"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 and Iron Man 3 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 a very much alive 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), though there have been an increasing number of crossovers with comic and MCU characters, and several episodes have been direct follow-ups to the films (especially given that, during the first season alone, both Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier were released, with the latter directly connected to the series' story arc towards the end of Season One).The series premiered in September 2013. ABC has announced that Season Two will be produced, and that it will take a break midseason with another MCU spinoff, Agent Carter, filling the gap. Mockingbird appears in Season Two.Has a recap page for episodes.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. provides examples of the following tropes:
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Abnormal Ammo: The ICER guns, first called Night Night guns. The bullets break under the skin, releasing a toxin that paralyzes the target. The same toxin later shows up in grenades.
Absurdly Youthful Parent: Discussed in "T.R.A.C.K.S." when Coulson and Simmons go undercover as father and daughter, as Simmons claims that he's "much too young to have a daughter my age." (Though the official website gives the characters' ages at the time as 49 and 26, respectively, so she's probably just being polite, perhaps to try to make up for her Compliment Backfire about his age in "FZZT".)
Abusive Parents: Ward's were at least neglectful, as they apparently managed to miss his older brother being an abusive bully as shown in "The Well" and "Ragtag." It's later stated that Ward's parents were "worse" than his older brother, who threw his younger brother down a well.
Simmons makes a hilariously bad attempt to act casual (coached by Skye through an earpiece) when Agent Sitwell catches her attempting to access a computer terminal without authorization 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 but forgot to clue Coulson in beforehand.
Coulson: Prostitutes? Plural?
Coulson himself sounds rather insincere when he's pretending to be under Lorelei's control to fool Fitz. Fitz being Fitz, however, falls for it.
In "Nothing Personal," despite her best efforts to conceal it, Skye can't quite keep her apprehension under the surface while she is with Ward. Ward of course notices, having been trained to recognize physical cues, but she plays it off as stress from the general situation rather than her knowing that he's HYDRA.
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 S.H.I.E.L.D. team single-handedly, hence "The Cavalry" nickname, but is haunted by the number of people she had to kill in order to do so.
Skye gradually became this over the course of season 1, including receiving her S.H.I.E.L.D. agent status. Season 2 reveals she's officially become this, including wearing a new uniform to cement it.
Maria Hill in "Nothing Personal". While Coulson gets into a straight fight with Talbot, Hill takes out most of his unit by herself. Coulson ends up stunning Talbot and the last two with an Icer.
Season 2 also introduces Bobbi Morse and Agent Isebel Hartley. The former is a member of the Avengers in the comics and is a combatant on par with Black Widow, while the latter is played by Xena herself, Lucy Lawless. Both should be enough proof to their claims to this.
Adaptational Badass: Lorelei. She can zap the will of any man just by saying a pair of words. In comics, Lorelei is nowhere that powerful. In comics, she's just a Butt Monkey with delusions of being better than her sister, who only controlled Thor with love potions given by someone else (Malekith and Loki) and not by her own power, and each time she ruined it.
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, and he also never served HYDRA willingly; when he, as Blizzard, is acting of his own free will, it's actually against HYDRA. The only reason why SHIELD put him down at the end of "Making Friends and Influencing People" is so HYDRA won't be able to use him again.
Adorkable: All of the ongoing characters fit this trope in one way or the other, most notably Fitz Simmons, Skye, Coulson, and even on occasion May (and not just when she's impersonating Simmons, either). For one example, check out game night where Ward says in a sour voice "you sunk my battleship", May pranks Fitz with shaving cream, and the team at large accuss Simmons of using her "britishness" against them in Scrabble.
Adult Fear: Raina uses threats against Mike Peterson's son to get to him.
Affably Evil: The Clairvoyant, revealed to be John Garrett, keeps the chummy, friendly attitude he had long before the reveal of who he was, and is shown to have a pretty fun Villainous Friendship with his dragon, and generally treats his subordinates with a lot of friendly respect, with the only exception of Quinn. Doesn't change the fact he's a murdering sociopath who'd gladly kill anyone to make himself immortal.
Age Lift: The show's version of Donnie Gill is an 18-year old student rather than an adult criminal-for-hire.
Building on this in "Providence", HYDRA attacks the Fridge, S.H.I.E.L.D.'s combination maximum security prison/storage facility, releasing all the prisoners as a distraction, while they steal every piece of advanced tech they can grab.
In "Nothing Personal", the team is forced to abandon the Providence base when it's raided by Colonel Talbot's forces.
From the end of "The Only Light in the Darkness" to the end of "Beginning of the End", the team loses control of the Bus altogether due to Centipede hijacking it.
In "Face My Enemy", Agent 33 disguised as May sneaks on board the Bus and plants a device that will make all its systems overload and explode, with the team just barely stopping it in time.
Ambiguous Situation: We meet Christian Ward in Season 2, and he claims Grant made up him being an abuser, and that he does that sort of thing all the time.. It's left open to interpretation which of them is lying. It's finally revealed that it was Christian in "The Things We Bury".
At the end of "The Asset", Dr. Franklin Hall is revealed to still be alive, trapped inside the gravitonium 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.
The Hooded Hero in the first episode, Mike Peterson, was just a struggling single father who took part in an experiment after he got laid off of work following an injury. He later uses his abilities to help the team and seems to honestly want to be a hero, but Project Centipede instead transform him into Deathlok, and force him to act as The Heavy for them while using his son to keep him in line.
The villain from "The Asset." Just trying to protect the world from Gravitonium
Appeal to Obscurity: Coulson uses this when Skye asks why they can't warn the Peruvian locals about the 0-8-4:
Coulson: Remember the panic when that anti-matter meteorite splashed down just off the coast of Miami and nearly devoured the city? Skye: No. Coulson: Precisely. Because we kept it quiet and contained.
Psychics are routinely dismissed as a myth, on the basis that S.H.I.E.L.D has never encountered a genuine psychic (but have interviewed plenty of fakes). Skye has lampshaded this more than once. As of the end of the first season, they still haven't encountered a genuine psychic.
In "The Well", Skye wonders if perhaps all ancient gods were just visiting aliens. Unlike ESP, this hypothesis doesn't get the brush-off.
Arc Symbol: These symbols◊, which Ward photographed for Centipede, reappear briefly in a montage of Coulson's surgery, are scrawled by Garrett on the glass door after he's injected with GH-325 and are etched by Coulson onto his wall in The Stinger of "Beginning of the End". Fans have identified them as Skrull characters.
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.
In "Turn, Turn, Turn," it becomes clear that everything related to Centipede and the Clairvoyant has been orchestrated by HYDRA. Or at the very least, the Clairvoyant acting in HYDRA's interests. This also ties the series more directly into the narrative of the films, specifically Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
"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. Eventually subverted: In "Yes Men", Coulson says, "It sucked."
Promotional materials for the show that have aired since episode 10 have used the term "It's all connected".
After escaping from a room underwater, Agents Fitz and Simmons are put in decompression chambers to protect them from the bends. But the sequence made clear that the room they were in was at a much lower pressure than the water outside (hence why weakening the window let the water blow it in). As they weren't taking any significant number of breathes while under increased pressure, they weren't absorbing extra gas into their blood stream, and were not under any threat of developing the bends.
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.
'Milton Keynes Prison, United Kingdom' (actually called HMP Woodhill) looks nothing like its show incarnation, being made of the same building materials as most of the rest of Milton Keynes; namely, red brick and terracotta tiles.
Trip refers to Casablanca as the "Middle East" in "Making Friends And Influencing People" - Casablanca is in north Africa, and is actually further west than Madrid.
Artistic License - Gun Safety: Played straight by Skye, who apparently has trouble telling the safety release from the magazine release. Studiously averted by Coulson, who even when he is forced to sweep a team member with his muzzle, holds it high or low to keep them safe.
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.
Played for laughs in "Yes Men". A Hell's Angels biker believes that Ben Franklin was president and "ruled the entire country".
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.
Artistic License - Linguistics: As weird as it may appear, the official language of Belarus is... Russian. That makes signs in "Eye Spy" look out of place - yes, they are written in mostly correct Belarussian language, which is used mostly by Belarussian dissidents, not the government.
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.
Ashes to Crashes: Invoked as a distraction and a tracking mechanism when Simmons and Coulson are undercover.
The Atoner: Mike is this in "The Bridge" for his actions in the pilot. In "Beginning of the End," After being freed from Garrett's control, he becomes this for everything HYDRA made him do.
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 full story — he was dead for days. And then he learns it was even worse.
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 extent Coulson. The first episode has them bring down a Super Soldier and later episodes involve a guy with fire powers and a cyborg.
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. This 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.
Bait and Switch: The ending of "The End of the Beginning makes it appear that Victoria Hand is the Clairvoyant and is planning on killing Coulson and his team for finding out. The next episode, "Turn, Turn, Turn", reveals that she isn't the Clairvoyant or even a member of HYDRA, but she thinks he's HYDRA.
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
In "Providence", The Mole casually explains everything they did in order to get each member of Coulson's team to trust them.
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.
Beard of Evil: Soon after Ward is revealed to be a HYDRA agent, he decides to start letting his beard grow out. However, he doesn't get a real one until Season 2.
Beard of Sorrow: ...The reason he has such a full beard in Season 2. Tortured by grief and regret, Ward attempted suicide at least three times while incarcerated, and isn't allowed near a razor or anything else that can be potentially sharp. Fitz has developed quite bit of stubble himself, possibly due to the brain damage he suffered causing him to forget things like shaving.
Becoming the Mask: The Mole shows signs of this, something both The Clairvoyant and Raina comment on. In "Ragtag" he admits he cares about the team, but isn't willing to make a Heel-Face Turn for them.
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.
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. And in "Beginning of the End" he has a nice To the Pain speech for The Mole.
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 - and more importantly, not telling them that they didn't have an extraction plan.
Don't call May "The Cavalry." If you're lucky, she'll just give you a Death Glare.
Season 1: The Clairvoyant is the the head of the Centipede organization. It's revealed that the Clairvoyant is actually a mole within S.H.I.E.L.D. with a high-level security clearance, rather than being a psychic. He's finally revealed to be Agent John Garrett.
Season 2 starts with a Big Bad Ensemble of Daniel Whitehall and The Doctor, but this becomes a Big Bad Duumvirate at the end of "A Hen in the Wolf House", when they team up to weaponize the Obelisk and destroy S.H.I.E.L.D. As of "The Things We Bury", Grant Ward seems to have joined the Duumvirate as well, though the alliance between the three of them is shaky at best. The Doctor's true motivation is revenge on Whitehall for killing his wife, and Whitehall will probably not be too pleased if he ever finds out that Ward handed Bakshi, his previous Dragon, over to Coulson.
Big Bad Friend: The Clairvoyant's identity, as revealed in "Turn, Turn, Turn": The Clairvoyant turns out to be Agent John Garrett, Coulson's best friend, who's also an agent of HYDRA. Worse, Ward is working for him.
Big Brother Is Watching: Ian Quinn believes this of S.H.I.E.L.D. 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."
"The Magical Place" has the rest of the team coming out of nowhere to save Skye from a Centipede super-soldier, then the whole team, all in black, looking Badass and coming to Coulson's rescue.
