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:
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.
In "T.R.A.C.K.S.," Simmons claims that the problem is she's horrible at improv, so she made up a massive fake backstory for herself and Coulson, which would be able to cover any situation. As is probably expected, she went too far in the other direction.
Coulson: Prostitutes? Plural?
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 because 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.
Adaptational Heroism: The show's version of Donnie Gill. He still ends up as a bad guy, but is given a sympathetic backstory. It's also made abundantly clear that he never intended for his actions to hurt anyone, at least at first.
At the end of "The Asset", Dr. Franklin Hall is revealed to still be alive, trapped inside the graviton device.
"A Magical Place" reveals that Coulson was in this situation after his death: the experimental procedures Fury ordered to revive him caused him so much pain he begged to be allowed to die, and caused complications that were the reason for altering his memories.
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.
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. Furthermore, the mystery of Coulson's resurrection is one that Centipede is also eager to solve....
The end of "Seeds" reveals that recurring villain Ian Quinn is also working for the Clairvoyant.
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.
Promotional materials for the show that have aired since episode 10 have used the term "It's all connected".
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 License - History: The archeologist in episode 2 says the temple is "at least 500 years old" and "filled with pre-Inca artifacts". 500 years old send us back to the 16th century, which is the fall of the Inca empire at the hands of the Spanish. So any Inca temple is automatically "at least 500 years old", there is no big deal about that, and only 500 years old would actually be unusually recent for an Inca temple. For the same reasons, there is no reason such a temple would be filled with pre-inca artifacts, except if the Inca or somebody else somehow used it to store pre-Inca artifacts they had scavenged. So although nothing in those two statement is technically impossible, it is just pseudo-historic rubbish and in the mouth of a senior archeologist it sounds completely ridiculous.
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.
Asshole Victim: Debbie, the scientist who worked on the Centipede formula, ends up getting torched by Chan.
Ashes to Crashes: Invoked as a distraction when Simmons and Coulson are undercover.
The Atoner: Mike is this in "The Bridge" for his actions in the pilot and it gets him captured by Centipede.
Awesome yet Practical: The original Night-Night gun is a precision sniper rifle that not only delivers Instant Sedation instead of killing, but can carry a round calibrated to cure the side effects of Mike's Centipede serum and therefore is a form of remote medical injection. A very harsh form, but still...
Back from the Dead: Coulson, obviously. His record says he was dead for 8 (or 40) seconds after Loki stabbed him. In "The Magical Place" he finally learns the truth — he was dead for days.
Coulson fits this to perfection. He even goes into combat wearing his suit (and he has a closet full of identical suits on the Bus).
Ward usually averts this trope, but the few times he dresses up, he looks every bit as good as Coulson.
Badass Normal: Much of S.H.I.E.L.D., especially Ward, Melinda May and to a lesser extend Coulson.
Bad Boss: Centipede, as an organization, is not very good to its own people - often casually killing and throwing away agents and even those with executive power without a second thought either due to failure, convenience or simply because they're not needed any more. Thie essentially turns everyone who works for Centipede into a Mauve Shirt: even Raina, The Heavy of the organization and the villain we've come to know most, tells the heroes in no uncertain terms that her superiors don't give a crap about her well being and would gladly let her die rather than extend the effort saving her.
In "The Hub," Victoria Hand and S.H.I.E.L.D. 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.
May pulls one on everybody in "The Magical Place". She encourages Hand in kicking Skye off the plane, knowing that Hand's by-the-book command style would prevent Skye from being effective in any case. May also knows that the rest of the team will go behind her back to assist Skye, and that Skye herself will refuse to abandon the mission. Skye goes off the grid and tracks down Coulson's location, just as May expected her to do.
Battle Discretion Shot: We see the beginning of the fight between Ward and a large enemy group in "The Well", but then the scene becomes a flashback from his childhood; when the flashback ends, Ward is standing surrounded by fallen foes.
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. Putting his team members at risk without his knowledge pushes this button too. Victoria Hand learned this in "The Hub" when she stranded Ward and Fitz in hostile territory without an extraction plan.
Big Brother Is Watching: Ian Quinn believes this of SHIELD and Skye does too (initially) but later says they're the "Nice Big Brother". In the following episode Coulson states that Social Media makes his job easier every year. "People surveil themselves."
Debbie, the doctor dealing with Centipede, initially playing the part of a victim.
Raina, the girl in the flower dress, who pretends to help the people but she screws over when it comes to completing her mission.
