Every Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Ranked Worst To Best

Before Disney+ and Kevin Feige brought television series into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D" was a fan-favorite network television underdog. Born out of 2012's "The Avengers," the show followed a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents assembled by a newly not-dead Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg). Thanks to a strong fanbase, "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." survived cancellation multiple times with rallying cries on social media like #CoulsonLives and #SaveAgentsOfSHIELD.

"Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." had a rough start, but then "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" hit theaters, revealing the MCU's biggest twist thus far. Since S.H.I.E.L.D.'s inception, Hydra had moles on the inside. The show's story exploded from there, exploring how these street-level agents grapple with the aftermath. What started as a seemingly typical network "villain of the week" formula became a great companion piece to the movies. As the seasons progressed, the show's focus on MCU continuity faded into the distance, which improved the series. "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." became a uniquely whacky, space-jumping, time-hopping, Kree-fighting, easter egg-filled nerd fest. To date, it's still one of the highest-rated Marvel shows on Rotten Tomatoes. Following the mixed reviews of "She-Hulk," it felt timely to revisit an underrated Marvel gem. So hop in the Quinjet with us, and let's fly through the best and worst seasons of the beloved series.

7. Season 6 — Killer shrikes and a grumpy Coulson

Season 6 had a tough act to follow after season 5 effectively juggled storylines with Ghost Rider (Gabriel Luna), Life Model Decoys, the Kree, and time travel. Similarly, this season follows two science fiction-heavy storylines. Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) and Quake (Chloe Bennet) search for a cryogenically-frozen Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) in space. During their travels, they encounter alien smugglers, Chronicoms, and dark secrets from their past. On Earth, Mack (Henry Simmons) leads Yo-Yo (Natalia Córdova-Buckley), Deke (Jeff Ward), and May (Ming-Na Wen) against a mysterious man named Sarge (Clark Gregg), who looks just like the recently deceased (for real this time) Phil Coulson. Sarge and his crew are seemingly hunting people on Earth. But they're actually here to stop the Shrike, a planet-devouring race of aliens. 

Overall, Quake and Jemma's space opera adventures outshine the down-and-dirty Earth action — especially with sequences like the "House of Games" casino, a neon-drenched Mos Eisley Cantina with a Marvel twist, and Fitz and Simmons' emotional reunion. The mystery behind why Sarge looks like Coulson and following the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents fighting a version of their dead mentor provides plenty of dramatic tension. However, the Shrike creatures' end game is less interesting than the human drama. Also, it isn't as flashy and fun as the space segments. Ultimately, this season may be a slight step back after the massive highs of earlier arcs, but it's still a worthy outing for our favorite Agents.

6. Season 2 — Hydra hunting and Inhumans

Season 2 takes the best elements of season 1 and expands them, separating the show from needing to connect to the MCU timeline. Gemma Simmons is undercover in what remains of Hydra, while the traitorous Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) works in the shadows. Another faction, led by Robert Gonzales (Edward James Olmos) and known as the "real S.H.I.E.L.D.," confronts Coulson's team while introducing soon-to-be-fan-favorites Mack, Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki), and Hunter (Nick Blood). Coulson's drawings from the season 1 cliffhanger ending lead the crew to an ancient Kree temple, unlocking enhanced powers in Daisy and transforming her into Quake. The second half of season 2 centers around S.H.I.E.L.D. discovering the existence of Inhumans.

In "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." season 2, the show begins to feel less like a fun side-adventure to the MCU's significant movie events and becomes a must-watch entity. Characters and storylines could breathe more, developing new adventures. The Inhumans' on-screen appearance is almost exclusive to the show (apart from the failed "Inhumans" television series and Black Bolt's cameo on Earth-838 in "Multiverse of Madness"), and they became a significant throughline for the rest of the series. The fallout that comes with dismantling S.H.I.E.L.D. and the conflict brewing between Coulson and Gonzales is fantastic. Although the show's pacing dips slightly during Quake's training in Afterlife, the Inhuman village, that's a minor complaint for such a jam-packed sophomore season.

5. Season 3 — Hive and the Secret Warriors

Season 3 performs a masterful multi-plot juggling act. The first half deals with the rise of a Grant Ward-led Hydra, as well as the actions of a group of Inhuman-hunting terrorists, aka the Watchdogs, and Quake's recruiting of the Secret Warriors. From there, Simmons gets trapped on an alien planet with a parasitic creature called Hive stalking her. May's husband turns into a literal monster, and Coulson kills Ward. However, Hive then possesses Ward's body. Ward/Hive returns to Earth hell bent on ensuring the rise of Inhumans — even if that means the end of humanity. 

As "S.H.I.E.L.D." progresses, each season's plots become whackier and pulpier. Season 3 swings for the fences. For the most part, it hits a home run. However, it's a little too bizarre for general audiences. The first half of season 3 is slightly better than its second half. Quake's race to find new Inhumans before the Watchdogs is compelling and action packed. Ward's ascension as a leader in the revamped Hydra resurrects a slew of emotions for the team and fans. But Ward's transformation into Hive may go too far for some audience members. Also, the effects needed to show Hive visually strain the show's budget. Additionally, the subplot of Gemma falling in love with someone other than Fitz seems like an unnecessary conflict to add. Still, these are minor gripes in an otherwise stellar season.