Nick Fury gets two of these in "Beginning of the End", first by rescuing Fitz-Simmons, then joining Coulson for the confrontation with The Clairvoyant.
Bigger Bad: As of "Turn, Turn, Turn": It's revealed that Garrett is The Clairvoyant and works for HYDRA, but he's never been seen taking orders from anyone, and Alexander Pierce is The Ghost. Regardless of how much control Pierce or HYDRA as a whole has over Garrett, Garrett's still functionally the series Big Bad.
The Big Guy: Ward. Triplett also serves in this capacity in some later episodes.
Big "NO!": In the Season One finale, Simmons does one just before Fitz blows the window out. A variation on the usual trope as the "big no" happens before someone dies (or is expected to).
Big Screwed-Up Family: The Ward Family. Grant and his brother, Christian were physically abused by their mom, while their dad turned a blind eye to it. She didn't however abuse her other son, Thomas. Christian wanted to hurt him to get back at his mom, but he didn't have the stomach for it, so he made Grant do it for him. Eventually Grant snapped and tried to burn down the family home with his brother inside (driving 1000 miles back from the military school he was at) and nearly got tried as an adult, until Garret took him under his wing and corrupted him. Christian went on to be a respected senator.
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 the procedure that brought him back to life: a procedure where his head was cut open and lasers being fired into his exposed brain while he was still conscious.
In "T.A.H.I.T.I", 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.
Bloodless Carnage: While the show isn't shy about showing violence and the resulting aftermath, the Night-Night guns and ICERs allow the characters to engage in gunplay while keeping the body count low since targets are knocked out, rather than outright killed.
Borrowed Catchphrase: After Fitz plays with spy gadgets from decades ago and burns the curtains, May sarcastically said "Watch out HYDRA, here we come". This is a minor variation of the battle cry of The Invaders.
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 Badass: Melinda May doesn't just get knocked down a peg or two, she ends up on the floor in "Turn, Turn, Turn" after Coulson discovers that she's been spying on him.
To a lesser extent, Skye and the ongoing revelations about her parents.
To a huge extent, this applies to the entire team when they learn that S.H.I.E.L.D. is infiltrated by HYDRA, and Ward is The Mole.
Fitz, as a result of oxygen deprivation caused by Ward. While he's still brilliant, he has trouble organizing his thoughts and articulating them.
Breaking the Fellowship: The events of the Uprising Arc has destroyed the 'family' atmosphere of The Hub. They don't trust each other anymore, and the Cast Herds are breaking up.
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.
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".
When Fitz shows off the new ICERs to Ward and May, Ward picks one up, and appreciatively notes that Fitz has lost the ounce that was off.
When the villains raid the Fridge in "Providence", we see the HYDRA laser beam from "0-8-4", the Berserker Staff from "The Well", and the Gravitonium from "The Asset".
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.
Episode 13 featured the inevitable Stan Lee cameo.
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?"
"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.
Canon Immigrant: Coulson made his first appearance in Earth-616 (the mainstream Marvel Universe of the original comics, as opposed to the Marvel Cinematic Universe) in the 2012 series Battle Scars. The S.H.I.E.L.D. comics coming in December 2014 are set to introduce 616 versions of the rest of the team.
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.
Played straight in the Season One finale when Fury and Coulson are under heavy fire by Centipede-enhanced soldiers and John Garrett AKA Deathlok Mark I, and simply snark at the events around them.
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. He's fully dropped it by "Yes Men" where he says "It sucked" when asked by Agent Sitwell.
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.
Fitz-Simmons referencing Doctor Who creates several more: Christopher Ecclestone (The Ninth Doctor) is Malekith in Thor: The Dark World, Karen Gillen (Amy Pond) is Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy, and Toby Jones (The Dream Doctor) is Dr. Arnim Zola in the CaptainAmerica movies. Best of all, their mentor at S.H.I.E.L.D. academy, Agent Weaver, is played by Christine Adams (Cathica).
In the Season 2 episode "A Hen in the Wolf House", Skye mockingly calls Lance Ron Burgundy. Paul Rudd, who played Brian Fantana in the Anchorman films, plays Scott Lang a.k.a. Ant-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Cerebus Syndrome: While the show was always a serious spy-thriller, at first it was episodic and had a few lighthearted, even laugh-out-loud moments. The events of Winter Soldier, however, definitely caused a darker shift in tone as S.H.I.E.L.D. falls apart around them and they don't know who to trust.
A more localized example would be the episode "T.R.A.C.K.S." It starts off as a lighter fare, with Team Coulson going on a train heist and Simmons coming up with a ridiculously complex cover story due to the Running Gag of her being a terrible improviser (and gains sympathy from Stan Lee himself), and the episode creatively repeats the same scene multiple times from the different agents' perspectives. Then they get to the villains' destination, which results in Skye getting shot and the multi-episode arc where the team scrambles to save her life, which ends with Coulson learning the truth about his resurrection. Which was precisely what The Clairvoyant wanted so that he could learn too.
Cerebus Retcon: Towards the end of the first season, it's a Running Gag the way everyone quickly realizes that The Clairvoyant had gone insane from the alien blood used to restore his dying body. Come the second second, this is played dead serious since Coulson had also been given the blood and his biggest fear is that he too will lose his mind.
The Night Night gun will not go away, though they do give it a less-silly name as time goes on.
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.
The "Overkill Device" shockwave-pulse launcher invented by Fitz in "The Hub" returns, now mass-produced by S.H.I.E.L.D., in "Turn, Turn, Turn." Agent Hand's men are using it to take out the guns on The Bus.
The HYDRA-tech plasma particle beam weapon from "0-8-4" returns as Garrett's "gold card" when they raid The Fridge in "Providence", and in "Beginning of the End" it's used by Coulson to finish off Garrett.
May gets to take another swing with the Berserker Staff in "Beginning of the End", using it to even the odds against Cybertek's soldiers.
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" later shows up in Centipede soldiers and Deathlok.
The shockwave gadget from "0-8-4" returns when Coulson uses it to knock the Clairvoyant out in "Turn, Turn, Turn".
The Hulk action figure Mike's son wanted in the pilot returns in the first-season finale, carried to him by Skye as assurance that his dad's OK.
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 S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.
In the pilot, Skye reveals that she uses coordinate-based keys to encrypt the files on her laptop. She later uses the same encryption on a hard drive containing all of the team's research data.
Civil War: With the events of Winter Soldier, the last six episodes of this season deal with the conflict between loyal S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and their HYDRA counterparts.
Classified Information 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.
Comic Book Movies Dont Use Code Names: In most cases it does not apply: most characters are either adaptions of comic book characters with no Secret Identity (Hill, Hand, Talbot, Fury), or complete Canon Foreigners (the main cast, Coulson included). Franklin Hall, Donnie Gill and Marcus Daniels have not been called Graviton, Blizzard or Blackout. The super soldier subjected to "Project Deathlok" has been called that way. Big names from the Cinematic Universe at large who are just mentioned may vary: sometimes they are "Red Skull", "Captain America", and other times they are "Romanov", "Blonsky"... And there is a hidden Big Bad called "The Clairvoyant"; before his reveal they call him that because they have no other name to use. Season 2 continues this trend, with Carl Creel never being referred to as Absorbing Man and Marcus Scarlotti not being called Whiplash (likely to avoid confusion with the MCU's other Whiplash). However, Hartley does refer to Creel as an aborbing man as a one-off gag.
In "FZZT", Simmons ends Coulson's medical by commenting that he's in excellent physical condition, "especially for a man of your age!" It does not go down well.
In "Making Friends and Influencing People", Ward tells Fitz that he elected to drop him and Simmons into the ocean rather than shooting them at the end of Season 1 because he had confidence that they'd find way to save themselves. Assuming he's even telling the truth, it still leaves Fitz (justifiably) even angrier than before, to the point where he briefly seems about to kill or maim Ward in retribution.
Donnie Gill is named after the second Blizzard, but his status as an engineering genius comes from Gregor Shapanka, the original Silver Age Blizzard.
In "Ragtag", John Garrett is revealed to be the original Deathlok.
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. This goes Up to Eleven when the Civil War breaks out within S.H.I.E.L.D. and she orders her troops to attack the crew of the Bus with automatic weapons, believing they have been infiltrated by HYDRA.
Consulting a Convicted Killer: As the Season 2 premiere shows, Ward is being kept in a secure cell in the playground, and Skye consults him on HYDRA-related intel.
Contamination Situation: In the November sweeps episode "F.Z.Z.T.", Simmons is infected with a virus carried by Loki's soldiers that will eventually cause her to explode, taking the entire plane (and all the other characters) down with her. After apparently failing to develop an anti-serum, she jumps from the plane, in what is intended to be a Heroic Sacrifice.
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.
The episode "Turn, Turn, Turn" is tied to the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which was released a few days prior. The film explains the sudden resurgence of HYDRA, though the episode still makes sense without watching the film. It does, however, heavily spoil the film, including the ending, and subsequent episodes build on this.
The Season One finale requires a bit more knowledge of the events of the film, in particular why Nick Fury has gone underground, and why he isn't wearing his trademark eyepatch anymore. The significance of him showing his blind eye also makes more sense after seeing what he does with it in the movie.
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. Even better, they find this out via recreating the scene of the crime in a massive hologram, outdoing Tony in the movie by making it act like a Pensieve Flashback as well.
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.)
The Chitauri helmet artifact and the virus it carries which Simmons becomes infected with were relics left in the wreckage after the Battle of New York.
Agent Jasper Sitwell, who appeared with Coulson in "The Consultant" short film, makes an appearance in "The Hub."
"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.
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 S.H.I.E.L.D. 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 S.H.I.E.L.D. raiding Centipede locations all over the world.
The reason she appears is because an Asgardian criminal escaped during Malekith's Dark Elf Invasion.
Sif's prior appearance on Earth is how the team identifies her as a friend of Thor and therefore an ally. Coulson later mentions her role in the battle with the Destroyer when vouching for her combat prowess. They also don't know her name, because S.H.I.E.L.D. never learned it in the movie.
When she first sees Coulson, Sif is initially shocked and suspicious, having heard of his death from Thor.
She also refers to him the same way Thor did in his first movie, as "Son of Coul".
After recapturing Lorelei, Sif mentions that Odin has ordered her brought back to Asgard alive. Audience members who've seen the film will know that Odin has been replaced by Loki in disguise, hence his desire to have a dangerous enemy returned unharmed.
In "End of the Beginning", Agent Sitwell is told by Agent Hand that he is being reassigned to the Lemurian Star, the S.H.I.E.L.D. freighter he is seen onboard at the beginning of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. All episodes immediately following this one relate directly to the events of Winter Soldier.
In "Turn, Turn, Turn," Fitz mentions that the "mouse hole" laser cutter that he and the team use to escape the Bus is something he developed but was never mass-distributed. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Nick Fury and Maria Hill use the device. Garrett mentions that "the top agents always want the good stuff for themselves."
Natasha "Black Widow" Romanoff gets a name-check in "Providence", as does Maria Hill. Agent Koenig also says that he's been living at the titular S.H.I.E.L.D. outpost since the Chitauri's invasion of New York.
"The Only Light in Darkness" contains yet another Shout-Out to Black Widow, as well as a piece of energy absorption technology designed by Bruce Banner. Triplett is also revealed to be the grandson of a Howling Commando from Captain America: The First Avenger.
