From Left to Right: Skye, Jemma Simmons, Leo Fitz, Phil Coulson, Melinda May and Grant Ward.
"We're the line between the world and a much weirder world. We protect people from news they're not ready to hear, and when we can't do that, we keep them safe."
— Agent Grant Ward
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a TV series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, focusing on the organization S.H.I.E.L.D. and taking place after The Avengers chronologically. Airing on ABC, it was created and executive produced by Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen (Joss Whedon also directed the pilot). It stars Ming-Na Wen, Elizabeth Henstridge, Iain De Caestecker, Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennet, and Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson.The series sees the eponymous agents investigating and containing various supernatural and high-tech objects and individuals in order to keep the public safe, a task that has become more complicated in the aftermath of the Battle of New York blowing the lid off of their previous level of secrecy. Notably, while the previous Marvel Cinematic Universe films focused on Marvel Comics characters who already existed in the comics themselves, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. focuses primarily on characters who are original to the MCU (beyond S.H.I.E.L.D. itself originating from the comics, of course).The series premiered in September 2013.Has a recap page for episodes.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. provides examples of the following tropes:
Acting Unnatural: Simmons makes a hilariously bad attempt to act casual (coached by Skye through an earpiece) when Agent Sitwell catches attempting to access a computer terminal without authorisation in "The Hub". After first claiming to be looking for the bathroom only to be told that she is staring at a wall panel, she then attempts to compliment his head. It gets so bad that Skye has to tell her to stop talking.
Action Girl: Melinda May. So much so that her nickname is "The Cavalry," even if she claims to hate being called that. Initially, she joined the team on the condition that she was only there to pilot the plane and provide nominal support. But after a few close scrapes, she eventually volunteers for field combat duty. "Repairs" reveals May's reluctance is due to the fact she once rescued a SHIELD team single-handedly, hence "The Cavalry" nickname, but is haunted by the number of people she had to kill in order to do so.
Adorkable: Fitz and Simmons are huggable labrats and Skye is a hot computer geek.
In episode 8, "The Well", Skye wonders if perhaps all ancient gods were just visiting aliens. Unlike ESP, this hypothesis doesn't get the brush-off.
In episode 10, "The Bridge," the team finally finds out about the Clairvoyant. Skye is the only one who thinks this person might actually be able to see the future; everyone else brushes it off as a code name.
Coulson: Psychic powers are a myth. Skye: So was Thor.
Arc Welding: In "The Bridge," it comes to light that Centipede was the mysterious party behind the Akela Amador case, and are continuing to use the now even more advanced eye implant technology to control their agents.
Arc Words: "Tahiti. It's a magical place." Coulson uses the exact same words every time he describes his unknown visit to Tahiti after the events of The Avengers, suggesting the phrase may be a cover for some more mysterious truth about Coulson's rebirth (Hill says "he must never know" what really happened). Coulson catches onto this in "The Hub" when he automatically responds when it's not appropriate, and realizes that the truth is being kept from him. Later, at the end of "The Well", Coulson has a dream where he is relaxing in Tahiti. When his masseuse utters the words he awakes in a panic.
Artistic Licence - Geography: Episode 3 is set partly in Malta; several characters mention the "stunning beaches", and Coulson and Ward are later shown mooring a boat on a large, deserted sandy beach. In reality, Malta's beaches are almost all rocky and far from conventionally stunning, and the few that are sandy are very small, set at the back of busy bays, and permanently crowded with tourists.
There is no University of Ohio. There's an Ohio University, but Cleveland is much more recognizable than Athens, Ohio.
Artistic Licence Law: Malta again: the writers ignore or are unaware that Malta is part of the EU (it's referred to as a haven from EU regulations) and the only entirely Catholic country in the world outside of Vatican City, so far from free of religious and legal constraints on scientific research. This is particularly jarring since there are other tiny countries in Europe, such as Liechtenstein, which are not part of the EU and have much more favorable tax laws.
Ascended Meme: The Twitter hashtag #CoulsonLives was initially used by fans to beg Marvel to bring back their favorite character. It was later featured by Marvel in a trailer with a promise that tweeting it more would unlock a special extended trailer.
Coulson. He even goes into combat wearing his suit (and he has a closet full of identical suits on the Bus).
Ward once in a while, but he usually averts this; he mostly wears a T-shirt.
Batman-Gambit: In "The Hub," Victoria Hand and SHIELD intentionally make no extraction plan for Ward and Fitz's mission to disable a terrorist superweapon, knowing full well that upon discovering this, the rest of Coulson's team will go in and save them themselves. Hand even makes sure that everything happened according to plan before fully attending to their assault on the terrorist base.