4. Season 1 — Climbing out of The Avengers' shadow

"Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." season 1 is incredibly underrated. The freshman outing explores the wonder and danger of being mortals in a super-powered world. It creates an entirely new cast of human characters grappling with the world's discovery that gods and monsters exist. MCU tie-ins to Extremis from "Iron Man 3" and guest appearances from Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) are thrilling to see pop up on the small screen. Most importantly, we get the resurrection of fan-adored Agent Coulson

We'll admit season 1 isn't without some growing pains. But by the end, the writers tie most loose threads together while building up a core team and character dynamics. Following the Hydra reveal, the show takes flight. To its credit, the writers explain the mind-blowing mystery behind Coulson's resurrection and the Tahiti program before it becomes a seasons-long drag. Bill Paxton appearing as the main villain is an unexpected treat. But Grant Ward's turn as a Hydra agent is the real hook, as it's an audacious gut-punch to the characters and audience. Season 1 gives us Coulson's return and introduced audiences to the brilliant and loveable Fitz and Simmons, the badass cavalry of Melinda May, the sarcastic rule-breaker Daisy Johnson, and the devilishly charming Grant Ward.

3. Season 5 — A prison break in space

Things get weird in season 5 in the best way possible. Transported to the future, Coulson and company become trapped in a Kree space prison and learn Quake destroyed the Earth. It's up to S.H.I.E.L.D. and their new fast-talking future bud, Deke Shaw, to save humanity. The team defeats the Kree and returns to the past only to face new threats — Hydra, a super-powered General Talbot (Adrian Pasdar), a rift in reality, and an epic final battle. While the team wins, it comes with paying a very high cost.

Prison break plotlines are always fun but add a futuristic-space setting with angry blue alien wardens, and you get precisely the pulpy action that makes this show so good. Kree leader Kasius (Dominic Rains) is a great villain, exhibiting vileness and insecurity. Enoch (Joel Stoffer), a 30,000-year-old advanced robot, and Deke are also fantastic new additions to the cast. This season also includes the outstanding 100th episode of the series, in which a rift in time and space opens the Fear Dimension — allowing the writers to cleverly bring back fan-favorite villains to haunt our heroes, including Hive, an evil Life Model Decoy Simmons, and Lash (Blair Underwood). However, the most emotionally fulfilling moment in this season is when Fitz and Simmons finally get married. There's not a dry eye in the house. 

Season 5 ends on a bittersweet cliffhanger. Coulson sacrifices himself to save the world and Fitz. Thankfully, the final two seasons give everyone a happy ending. 

2. Season 4 — Ghost Rider, killer A.I., the Framework... Oh my!

Season 4 is arguably the riskiest, but it also feels the closest to watching a comic book come to life. "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." writers focus on three story arcs. The first involves the firey debut of Robbie Reyes as Ghost Rider and the Darkhold's powers. Then, the supernatural horror tones morph into a nerve-wracking who-can-you-trust sci-fi thriller with the infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. by Life Model Decoys. Before the season ends, the show flips its script again, trapping S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in the Framework — a virtual world where Hydra won, turning the characters' lives upside down.

Amazingly, the writers created three mini-seasons and combined them into one cohesive narrative. Ghost Rider's design is frightening and comic book accurate. His quest for revenge is dark and bloody, with several explosive action sequences. The Life Model Decoy pod is unnerving, playing like an A.I.-inspired version of John Carpenter's "The Thing." Rogue L.M.D. Aida (Mallory Jansen) traps the team in a twisted virtual world where Mack has a family, Coulson is a pro-Hydra teacher, Ward is a good guy, and much more. But the best reveal is Fitz becoming the sinister leader of Hydra. De Caestecker always shined as Fitz, but seeing him play a villain is a great surprise. Each arc would make a solid season-length storyline, but this show juggles all three and gives fans a near-perfect outing.

1. Season 7 — A trip through time to say goodbye

Season 7 is a love letter to fans of the show. For the agents to prevent the Chronicoms from wiping S.H.I.E.L.D. from history, they must travel back in time. First, they stop in the '30s to save a founding member of Hydra because, without Hyrda, there's no S.H.I.E.L.D. Then, the show bounces to the '50s, bringing Daniel Souza (Enver Gjokaj) into the mix with an "Agent Carter" crossover, which leads to a black-and-white episode with a noir twist. Also, there's a far-out trip to the '70s, a rad '80s episode, troubling time loops, Inhumans returning, and finally, these unsung heroes save the world again.

The final season of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is a masterclass on delivering fan service in a justified and satisfying way. Season 7 is an ode to past seasons of the show and decades of filmmaking. The season includes a plethora of standout episodes. The black and white episode plays like a stylish detective story, and the time-loop episode is a glorious mash-up of Marvel comics. Hands down, the wildest episode takes place in the '80s, showing Deke as a rock star claiming future hits like Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget About Me)" to be his. Coulson basically becomes Max Headroom, and the Chronicoms return for a campy-horror-flick-style outing with Mack going full Rambo. Honestly, it's one of the most entertaining seasons of television. All its plot twists build to a genuinely happy ending with an epilogue that perfectly wraps up the series.