The opening scene of "Nothing Personal" shows Maria Hill on the phone to Pepper Potts. Pepper is now Hill's boss at Stark Industries, following her resignation from S.H.I.E.L.D. at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. During their conversation, Hill paraphrases Tony Stark's "privatizing world peace" line from Iron Man 2, which is apparently now something of a company mandate.
In "Beginning of the End", Nick Fury shows up to give Coulson a weapon to fight the Centipede soldiers: the BFG he used on Loki in The Avengers. He also finally explains why Coulson's death in The Avengers was undone. The episode also directly references his actions following the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Coulson: I know what it does.
In "Face the Enemy," HYDRA is shown in possession of the same type of holographic mask and voice replication technology used by Black Widow in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
In "A Hen in the Wolf House", Whitehall mentions "Our founder" and "his Tesseract".
Whitehall's statement in the opening of "Shadows":
Whitehall: Oh, there's no reason left to fear the Red Skull. He's dead. However, his vision is not. The work HYDRA has done will live on.
In "The Writing On The Wall", Ward mentions Baron von Strucker, who was last seen experimenting on Wanda and Pietro Maximoff in The Stinger of The Winter Soldier.
"The Things We Bury" opens with a flashback to 1945, where Whitehall is shown being informed of the Red Skull's death from the end of The First Avenger.
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. We have seen her drop from the Bus in flight to eventually land in a parking lot.
Attendant: That'll be twenty dollars.
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, which includes a garage, bunks, training rooms, and a mini-bar. Unusually, the fact it's a cool plane is regularly referenced by the characters (most other shows just take such things for granted), and lampshaded in the second episode when Nick Fury vetoes Coulson's plan to install a fish tank. One character even quips that the brig must be between the jacuzzi and the squash court.
CPR (Clean, Pretty, Reliable): Simultaneously played with, played straight, and averted in "The Well", when Coulson performs open-heart massage on a fallen Asgardian. 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. We have seen that he tried to set fire to his family home, and kill the abusive brother by extension. His parents were going to have him prosecuted before Garrett recruited him, direct from the juvenile holding facility. 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 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 herself is an 0-8-4 and that her family, village, and team sent to protect her were slaughtered in the attempt to abduct her. It's also strongly suggested that her parents are "monsters" of some sort.
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 twenty 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.
Although Fitz's life still wasn't a cakewalk despite not being outright traumatic. He feels alienated from his parents despite them meaning well, because they can't understand him or what he does, and had few to no friends even at the Academy up until he met Simmons because no one else could relate to him either. (And she may well still be his only real friend.) Really, only Simmons seems completely well-adjusted out of the main cast, which actually turns out to be a bit of a flaw, since it leads to a bad case of Break the Cutie after the "Uprising" arc.
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.
"End of the Beginning" has Garrett and Coulson track down Thomas Nash, who they believe to be the Clairvoyant. They discover that he's in a wheelchair and requires breathing tubes, and can only communicate through a speech synthesizer. He's a subversion; the real Clairvoyant set him up as a fall guy and had someone else running the synthesizer before having Ward shoot him.
"Ragtag" reveals that Garrett, the real Clairvoyant, really is one. He has a cybernetic implant feeding him Centipede serum, yet he has no super strength because he's so far gone that the serum only brings him up to "normal", and he's going to die without the GH serum even with it.
A Day in the Limelight: 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 because FOX has the rights to nearly all of the mutants and the word "mutant".
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 Not Like Guns: Discussed with May and Ward when Fitz introduces the ICErs. When May picks one up, Ward remarks that he thought she didn't like guns; May says she only uses them when she needs them, and they seemed like a perfect fit for that particular mission.
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.
"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.
"T.R.A.C.K.S." - Skye has been gut-shot and is near death. Exacerbated by the series taking a month-long hiatus, in part in order to avoid having to compete with the Sochi Olympics.
"Turn, Turn, Turn" - S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated by HYDRA, Agent Garrett turns out to be the Clairvoyant, and Grant Ward reveals himself as The Moleby murdering Victoria Hand and freeing Garrett.
Dragon with an Agenda: The entire Centipede faction could be considered one to HYDRA, as its primary purpose is to save Garrett's life. Once that finally happens, Garrett states his desire to overthrow HYDRA and rule the world on his own. By contrast, the HYDRA faction in season 2 seems far closer to the interpretation seen in the Captain America films, though it is possible this could change.
Who is in charge and what is the purpose of the Centipede project? The Clairvoyant is in charge of it, and is revealed to be Garrett. The Centipede project is a subdivision of HYDRA.
What really happened to Coulson after Loki stabbed him? As of "The Magical Place", this is finally answered: he was dead for days until S.H.I.E.L.D. 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.
Who is the alien whose corpse provided the miracle drug that revived Coulson and saved Skye? How did it end up in such a situation? If its function is to heal, why was it under such heavy guard that only Director Fury, level 10 clearance, could freely access the place it was held?
Who else is going to turn out to be working for HYDRA? Who will survive the coming Civil War?
Who was in charge of the T.A.H.I.T.I project if it wasn't Nick Fury? The closing scene of "Nothing Personal" reveals that it was Coulson himself.
Season 2 gives us questions regarding Reinhardt/Daniel Whitehall, the supposed new leader of HYDRA. How does he look the same 70 years later? How did he escape S.H.I.E.L.D. custody? And why is he so obsessed with the Obelisk?
Every Car Is a Pinto: In "0-8-4," the cars are extremely combustible once the rebels attack; shooting a Chevrolet pickup through the rear window will cause it to detonate.
Everything Is Online: In "Girl in the Flower Dress", Miles can use his computer to control traffic lights and all the doors in a building. Globally the trope is played straight, but in a less unrealistic way than usual. Skye can hack absolutely anything, from NSA satellite systems to security doors in a building, but in some cases (The Extremis lab in episode 5, Quinn's estate, the Hub communication panel) she has to physically get into the facility to access the local network. So everything is online, but at least not everything is directly accessible through the Internet.
Everyone Can See It: Fitz-Simmons are the only ones who seem remotely surprised when they start developing romantic feelings towards one another. Other characters can practically be felt rolling their eyes in the background during their awkward Cannot Spit It Out moments.
Everyone's Baby Sister: Fitz and Simmons both qualify as this trope. The other characters' reactions to their lives being endangered in "F.Z.Z.T." and "Beginning of the End" exceed what we've learned to expect when Coulson, May, Ward, and Skye risk their lives. Fitz and Simmons are the non-field agents on the team, and two of the youngest. In "F.Z.Z.T.":
Fitz: What we need is a highly trained monkey. Simmons:[exasperated] Oh, Fitz! Fitz: He could turn off the alarm with his adorable little paws!
Evil All Along: As of "Turn, Turn, Turn", The large number of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who were actually members of HYDRA. Including Garrett and Ward.
Evil Cripple: "The End of the Beginning" introduces Thomas Nash, who Coulson and Garrett believe to be The Clairvoyant. When they raid his headquarters, he never moves and only communicates through a speech synthesizer. In the end he is a subversion. He was really catatonic and not controlling the synthesizer at all, and the real Clairvoyant goaded Ward into shooting Nash in the hopes that people would believe the Clairvoyant to be dead.
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.
Eviler Than Thou: Raina is one of the primary villains of Season 1, and always keeps a calm demeanor, even when things are collapsing around her. Then comes Season 2, whose main antagonists — Daniel Whitehall and The Doctor — both absolutely terrify her.
In "Ragtag", Coulson tells Skye to get ready to receive a "large file transfer". Which involves throwing an entire file cabinet full of paper files out of a window.
In "The Only Light in the Darkness", The Mole uses this to evade detection.
In "Beginning of the End", an angry and confused Coulson confronts Nick Fury over why the T.A.H.I.T.I. resurrection process was enacted on him if it was specifically intended for the resurrection of an Avenger. Fury makes it clear that as far as he is concerned, Coulson is an Avenger.
In "Heavy is the Head", Fitz, while looking for a way to neutralise Creel's powers, insistently repeats the phrase "I didn't solve this today!" Skye and Trip write it off as his frustration at being unable to solve the problem, but Mack works out that Fitz is trying to tell them that one of his old designs can be modified for the job.
As of "Making Friends and Influencing People", this is how Simmons managed to keep her cover intact in HYDRA, because she sucks at flat-out lying.
Exiled from Continuity: According toWord of God, the show cannot use any X-Men, Fantastic Four, or Spider-Man characters since theirfilmrights are 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.
Explosive Leash: Several characters are fitted with bionic eyes that provide x-ray vision and HUD instructions — and explode to instantly kill the subject if they disobey.
Coulson: I feel like he's still out there...in our heads. Skye: Or in our files.
Also, Fitzsimmons in "F.Z.Z.T":
Simmons:The antibodies from the three firefighters aren't strong enough to fight this virus. It's born from alien DNA. There's noone to create an antiserum from, because noone's actually survived this, except... Fitzsimmons:...the Chitauri.
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.
Face-Heel Turn: The show has featured this trope multiple times, both played straight and as a fake out.
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 Guest Star: Three of the four actors who joined the lead cast a while after the show premiered are still credited as guest stars in Season 2, despite appearing in every episode since and having more or less equal screen time to the leads: B J Britt (Triplett, introduced in 1x14note Only absent from one episode since - and that was the episode directly following his introduction, meaning he's still appeared in a straight run of fourteen episodes to date), Henry Simmons (Mack, introducedn in 2x01), and Adrianne Palicki (Bobbi Morse, introduced in 2x05). Averted with Nick Blood (Hunter), who is credited with the leads right from his introduction in the Season 2 premiere.
Ruth Negga (Raina) has appeared in nine episodes since her introduction in 1x05, appeared at a number of publicity events with the six original leads between seasons, and in Season 2 has nearly as many appearances as lead-credited Brett Dalton, but is still credited as a guest star.
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: In "The Asset": 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.
False Flag Operation: In "A Fractured House", HYDRA mercenaries attack the United Nations while impersonating S.H.I.E.L.D., in order to turn the world's militaries against them. Talbot sees through that from the start, as he notes to Senator Ward.
Raina. She manipulates, kidnaps, and tortures while never saying a single harsh word. The most egregious example is when she purposefully leaves Debbie to her death and says "I wish you all the best" as the elevator doors close between them.
Then there's the Clairvoyant. He maintains the chummy attitude he's previously been using in a civilian disguise, even after his true identity is revealed. Even when The Dragon is experiencing a Villainous BSOD, he kept laughing and joking, not caring about what was happening. His charm and affability is only a charade though, and there's no one he won't sacrifice to further his goals.
Fire-Forged Friends: The team begins this process in "0-8-4", to a greater or lesser extent depending on which characters.
"The Girl in the Flower Dress" implies that this happened between Skye and Miles prior to the series.
Simmons and Triplett apparently have complete trust in each other by "Providence", as a result of being trapped together at the Hub during the HYDRA takeover. This doesn't extend to the rest of the team, though - Coulson eventually accepts her arguments that Triplett should be allowed to join the Bus for a while, but he and Fitz at least still have their doubts.
#CoulsonLives! This is the hashtag for the 7-second teaser.
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, and the singular often used.)
The Evil Genius: Ian Quinn is implied to be the R&D arm of the Centipede Group because his episodes focus on developing new technology: the gravitonium, the weather control device, the cyborg implants, etc.