Belligerent Sexual Tension: Heavily implied to be some between Ward and Skye when he admits he finds Skye attractive after getting jammed with truth serum. She describes him as "firm" and starts going out of her way to show cleavage after he admits he finds her beautiful. A couple episodes later, Ward insists that S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't have truth serum and he was only pretending to be under the influence. The training scenes in "The Asset" arguably turn it into Unresolved Sexual Tension.
Berserk Button: Don't ever betray Coulson's trust. Ever. When he finds out Skye was hiding something from the team in "Girl in the Flower Dress", it's the first instance of true anger he's ever displayed.
Bizarre Alien Biology: The Chitauri virus that was brought to earth after the Battle of New York transfers through electrostatic shock, rather than touch, air, or fluid exchange like terrestrial viruses.
Discussed when Simmons doesn't know how to revive the Warrior who Stayed.
Bland-Name Product: The logo seen on a delivery truck in the background of the first few minutes of the pilot says "World Parcel Service".
Brains and Brawn: The team is roughly split between "brawny" field-experienced agents and the "brainy" techies. Team leader Coulson is arguably the one with equal amounts of both, while Skye is a tech training to become an agent.
Brick Joke: Fitz comes up with an idea to prank Skye in the first act of "Repairs". The prank itself doesn't show up until near the end of the episode, going off in front of everybody in scaring all of them — including Fitz.
The first episode contains brief flashes of members of the Avengers during the opening voiceover, plus Maria Hill shows up.
At the end of the second episode, Nick Fury appears.
Came Back Wrong: It's hinted as the series progresses that Coulson may have done this, as explained in the next bullets. By "The Hub", Coulson himself is is convinced of this, and requested a medical exam and blood tests to be run. According to the results, he's normal. A little high on the iron, but otherwise normal.
In "The Asset", his difficulty handling a pistol and his comment, "This should be just muscle memory."
In the fourth episode, "Eye Spy," Coulson's former protegee Akela asks May what happened to him. When the puzzled May begins to suggest that Coulson has loosened up since Akela worked with him, Akela - who has had plenty of opportunity to use her X-Ray Vision on Coulson - interrupts her to ask more insistently, "What did they do to him?"
Casual Danger Dialogue: In the pilot, Skye's sending a message about how S.H.I.E.L.D. won't be able to find and silence the Rising Tide. When Coulson promptly appears outside the door of her van, she greets him with a breezy "Hey. What up?" Subverted in that it's clearly false bravado. There's a very visible Oh Crap look on Skye's face when the door opens.
Catch Phrase: A slightly ominous example. Whenever Coulson is questioned about his injury, he refers to recovering in Tahiti, always describing it as "It's a magical place", suggesting that his memories of the place might not be real.
Cavalry Betrayal: Variant. Ward figures that he and Fitz are on the wrong side of this in "The Hub", after realising that there's no extraction team and that S.H.I.E.L.D. will level the camp once the MacGuffin is disarmed. They both decide to go out fighting. Then Agent May (who is known within S.H.I.E.L.D. as 'The Cavalry') shows up in the Bus with the rest of the team.
Chekhov's Gag: In "Eye-Spy", Ward mentions to Coulson that Skye is having trouble telling a gun's safety from the magazine release. Later in the episode, Skye goes to ready her pistol... and promptly ejects the magazine instead.
The airplane safety pamphlet for the Bus. It's introduced in "0-8-4" as a quick joke about the plane's uniqueness and Ward's unfriendliness towards the new girl Skye. By the end of the episode, Skye uses one of the safety rafts marked on the pamphlet to block a hole in the plane and save Ward's life.
In the same episode, the team activates the 0-8-4 with electro-magnetic radiation. which Fitz pointed out could have accidentally happened earlier.
In "Eye Spy," a gun which fires a knock-out substance is introduced matter-of-factly as a prototype currently being worked on, and turns up again to incapacitate Akela. Effectively, a Chekhov's Gun that's actually a gun.
Used in the pilot with the "Night Night Gun."
During the pilot, Skye takes a moment in her van to tuck a memory card down her shirt. In "Girl in the Flower Dress," we find out that it contains all the information she's been able to find about her missing parents.
The mini-EMP device in "The Hub".
Chekhov's Skill: In "The Asset", Ward teaches Skye how to disarm someone holding her at gunpoint in close range, something Skye admits she has trouble performing. It comes in handy in the final act of the episode.
Classified Information: Of course, it's S.H.I.E.L.D.. Dealing with classified information is just their thing. This is somewhat relaxed on the Bus which means that Skye becomes very frustrated at the levels of security in the Hub. She also makes a joke about it with Miles.
Code Name: This is discussed between Raina and Chan in "Girl in the Flower Dress". Raina argues that it's important for Chan to use a superhero alias ("Scorch"), since nobody knows who Steve Rogers is, but everyone knows Captain America.
Combat Pragmatist: Ward in particular has shown a willingness to use anything and everything (including a drawer full of kitchen utensils) as a weapon. Coulson and May also qualify.
