'Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.' Season 5 Will Be Back Before You Know It

Jennifer Clasen/ABC

Are there two more dreaded words in TV fandom than "midseason finale?" OK, "series finale" is probably up there; but there's something uniquely frustrating about your favorite show building momentum only to be stalled by the inevitable holiday break. So when does Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 5 return?

Not only does it feel like things were just getting good — it feels like things were just getting started. Thanks to the fall run of the much-maligned Inhumans, S.H.I.E.L.D. got a much later start than usual this year, kicking off in early December rather than its typical September debut. That means the series will have only aired five episodes over the course of four weeks (including that bonkers two-hour premiere) before it goes on hiatus after the Dec. 22 episode, "Rewind." That's like eating your appetizer and then having to wait hours for the main course because someone at your table had the audacity to order their steak well-done.

Fortunately, ABC has already released its full midseason premiere schedule for 2018, so fans don't have to exist in a state of uncertainty. The network's T.G.I.T. Shondaland lineup will return on Jan. 18; Designated Survivor doesn't return until late February; Once Upon A Time fans will have to wait until early March for that show to pick up again.

How long will S.H.I.E.L.D. be stranded in space before Season 5 picks up again? It turns out that the show's agonizingly delayed start actually helped in this case. Since it has so many episodes left to get through this season than usual when approaching its winter finale, S.H.I.E.L.D. will have to return as soon as possible in order to stay on schedule. So I'm happy to report that the Agents will resume their duties on… Friday, Jan. 5! If that seems super soon, you are correct. That return date means that S.H.I.E.L.D. will only miss one week for the holidays, skipping Dec. 29 to return the first Friday of 2018 and pick up right where "Rewind" left off.

Speaking of that upcoming episode, it's sure to be a terrific way to leave fans hanging for a couple of weeks, as it will finally catch viewers up on what Fitz has been up to since the rest of his team disappeared in the Season 4 finale, and how he managed to travel to the future to reunite with them. It will also feature the reintroduction of fan-favorite character Lance Hunter, who was last seen being disavowed from S.H.I.E.L.D. alongside lover/teammate Bobbi Morse midway through Season 3. (The pair were supposed to receive their own spinoff, Marvel's Most Wanted, which sadly never materialized. Now Adrianne Palicki is busy over on FOX's The Orville, although fans will surely be thrilled to see Nick Blood return as Hunter.)

Eddy Chen/ABC

After the show fills viewers in on that bit of Fitz-centric backstory, S.H.I.E.L.D. will pick up in the New Year with an episode titled "Fun & Games." Not much is known about the episode yet other than the cryptically vague official synopsis, which reads: "With Daisy's life on the line, an unexpected friend attempts to rescue her." Interesting, Blood isn't listed in the guest cast for that episode, raising the question of whether his return will be a fan-service-y one-off, or whether the character will somehow also travel to the future and rejoin the cast full-time. Also missing from the guest cast list for Episode 6 is new cast member Jeff Ward as Deke, so viewers will apparently have to wait awhile to find out what's next for the traitorous but charming Star-Lord wannabe after he was stabbed by a Kree and imprisoned by the S.H.I.E.L.D. team in the Dec. 15 episode.

At least fans know they won't have to wait too long for one thing: for the show itself to return, thanks to the shortest midseason hiatus in the history of midseason hiatuses. (Hiatusi?) Things are full steam ahead for the most out-of-this-world season of S.H.I.E.L.D. yet.