are moving forward with the season, it is seeming more likely that the concept of time travel on the show is rather different.
We have always been rooting for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to be acknowledged in the films. Since it hasn’t been under Kevin Feige’s wing till now, the MCU never acknowledged it. But the show has tried to stay connected to the films every now and then. In season 5, we saw Marvel’s first attempt at time travel, which was later elaborated in Endgame. The further explanation of time travel made us think that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is obviously a part of the MCU’s Multiverse. And now, Season 7 seems to be elaborating that even further, and we started to assume that season 7 would finally end up connecting to the MCU in a way that the movies would also be able to acknowledge. But things are getting more confusing after the second episode – “Know Your Onions.”
In the first episode – “The New Deal,” the Agents were taking a stroll down the streets of New York in the year 1931. They start talking about the chances of them being in 1931 changing the course of time itself. Daisy (Quake) talks about how the team being in 1931 hasn’t already changed time & created a new timeline altogether.
She talks about the butterfly effect where one change in time will become the cause of other changes, ultimately changing the future entirely. To clear her doubts, Deke Shaw (the grandson of Fitz & Simmons) & Phil Coulson’s LMD say:
“Deke – The butterfly effect is just one aspect of the Multiverse branch theory. Personally, I subscribe to the timestream idea… Imagine time is a stream, right, and we were sticks that were thrown into it. The water, it moves us, it moves around us,
Coulson – But it ends up in the same place.
Deke – Right! Now too many sticks thrown in, and that will create what’s called a Dam, and that will change the direction of the water, and that’s bad. So, as long as we can avoid that, we should be able to splash around a little bit and we’re all good.”
The conversation ends with Mack saying “Ripples, not waves,” which means that the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. could act a little freely until they do something so major that the entire timeline changes. All this felt cool, and we even did a breakdown proving how Captain America living his life in the past might not change the timeline by using Deke’s time travel logic.
But in Episode 2, things seem to be pointing towards the fact that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is also using a version of the basic time travel rules that have been mentioned right in the beginning of the article. In this episode, Agent Daisy Johnson argues about the fact that the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents should kill Wilfred Malick, as that could prevent the formation of Hydra & save 1000s of lives. Doing this would create a new timeline, according to Marvel’s time travel logics. Ultimately it didn’t happen, but Gemma Simmons did say that if Wilfred were to die, then the Agents would return to a future they wouldn’t recognize. This hinted at the fact that changing the past would indeed change the future like the basic time travel rules.
Comicbook.com mentions the fact that along with considering Jemma’s comments upon the matter, we also have to consider that the medium of traveling through time is different in Avengers: Endgame and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. In the film the heroes used the Quantum Realm whereas the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are using a modified Zephyr (their plane). So, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. could still be following the same rules as Avengers: Endgame as Wilfred Malick would have died and the timeline were to be renewed, then the Zephyr might only have to capability to take the Agents to the future in the new timeline, and not the old one that they recognize. But let’s see if this turns out to be true. The season has only begun and there’s a lot left to be answered.
But still, Killing Wilfred Malick would’ve been an extremely dumb decision as then Daisy would’ve been doing the work of the Chronicoms. The entire purpose of S.H.I.E.L.D. traveling back to the past would’ve been pointless. There’s one more thing that we need an answer for. If changing the past will only create a new timeline through the butterfly effect, then why are the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents following the Chronicoms to stop this when their own timeline wouldn’t be affected at all. Perhaps, there may be a lethal consequence of changing the past & creating a new timeline. That is probably why the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents want to prevent the creation on a new timeline where the Chronicoms will thrive. But if creating a new timeline has grave ramifications, then why did the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents create a new timeline in Season 5? Things surely are confusing. But we will discuss more on this potential plot hole later.
One more thing that we would like to add is that if the time travel concept on the show turns out to be any different than that of the MCU films, then we should forget a final connection of the show with the movies. It has been rumored that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. might end up connecting with the Agents of SWORD series that seems to be coming for Disney+. But if there is a major time travel difference in the show and in the films, then we should not expect any sort of connection between the show and the films because Mr. Feige will not have that.
It has been said that this season of the show will be connecting to the films and this comes from the top brass. The Co-Creator of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Jed Whedon and former Head of Marvel TV Jeph Loeb recently spoke to Deadline, and they teased that something will definitely happen when we talk about a crossover with the core MCU. Here’s what they said when asked about it:
“WHEDON: We’re going to bump into something.
LOEB: (LAUGHS) Yeah, we’ll bump into something.
BELL: Something will definitely happen.”
We have to assume that this “something” will only be after the season solves the time travel conundrum and makes the logic seem similar to that of Avengers: Endgame. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns next week with episode 3 – “Alien Commies From the Future!”.