Continuity Lockout: Despite spinning off from a movie series with seven films in it as of December 2013 (and still growing), the show does a pretty good job of avoiding this. Characters are mostly independent of the movies, and while call backs are made to specific events and characters in the MCU, with at least one episode explicitly set in the immediate aftermath of Thor: The Dark World, the overall effect on the show is small. When the effect is larger (like with the pilot and Extremis), it's explained so that you don't have to have seen the movies to understand.
Continuity Nod: The show is naturally stuffed to the brim with references to the rest of the MCU, including:
The explosions in the first episode (as well as the source of Mike Peterson's powers) are a result of Extremis.
Thor is mentioned by name in a conversation between Agent Ward and Maria Hill.
Inverted in the pilot; Ward tells Maria Hill that he is level 6 and knows that Coulson died on the Helicarrier. Coulson emerges from the shadows and says, "Welcome to Level 7." Later, Ward asks if the Avengers know that Coulson is alive. Coulson says they aren't cleared Level 7.
In "The Asset", Dr. Hall mentions the S.H.I.E.L.D. Tesseract experiments seen in The Avengers.
In "Girl in the Flower Dress", Coulson uses the same type of bomb used in Iron Man to open the door. He and the team even turns their back to the bomb like in Iron Man.
"The Well" picks up directly after the events of Thor: The Dark World, with the team helping on cleanup of the university campus after the battle, and then dealing with some leftover Asgardian business.
Agent Jasper Sitwell, who appeared with Coulson in "The Consultant" short film, makes an appearance in "The Hub."
Coulson: You should try the American Northwest. Maybe Portland. Good place, great philharmonic.
In "The Bridge", Mike mentions having bought his son a complete set of Avengers action figures. In the pilot episode, the boy was shown looking at said toys in a store window, though he claimed he didn't want any due to their shaky financial situation.
Cool Car: Lola, Coulson's 1962 C1 series Corvette convertible. She's outfitted with Stark hover tech. On the other hand, Camilla Reyes calls it out as a Midlife Crisis Car in "0-8-4". Coulson countered by calling it an Afterlife Crisis Car.
Cool Plane: The S.H.I.E.L.D. Mobile Command Unit, the precursor to the Helicarrier. Its codename is the Bus. It's cool both in how it can fly — the engines can rotate so that it can hover — and in the interior.
Ward's lack of social skill is not a surprise "considering his family history." He later reveals that he had an abusive older brother. He learned to fight in order to protect himself and his second, younger brother, which eventually led to him becoming a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. When the Berserker staff unlocks his worst memory, it causes him to become incredibly angry and fragile for some time even after putting the staff down.
Skye is implied to have unpersoned herself at some point; one doesn't do that on a whim. She is also the child of two people who were unpersoned by S.H.I.E.L.D. for some currently unknown reason. Also, she was dropped off at an orphanage by an unidentified S.H.I.E.L.D. agent — and Coulson hints that there's things in her past he won't tell her, because some secrets cannot be revealed.
May is a legendary S.H.I.E.L.D. agent known as "The Cavalry" but she hates that name and hates field work, which was why she volunteered to become a paper pusher. Turns out she had to kill 20 cultists to save a number of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and one civilian. With no weapons. Her comments to Coulson imply the civilian died and that she is haunted by the number of people she had to kill.
Deadpan Snarker: This being a Joss Whedon production, it's more like World of Snark, but special mention goes to Coulson because he snarks at the team just like he did with the Avengers.
Death by Irony: Well, almost: in "FZZT", Simmons says that it's sad a man was killed by the unexplained phenomena of the week, yet still very interesting. It's a virus, and she gets infected with it. She doesn't die, but it's very close.
Defrosting Ice Queen: May seems to be becoming one, based on the ending of "Repairs" when she plays a prank on Fitz. She used to do that kind of thing much more, until being traumatized by field work.
Differently Powered Individual: The series uses the term "Gifted" to refer to those with powers, presumably due to the fact that FOX has the rights to nearly all of the mutants.
Distracted by the Sexy: Simmons can't seem to keep her eyes, or hands, off Mike in "The Bridge". He's been working out and she likes it.
The Dividual: Fitz and Simmons spend so much time together that they're referred to as "Fitz-Simmons" and it's joked that not everyone knows which is which.
Downer Ending: "The Bridge" - Coulson's been betrayed and kidnapped, Skye's trust in Coulson took a turn for the worse with May telling her that Coulson isn't really looking into her parents, Mike is most likely dead (and Ace watched him die), and Ward at best is seriously injured.
Eye Scream: Akela Amador gets pointy things to the eye twice in "Eye-Spy" and by the end of the episode, is one less. Then again, the alternative was to have said eye implant explode, taking her out with it....
Facial Dialogue: Well, half of one, as Coulson speaks, and May doesn't. But he reacts like she's been answering him the whole time.