Bittersweet Ending: "The Magical Place". Raina has been captured and Coulson rescued, but now he has learned the truth about how he survived Loki's attack, which is that he didn't. It is an open question whether he will ever again be the man he was, now that he knows. And Mike Peterson is a captive of the still-active Centipede program.
Centipede likes to force their agents to do their bidding by replacing their eyes with cameras that double as self-destruct buttons through which they can also issue orders.
Coulson recalling a procedure where his head was cut open and lasers being fired into his exposed brain while he was still conscious as a part of S.H.I.E.L.D. bringing him back to life.
The blue humanoid that Coulson finds in the Guest House, who is visibly decaying in a tube of liquid and whose body is being used to produce all of the GH drugs.
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.
Break the Cutie: Coulson learning about his death and return. To a lesser extent, Skye and the ongoing revelations about her parents.
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.
Miles: I'll get us a suite... at... the fancy place that has suites.
Call Back: In "The Magical Place," Simmons' Bad Bad Acting makes another appearance (first seen in "The Hub"), and we see Skye demonstrate both her disarming moves and her unwillingness to shoot from "The Asset".
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?"
"The Magical Place" reveals that the experimental procedures used to bring him back caused him so much agony that he completely lost the will to live and was psychologically broken. The false memories of Tahiti were created in an attempt to bring back the man he had been before.
T.A.H.I.T.I. goes even further when it's revealed the mysterious serum used to bring Coulson back was taken from the corpse of what looks like an alien life form.
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: 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. They're not.
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.
Skye's Walking Tech Bane bracelet haunts her throughout "The Magical Place", six episodes after it was first snapped on. She later uses it to her advantage when posing as Agent May to interrogate a businessman about his alleged dealings with Centipede.
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.
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".
Akela's implant in "The Bridge", where they're being used by Centipede to control their soldiers and at the end of the very next episode Mike Peterson.
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.
In "The Magical Place", Skye uses the disarming technique again to 'prove' she's a SHIELD agent
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. But we can't tell it to you unless you are a Troper Level 8. How do you become a level 8? Sorry, that's classified.
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.
Conflict Ball: In both "The Hub" and "The Magical Place", Victoria Hand forces Coulson's team to go out of their way to do things in the most difficult manner possible: denying them information, disrupting their usual working process, and showing as little regard for their lives that she can manage, in complete contradiction to the way that the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D. is shown to operate.
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 averting 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.
Agent Blake, from The Avengers Blu Ray bonus short film "Item 47", appears in "FZZT". ("Item 47" featured criminals who end up being recruited to S.H.I.E.L.D. as technical experts, in the same way Skye joined up. Blake, along with Agent Sitwell, was assigned to recover alien technology that had fallen into civilian hands; very much a proto-Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. mission.)
Agent Jasper Sitwell, who appeared with Coulson in "The Consultant" short film, makes an appearance in "The Hub."
Agents Barton and Romanov (aka Hawkeye and Black Widow) of The Avengers are mentioned in the same episode; apparently they are the only S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who are badass enough to go on missions without an extraction team.
"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.
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.
In "The Magical Place", Edison Po is killed using a sonic device like the one Stane used all the way back in the first Iron Man.
Vanchat is mentioned in "Pilot" as the one selling a Chitauri Neural Link in the black market, most of which is bought by Project Centipede to use in their devices. He's also mentioned in "Eye Spy" as the one responsible for killing a SHIELD team and keeping Akela Amador prisoner before selling her to Centipede. He finally appears in "The Magical Place", still selling chitauri metal. His capture and interrogation at the hands of Agent Ward leads to SHIELD raiding Centipede locations all over the world.
Coulson threatens to have Ward assigned to Blonsky's cell in Alaska if his relationship with May threatens the team.
Sif from the Thormovies will appear in Episode 15.
Continuity Snarl: Unless other details come out, Blonsky should still be in military custody, not S.H.I.E.L.D.'s, considering the Consultant pissed Ross off so much.
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, whch includes a garage, bunks, training rooms, and a mini-bar.
CPR (Clean, Pretty, Reliable): Simultaneously played with, played straight, and averted in "The Well", when Coulson performs open-heart massage on a fallen Asgardian professor. Played with; given the faster healing rate of the Asgardian heart, all he has to do is keep it pumping for a few moments until it can repair itself. Played straight; the patient is walking around by the end of the episode. Averted; Coulson ended up bloody to the wrists—it wasn't pretty.