The Brute: Deathlok is forced to become The Clairvoyant's hitman and augmented with great physical strength and firepower to do this.
The Dark Chick: Raina's role is to use empathy and manipulation to convince others to help The Centipede Group, such as convincing Gifted to join 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.
Skye is a mole for the Rising Tide terrorist/hacktivist organization, though she cuts ties as she begins to warm up to S.H.I.E.L.D., and specifically when her mentor turns out to be a blatant hypocrite.
May is a mole for Fury, given the full details of Coulson's resurrection and tasked with keeping an eye on him to make sure there were no side effects. She also built the team (short of Skye) specifically to help take him down and fix him if it became necessary.
Ward is a mole for HYDRA, specifically the Clairvoyant and the Centipede project. While he was trawling for information in general, his mission goal was to discover the secret behind Coulson's resurrection.
Fitz-Simmons are a mole for ...no one, actually. They seem to be just a pair of skilled scientists who managed to get on the Bus and dumped into the heart of some of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s worst conspiracies through no fault of their own - though they do set up an encrypted line to allow them to relay their research about the TAHITI serum to each other, which ends up causing some trouble despite the fact that their intentions were good. However, May does reveal that they were brought onto the team for the sake of reprogramming Coulson should he become unstable, though they were unaware of this.
As of "Nothing Personal", even Coulson himself is revealed to have inadvertently worked against his own current interests in the past, (though he's lost the memories of doing so), by heading the T.A.H.I.T.I. project shortly before becoming its first true success.
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.
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.
At the end of the pilot, Coulson notes "we didn't cut off the head of the Centipede." Which organisation runs Centipede? HYDRA? The one with the motto about having their heads cut off?
In "The Hub" Ward asks Fitz "How long can you hold your breath underwater?" In "Ragtag" Ward drops the pod with Fitz and Simmons into the ocean. Fitz's reply is "Not very long." He nearly dies from oxygen deprivation in "End of the Beginning" while escaping the pod.
In "T.A.H.I.T.I." John Garrett says of Ward, "You wouldn't believe what I could talk this son-of-a-gun into." Indeed, talking someone into joining an evil organization bent on world domination is no small task.
In "T.A.H.I.T.I.", one of the facility's security guards eventually recognizes Coulson and asks of they've met. Coulson doesn't remember him but says they may very well have met, because he may have "spent some time" in the facility being ressurected. His suspicion is correct, but the conversation takes on a whole new meaning when we learn that Coulson was also in charge of T.A.H.I.T.I. before it was used to resurrect him.
In "Turn, Turn, Turn," The Clairvoyant said if he wanted Team Coulson dead he could have killed them anytime he wanted. Since Ward is his inside man, he's probably right.
In "Turn, Turn, Turn" Fitz tells Garrett that he will suffer for what he's done, and that he (Fitz) plans on being a very big part of that. Four episodes later, Fitz uses an EMP device to short out Garrett's cybernetic components, bringing him to the edge of death.
In "Turn, Turn, Turn", Coulson defeats Garrett in battle after Fitz tosses him an EMP device, which knocks him out. But why would an EMP device hurt an organic being? Later on it's revealed that Garrett is a cyborg, and Fitz himself nearly kills him with a second EMP.
In "Providence," Maria Hill states that she's working with Tony Stark to privatize world peace in the wake of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s dissolution.
The big twist at the end of 'Shadows' that the Simmons we have been watching was Fitz's hallucination, and that the real Simmons has left the team floored a lot of people, but if you think about it, there are subtle hints throughout the episode:
Simmons has no lanyard, unlike all of the other characters on base. Even Fitz himself has a lanyard hanging off his left hip.
While all the other main characters have undergone a visible change from last season (e.g. Coulson is wearing black suits, May wears civilian clothes, Skye has bangs and a field outfit, Ward has a beard, and Fitz has stubble and shorter hair), the Simmons in this episode is wearing a very familiar outfit, the exact same one she wore in F.Z.Z.T., when she contracted the alien virus. Besides that, if you check out the promo art for this season, Simmons is shown as having shorter hair than she did last season, unlike the hallucination of Simmons, who has the same longer season 1 hair.
Only Fitz registers her presence - when May comes up to the lab, she only answers Fitz and completely ignores Simmons. She also offers to stay and help with some DNA analysis - why would she do that if Simmons were actually there? What could she as a specialist contribute to a DNA analysis that the biochemist apparently standing right there couldn't?
Fitz always intervenes before Simmons can interact with anything in their environment, repeatedly snapping at her not to touch the cloaking device work on his desk, and throwing his medication across the worktop before she can reach for the bottle herself. Also, when May is around, Fitz apparently finds himself able to finish his own sentences without Simmons's help, unlike when they're alone, and immediately echoes anything she says that's directed at May.
Also, Fitz sees the lead shaving turn to flesh and blood, and is unsure if what he's seeing is real, implying that he's had hallucinations before (and is incidentally seeing one now). May confirms it's real.
When Koenig, Fitz and Skye are watching the interrogation on the Bus, Fitz is standing outside one of the bunks, with Simmons sitting on the bed. There's a shot of Fitz in the corridor just after Simmons places her hand on his shoulder, but Simmons' hand is suddenly not there. Fitz just has his hand on his own shoulder, which is clearly visible once you're familiar with The Reveal, but mostly obscured by the door the first time you see it.
In "0-8-4", Ward is seen reading Matterhorn, a book assigned to him by Garrett. It's a novel where one of the arcs is about Marines in Vietnam building a firebase, being forced to abandon it, and struggling to recapture it from the enemy. This can be seen as a parallel to Garrett's story of being trained by S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nicky Fury before being (by his own account) left for dead by his agency, his turning to HYDRA, and Team Coulson's subsequent fight to stop Garrett and the Centipede organization.
Former Regime Personnel: This becomes a problem in season 2. With the dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D. a large number of highly trained people were out of work and seeking new opportunities. Most went into the private sector or were hired by various US government agencies. Some went underground like Team Coulsen in order to continue with their mission. However, many took whatever intelligence and/or secret technology they had and sold it to the highest bidder. In the worst cases, some were recruited willingly or unwillingly by HYDRA.
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.
Four Is Death: Subtly used in the episode, "The Only Light in the Darkness." The group in total ends up splitting up into two groups of four, and while Coulson's group ends up okay, back at Providence May leaves, and Eric is killed by Ward leading Skye to the realization that Ward is a HYDRA agent.
The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: At the end of "Turn, Turn, Turn", when S.H.I.E.L.D. has been overtaken by HYDRA, the normal closing screen of the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo is replaced with that of HYDRA.
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 at the end, 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.
In 'The Asset', when Ward is teaching Skye how to box, there's a moment when Fitz can be seen in the lab annoying Simmons with the laser they're working on.
In "Girl in the Flower Dress", as Agent Kwan asks how they will get into the building, May shoots off the ground towards the roof.
In "Yes Men", when Ward is trying to convince May that he's no longer brainwashed, Sif walks in leading the imprisoned Lorelei. The look on Sif's face when she sees Ward, May, and the half-destroyed Bus is hilarious.
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.
Two episodes, "T.R.A.C.K.S." and "T.A.H.I.T.I.", are stylized as acronyms which are never actually explained. Though T.A.H.I.T.I. appears In-Universe, so it may get some explanation down the road.
Gambit Pileup: By the end of "The End of the Beginning", it's clear that there are no less than three factions within S.H.I.E.L.D., each with its own agenda. There's the main team, led by Agent Coulson; an unnamed group trying to keep the details of Coulson's resurrection a secret from Coulson and everybody else; and a more villainous faction who answers to the Clairvoyant (revealed to all be HYDRA moles).
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).
Averted in Season 2, where Team Coulson now consists of seven men (Coulson, Fitz, Triplett, Hunter, Mack, Koenig, and Wardnote Who is still regarded as an antagonist by the other characters, but is present among the team, first as a Boxed Crook and later as The Atoner (or so he claims)) and four women (May, Skye, Simmons, and Bobbi).
May has no evidence to suspect that Nick Fury would be Not Quite Dead and not really dead as reported, and yet, she was right.
In "Heavy is the Head", Coulson decides to cryogenically freeze Creel, even though he's apparently been killed by the Obelisk, since turning to stone is one of Creel's abilities, and he suspects it might not be permanent.
Good Is Not Nice: Although SHIELD are the good guys, it is occasionally hinted at that the organization engages in activities such as assassinations.
G-Rated Drug: Creel/Absorbing Man "enjoys" the feeling he gets when absorbing the properties of other materials into his body, as demonstrated when he turns into wood purely for recreational purposes. His handler even pays him with rare materials.
Gratuitous Foreign Language: On the cover of the Mobile Command manual given to Skye in "0-8-4", the Russian text can be translated as "of the vehicle-born mobile station command", with the last word's grammatical form being one used in phrases like "giving a command". and it starts with a lowercase letter.
Other episodes showcase agent Ward speaking fluent Italian and Spanish, as well as Coulson himself speaking relatively accent-free Spanish.
The first episode of season two features German dialogue between supposed native speakers that, while brief, is grammatically accurate... and painfully obviously not spoken by anyone with a grasp of German.
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.
Fitz in "The Things We Bury", after spending the first part of the season seeming like he wouldn't recover from his brain damage, turns back into the Techno Wizard we all know and love.
Hidden Agenda Villain: For much of the first season it was unknown what Centipede's end goals were. They are creating super-soldiers, but why? "Providence" eventually gives an answer: Garrett's conversation with Raina suggests the group was founded by HYDRA and recruited with promises of "changing the world", meaning they've always been pawns in HYDRA's goals. "Ragtag" makes it even more clear: John Garrett is being kept alive by first-generation Deathlok technology, which is failing. He wants the Centipede tech to replace it and the GH-325 drug is the last element.
Hidden in Plain Sight: An ancient Asgardian citizen has been living in hiding on Earth for centuries and is currently the foremost expert on Norse language and mythology.
Hide Your Gays: To some extent; Victoria Hand was a lesbian in the comics, and her actress confirmed she was playing her as such. However, they never actually address this fact, which greatly reduces the Bury Your Gays implications if you've not read the comics and/or had no idea about her supposed sexuality. Justified example, however, as Hand's sexuality was very minor in the comics, only coming up once, and at no point in the show was it relevant information while she appeared.
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.
Hijacked by Ganon: The identity of the Clairvoyant is revealed in "Turn, Turn, Turn". However, mere seconds later, it's also revealed he wasn't just working towards his own ends, but also for HYDRA, albeit, he's mostly using HYDRA's resources for his goals.
According to the 2014 San Diego Comic Con panel, HYDRA will continue to be a major antagonistic presence in the second season, led by Daniel Whitehall, a.k.a. The Kraken.
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.
In "Ragtag", Ward is under orders to kill Fitz-Simmons. The episode is intercut with flashbacks to his experiences with Garrett's dog Buddy, who he was also ordered to shoot during his training. Ward appears to let the dog go, flashing forward to Ward admitting he does care for his old teammates... a weakness which is exactly why he needs to kill them, flashing back to someone, probably Garrett, sniping the dog as Ward ejects them from The Bus.