Fake Static: Coulson pulls this to avoid orders in "FZZT". It wasn't a good excuse and the other person knew it was fake, but he was pressed for time.
Faked Kidnapping: Dr. Hall set up his own kidnapping once he knew that Quinn needed him in order to take him down, but S.H.I.E.L.D. had no idea he did this and Quinn himself thinks the whole thing was his idea.
Faux Affably Evil: Raina. She manipulates, kidnaps, and tortures while never saying a single harsh word. The most egregious example is when she purposefully leaves Debbie to be roasted by the rampaging Scorch and says "I wish you all the best" as the elevator doors close between them.
Flat Earth Atheist: In "Eye-Spy", people point out that science hasn't confirmed the validity of psychic powers. This being in a universe filled with Norse gods, aliens, and gamma radiation monsters. Skye points out the absurdity of this.
Foreshadowing: Coulson's "rusty" when it comes to breaking down a handgun. He makes a remark about how he had it down as muscle memory. A character who knew Coulson quite well before his 'death' and effectively has x-ray vision is very concerned, and asks "what did they do to him?" Another hint that he's not quite the man he was prior to The Avengers.
His blood tests came back normal, though "a little high in iron".
Four Philosophy Ensemble: Coulson is a Realist, Ward is Cynic, Skye is Optimist, May alternates between Conflicted and Apathetic, and Fitz-Simmons are Apathetic.
Four Temperament Ensemble: Coulson is Phlegmatic, Ward is Choleric, May and Fitz are Melancholic, and Skye and Simmons are Sanguine.
In the first episode, when S.H.I.E.L.D. attempts to apprehend Mike, he promptly kicks a van door off. The crowd scatters... except for one man in the distance, who looks at the door and then, uninterested, saunters off.
In "0-8-4", after the skirmish with Comandante Reyes, if you pay attention, you can see Fitz holding onto one of the pillars for dear life. Also in the episode is a brief shot of Fitz and Simmons taking a selfie with the Peruvian ruins.
Maria Hill: What does S.H.I.E.L.D. stand for, Agent Ward? Agent Ward: Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division. Maria Hill: And what does that mean to you? Agent Ward: It means somebody really wanted our initials to spell "shield".
Gender Equal Ensemble: The six main characters. They've also balanced out the action heroes with the action girls. May is the most badass member of The Team, while Skye and Simmons have no particular ability in combat whereas the men have two badasses (Coulson and Ward) as well as the weakest team member (Fitz).
Genre Savvy: Coulson's reaction to learning of Scorch's name:
Coulson: Ah crap. They gave him a name.
Gravity Screw: When Dr. Hall puts the graviton device on full power, gravity in the compound starts going every which-way.
Green Aesop: A subtle one in "The Asset": Quinn is implied to use ecologically short-sighted methods like strip-mining to make a profit, but it's not the focus of the episode, and in the end, Dr. Hall is the one who nearly kills everyone.
The pilot contains a clear homage to Back to the Future. The scene where Lola takes flight is shot very similarly to the DeLorean taking flight at the end of the first movie.
Same scene, different homage, to the scene in The Avengers when Steve Rogers tells Nick Fury that there is nothing he hasn't seen before. Skye says incredulously to Coulson "You're going to show me something new?". In both scenes, the characters are proven wrong by a flying vehicle that shouldn't fly.
Information Wants to Be Free: A running theme in the series is the security vs. privacy debate, as well as the control vs. freedom of information debate. Interestingly, despite Whedon being liberal, the show mostly comes down in favor of the security and control of information sides. The message seems to be that it's easy to demand freedom of information when you're not responsible for its consequences.
In Medias Res: "0-8-4" opens with the crew on their way back from a mission, Coulson saying that he thinks they've seen the last of the trouble, and an explosion; then it cuts to "19 Hours Earlier". By the time the story gets back to Coulson's remark and the explosion, it's turned out that several things aren't as they first appeared.
Thor's not just handsome, he's dreamy according to Skye and May.
In "F.Z.Z.T," it's not a vaccine it's an anti-serum.note Which is technically correct; a vaccine works to prevent infection, and is useless for treatment, while an anti-serum is used to treat an active infection.
Instant Sedation: The Night-Night gun, as well as its smaller counterpart the Night-Light gun, puts out anyone hit with it.
Just Plane Wrong: The custom S.H.I.E.L.D. transport plane has an extra pair of engines hanging on the tail, directly behind the engines on the wings and consequently sucking in their hot exhaust, which is bad for jet engines. Not to mention that the interior is way too big for a C-17. As it turns out, the extra engines are necessary when the plane hovers in "The Hub".
Karma Houdini: So far, Quinn from "The Asset" and Raina, the girl in the flower dress.