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. When he does, she finds out she's an 0-8-4 and that her family, village, and team sent to protect her were slaughtered in the attempt to abduct her.
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.
Darker and Edgier: Episode 11 ("The Magical Place"), compared with what went before. Fitz loses most of his Adorkable traits; the entire team is a lot angrier than we've ever seen them. Even the team's costumes are in line with this: Fitz-Simmons abandon their usual bright colors and dress in black; Ward wears a combat jumpsuit versus his normal leather jacket. The episodes that follow are also considerably darker than the first 10.
A Day in the Spotlight: Although the series is an ensemble theme, every character has had at least one episode devoted to letting them stand out in some way.
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: 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.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: The plot of "FZZT", which involves firefighters contracting a Chitauri virus after helping out at the Battle of New York is eerily similar to the real life instances of rescuers who developed fatal illnesses after helping search for victims of 9/11.
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.
Who is in charge and what is the purpose of the Centipede project?
What really happened to Coulson after Loki stabbed him? As of "The Magical Place", this is finally answered: he was dead for days until SHIELD managed to resurrect him, and then rewrote his memories. But there is more to this story...
Who is Skye? "Seeds" reveals everything S.H.I.E.L.D. knows, which isn't much - She's an 0-8-4 that some unidentified group really wants to get a hold of and is willing to kill anyone close to her to do so. S.H.I.E.L.D. unpersoned her and arranged for her to get continually shuffled through the foster system to keep her hidden - but that doesn't fully answer the question and they're currently out of leads.
Evil Evolves: The Centipede organization is constantly improving their technology, most of which appears to be originally stolen from other sources. The Centipede device itself is an excellent example.
According toWord of God, the show cannot use any X-Men or Spider-Man characters since theirfilmrightsare owned by Fox and Sony. They can't even use the word "Mutants", which is why similar terms like "Gifted" are used to describe characters like Scorch. It's reinforced every time someone insists psychic powers aren't real. In the X-Men films, it's clear everyone (at least in positions of authority) knows that they certainly are. The presence of superpowered individuals is likewise considered a new thing to the general public in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, whereas X-Men not only had very public displays of superpowers, there was a political campaign about registering people with them.
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: Half of one, as Coulson speaks, and May doesn't but he reacts like she's been answering him the whole time.
Fake Nationality: In-Universe: Fitz and Skye pose as a couple while on a mission, so Fitz suggests that they should pretend to be the same nationality. After hearing Skye's terrible Scottish accent, he decides to adopt an American accent instead.
Fake Shemp: Nick Fury and Maria Hill make a "cameo" during a Flashback in "The Magical Place", but are only shown from a distance and have their faces obscured.
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.
Fire-Forged Friends: The team begins this process in "0-8-4", to a greater or lesser extent depending on which characters.
A more minor example would be FitzSimmons turning out to be two people midway through the Pilot. (Up until they appear on-screen, they're referred to as if they're a single person, with pronouns deliberately avoided.)
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.
Coulson's "rusty" when it comes to breaking down a handgun. He makes a remark about how he had it down as muscle memory. Akela, 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".
In "0-8-4", Coulson explains to Skye that an 0-8-4 is "an object of unknown origin. Kind of like you." "Seeds" reveals that Skye is indeed an 0-8-4.
Four Philosophy Ensemble: Coulson is a Realist, Ward is the Cynic, Skye is the 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".
A meta example would be the official name for "the Bus" - the Mobile Command Unit, or MCU.
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.
Hidden Agenda Villain: It is currently unknown what Centipede's end goals are. They are creating super-soldiers, but why?
Hidden in Plain Sight: An ancient Asgardian warrior has been living in hiding on Earth for centuries and is currently the foremost expert on Norse language and mythology.
High-Altitude Interrogation: A variant: During an interrogation, Ward straps himself to his chair while Fitz/Simmons open the ceiling, threatening to pull someone out via the difference in air pressure.
High Dive Escape: In "The Asset", Skye escapes from Quinn's mansion by leaping off the balcony into the swimming pool.
By the time of "T.R.A.C.K.S.", Centipede has developed dendrotoxin grenades that have similar effects as the Night-Night Gun, because they somehow got their hands on the formula.
Also in "T.R.A.C.K.S.", May is captured by the Italian police that are working with Centipede. One of them stabs her in the shoulder with a knife to torture her. She then uses said knife to cut herself loose and kill his henchmen.
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.
Invoked in the pilot. Coulson jabs Ward with a truth serum and leaves him for Skye to interrogate, just to be absolutely clear they have nothing to hide from her.