In the season 2 premier "Shadows". Izzy may be down an arm, but otherwise the mission was a success: everybody made it out and the obtained the obelisk and the Quinjet they were after. Then Absorbing Man shows up in front of Izzy's team's car and flips it in asphalt form. Izzy and Idaho are killed, and Creel obtains the obelisk.
"Shadows" provides a larger one for the series overall. Since the Season 1 finale ended with Fitz in a coma and suffering the results of severe oxygen deprivation, Season 2 actually starts of pretty well for him. He's no longer comatose and, though he did suffer brain damage, it wasn't as debilitating as had been feared, and with Simmons's help he's making a steady recovery. Except he's really not. All of his scenes have been Through the Eyes of Madness, and the final reveal shows that Simmons has left, he's had a complete breakdown and is just hallucinating her constantly. To make matters worse, his belief that he's still a Gadgeteer Genius is belied by the pile of random components on his desk, which he believes to be a nearly completed cloaking device for The Bus.
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 eye which can see through walls, transmit video streams, display messages, ... and monitor everything she does, and explodes should she run away or get caught. The ending reveals that her controller is also a pawn who got the exact same treatment. Then, in "A Magical Place", we see the technology again used on Deathlok and some enemy soldiers.
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. "Providence" reveals that the items are actually secretly tucked away in the Fridge, and the missiles are just for show.
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.) She also later criticizes Skye's "awful" attempt at an English accent in "Yes Men", despite it not really being any worse than her attempt to mimic Ward's American accent in "FZZT".
In "Repairs" Fitz accuses Simmons of screaming like a girl when a classmate pulled a prank on her; she irritably responds that it's allowed because she is a girl. Later, when Fitz accidentally falls victim to a prank he himself rigged up and then forgot about, he lets out an incredibly high-pitched and prolonged scream; Simmons, while clearly surprised and alarmed, is noticeably less vocal.
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.
Simmons gets annoyed with Fitz in "The Asset" when the only explanation he can come up with for a female agent gaining a male suspect's trust is by flirting with him (or, as he more succinctly puts it, "boobs"). But then in "Yes Men", when Fitz gets mind-controlled by Lorelei, Simmons tries to reassure him with a comment about how he couldn't help himself, since all men are weak around attractive women. (Admittedly perfectly true in Lorelei's case, but she seems content to leave the statement generalized.)
There's also this exchange in "The End of the Beginning", after they've secretly set up a secure line so Simmons can keep Fitz in the loop as to developments at the Hub:
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. Finally, in "Turn, Turn, Turn," her method for determining who is not an infiltrator for HYDRA is apparently to pretend that she herself is an infiltrator for HYDRA, then demand that agents swear loyalty or be executed. How this is meant to detect genuine HYDRA infiltrators, versus maybe getting her shot by loyal S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, is unclear. It's also based on the idea that no loyal S.H.I.E.L.D. agents when given the choice between betraying the group and death wouldn't simply lie. Added to this is the fact that she assumes all the members of Coulson's team must be HYDRA moles, just because she has evidence to believe that Coulson is one, even though the team is relatively newly assembled of people who were mostly unknown to one another beforehand. Furthermore, having ordered them all to be killed on sight because of the risk she believes they pose, she's willing to give Simmons a chance to prove her loyalty for apparently no other reason than that she happened to be in the Hub, and not on the Bus, when the Uprising started.
In "Yes Men", Ward gets the drop on Lorelei with a tranq gun. He's been told that she has the ability to charm men with her voice and her touch. Not only does he not shoot her immediately, he allows her to get within arm's reach.
Eric Koenig gets this in "The Only Light in the Darkness" when he debriefs Coulson's team with a super-accurate lie detector. Despite his suspicions that one of them is The Mole and the lie detector throwing big red warnings all over the place, one adroit answer (with a liberal use of Exact Words) is enough for Eric to conclude everything's fine.
"Providence" reveals that once S.H.I.E.L.D.'s secrets have flooded onto the Internet, Skye realizes that Coulson was right: The World Is Not Ready.
Coulson's being kept in the dark about his resurrection, and the 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: An early theme in the series is the security vs. privacy debate, as well as the control vs. freedom of information debate. The show mostly comes down in favor of the security and control of information sides, and 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.
Inspector Javert: Colonel Talbot doesn't care if Coulson's team was involved with the villains or not — he has his orders to bring them in, no matter what.
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. Both of them look down on the Analysts.
Irony: The Mole was on the Bus to find out the secrets behind Coulson's resurrection. In the process, they seduced May solely to cement their cover—not knowing that she had the full details of the project the entire time.
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.
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.
In "Beginning of the End," Garrett, who betrayed S.H.I.E.L.D. to HYDRA and used Mike Peterson as a lab rat for techniques to save his own life, first gets beaten within an inch of his life by Mike, and then finished off by Coulson with the HYDRA beam weapon.
Karma Houdini: At the end of the first season, Quinn and Raina, despite brief turns in prison earlier in the season, are able to escape Garrett's downfall.
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".
Coulson hangs a lampshade on his dramatic entrance.
Coulson: Sorry, this corner was really dark and I couldn't help myself. [beat] I think a bulb is out or something.
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.
"Providence" sees the use of the double-fisted "Hail HYDRA!" salute getting ridiculed by Garrett, who says it makes the user look like a cheerleader.
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).
Laser-Guided Karma: In season 1, HYDRA is shown to have infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D., with Garrett, Ward, and Sitwell as confirmed double agents. In season 2, S.H.I.E.L.D. returns the favor, with Simmons among those infiltrating HYDRA.
Last Name Basis: Everyone is referred to by their last name, barring personal moments, with the exception of Skye, who doesn't have a last name.
The episode "Turn, Turn, Turn" ends up being one for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, provided you didn't see the movie that only opened four days earlier. In a deliberate attempt to give the audience some breathing room, the episode was aired as a rerun before the following week's new episode.
The flight designation for "The Bus" is S.H.I.E.L.D. 616.
After the rocky reception the first half of the season received from critics and fans, Coulson's line about being sick of secrets and conspiracies could be seen as one.
Legacy Character: "Rag-Tag" reveals that there have been several different Deathloks before Mike, the first of whom was John Garrett.
Like Brother and Sister: Fitz and Simmons, with their constant, comfortable switching between gentle concern and indignant bickering with each other. The basic dynamic even survives Fitz's Love Epiphany towards Simmons mid-Season 1.
Little "No": Fitz gives a slow, soft one despair and denial in "F.Z.Z.T," when it looks like Simmons' last hope for surviving the alien virus has failed.
Location Subtitles: Every location gets the name of the area, and a quick geostamp describing where it is. Except for S.H.I.E.L.D. facilities, which inevitably get "Location: Classified."
Locked Out of the Loop: Due to S.H.I.E.L.D clearence levels certain information is off limits to certain people. Notably everything about Coulson's death is classified to even the higher up agents except Fury himself. May knew all along, but was ordered to keep it to herself and report to Fury on a secret encrypted line in case Coulson Came Back Wrong. Coulson is furious when he finds out, especially since Fitz found the encrypted line but not what it's for.
Love Dodecahedron: A rather linear one. From bottom to top: Simmons crushing on Fitz, crushing on Skye, crushing on Ward, crushing on May, crushing on Coulson, crushing on Lola (and also still in love with Audrey). Fitz's crush on Skye only lasts about a week, and then he starts to reciprocate towards Simmons, who by now has attracted the attentions of Triplett, and possibly reciprocates them. Ward and May's relationship is just meaningless sex, and Ward eventually admits feeling for Skye. May's crush on Coulson is YMMV.
MacGuffin Of The Week: Many of the first 10 episodes followed this formula, with only hints of a broader story arc. "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.
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.
Quinn: S.H.I.E.L.D.'s against everything you stand for. They're big brother. Skye: Maybe, but they're the nice big brother who stands up for his helpless little brother when he's getting beat up because he ate a piece of cake that he wasn't... you know, you kidnapped a person!
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]
Something that Fitzsimmons says in "The Girl in the Flower Dress" gets this treatment in the finale.
[after finding out Skye may have betrayed them for another Rising Tide operative] Fitz: Why would Skye do this to us, for him? I thought she was our friend. Simmons: I think she is, Fitz. He's just obviously more than that. [later, as Fitz is about to make a Heroic Sacrifice] Simmons:Why would you do this? You're my best friend in the world! Fitz:Yeah, you're more than that, Jemma.
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).
Mêlée à Trois: Season 2 opens with no less than four factions going up against each other in various combinations: S.H.I.E.L.D., HYDRA, the US Military, and whoever Raina and Skye's father are working for/with.
Memory Gambit: An involuntary one, as revealed in "Nothing Personal": One of Coulson's current drives was to find out who supervised Project T.A.H.I.T.I., since, after The Reveal that S.H.I.E.L.D. was infiltrated by HYDRA, Coulson suspected that HYDRA might have had a hand in resurrecting him and possibly using him as an asset. But then, May manages to get Coulson the file that reveals who supervised the project... and it was Coulson himself, under Nick Fury's orders. T.A.H.I.T.I. was a project designed to resurrect a fallen Avenger if worst came to worst, but Coulson not only recommended cancellation of the project, he even handed his resignation because of it. Coulson revealed that the only apparent way to be able to survive Project T.A.H.I.T.I. sane was through Fake Memories, since the process was so traumatic it'd drive the subject insane. And that's exactly what they did.
The end of "Yes Men" reveals that May is reporting on the team to someone, presumably the people within S.H.I.E.L.D. who brought Coulson back to life. "Turn, Turn, Turn" reveals that someone to be Director Fury himself.
"Turn, Turn, Turn" Ward to HYDRA. Garrett too, but given how deep HYDRA goes, he doesn't really qualify as a Mole.
"Making Friends and Influencing People" reveals Simmons to be another heroic example, infiltrating HYDRA (which Coulson seems to know).
Now we know Bobbi Morse aka Mockingbird was one as well with the mission protecting Simmons.
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.
Mood Whiplash: In "Providence", the audience is treated to a truly somber scene where Agent Koenig informs the team that Nick Fury has been shot dead by the Winter Soldier. While the team mourns, Koenig pulls Coulson aside and casually, almost jokingly, informs him that Fury actually survived his gunshot wounds and is chasing after HYDRA in Europe.
Moral Myopia: In ''T.A.H.I.T.I.', the team brutally assault the "Guest House" facility and kill the two guards posted there. Those two people are not bad guys. They are not even Punch Clock Villains, they are just not villainous at all. They are Just Following Orders, and those orders come from Nick Fury and are not even evil. Sure, the team tries a peaceful approach first, and they are a bit in a hurry because of Skye dying, but it is a bit surprising that absolutely nobody in the team has any second thoughts about murdering two basically decent guys. The fact that two out of four members of the assault team were HYDRA agents trying to discover the base's secrets was probably part of the suspicious lack of moralizing.
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".
Mugged for Disguise: After General Talbot is knocked out by Coulson, Triplett dons his uniform in order to infiltrate a military base.
In "Face the Enemy," Agent 33 knocks out Melinda and poses as her by stealing her dress and shoes.
Simmons asks Ward if he is excited 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." The connection is later confirmed as it's revealed that Centipede is part of HYDRA.
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.
The climax of "Girl in the Flower Dress" has Coulson confronting Chan, just to distract him as May puts two syringes into him to mess up his powers, mimicking the climax of X-Men: The Last Stand.