Karmic Death: Debbie, the Centipede doctor, who experimented on people and caused them to explode, is incinerated by one of her test subjects.
May and Ward both argue with Coulson about his odd insistence on hiring Skye, with Ward pointing out that she's a member of an anti-S.H.I.E.L.D. terrorist group and May flatly stating that the team already has a lack of combat-ready agents.
La Résistance/Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Skye regards Peruvian anti-mining rebels as this in "0-8-4" when Coulson arrives in the Peruvian countryside, fighting against perceived injustice due to the Peruvian government's willingness to exploit the countryside for natural resources. The Peruvian Army's military police soldiers were perfectly willing to kill the team and blame the rebels (even though they'd rescued them from the rebels and Coulson was their leader's ex-partner, in more ways than one) to get the device (a powerful weapon which they'd commissioned former Nazi/HYDRA scientists to build in the first place).
Last Name Basis: Everyone, with the exception of Skye, is referred to by their last name, barring personal moments.
Magical Database: The Index, the list of all known Differently Powered Individuals and "special objects" (re: identified 0-8-4s). It's said to not be a very long list, but given the rate at which these things keep popping up, it will likely grow to be one.
MayIncatec: The Inca temple in "0-8-4" looks like it was built by Mayans, right down to the writing on the inside walls. The Incas didn't even have writing.
Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: For a given value of "mundane." In "Repairs", Fitz-Simmons are pretty sure that the Monster of the Week is a guy trapped between two universes after an ill-fated experiment, but he describes the other universe as "hell." A brief peak of the other world shows it as Mars-like with an Alien Sky. He might well have stumbled into Surtur's realm, but given demons and Mephisto exist in the main Marvel universe...
In "The Asset", when Skye tries to respond to Quinn referring to S.H.I.E.L.D. as "Big Brother" by paraphrasing a story Ward had told her about his family, only to lose track of what she's saying.
A moment later, Quinn coincidentally says something Ward had said earlier.
Quinn:[after Skye takes his gun] Do you have what it takes to pull the trigger? Skye: Nope. [jumps out the window]
The Men in Black: The show has a broad B-plot of showcasing the people behind the dark suits and sunglasses. In addition to being a high-level national security outfit, teams like Agent Coulson's operate as Artifact Collection Agents (whether those "artifacts" are inanimate objects or people).
Mildly Military: While Coulson, Ward, and May are professional S.H.I.E.L.D. field agents, Fitz-Simmons and Skye aren't. During a stake out, they break radio silence to ask if Ward left them any snacks in the van.
Ward is by no means unattractive and tends to display his muscles for at least half of any given episode so far. In "Eye-Spy", he also spends a fair amount of time in glasses that give him the look of Clark Kent. He also has a decently long scene without a shirt in "The Well".
Even though he doesn't appear in the series, every time Thor is mentioned in the presence of a female agent, they start gushing about him.
Ward:: I don't think Thor is technically a god. Maria Hill: You haven't seen his arms.
Ms. Fanservice: Skye, starting with the "reverse interrogation". "The Asset" is another notable example, having her run barefoot in a low-cut dress that's been soaked by a jump into a pool, and "Girl in the Flower Dress" has a scene with her, post-sex, in just her underwear.
Simmons asks Skye if she is ready to join them on their "journey into mystery." Journey into Mystery is a former Marvel Comics anthology title. It was also the comic that debuted The Mighty Thor, and in recent years has been brought back as a secondary Thor title.
At the end of the pilot, Coulson quips that they have yet to "cut the head off the Centipede", which might be a reference to HYDRA's (S.H.I.E.L.D.'s rival organization) motto "Cut off one head, two more will take its place."
Coulson mentions cleaning up a fragment of Anti-Matter that crashed down near Miami - the Anti-Matter Universe being a sizable part of the Fantastic Four's mythos.
Coulson's mobile command is designated S.H.I.E.L.D. 616. The primary Marvel comics universe is designated in-universe as Universe 616.
Supervillain Graviton was created in the Marvel universe in a complex called Research City, in the Rocky Mountains. The truck at the start of the episode that provides his origin story is emblazoned "Rocky Mountain Office Supplies."
The equation that Ward is sent to photograph in "Eye-Spy" had some sections written in Skrull.
Akela mentions that she was held prisoner in the small village of Shang-Chi.
According to Simmons, there is a S.H.I.E.L.D. base called the Triskelion that is even bigger than the Hub. Not only is the Triskelion taken from the Ultimate Marvel universe, but in a rare case of preemptive Continuity Nod it is also the base seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
A Freeze-Frame Bonus example in "The Hub," as when the Team is walking through the Hub itself there are numerous signs pointing out other divisions of SHIELD, such as PsyOps and HAMMER
The gas station in the beginning of "Repairs" is called "Roxxon", an energy corporation in the Marvel Comics.
