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YMMV: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • Abandon Shipping: SkyeWard seemed to be setting up to be the Official Couple of the show, and with it a lot of fans began shipping it. Then Ward was revealed to be a HYDRA Agent and a complete sociopath with entitlement issues concerning Skye, leading some to abandon it. The formerly Fan-Preferred Couple of Ward/Simmons went the same way, and for the same reasons. There are still supporters of SkyeWard, however, if the positive reaction to Chloe Bennet saying, at San Diego Comic Con, that she continues to support the ship.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Is Ward really the monster he believes himself to be as laments that he can never be with Skye because she sees him as a monster, or is he a misguided victim who has been manipulated into doing monstrous things and for whom there may still be some hope of redemption? When he leaves Fitz and Simmons at the bottom of the ocean, is that just him being reluctantly sadistic and resigned to his own natural sadism, or did he choose such an over the top gesture in the hopes that he might be giving them a chance to think their way out of a watery death trap, similar to what he did with the dog Garrett wanted him to kill - but apparently didn't kill - years earlier?
    • Hunter's repeated comments about his ex-wife, Bobbi Morse. Was their marriage really that bad, or is he still hung up because he's still in love with her? Given she's far more amicable when she appears, it makes it clear that it's a case of Unreliable Narrator.
  • Angst? What Angst?: In "Yes Men", Coulson gets understandably agitated at how nonchalant Skye is when being told the news that the serum used on both of them is of alien origin, and neither of them know if it has any kind of side effects.
  • Author's Saving Throw: A lot of fans complained about the lack of comic book characters and concepts in the show, despite it being intended to flesh out the MCU's universe. The reveal that HYDRA were the ones behind the villainous plot and that they were building up to Deathlok could be seen as their attempts to mitigate this. Season Two also introduces Lance Hunter, Mack Mackenzie, and Mockingbird, all comic book characters, who join Team Coulson's expanded roster, to much rejoicing, especially given Mockingbird is often featured on 'lists of characters who should be on Agents of SHIELD'.
    • A minor one- after criticisms about how all of the team were white (May and Skye aside), Triplett joined as a Sixth Ranger in the last arc of Season 1 and is staying on for Season 2, which also sees the cast being joined by another new character, Mack Mackenzie, adding another African American to the cast.
    • After what happened to Sitwell in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and any other cases of Adaptational Villainy, the revelation that HYDRA have brainwashing techniques that they employ to ensure loyalty from desired agents makes it easy enough for them to explain/justify these changes, and thus be able to undo them later. Sitwell, of course, will need to be He's Just Hiding first, mind.
  • Awesome Music:
    • The Blue Oyster Cult classic "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" playing over the beginning of "Turn, Turn, Turn". It proves to be what Agent Garrett was listening to on his plane's sound system at the time. Just because you're a Hydra agent doesn't mean you can't have great taste in music. On top of that, the real-life USAF operates the MQ-9 "Reaper" armed UAV.
    • The main score itself, by Bear McCreary, is nothing to slouch at either. One notable example is the climax in the season finale.
    • Worth special mention is Audrey Nathan's (the cellist) piece in "The Only Darkness In the Light". For the filming, actress Amy Acker (not a cellist in Real Life) just mimed playing the cello. McCreary created an entirely original cello composition based on Acker's finger and bow movements that sounds like a beautiful classical piece.
    • Everyone agrees that the sequence in "Making Friends and Influencing People" where Simmons starts her day to the tune of "God Help the Girl" (by the frontman of Belle & Sebastion) is awesome.
  • Base Breaker: Every member of the cast could fall under Ensemble Darkhorse or The Scrappy, with seemingly every single person having a different opinion on the matter.
    • Eric Koenig and his brothers. Some found them funny due to their neurotic, Adorkable tendencies, others found them annoying for the same reasons, leading to a split between those who are glad to have Billy and Sam to replace Eric, and those who are annoyed that they have to put up with more of him/them. A lot of it comes down to if you like Patton Oswalt's acting or not.
  • Broken Base:
    • Some also aren't happy about the cast being comprised mostly of canon foreigners, since there's already plenty of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents from the comics to use. Others feel that with Coulson himself having been an original character for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's appropriate.
    • There's also some unhappy about how the main cast is almost entirely white, save for Melinda May (played by Ming-Na Wen, who is Chinese) and Skye (played by Chloe Bennet, who is half-white and half-Chinese), given the lack of diversity in the broader MCU. It should be noted that many of the people making this criticism don't realize that Chloe Bennet is half-Chinese. Also, this criticism has lessened somewhat now that Triplett's on the team.
    • Some also hate the show because it focuses on a small team of individuals instead of the much larger overall organization of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is also likely lessened by Season 2, as that ends up being what its doing.