In hindsight, the fact that Mike Peterson's first name is "Mike", much like Michael Collins, one Deathlok in the comics.
In "End of the Beginning", there is a reference to Department H, the Canadian governmental organization responsible for the creation of Wolverine and Alpha Flight.
In "Turn, Turn, Turn", there's a brief disagreement between Garrett and Coulson as to what HYDRA's motto talks about getting cut off, a "limb" or a "head". Their original appearance had it as the former, and it was changed to the latter by the time the MCU got started.
In "Turn, Turn, Turn", In response to Coulson asking whether The Clairvoyant really believes in the HYDRA goals of spreading death and destruction, he answers "I wouldn't Say I'm a True Believer". This is in reference to Stan Lee's famous quote from the comics editorial pages.
Garret mentions putting away a guy named Johnny Horton, who had replaced his hands with lion paws. Johnny Horton was an actual C-list marvel villain named "the Griffin".
The HYDRA base in the same episode is accessed via a barbershop chair, just like the old S.H.I.E.L.D. barbershop locations in the comics.
Skye says they're now "Agents of nothing". Nick Fury: Agent of Nothing was the title of the oneshot comic that led into Secret Warriors, also a story about an unofficial team after S.H.I.E.L.D. gets disbanded, and revelations that S.H.I.E.L.D. were controlled by HYDRA the whole time.
"The Only Light in Darkness":
It is stated that Blackout got his powers from the Darkforce - a two-fer, since in this continuity it's a form of Cosmic Radiation.
In the scene where Koenig questions the team, it's revealed that Triplett's grandfather was a Howling Commando. Upon hearing this, Koenig says that he would be "thrilled to have a grandfather that was a Howling Commando" - a reference to the fact that in the comics, Koenig was one of the Howling Commandos.
In "Nothing Personal," Maria Hill is questioned about a "Man-Thing".
The X-Men are Exiled from Continuity, but they still had a man in a chair with psychic powers. A quadriplegic man with his whole body immobilized, not just his legs. Still, they found later that things were more complicated than that.
When the Absorbing Man tries to kidnap Talbot in the Season 2 premiere, he ends up with an Improvised Weapon that looks a lot like a ball and chain.
He doesn't go by a code name like he does in the comics, but Agent Hartley does refer to him as "an absorbing man" at one point.
Triplett's undercover identity in the Season 2 premiere as "General Jones" is likely a reference to the Howling Commandos character Gabe Jones - who, as the only African-American member of the company, is popularly believed to be Triplett's as-yet unnamed grandfather.
While he himself is never referred to by that name, HYDRA's operations to recover Donnie Gill are referred to as "Project Blizzard" - a reference to his supervillain moniker in the comics
One of the names listed in May's cellphone is "Woo", likely in reference to Jimmy Woo, a prominent S.H.I.E.L.D. agent from the comics.
"The Hen in the Wolfhouse":
Bobbi Morse takes down a hallway of mooks reminiscent of Black Widow in Iron Man 2. Having a past with a fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. agent (who even brings up her blonde hair) alludes to her relationship with Hawkeye.
Melinda May remarks that Lance Hunter calls her ex-wife She-Devil, who ends up being Barbara Morse. In the comics, She-Devil is the moniker of Shanna, wife of Ka-Zar. It's also from a Ka-Zar story where Bobbi Morse debuted.
Marcus Scarlotti ("Whiplash" in the comics) wields a chain weapon with a blade at the end, acting as a nod to the whip he used in the comics.
A Neo-Nazi By Any Other Name: The group of Norse paganists from "The Well". Coulson describes them as a "hate group" and the group is comprised of angry young white people who want to harness the power of the Asgardians. They claim to be descendants of the Asgardians and thus rightful rulers of earth.
It is unknown if Chan from "The Girl in the Flower Dress" was consumed by the Extremis explosion caused by an overdose administered by May as a last resort, but 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.
Donnie is shot by Skye and falls into the harbor at the end of "Making Friends and Influencing People," with his body last seen icing over as it sinks. It's later explicitly mentioned that the local police were unable to find any signs of a corpse in the water.
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 and 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."
The promos for "Making Friends & Influencing People" shows Simmons in a HYDRA uniform and Coulson in an apparent stand-off with her asking "Did you really think I wouldn't find out?" Turns out Simmons is Coulson's Reverse Mole within HYDRA, something the audience is well aware of within a couple of scenes. Coulson's apparently loaded comment is a Bait and Switch; it's quickly established he's referring to the fact that the fridge in her apartment contains nothing but beer and hot sauce.
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 Breaking It, Hero: Coulson's team are not immune to making bad calls; in fact, everyone screws up majorly at some point in the series:
The whole team are accidentally doing this throughout Season 1, every time they discuss sensitive information around Ward.
Skye gets one right off the bat by encouraging Mike to embrace his powers in the Pilot, only to narrowly avoid turning him into a super-villain. Later on in "Providence", she unknowingly feeds S.H.I.E.L.D. info directly to HYDRA when she tells Ward exactly where the secret base is located.
And in "0-8-4" Skye saves Ward from being sucked out of The Bus, thus keeping him alive to continue spying for HYDRA for the rest of the season.
Fitz has a tendency to help out the enemy by accident. In "Seeds" he helpfully gives Donnie the advice he needs to perfect his ice-making device on a larger scale, which not only helps out Ian Quinn but indirectly leads to Seth getting killed and Donnie becoming a super-villain. Then in "Ragtag", he uses the EMP joy buzzer to short out Garrett's Deathlok system, leaving Raina with no way to keep him alive but injecting him with her super-soldier serum; which works completely. So HYDRA Agent Garrett is also now Super-Soldier Garrett.
Coulson chews out May so often that she's prompted to leave the team in "The Only Light in the Darkness", removing the only obstacle that might have stopped Ward from killing Koenig and abducting Skye.
May sharing the location of Providence base with Maria Hill ultimately causes Hill to lead Talbot's team there, costing S.H.I.E.L.D. the best equipped and most easily defended of Fury's secret bases.
Simmons leaving S.H.I.E.L.D. prior to the Season 2 premiere, believing that her presence is impeding Fitz's recovery directly results in Fitz completely losing his grip on reality, including whatever engineering skills he managed to retain after suffering brain damage, and suffering under the constant delusion that she's still there helping his recovery.
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 makes a remark that reminds her of a conversation from earlier in the episode with another S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.
"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.
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.
Simmons has her moments, though it's only really obvious when Fitz isn't there to cover for her. "The Hub" reveals that he's actually quite The Charmer in the right situation, and since they're usually presented as The Dividual it all balances out. Not so much when Simmons is left to fend for herself socially. Notably, her attempts to flirt her way out of trouble with Agent Sitwell go so appallingly wrong that she has to shoot him (only with a tranq dart) to extract herself from the situation.
Nonindicative Name: You would think that a place named "The fridge" would be located in Alaska, or some other very cold place. Its location is classified, but when we saw it, it did not appear to be in the arctic at all.
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.
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. This is 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. In "T.A.H.I.T.I.", the two of them come across an encrypted file and remark "Skye could handle this..." but the reason they need access to the file is treat Skye's critical injuries.
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. This is Justified by how 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-Man Army: Both Ward and May. They come to blows with each other in "Yes Men", and again in the season finale. Bobbi shows off this ability in her first appearance.
One of Us: invoked 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.
One Steve Limit: In terms of nicknames, at least. Season 1 had a one-shot S.H.I.E.L.D. agent named Mack, the trucker agent, while Season 2 introduces reoccuring character Alfonso 'Mack' Mackenzie. Its somewhat notable since Mackenzie is from the comics, but he's generally called Al in them.
Only Known by Their Nickname: Skye is a name she gave herself, and she doesn't use her legal name. It's finally revealed in "The Only Light In The Darkness": Mary Sue Poots. No wonder she stopped using it.
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.
Out-Gambitted: Happens to Raina when she tries to blackmail Coulson by threatening to blow Simmons' cover as a mole within HYDRA if he didn't turn over Skye. What Raina didn't know is that Coulson had another agent within HYDRA, Bobbi Morse, whose explicit job was to protect Simmons should she need 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's Eye Only). Above that there are things like the Guest House and Fury's secret bases, which are so secret they simply don't have any official existence anywhere in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s files.
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 everyone else in their community, was killed by an unknown group looking for her. Later in "Ragtag" it turns out that her parents were looking for her. Unfortunately the community that was wiped out and the S.H.I.E.L.D. team that investigated were protecting Skye from them, as it turns out they were the unknown group who went on a rampage searching 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."
Pet the Dog: Literally, during Ward's "origin story" flashback in "Ragtag". Ward can't bring himself to kill the dog who has been his hunting companion for five years, at Garrett's behest. However, he (or Garrett) then shoot the dog from farther away.
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.
Fitz-Simmons are introduced as this, but Fitz gradually becomes romantically attracted to Simmons over the course of Season 1.
Coulson and May had hints of some kind of history and seem to regularly play couples when going on ops together, but going by Coulson's Bluff The Imposter moment, it appears they've never been anything but close friends.
Mack and Bobbi also seem to have a really close friendship, though not quite clear if its this or just regular casual friends.
Poor Communication Kills: Both Phil Coulson and Victoria Hand thought that the other was a traitor to S.H.I.E.L.D., and acted in consequence. But, although there were traitors among them, neither of them was one.
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. invoked
The Rising Tide hacker/activist group (and Skye's connections to it) looks like an important plot element at the beginning of the story, but it is gradually phased out. After a few episodes it is just occasionally mentioned as a convenient plot device.
Simmons is more complicated. Fitz believes she's still around because he's hallucinating her.
Putting on the Reich: The HYDRA salute makes its return... and is promptly mocked as making the user look like a West Texas cheerleader.
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 the majority of human psychics in the comics) have their film rights held by a different company and therefore unavailable to the Marvel Cinematic Universe In Episode 16, Coulson finally says that meeting an Asgardian obviously gifted with psychic powers opened up his mind on the topic.
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. He's a high-level S.H.I.E.L.D. agent with access to psych evaluations.
Race Lift: Alphonso "Al" MacKenzie, a white Texan in the comics, joins the cast in Season Two played by Henry Simmons note who is black.
Agent 33, a white blonde in the comics, is played by the half-Sri Lankan, half-Czech Maya Stojan.
Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: 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. Though it's never the subject of a Title Drop, Episode 21 is entitled "Ragtag", presumably an allusion to this phrase.
A Real Man Is a Killer: Deconstructed and ultimately subverted with Ward. He embodies a lot of popular ideas of how a "real man" looks and behaves: he's conventionally attractive, has exceptional fighting skills, and doesn't let emotions get in the way of his mission. He can also kill without hesitation or remorse, but this is never presented as a positive thing and earns him a What the Hell, Hero? when he shoots the decoy Clairvoyant. As the series goes on, it becomes clear that Ward has spent so much time following Garret's orders that he has no idea how to think for himself. Skye contrasts him against Fitz, whose compassion and willingness to believe in the good of others makes him more of a man than Ward could ever be.
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 went of his way to be reasonable despite her deliberate provocations. All three looked even better when we had 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.
In "Eye-Spy". Skye accidentally ejects the magazine on her Smith and Wesson 910 while looking for the safety catch.