In "Repairs" Melinda May identifies the Bus to traffic control as "Flight 616". Earth-616 is the universe identifier for the main marvel continuity (With Earth-199999 being the cinematic universe).
The trailer for "Girl in the Flower Dress" made it look like Coulson had expelled Skye from the team for being a traitor. In actuality, the line "I'm done with you" is spoken to convince Skye to reveal her darkest secret, and the full line is actually, "You have a secret, Skye, and one chance to come out with it — that's now! — or I'm done with you."
Prior to airing, the bulk of the publicity for "The Well" focused on the episode tying into the aftermath of Thor: The Dark World. The tie-in lasts for all of the first scene of the episode, before moving into an unrelated plot about an Asgardian hate group & their attempt to claim the pieces of a hidden Asgardian weapon.
In a similar vein to the trailer for "Girl in the Flower Dress", the trailer for "The Bridge" makes May appear to be cold towards Mike, telling him, "You shouldn't be here." The line is in fact spoken to Skye and is actually at the tail end of a Brutal Honesty speech by May and a reprimand to not let her personal attachments get in the way if she wants to consider herself a true member of the team. The full line in question? "If you can't put aside your personal attachments, then you shouldn't be here."
New Old Flame: Comandante Camilla Reyes for Coulson in "0-8-4". They had an intimate several days at some point in the past.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: In "The Asset," it appears for a few minutes that Skye might be lured in by Quinn's arguments. She resumes carrying out the mission right after he describes S.H.I.E.L.D. as "Big Brother", calling back to Ward's description of learning to fight to protect himself and his little brother from being beaten up by their cruel older brother. In fact, a few moments later, Skye explicitly uses Ward's story as a (confusing) metaphor for S.H.I.E.L.D. being "the nice big brother."
No Kill Like Overkill: The name of the device in "The Hub" roughly translates into "The Overkill Device" from Russian.
The varying descriptions of what Melinda May did to earn her "Cavalry" nickname.
The Miami Antimatter Meteor incident. It almost swallowed half a city.
How did Melinda May get the nickname "The Cavalry" and why does she hate it? (Unlike most noodle incidents, however, this one has now been explained.)
No Social Skills: Ward, as is repeatedly pointed out by other characters. Maria Hill gave him the lowest rating in this department, even drawing a small porcupine (which Coulson mistook for a "little poop with knives sticking out of it") on his assessment sheet.
Not Distracted by the Sexy: In "0-8-4", Coulson instantly recognizes that his old flame Reyes is only coming on to him as part of a plot for her troops to seize the Bus.
Offscreen Afterlife: According to Coulson, the other side is "beautiful". Although it is possible he was just saying this to reassure the doomed fire-fighter in "FZZT" because he knew he was about to die and there was nothing else he could do for him.
Averted. Fitz, Simmons, and Skye all have different specialties within the role of "The Smart Guy": engineering, biology, and computer science/hacking.
Taken even further in "Eye-Spy", where Simmons explicitly points out that she knows nothing about eye surgery and Fitz has to ask Ward about disarming a bomb.
Only Mostly Dead: Coulson explains that he (just barely) survived Loki's attack in The Avengersthough Agent Hill strongly hints that there's more to the story than Coulson knows.
Overt Operative: For a top secret organization, our heroes sure have a lot of S.H.I.E.L.D. logos and big black eagle emblems on their vehicles. There is even a S.H.I.E.L.D. SUV decked out with police equipment (flashers and ram bar). In "The Asset", S.H.I.E.L.D. is described as an international agency along with the United States and Europe, so in the MCU, they may be the equivalent to Interpol.
Over The Top Secret: S.H.I.E.L.D. does this discretely, basically saying "This is classified Level X". The existence of clearance levels above Level 6 is a Level 7 secret. The highest level shown so far is Level 8 (held by Coulson), and it's implied that there may be levels higher than that.
Parental Abandonment: Skye's parents disappeared when she was a kid, and she's been searching for them ever since, dead-ending with a redacted S.H.I.E.L.D. file.
Someone can fight crowds and detech hidden objects with their eyes closed? Telepathy! X-ray vision.
Objects move on their own around this particular person? Telekinesis! A teleporting stalker is responsible.
Only Skye considers the possibility that "The Clairvoyant" might indeed be clairvoyant.
Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Let's see — Ward is an excellent operative but has No Social Skills (and Coulson comments that he's surprised he's not worse with his background), May has issues that make her dead-set against going back into field work with very likely a case of PTSD thrown in, Skye's a conspiracy theorist who doesn't trust S.H.I.E.L.D. at all, Fitz and Simmons are both brilliant, but are also quirky and have no field experience and Coulson himself is a previously fake-dead (as far as he knows) field agent.
Reality Is Unrealistic: Some fans have questioned the authenticity of Fitz and/or Simmons's accents, despite their accents (Scottish and English respectively) being the actors' own natural accents.
