Agents of SHIELD has always had the potential to be the little show that connected the big things. Now, with Marvel getting more little things (that is, TV shows), we have even more opportunities to see the backdrop of the Marvel Cinematic Universe through the eyes of Coulson and his team.

Of course, the problem with that has been that Agents has, well, supremely sucked at doing that.

There are a few other factors, though, even if the writing on the show continues to improve. For one, Agents and Agent Carter (if the later ever gets renewed) are ABC properties. If the Netflix shows pan out the way Daredevil did (I really need to write up my review/analysis of that show!), then that “network,” so to speak, will wind up being stronger, which means ABC might not want to share. On the other hand, Marvel TV contracts reportedly all include the possibility of cinema appearances, while the reverse (cinema to TV) is not true.

What I hope is that Spider-Man will help bridge that gap. In the comics, he’s done plenty of team-ups with Daredevil, as well as the other coming Netflix characters. I’d like to see him show up in both Netflix and ABC shows. Problem is, I don’t know if Sony would think that’s a great idea.

For now, it’s hard to judge where Agents of SHIELD is going after this season. Which brings us inevitably to the Avengers: Age of Ultron tie-in, where reportedly we have multiple characters from the show popping up. Back when I first heard about it, I wasn’t impressed. Now, though . . . heck, even the supremely-boring Skye, of all people, has become interesting. I’ve gone from “How can they do an Agents cameo and make it look anything other than forced?” to “How can they do an Agents cameo and do the show justice?”

My, how things change.

For the rest, though, I need to get into some spoilers for the current season.

Spoiler Warning

We have only two episodes before Age of Ultron hits the big screen, and we’re supposed to have Agents of SHIELD characters show up. Okay. So how are they going to explain the stuff about Skye suddenly getting powers and being off with the Inhumans in Attilan, the effective civil war between factions of SHIELD, Theta Protocol, and Coulson being alive?

Well, let’s take Skye first. The answer is . . . they don’t. The movie sets a deadline for this story-arc by virtue of the “don’t assume people are watching the show” policy. Considering how many people have given up on Agents of SHIELD, that’s particularly important now. This means that, since the movie can’t have time to introduce something that big that doesn’t impact its own plot very much, Skye’s got to get back to SHIELD in the next two episodes.

Considering that we’ve seen photos of her in SHIELD equipment again, and that this week’s episode has Coulson trying to find Skye, I’d say she leaves Attilan this week. Whether it will be publicly revealed that Jiaying is her mother is still up for grabs. I’d guess yes, but I don’t have any evidence for it.

The SHIELD factions are the same. We need to resolve this, or else it has to come up and be explained in Age of Ultron. However, unlike the Inhumans, we actually could get away with mentioning strife in this once-world-spanning organization. After all, the fact that SHIELD can’t go around doing what it once did is the whole reason why Tony Stark tries building Ultron in the first place. Having some dissension over who’s in charge might be worth putting in the movie, and it could potentially be done rather quickly. It depends on exactly how they manage it, and when it comes up.

I’m going to make a prediction that Theta Protocol is going to be resolved after the movie. In addition to there not being much time to wrap things up for the premiere, there’s also the fact that it seems to be building to a season finale kind of climax, something specific to the show. There’s an alternate explanation, of course, which I’ll detail in a moment.

As for Coulson being alive . . . well, I’ve said before that this plotline sucks. It’s part of the aforementioned “don’t assume people are watching the show” policy, combined with “we can’t afford to pay the Avengers actors to come on the show.” After the events of Captain America 2, we now have every SHIELD secret exposed, and that has to include Coulson. Am I to expect that JARVIS didn’t alert Stark to the fact that Coulson was still listed as an active agent? Am I to expect that all those Army guys managed not to let it slip? Am I to expect that Maria Hill won’t tell Stark now that she’s working for him?

To be honest, I’ll be disappointed if Stark doesn’t already know. If I were writing this, then I’d say that the other Avengers will be shocked, but that Stark just says “Oh, I didn’t tell you? Sorry. Phil’s alive. I can call you Phil, right? Awesome.”

Well, I’d also expect Black Widow and Hawkeye to know. They were high-level SHIELD agents, so they should have been privy to Coulson showing back up. It seemed to go through the organization pretty quickly, since there wasn’t an extraordinary amount of Coulson sneaking around pretending to be dead (except with his old girlfriend).

Now, as for some off-the-wall kind of predictions.

Is Gonzales a Hydra Double Agent? The idea behind this rumor is that he was never seen actually fighting Hydra in the flashback a few episodes ago, and he seems to have a marked preference for removing Coulson. He also had an exemplary reputation, according to Coulson, which always sounds extra-suspicious when dealing with Hydra.

But that leaves off the problem that he wanted to sink his ship, that his ship is holding some kind of special cargo, and that — if the commander of the ship was Hydra — the ship should have fallen to the enemy in short order. It also means that when Mockingbird was under cover with Hydra, then Hydra should have known. I doubt they’d have been that willing to risk everything just to take care of Coulson, particularly when they clearly didn’t have all the information about Coulson that Gonzales had.

So I’m saying no, he’s not a Hydra agent. And that’s not just because Edward James Olmos is freakin’ awesome and I want him to be in every single episode. That’s just a bonus.

Is Theta Protocol actually Ultron? We’ve got a super-secret project all over the world that Coulson is involved in. Is he actually working with Stark to help protect the world?

I’d say no. Aside from the thing about how Coulson hasn’t wanted to contact Stark, Coulson isn’t the type to want to turn everything over to computers. He’s the kind of guy who looks to human interaction as being essential for security, rather than hiding behind equipment. Human instinct ranks high with him.

It would also mean Theta Protocol would be completely resolved in three episodes’ time, leaving little for the season finale. Judging by comments from the writers and producers, that seems to be something they’re reserving just for the show.

And, of course, Theta Protocol has been building bases with “beds.” Why would robots need beds?

It’s far more likely that this has to do with something human. What, exactly, I don’t know. Aggressive recruitment isn’t likely, since that’s not a dramatic reveal. Collecting “powered people” (which sounds far too PC for my tastes) also doesn’t seem very likely, but that’s just a gut feeling on my part.

Whatever happens, it has to happen in the next two episodes. We’ve got very little time before the movie hits, and anything extraneous in the movie is going to weigh it down. I don’t think that Whedon would risk that with Age of Ultron.

However, the MCU is getting more and more complex, and that trend is only going to increase. We’re going to have lots of bleed between each installment, whether it’s a TV show or a movie. Marvel can’t afford to treat their audience as unable to catch up on everything. Whedon in particular has a reputation for expecting his audience to keep up — something that his audience tends to prove is possible.

Personally, I like it when a storyteller, whether it’s one author or a full company, doesn’t feel the need to lead me around by the nose. (*cough* Paramount *cough*) I love feeling clever when I get something that’s been cleverly-hidden; and I also enjoy watching something twice to get what I missed the first time. I’m good either way. I don’t think I’m the only one, either.

If Marvel doesn’t go that route, then the ever-complex MCU is going to fail. I don’t think they’re dumb. They’ve succeeded beyond all expectation, and every indication is that they’ll keep going forward giving us great stories.