In "Yes Men", Fitz when showing the improved Night-Night Gunsnote now rechristened as "I.C.E.rs" to May and Ward, he inadvertently points one at May, who quickly grabs it out of his hands. May be a gray area between this trope and Artistic License - Gun Safety, as though Fitz is a formally trained member of S.H.I.E.L.D., he is not a field agent.
Recruited From The Gutter: One of the Clairvoyant's agents grew up in an abusive family and was facing prison time when the Clairvoyant recruited him and gave him purpose. The result is that he has strong personal loyalty to the Clairvoyant, saying at one point that he owes the Clairvoyant "everything".
Recycled: The Series: It's sort of one to the MCU, though it helps that it features an element that hasn't taken center stage in the movies.
"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.
"Yes Men" is a direct result of Dark World, as it was the Dark Elf attack that facilitated Lorelei's escape. It was mainly advertised as "Guest Starring Lady Sif!"
"Turn, Turn, Turn" turned out to be much more closely associated with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, to the point where the cast and producers strongly recommended going to see the movie before watching the episode.
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.
Re Tool: The "Uprising" Arc near the end of the first season could be seen as this. The show dives more involved into the Centipede Group as a whole, but the show itself was given a "game changing" slogan for "Turn, Turn, Turn" upon the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. News reports even use the word retool to describe the show after the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, cementing the fact the show went from standard cases of the week with some Myth Arc about Coulson's death and rebirth to full on action movie style episodes.
Since season 2 is dealing with rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D., they appear to be building a larger Ensemble Cast as opposed to the small close knit team of season 1.
Rogues-Gallery Transplant: Given the show largely focuses on fleshing out the Marvel Cinematic Universe outside of the films, they make use of villains from the comics who wouldn't stand a chance making it to film. So far, the show has used Franklin Hall/Graviton (an Avengers villain), Donnie Gill/Blizzard (an Iron Man villain), and Glenn Talbot (a Hulk villain) as enemies of the agents. Season 2 also introduces the Absorbing Man (A Hulk and Thor villain) and Marcus Scarlotti, who in the comics was the original Whiplash (and a Justified Example, given that the MCU focuses on a Tony Stark's modern power setnote in the comics, Iron Man was originally much weaker, until he Took a Level in Badass, while Whiplash was, instead, killed off when said level was being taken, so while he was originally capable of taking Iron Man on, he would not stand a chance in the film universe if he didn't take a severeAdaptational Badass upgrade. This is largely why Iron Man 2 used a Composite Character version of Whiplash merged with Crimson Dynamo, a character who could believably fight Iron Man nowadays.
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?
Fitz being hit in the head and knocked out. Acknowledged in "Yes Men", when after he gets knocked out for the fourth time, Simmons feels sorry for him and says that he's always getting hit in the head. Of course, this is a long-running Joss Whedon gag, and the people from the UK suffer from it the most.
Skye's attempts to imitate Fitz-Simmons' accents are always stunningly bad, sounding more like drunken attempts at sounding Australian and Cockney, respectively. Though she has yet to try to imitate Hunter, she mistakenly tries to insult him by comparing him to a character from Trainspotting, suggesting she can't even hear the differences between UK and commonwealth accents.
Hunter spends a lot of time talking about his disdain for his ex-wife, and when said ex-wife shows up, spends just as much time bickering with her as he does ranting about her (much to the amusement, and annoyance, of the other characters).
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.
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 S.H.I.E.L.D. facility even he isn't supposed to know about, all to save the life of one of his agents.
By the following episode, Coulson's officially hit his breaking point, as he tells Skye to hell with the protocols and rules he used to put so much faith in — he is going to uncover the whole truth behind his resurrection and the related secrets seen so far, no matter what.
In "Nothing Personal", Maria Hill tells Coulson that he should play ball with Talbot. Coulson refuses, and when he reveals that Ward is HYDRA and has Skye, Hill quickly switches sides, helping Coulson take out Talbot's men and escape.
"T.A.H.I.T.I." reveals that since Coulson's little visit in "The Magical Place", Dr. Streiten has gone into hiding.
In "Providence", Coulson immediately realizes that Colonel Talbot's "peacekeeping" forces are actually on their way to shut down S.H.I.E.L.D. and arrest or kill them all, so he orders an evacuation of the Hub.
In "Nothing Personal", after finding out that Deathlok is nearby, Coulson announces a new plan: "Run!"
In "Beginning of the End", in light of both Team Coulson's attack on Cybertek's facilities and the Clairvoyant having gone off the deep end, Quinn and Raina grab their respective research and get the hell out of dodge.
Sequel Hook: Season One ends with quite a few dangling threads for Season Two to pick up on: Coulson is now Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and tasked with rebuilding the organization; also, he has started to compulsively draw the same alien symbols that Garrett was. Meanwhile, Fitz is left in critical condition, with his future uncertain, and Ward is challenged as to who he is without Garrett. At the same time, both Quinn and Raina escape Garrett's downfall, the former with the gravitonium, and the latter getting in touch with a mysterious figure who is apparently Skye's father.
Melinda May tells Ward that Skye would need a good supervising officer, with a sly smirk.
Skye's comments in "FZZT" about how she wishes her relationships with Ward and Miles were more like what Fitz has with Simmons makes it seem like she's either mistaken them for an actual couple, or she's playing with this trope. Or, of course, it could be that she just knew Fitz was flirting with her and was deliberately deflecting him onto another subject.
Agent Garrett tells Coulson that they will meet again soon, because his subordinate, Agent Tripplett, has a crush on Simmons.
"The Only Light in the Darkness" sees Fitz trying to encourage Coulson/Audrey, urging Coulson to tell her that he's still alive, since it seemed like they had something special.
In the same episode, both Ward and Coulson try, with varying levels of subtlety and identical lack of success, to encourage Fitz to say something to Simmons about his increasingly obvious feelings for her.
Meta examples from the cast: Chloe Bennet has said that she ships SkyeWard even in the wake of Ward's betrayal, and in the event that that ship sinks, she's also a fan of Skimmons, to the delight of fans of all orientations. Brett Dalton has also said he ships SkyeWard, while Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge have expressed the opinion that Fitz-Simmons are in love with one another, even if they can't admit it.
Fitz is really excited about Skye being in the bunk right next to his, an episode after he offers to show her his thing/hardware/equipment/gotta go...
Coulson and May have a few scenes hinting at a past attraction.
Prof. Randolph's open attraction to Simmons in "The Well", which she eventually seems to regard as quite flattering, at least.
Ward and May, at the end of "The Well," and the opening of "Repairs."
Simmons can't stop ogling Mike in "The Bridge".
The noticeably friendly and comfortable scenes with Simmons and Ward, especially post-"FZZT" have been noted by fans if not initially intended.
Agent Triplett develops a crush on Simmons in "T.A.H.I.T.I.". It's brought up again in "The End of the Beginning", when Triplett acts as Simmons's escort during her debrief at the Hub. Fitz has noticed this and very unhappy with it.
Skye and Simmons seem to be developing something of a Romantic Two-Girl Friendship after the events of "T.R.A.C.K.S." and "T.A.H.I.T.I.". Whether the Les Yay interpretation was intended or not is still open for debate, though it does have the approval of one of the actresses in question (see Shipper on Deck, above).
Audrey's introduction in "The Only Light in the Darkness" leads to an episode-long Ship Tease between her and Coulson, despite them getting only one brief scene together.
Season 2 shows Skye and Trip have formed a close friendship, and make mildly flirtatious comments to one another when Trip shows up in his U.S. Army disguise.
Skye and Hunter make a big deal of declaring their non-attraction to each other in front of the rest of the team, who don't seem to buy it.
Coming off the above, the real Simmons does seem to have a bit of a crush on Bobbi Morse; she even talks about her the same way Hallucination!Simmons does about Mack.
The revelation that Lance Hunter and Bobbi Morse used to be married puts a whole different spin on Hunter's frequent bitching about his Psycho Ex-Wife. Everyone quickly figures out that he still has feelings for her, while Bobbi's view of their relationship is more Amicable Exes. Notably, when they're Working with the Ex on a field mission, even they seem to forget that they're not married any more, bickering and flirting alternately throughout.
At the end of "Yes Men", when Lorelei is taunting Sif about her lover who Lorelei used and is implied to have killed, Sif literally shuts her up by using the Power Nullifier collar, which renders her mute.
Sif: You were saying?
In "End of the Beginning" the Clairvoyant is ranting about how they will come for Skye, kill everyone else, and nothing can stop this and then Ward just shoots him.
In "Beginning of the End", after May beats The Mole by nailing their feet to the ground, they start to plead with her, only for her to punch them in the throat, cracking their larynx and literally shutting them up.
In the same episode, while a now-insane Clairvoyant starts ranting about his power and purpose, the heroes just ignore him and snark on how crazy he is.
Coulson gives an epic one to Ward in "A Fractured House". Remember how Ward thought he was The Atoner? Could he not have been more wrong, and is Coulson ever pissed off!
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.
Taken Up to Eleven with HYDRA in the second season; for an organization that's supposed to be completely covert, they don't have any problems wearing HYDRA lapel pins on their HYDRA jackets, carrying precious cargo in HYDRA-branded crates, or painting three-feet-tall logos all over their secret laboratories.
Sixth Ranger: Agent Triplett joins Coulson's team around the final six episodes of the season.
Something Only They Would Say: Ace proved Mike that he was free by writing those words he sees in his eye. But those are just words, how can Mike be sure it's really him? Because he said "What are we? We are a team"
Spinoff: From The Avengers and the rest of the MCU.
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, and pulling a Crazy Ivan.
Spoiler Opening: the opening cast credits for "The Beginning of the End" spoil the "surprise" appearance of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury midway through the episode. To be fair, however, ABC's own promos for the episode had already spoiled his appearance and US entertainment media spoiled that Jackson would be appearing in the finale a full month before.
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.
"Ragtag" is one for The Clairvoyant's mole, and to a lesser extent, The Clairvoyant himself. Garrett pulled Ward out of jail, then gave him a Training from Hell in the forest which ended with ordering Ward to shoot his dog, which had been his only companion for years. It's clear Ward is loyal to him because he sees him as a surrogate father figure, having come from the terrible childhood we saw glimpses of in earlier episodes. Garrett also recounts the story of how he lost his loyalty to S.H.I.E.L.D.; he was injured in battle and felt they weren't putting forth enough effort to rescue him, so he patched himself up and decided he'd only look after himself from then on.
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.
Stealth Pun: The "noisemakers" in "The Beginning of the End" are disguised as graggers, a type of noisemaker commonly used during the Jewish festival of Purim. They're even activated by spinning them, which is exactly how you make noise with the real thing.
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.
"T.R.A.C.K.S." uses (for a train in Italy, no less!) a stock footage of a... commuter electric train from Russia . Which is painfully obvious to anyone from Russia. The nature depicted, the train and the generic look of the railway are just too familiar. You can even spot current pickups on the roof that are nowhere to be seen when May actually climbs there. Justified, since a TV show could hardly afford to work with a real train for just a few seconds of video. Sometimes you can only buy footage that is shot from the angle you like and looks approximately right.
In "The Asset", the team infiltrates Quinn's Malta villa to rescue Dr. Hall.