Reckless Gun Usage: In "Eye-Spy". Skye accidentally ejects the magazine on her Smith and Wesson 910 while looking for the safety catch.
Red Skies Crossover: "The Well" was hyped as a tie-in to the then-recently released Thor: The Dark World. While it does deal with Norse Mythology and Asgardians extensively, and the team does participate in a cleanup effort after the results of the previous film's climactic battle, most of the action takes place in Spain and Ireland, and the events of the movie itself are barely mentioned in passing after the opening scenes. Ironically inverted in the next episode, "Repairs", where a direct connection is made between that episode's plot and Dark World, yet received no advertising as such.
Reluctant Warrior: The Norse Mythology expert in "The Well". He's an Asgardian who grew tired of his life and settled into becoming a pacifist.
Restraining Bolt: Miles and Skye are fitted with special bracelets that will allow S.H.I.E.L.D. to keep tabs on them, impair their ability to use electronic devices, and inflict other punishments as needed.
Fitz's awkwardness and apparent gift for everything he says that isn't scientific being heavily flavored with That Came Out Wrong.
Possibly his obsession with monkeys.
There's no such thing as psychic powers... or is there?
Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: A downplayed example, with Fitz and Simmons. Simmons has a cheerfully optimistic fascination with everything new and exciting and is the one who wanted to go into the field, while Fitz is more cautious, pragmatic, and worried about potential problems.
Shipper on Deck: Melinda May tells Ward that Skye would need a good supervising officer, with a sly smirk.
In "0-8-4", Ward uses a staff weapon that releases a head-high shock wave of energy when it's shoved into the ground; it's almost the exact same move and effect as the one Simon uses to rescue River in the opening of Serenity. It even has a component that launches into the air and produces the wave.
In Coulson's dream-flashback to Tahiti in "The Well" he and his masseuse have this significant exchange:
Randolph's backstory as a mason is a possible reference to the comics backstory of Hogun the Grim of the Warriors Three, who in the comics, was apprenticed to a stone mason.
Shown Their Work: Skye correctly mentions the existence of Shining Path when they were in Peru in "0-8-4".
Sigil Spam: S.H.I.E.L.D. really likes that eagle. They could be forgiven for putting it all over their headquarters, but putting it on all of their vehicles is a bit conspicuous for a covert organization.
Mike's despair forced him to use his Extremis-induced powers to destroy anyone against him.
Dr. Hall became adamant to use the graviton machine to sink down Quinn's compound even when Coulson implored him that S.H.I.E.L.D. agents could die alongside it. When Coulson managed to toss Dr. Hall into the rampaging machine (shutting it off), The Stinger reveals that it's the birth of the supervillain Graviton.
Stealth Hi/Bye: The antagonist in "Repairs" can appear and disappear at will, and pulls several entrances and exits that are functionally this trope. Then, during his first attack on May, she disappears on him.
Stock Footage: Its viral website The Rising Tide shows clips from previous movies made to look like poorly filmed camcorder footage. Funnily enough, one clip that claims to be of the Hulk is actually the Abomination recolored.
Stun Gun: The Night-Night rifle and its pistol equivalent the Night-Light gun, the latter able to fire multiple shots.
Super Serum: The Centipede serum, a cocktail of gamma radiation, super soldier serum, and Extremis. It boosts physical ability and powers if applicable, but is unstable and causes the user to explode, in addition to making them crazy. They haven't quite worked out all the bugs yet.
Invoked by Coulson in the pilot, when he tells Fitz-Simmons to find one that will let him save Mike.
Skye in "The Asset"; faced with a choice between surrendering or shooting Quinn, she goes out the window.
Technobabble: A good deal of Fitz-Simmons' "science" talk and to a slightly lesser degree Skye's hacking talk falls into this category. Basically, the writers know just enough to throw in some technical-sounding terms with their made-up explanations for how things work.
The Team: Coulson handpicked a number of people to create a response team for stuff like Mike and the HYDRA tesseract cannon. He himself is The Leader and he chose them for their skills: Ward for his combat and stealth, Fitz-Simmons for their science, Skye for her hacking, May to "drive the bus". As of the third episode, May has decided that sitting back isn't for her, and requested to be put into combat. Although Coulson questions her decision, it's hard not to see it as a Just as Planned moment.
Team Dad/Team Mom: Coulson is the oldest and the leader. May is effectively his second-in-command and female counterpart. Skye even referred to them as "Mom and Dad" in "Eye Spy".
In the pilot, Skye records a message to S.H.I.E.L.D., boasting that the agency won't be able to find her. Coulson shows up outside the door of her van before she even has a chance to finish her sentence.
The second episode begins with an explosion immediately after Coulson says he thinks their troubles are over. When the scene is revisited later in the episode, it turns out Coulson knew exactly what he was doing.