Skye uses it herself in "The Asset". Rather than trouble herself with coming up with a lie to get into Quinn's office, she just tells him the truth: that she's a mole inside S.H.I.E.L.D.
Hostage for MacGuffin: In "The Bridge", Centipede kidnaps Mike's son and offers him up in exchange for Mike... until it turns out they actually want Coulson.
Human Weapon: Akela in Eye-Spy. She is controlled by people who implanted her with a cybernetic eyes which can see through walls, transmit video streams, display messages, ... and monitor everything she does, and explodes should she run away or get caught. It turns out her controller is also a pawn who got the exact same treatment...and so has Mike Peterson, as of "A Magical Place".
Hurl It into the Sun: Objects deemed too dangerous to be kept are disposed of via "The Slingshot", a facility where the offending device is stuck in a missile and launched into the sun.
In "FZZT" Simmons (along with Fitz and Skye) has great fun doing unflattering impressions of Ward. Later, when Fitz does a terrible falsetto impression of Simmons mid-argument, she angrily responds with "I hate when you do that voice, I don't even sound like that!" (Granted, the circumstances were dreadfully dire at the time and the whole scene is intentionally far from funny, but the way she says it makes it clear that it's a recurring annoyance.)
Fitz's irritation and snarky comments towards Simmons whenever she flirts with anyone is pretty funny, considering he spends the first few episodes blatantly hitting on Skye - to which Simmons is apparently oblivious, which just adds to the execution of the trope.
I Need A Drink: Coulson's first move after retaking the Bus in "0-8-4" is to the convenient on-board bar. Which Fury, in the stinger, notes that he generously provided.
Idiot Ball: Victoria Hand seems to be the designated carrier, as a side effect of carrying the Conflict Ball. The whole deal with extracting Fitz and Ward in "The Hub" makes no sense because if she wanted Coulson's team to be the extraction team she should have said so in the first place instead of stone walling them. In "The Magical Place" she acts as if Skye wanting to follow the money is some crazy hacker's trick instead of being one of the most sound, fundamental and time-proven methods of running an investigation known to man.
Coulson's implanted memories of Tahiti were specifically to keep him ignorant of the real circumstances of his resurrection (see And I Must Scream), which otherwise were too unbearable for him to go on living.
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.
Interservice Rivalry: There is a school rivalry level one between the various S.H.I.E.L.D. academies. Operations takes pride in how difficult their training is. Science and Technology takes pride in how hard it is to get accepted into their academy in the first place. And both of them look down on the Analysts.
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". But making her a VTOL just brings up more technical problems, like insufficient thrust and structural support for the engines. Applied Phlebotinum plus Rule of Cool is the only possible way to overcome these problems.
Karmic Death: In "Girl in the Flower Dress", 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.
MacGuffin Of The Week: Many of the first 10 episodes followed this formula, with only hints of a broader story arc. Ep. 10, "The Bridge", showed retrospectively how several of those episodes connected in to the larger mythology.
Macgyvering: Fitz builds an anti-weapon blaster out of the pieces of the separatists' Overkill Device in "The Hub".
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: "Repairs" began with a discussion about the nature of a girl that's being followed by weird events. Some think that she's a psychic, others point that there are no known cases of psychic people and try to find a more rational explanation. As it turns out, she's stalked by a guy trapped between two universes, wich Fitz-Simmons describe as "hell". A brief peak of the other world shows it as Mars-like with an Alien Sky. It would have been more mundane if the girl came out being a psychic...
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).
"0-8-4" reveals that Skye is acting as one for the Rising Tide. However, in "Girl in the Flower Dress", it is reveals that she's just there to find out what S.H.I.E.L.D. knows about her parents.
In "The Asset", Dr. Hall acts as a mole within S.H.I.E.L.D. to set up his own kidnapping.
In T.R.A.C.K.S. a supposedly friendly agent is on the take from The Clairvoyant's organization and sets the team up, going so far as to interrogate and torture May. The latter works out about as well for him as you would expect.
Moment Killer: Coulson and May are sitting in a car, waiting for a target to show himself. In the meantime, they talked, and May confesses that she had sex with Ward. There's the man! Don't lose him! The discussion about Ward had to be resumed later, when the mission was done.
Monster of the Week: The non-myth-arc episodes that don't have the agents pursuing a Macguffin feature a super-powered villain or phenomenon of some kind, at least at first glance. These sometimes prove to be a Bait and Switch.
