Agents of SHIELD season finale vs HYDRA: where did the Avengers go?

Agents of SHIELD has managed to ramp up the intensity and intrigue heading into its first season finale by unleashing HYDRA, pulling SHIELD apart at the seams, and having Agent Ward turn out to have been a secret villain all along. Now that the show is less about a team of misfits hunting down a comic book artifact each week and instead focused on a SHIELD vs HYDRA battle that’s carried over to multi-episode arc, Agents feels less like a cartoon and more like a true extension of the Marvel movies. But there’s one gaping plot hole: where did the Avengers go amid all this SHIELD fallout, and why aren’t they doing anything about HYDRA?

Some of the Avengers absence from the SHIELD vs HYDRA battle can be explained away by the films themselves, for instance Tony Stark retiring the Iron Man persona at the end of the third movie. In fact Agents of SHIELD made a point of name checking the fact that Maria Hill has gone to work for Stark Industries. And Thor may not even be in the same galaxy at the moment, and therefore wouldn’t know that his help is needed. But through the entire collapse of SHIELD, the supposed death of Nick Fury, and the highly publicized Deathlok attack in South America, wouldn’t one or more of the Avengers decide at some point that they have to get involved?

And therein lies the inherent limitation of the Agents of SHIELD television series. Just because the plotline calls for Iron Man to logically show up (or to send The Hulk), it doesn’t mean Robert Downey Jr or Mark Ruffalo is going to be willing or available to make a cameo. Nor would it serve the show’s interests to have one of them show up and save the day, as its premise is based on the idea that these Agents can band together and salvage this of their own accord.

But there sure is an Avenger-sized hole in the logic that Agents of SHIELD is asking us to walk through right now. That could change, however, as the plotline is almost begging for Samuel L. Jackson to show up in the series finale, as he’s done a few times in earlier episodes. But at some point the show is going to have to do more to explain why the superheroes whose shadow it lives in have all somehow been MIA during a major planetary crisis involving their own organization.