Trailers Always Spoil: The pre-series media campaign featured Coulson so extensively that his surviving Loki's attack in The Avengers was basically a non-reveal by the time it came. Wisely, the reveal itself was lampshaded and played for laughs.
The promo for episode 1x11 confirms that Ward survives being shot at the end of the previous episode. Still, this was expected anyway.
Truth Serums: Used in the pilot when Skye is captured. However, it's not used on Skye, but rather on Ward, so that she can trust Coulson. A couple episodes later, Ward claims that S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't have a truth serum and he was just playing along. He may or may not be telling the truth about that.
Underside Ride: In "The Hub", Ward and Fitz use a magnetic pouch to attach themselves to the bottom of a truck in order to gain access to the separatist compound.
The Unmasqued World: Going by the pilot, it seems to be a major theme. Skye is mistrustful of S.H.I.E.L.D.; they kept the masquerade before, so what else are they hiding now? And in the pilot, Mike had this as his motivation for volunteering for superpowers: he'd failed to live up to being just a man, being unable to provide for his family, how can he stand against gods and giants?
"The Well" shows that, with the revelation that Thor and the Asgardians are real, university professors now consider Norse Mythology to be Norse History. Additionally, some people aren't exactly thrilled at the thought that gods can just teleport to Earth and cause city-wide damage. At the same time, Skye's conversation with Coulson and the others at the episode's beginning implies that, while humanity is aware of Asgard, the fact that Thor and the others are just Sufficiently Advanced Aliens hasn't become public knowledge yet.
Unobtainium: "Gravitonium" is a supposedly naturally-occurring element (symbol Gr) mined out of the earth with an atomic number of 123. Its physical properties, not the least of which is gravity manipulation, fall squarely in the realm of Artistic License - Physics. The explanation for how it manipulates gravity is pure, unadulterated technobabble.
Vehicle Vanish: Akela does this at the start of "Eye-Spy", vanishing as a train passes through a subway station. She seems to be doing this for the benefit of the camera as there's no one else there to witness it.
Villain Has a Point: Dr. Hall wants to destroy the Graviton device in spite of collateral damage because he doesn't believe that any group is responsible enough to control it. He cites the events of The Avengers as evidence that S.H.I.E.L.D. can't do it either. Coulson doesn't argue the point.
Villain with Good Publicity: Quinn is seen as a philanthropist and advocate of freedom of information, but really is only in it for greater profits.
Visionary Villain: What Quinn sees himself as, though in practice, he comes off more as a Corrupt Corporate Executive (an impression he hates). From his perspective, the methods he uses are justified by the fact that he is opposed by an organization with governmental resources but no real accountability and next to no regard for the rule of law that is dedicated to maintaining complete control of new technology.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Dr. Hall is well aware of the danger of unchecked superscience when in the wrong hands, and after the events of Avengers doesn't believe S.H.I.E.L.D.'s hands are the right ones for the job. He's willing to kill himself and potentially dozens of innocent people in order to keep dangerous weapons out of the wrong hands, forcing Coulson to act against him.
Wham Episode: "The Bridge": Skye's faith in Coulson is damaged by May admitting they're not looking for her parents, Centipede kidnaps Coulson, Mike is seemingly killed in an explosion covering Centipede's escape, and Ward gets shot in the process.
The last line of "The Bridge", from Raina to a captive Coulson:
Raina: We want you to tell us about the day after you died.
What The Heck Is An Aglet: At the end of the episode "Repairs", most of Coulson's team is shown playing Scrabble. Simmons makes the word "aglet", which leads to an argument about whether it's a real word, settled when Skye looks it up online.
What the Hell, Hero?: The team doesn't take it well when they discover Skye helping fugitive hacker Miles, and Coulson calls her out on her hidden agenda. Skye herself becomes disenchanted with Miles when it is revealed that he sold out.
When Things Spin, Science Happens: In the episode "The Asset", there's Dr. Franklin Hall's giant graviton machine. Though considering that the force of gravity is often artificially created or enhanced by things spinning, in this case it's perhaps justified.
Who You Gonna Call?: The government agency type. S.H.I.E.L.D. is responsible for keeping weird and dangerous stuff contained so it doesn't hurt anyone.
As the pilot progresses, Mike starts thinking he's a superhero living through his origin story and getting revenge on the petty evils that wronged him, rather than a rapidly-degrading test-subject jacked up on Extremis.
Sky spouts random spy-related jargon when trying to tell the team that she's spotted Quinn. May and Simmons have no idea what she's saying.
X-Ray Vision: This enables the thief to find diamonds and kill people in darkness with her eyes shut in "Eye Spy". Also played for laughs during the episode's stinger when Fitz wants Skye to use it to see cards but she reminds him that she'll also see him naked. After Fitz gives up and walks away Skye uses it to check out Ward.