Mouth of Sauron: Edison Po serves as the spokesperson for the Clairvoyant. After his death, Raina takes his place.
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", and wears only a towel in "Repairs".
Even though he hasn't appeared 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.
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.
Melinda has her fan-servicey moments, notably performing Tai Chi in "The Hub". She also has her own post-sex scene with Ward in "Repairs".
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, which is named for a longtime Marvel character.
It is unknown if Chan was consumed by the Extremis explosion caused by an overdose administered by May as a last resort, but as of the latest mention of him thus far in the series he's presumed dead.
Mike Peterson is also caught in an explosion... which happens to be unrelated to the Extremis within his system. Coulson is told he's dead in "A Magical Place" but the episode's stinger reveals he was captured instead.
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."
The promos for "The Hub" showed Coulson handcuffed and hooded, and clearly implied that he would be the goal of a rescue mission in the main storyline. Coulson's rescue was completed during (roughly) the first minute of the episode, and it was Ward and Fitz who were stranded behind enemy lines.
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.
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."
"The Magical Place": Raina and Edison Po's interrogation of Coulson allows him to unlock his real memories of how he came Back from the Dead after Loki killed him. Although how "fixed" he is remains to be seen.
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.)
In "The Magical Place", Hand's comments make it clear that Skye was blamed for shooting Sitwell in "The Hub". It's never made clear how Skye ended up getting blamed, since Simmons was face-to-face with Sitwell when she shot him and was clearly the one responsible. Indeed, Skye is protesting her innocence when Hand interrupts her.
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.
Donnie Gill is even worse, with Agent Weaver saying he's unable to converse with anyone who has an I.Q. under 175.
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, biochem, and computer science/hacking, respectively.
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.
Increasingly played straight with Simmons, who after protesting her lack of surgical knowledge in "Eye-Spy" is nevertheless frequently shown acting as The Medic, despite the fact that her doctorates are supposed to be in obscure fields of biology and chemistry, not medicine.
The latter is perhaps Justified to some extent: she's capable enough to perform advanced first aid, which makes sense given the rest of her character and her general dedication to knowing everything about her field. However, events in "The Well", "Seeds" and "T.R.A.C.K.S." demonstrate that she can't do much more than attempt to stabilise a critically injured patient. The scene showing her crying in the supply room after Skye gets shot seems to indicate that the writers haven't forgotten that she lacks the formal training to cope with medical emergencies.
One of Us: Coulson continues to demonstrate that he's an avid collector with his array of antique spy equipment which he will sometimes show off. His love for his classic car "Lola" is well known (Nick Fury refers to it by name), and reaches the level of obsession.
Only Mostly Dead: Coulson explains that he (just barely) survived Loki's attack in The Avengers. At least, that's what he was told, instead of the traumatizing reality.
Only One Name: Skye, obviously, although Coulson might prefer it.
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 highest level clearance on the team is Level 8 (Coulson), though the classification levels as a whole appear to go up to 10 (Director Fury).
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. The unredacted version of the file reveals that her parents, and pretty much everyone else in their community, was killed by an unknown group looking for her.
Apparently Coulson's father died when he was a child (implied to be in front of him), and his mother died years later. Raina calls the former his "defining moment."
Parental Substitute: Coulson is this to Skye; emotional support, guidance, discipline...no wonder she refers to an arguement between him and May as "Mom and Dad fighting".
Skye: Seriously? Coulson: I thought you'd like that.
Placebo Eureka Moment: Coulson walks in on May doing Tai-Chi in "The Hub" to discuss whether he should keep trusting the system, or question it like Skye does. He eventually decides to agree with her and keep trusting the system, even though May doesn't say a single word during the scene.
Portmanteau Couple Name: Used as a gag in the pilot; we only learn the name "Fitz-Simmons" actually refers to two people after it's been used a few times. Used consistantly since, since they're The Dividual.
Punny Name: In the third episode we meet Agent Mack, who drives a semi-trailer for S.H.I.E.L.D..
Pure Energy: The 0-8-4 in the second episode fires a beam of it that can blast through 50 tons of solid steel.
Psychic Powers: A running gag is that psychic powers don't exist.note most likely a joking nod to the fact that X-Men, and therefore mutants in general (which includes many human psychics in the MU) have their film rights held by a different company and therefore unavailable to the Marvel Cinematic Universe
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.
That said, it's rapidly becoming Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane, as they've repeatedly demonstrated that they can get access to almost anything and no one knows how they do it.
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 (later revealed to be dead-dead and revived with false memories) 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.