In "The Girl in the Flower Dress", S.H.I.E.L.D. attacks the Centipede facility in Hong Kong to rescue Chan.
In "The Magical Place", the team attacks the Centipede facility where Coulson is being held, while S.H.I.E.L.D. launches attacks on other Centipede locations worldwide.
In "Beginning of the End", the team launches a full scale assault on Cybertek's Centipede headquarters to bring down The Clairvoyant once and for all.
Stun Gun: The Night-Night rifle and its pistol equivalent the Night-Light gun, the latter able to fire multiple shots. Later given the sexier name ICER. In Season 2, however, while ICE Rs are still used, the team also increasingly uses fully lethal sniper rifles.
Superdickery: The series is rather fond of this. For example:
The preview for "The Girl in the Flower Dress" shows Coulson apparently expelling Skye from his team after finding out she had betrayed them, taken out of context. The full line goes "You have a secret, Skye, and one chance to come out with it—that's now!—or I'm done with you."
A clip from "The Magical Place" shows Agent May telling Agent Hand that Skye's of no use on the Bus. She's right; Agent Hand and her associates would've hindered Skye's role in rescuing Coulson had she been allowed to remain on the Bus.
At the end of "Yes Man", Agent May gets this again, this time to notify someone that Coulson had found out about the circumstances of his resurrection. That someone happened to be Director Fury.
"The End of the Beginning" has Agent Hand practically advertise herself as The Clairvoyant, sending the Bus to the Hub and ordering everyone on board except for Coulson dead. Because she honestly believes that Coulson may be HYDRA due to his constant rulebreaking.
The preview for "Making Friends and Influencing People" implies a Face-Heel Turn on the part of Simmons and Coulson finding out about her. Coulson knew all along (not to mention that if HYDRA's going to have moles within S.H.I.E.L.D., then two can play at that game, and it's implied that Simmons may not be S.H.I.E.L.D.'s only HYDRA infiltrator), and he simply found out about her unusual diet.
Agent May jumping Coulson in "Face My Enemy". That was actually the Brainwashed and Crazy Agent 33 posing as Agent May.
Super Prototype: Averted with the Nite-Nite gun. It's a decent nonlethal weapon, but Fitz's ICER is a superior weapon. The team still uses both because the Nite-Nite gun still works, but the ICER is seeing higher production numbers.
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.
Super Weight: The whole point of the show is that all the leads are firmly Muggle Tier: Fitz-Simmons and Skye are Type 0, while Coulson, May, Ward, and later Triplett are Type 1 (on a sliding scale from -1 to 6). People occasionally shift around a little, though: Simmons briefly reaches Type 2 in "FZZT" when she's infected with the Chitauri virus, and the same thing happens to Ward and May in "The Well" after handling the berserker staff. Fitz, meanwhile, drops to Type -1 after suffering brain damage in "The Beginning of the End".
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.
Coulson also does so in "The Asset", pushing Hall into the Gravitonium and subsequently fulfilling Hall's wishes that the Gravitonium never see the light of day, going so far as to have it locked up in a top-secret and unmarked cell in the Fridge. Unfortunately, the Clairvoyant is a bit too thorough when he and Ward raid the Fridge.
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. Fury really recruited May to keep an eye on Coulson and she picked the team members. Fury then manipulated Coulson into recruiting them by giving him a mission profile that would require their specific profiles.
Team Dad / Team Mom: Coulson is the oldest and the leader thus the affectionate yet tough dad. May is effectively his female counterpart. Skye even referred to them as "Mom and Dad" in "Eye Spy".
Techno Wizard: Fitz-Simmons fill this role for science-y things, while Skye is this with computers.
Teleport Spam: Tobias can do this via jumping back and forth between dimenions like Night Crawler.
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.
Also, Ward states early on that he's more at home defusing a bomb than working with a team... and in the end they realise they're dealing with an Action Bomb.
Just to score the trifecta, May is hesitant about joining the team and returning to the field - her second trip to the field as Skye's backup sees her KO-ed by Mike, and Skye kidnapped.
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.
There Are No Therapists: By the beginning of Season Two, pretty much everyone in Team Coulson is dealing with some serious emotional trauma, but each individual is apparently dealing with it on their own. (Most notable is Fitz, who's got plenty of emotional trauma and mental health problems related to serious physical injuries, but is still more or less left to his own devices by the rest of the team once they decide they can't help him themselves.) Possibly Justified in that they're technically criminals on the run, assuming that all the therapists on Old S.H.I.E.L.D.'s payroll either resigned, got captured by HYDRA or the army, or (the most disturbing possibility) were with HYDRA all along.
Tonight Someone Dies: Teased for "The Things We Bury," for which the advertising heavily suggested one of the agents would go down. So who bites it? Nobody on the main team, but Ward kills his brother, Christian, who wasn't included in any of the advertising for the episode, and Triplett does get a gut shot that puts his life on the line before the Doctor tells Coulson how to keep him alive.
The Virus: The weird Chitauri contamination in FZZT.
Too Dumb to Live: As of "Turn, Turn, Turn", Victoria Hand. Every major call she makes through her run in the series is wrong, up to allowing one of Garrett's own proteges to escort him to the Freezer when she knows that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been deeply infiltrated by HYDRA. One wonders how she got to be such a high-ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in the first place.
Took a Level in Badass: Everyone on the team did this as of Ep. 11, "The Magical Place", in response to Coulson's abduction in the previous episode. Further levels were taken after the civil war with HYDRA.
Training from Hell: Ward's introduction to S.H.I.E.L.D. started with Garrett stranding him in the wilderness for six months with nothing but a bag of clothes and a hunting dog.
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. Given the events of later episodes, he's probably right.
Tomato Surprise: In "Shadows", the "Simmons" that Fitz has been talking to turns out to be a hallucination.
Two Faced Aside: When Talbot gave some orders to Coulson. He politely replied that it "Sounds good!" with a smile, then close the communication and said with a serious face "This doesn't sound good!"
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.
Ungrateful Bastard: After the events of Winter Soldier, S.H.I.E.L.D has been labeled a terrorist organization and the surviving agents are being hunted down by national militaries. It's a case of Reality Ensues, but after all the good they've done a little slack would be nice. What happened to the World Security Council isn't mentioned.
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, so 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.
It's stated at various points that S.H.I.E.L.D. has a massive index of all the known superhumans in the world, and that the Avengers are simply the only people with powers known to the general public. As a result of Black Widow leaking all of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s secrets to the world during The Winter Soldier, this information is out there in the open for everyone to see. Presumably this will be dealt with in Season Two.
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.
Unusually Uninteresting Sight: In "Nothing Personal", Coulson lands his flying car in the middle of a Los Angeles street and the only reaction to this is for a parking attendant to come over and tell him that the parking spot costs twenty bucks. Justified because this is the Marvel Cinematic Universe post-Battle of New York: Billionaires fly around in big suits of armor, aliens have visited from another planet, and there's a guy out there who turns into a giant green rage-monster, all of which the general public now knows about. Comparatively, a flying car doesn't really rate that much shock.
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.
In the same episode, The Mole seems to lose it completely when they find they don't have any orders to follow.
Villainous Friendship: The Clairvoyant and The Dragon, Garrett and Ward, seem to be honest friends who regularly meet up for lunch, and make bets on who pays for such while attacking prisons to steal hidden weapons of mass destruction. Moreso from the dragon's end, as while the Clairvoyant basically took him under his wing since he was a teen and the dragon clearly panicks when he nearly dies (and while treating his acting up cybernetics, seems to act in the same manner someone would when helping a diabetic friend who needs help with their insulin injection, casually doing so like they've done it many times before), but the Clairvoyant has also clearly been emotionally abusing him since he's met him (as he does to everyone), and would gladly sacrifice him if it would help his plans along.
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.
Villains Want Mercy: Two examples in "Beginning of the End": first, when The Mole finds themselves nailed to the floor by May, they try to plead with her, only to get punched in the throat, crushing their larynx. Then, when Deathlok breaks free of Garrett's control and turns on him, he pleads with Coulson to make Deathlok stop, only for Coulson to stand by and watch.
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.
The clairvoyant is seen by this by many of his followers, Raina most prominently. It's just an image he constructed, he's purely in it to save his own life.
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.
Simmons, who's technically a non-combatant, has shown a marked preference for wielding a fire extinguisher as makeshift weapon.
We Have Become Complacent: A major problem for S.H.I.E.L.D. as an organization. They seem to take for granted that their status as the world's protectors from the dangerous and supernatural has granted them an enormous amount of leeway on the subject of human rights, for one thing. It come back to bite them hard when HYDRA's infiltration comes to light, the organization gets labeled a terrorist organization, and every intelligence agency and military force in the world turns against them.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Dr. Hall is well aware of the danger of unchecked superscience when in the wrong hands, and after the events of The 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.
"End of the Beginning": S.H.I.E.L.D. finally catches up to the Clairvoyant, only for Ward to shoot him dead. Skye and Coulson realize that it was set up a little too neatly, and that the Clairvoyant isn't a psychic, but a high-level S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Fitz discovers May's mole-line, and during the confrontation over that, the Bus is remotely hijacked and begins heading to the Hub, where Victoria Hand prepares to kill everyone aboard.The Stinger features a scene from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, showing Nick Fury being attacked by the Winter Soldier.
"Turn, Turn, Turn": This episode kicks the Wham up several notches. In addition to integrating the big twists from Captain America: The Winter Soldier (namely, that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated by HYDRA, events at the Triskelion have effectively destroyed S.H.I.E.L.D., and Nick Fury is dead) into the series, the episode has its own: May was reporting to Fury, and picked out the team to deal with Coulson should his resurrection have side effects. Victoria Hand is a loyal agent whose actions at the end of the previous episode are motivated by mistrust of Coulson. Garrett is the Clairvoyant and is working for HYDRA. While escorting Garrett to prison, Ward kills everyone else aboard, including Hand, to free him.
The short introduction shown at SDCC not only confirms that Mockingbird exists but heavily implies that she will be joining the team for the second season.
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.
The final scene of "Nothing Personal" has May set up a laptop so Coulson can watch a video communication sent to Fury from the director of the T.A.H.I.T.I. Project. The face that pops up on-screen is Coulson's.
Turns out the alien writing wasn't a 2D map. In "The Writing on the Wall", it's revealed to be a drawing of a city.
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.
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.
Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Averted in "T.R.A.C.K.S." by Ian Quinn. After a "robot speech" with Mike, asking if he would shoot Skye if he orders him so, Mike left... and Quinn simply shot Skye himself
Would Hit a Girl: Double Subverted with Ward in "T.R.A.C.K.S."; 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.
Coulson also shows he's not afraid to punch a woman who he sees as a threat, as seen by him sucker-punching May's imposter once he realizes who she is. Given Coulson is Genre Savvy and has worked with many Action Girl characters in the past, he's likely very well-aware that its stupid and insulting, and suicidal, to assume they're not a 'real' threat just because they're a woman.
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.
Mook: Kid's got balls. Skye: Thanks, but...yuck. Quinn: But do you have what it takes to pull the trigger? Skye:[beat] Nope! [jumps out a window]
In "Beginning of the End", The Mole tells Skye she doesn't have it in her to shoot them. She agrees, but says she doesn't need to, since May, who he slept with and used, will just kick his ass instead.