Reasonable Authority Figure: Coulson and May, the team leaders, have yet to give an arbitrary or unneccesary order (although some have come off that way before all the facts were known). Ward, Skye's training officer, generally goes out of his way to be reasonable despite her deliberate provocations. All three look even better now that we have Obstructive Bureaucrat Victoria Hand for comparison purposes.
Reassigned to Antarctica: T.R.A.C.K.S. has Coulson threatening Ward with duty in Alaska, guarding The Abomination's holding cell.
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. There's also his obsession with trained 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.
Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: In "T.A.H.I.T.I.", Coulson ignores orders from his superiors, gives Fitz-Simmons a file classified above their clearance level, and tracks down and assaults a SHIELD facility even he isn't supposed to know about, all to save Skye's life.
Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: "T.A.H.I.T.I." reveals that since Coulson's little visit in "The Magical Place", Dr. Streiten has gone into hiding.
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.
Shown Their Work: Skye correctly mentions the existence of Shining Path when they are 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.
The Bus is beginning to feel more and more like a 21st-century incarnation of Serenity, only cleaner. Especially now that we have seen her in a hovering, Big Damn Heroes rescue ("The Hub"), and pulling a Crazy Ivan ("A Magical Place").
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.
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.
Talk to the Fist: In "The Magical Place", a very angry Skye walks into the house where Coulson is being held by Raina, who hastily tries to claim that what she's doing is for Coulson's own good. Skye downs her with one punch.
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".
Teleport Spam: Tobias can do this via jumping back and forth between dimenions like Night Crawler.
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.
The Virus: The weird Chitauri electrical contamination in FZZT.
Took a Level in Badass: Everyone on the team did this as of Ep. 11, "The Magical Place", in response to Coulson's abduction the previous episode.
The promo for episode 1x11 confirms that Ward survives being shot at the end of the previous episode. Still, this was expected anyway.
Train Job: In T.R.A.C.K.S., the team goes undercover to pull one of these.
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.
Understatement: In the pilot Coulson states that he's certain that he was dead for longer than eight seconds. "The Magical Place" reveals that he was right - by several orders of magnitude.
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.
Weapon of Choice: The Night-Night Guns used by Coulson's entire team. They represent the preferred MO of S.H.I.E.L.D. pretty well: powerful weapons that neutralize the target, but are nonlethal and in some situations even manage to help the target get better.
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.
"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 Magical Place" finally addresses the mystery of Coulson's apparent death and resurrection: he was dead for days, and SHIELD had his memories rewritten to stop him being a Death Seeker. And if that wasn't whamy enough, the last scene reveals that Mike is still alive, but minus a leg and prisoner to Centipede.
"Seeds": Skye is an 0-8-4, and Ian Quinn is working for the Clairvoyant.
"T.R.A.C.K.S.": Mike is turned into the Clairvoyant's new enforcer, Deathlok, and Skye is left comatose after being shot by Quinn.
''T.A.H.I.T.I.": Coulson finally learns exactly how Fury brought him back: through the transplant of alien tissues turned into potent drugs. What's more, Skye is given a similar treatment.
The final scene of "Seeds", showing that Donnie has developed cryonic superpowers, while ominous music plays in the background.
The Stinger at the end of "T.R.A.C.K.S", which reveals that Mike's cybernetic leg is listed as "Project: Deathlok".
The scene in "T.A.H.I.T.I." where Coulson is investigating the titular room in the Guest House and finds the source of the miracle GH drug — a tank containing a decomposing alien corpse.
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.
Whole Costume Reference: Skye dresses like May in order to pose as her in "The Magical Place". May later sees the outfit.
May: Nice jacket.
The Worf Effect: May gets this treatment, of all places, in her very first fight scene in the very first episode. After being built up as one of the most badass SHIELD agents in history, Mike Peterson gets the drop on her and knocks her out while kidnapping Skye. To be fair, he has Super Strength, but this trope was still in effect.
Would Hit a Girl: In T.R.A.C.K.S., Double Subverted with Ward (he hesitates before knocking a female opponent unconscious but ultimately does it). Played entirely straight with many villains, particularly those that get in any kind of fight with Agent May.
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.
Skye 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.
You Have Failed Me: The Clairvoyant kills Po for the failure of his heavy-handed approach to interrogating Coulson.
In "T.R.A.C.K.S.", The Clairvoyant has Mike kill the security team who delivered the latter's new cybernetic leg for leading S.H.I.E.L.D. to their location.