    • There's a notable split in the fandom over the show taking several episodes to get around to fleshing out the majority of the characters. Some fans are fine with the pacing, citing that the show needed to establish itself before it could flesh out the characters, whilst others point to the lack of Character Development meaning there was no connection between the audience and the cast.
    • The show in general seems to be this amongst the MCU, with some liking everything about it, some liking it as a show on its own merits but a sub-par offering when compared to the rest of the MCU, and some who basically hate it.
    • The reveal that Ward is a Hydra agent in "Turn, Turn, Turn." Some fans think this development makes the character more interesting and shows that the showrunners are willing to take risks. Others think it's a Shocking Swerve that wasn't properly built up in previous episodes. Also, some fans are hoping he'll be redeemed while others are hoping he remains a villain.
    • When Coulson was made the director of the new S.H.I.E.L.D. in the first season finale, a number of fans protested that he was chosen over the various female characters that were S.H.I.E.L.D. heads in the comics (like Maria Hill). Some fans felt it betrayed Captain America's decision to abolish S.H.I.E.L.D. in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, or that it rewarded Coulson without earning it. Others feel it's a development that opens new opportunities for the show in its coming seasons.
    • The character of Skye herself: Some people find hard to believe that an high-tech organisation like SHIELD needs a civilian hacker to work for them and she keeps getting treated as a vital member of the team (The Blockbuster Buster even compares her with Wesley Crusher and Adric), though others seem to like the character and welcome her in the team, and are willing to accept her inclusion based on the fact that real life hackers are often recruited by government agencies, just like Skye was.
    • The identity of Lance Hunter's ex-wife, once they reveal it to be Bobbi Morse, even though it was a pretty common guess before it was revealed. On the one hand, some feel this is Canon Defilement as the two never had any relationship in the comics, and that it provides unnecessary complications, especially thanks to Hunter's exaggerated insults directed at her before the reveal. Others, however, don't mind the addition as it adds more to both their characters, and it makes all of his claims about her more funny to watch now knowing that he's not telling the truth (and makes it appear he's still in love with her). There's also some who feel that it takes away from her relationship with Hawkeye as it gives her and Lance a similar dynamic to that instead, while others feel this isn't really much of a problem (as it both gives her independence away from him, and doesn't stop them potentially building up her relationship with Clint later down the line).
    • Mockingbird's outfit. Either it's on par with the movie costumes, it's OK but subpar compared to her outfit in the comics, or it's just bad-bad-bad because it's dull derivative. Of course, a lot of the criticism seems to stem from the over-presence of black, while ignoring that her suit in the comics is also largely black as well.
  • Catharsis Factor: Some viewers consider May's No-Holds-Barred Beatdown of Ian Quinn this, given the events of the episode prior.
    May: I think I've waited long enough for this. *WHAM!*
    • Coulson blasting Garrett with the 0-8-4 in the Season 1 finale, making Garrett go from not quite dead to deader than dead.
    • And before that, Mike launching a rocket straight into Garrett's chest, and then stomping on his head.
    • Fitz lowering the oxygen levels in Ward's cell, so that Ward would experience what he did when Ward tried to kill him was a particularly dark Crowning Moment Of Awesome for those who had hoped Fitz and/or Simmons would attempt revenge on Ward.
  • Complete Monster: The Clairvoyant aka John Garrett is the Big Bad of the first season. Heading the Centipede Project as a powerful figure in HYDRA, the Clairvoyant has superpowered individuals abducted and experimented on, implants his soldiers with explosive leashes, which he utilizes should they fail him or outlive their usefulness, had Coulson tortured to reveal the secret of his revival, and frequently kidnaps and threatens the lives of the loved ones of his "employees" in order to ensure their complete loyalty. At one point he implanted a SHIELD Agent with an explosive leash and forced her to work for him, work that included massacring a subway train full of bank security personnel to get what they were guarding. Later he implanted an Explosive Leash in Mike Peterson as well, abducted his son, and turned Mike into the cyborg villain Deathlok against his will. Despite his cheery demeanor, the Clairvoyant has no loyalty or empathy for anyone, not even to his undyingly loyal right-hand man, Grant Ward, whom he nearly killed to further his own plans. Later, he would force Ward to attempt to murder his two friends, Fitz and Simmons, in order to prove he's not weak. Ultimately, the Clairvoyant's true interest was extending his own life, and once he'd achieved that he went on to plan world domination.
  • Creepy Awesome: Ward is pretty damn creepy due to his sociopathic tendencies and excellent ability to completely mask his personality, but he's also a skilled combatant on par with Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Rumlow in terms of skill.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Agent Ward. The second he was revealed to be the mole for Hydra, his legion of fans attempted to rationalize his every action. The penultimate episode of Season 1 even deconstructs this mindset by hopping between telling his backstory and showing his action towards FitzSimmons. Needless to say, he attempted to kill them both. Ironically, this hasn't stopped his supporters from accusing Coulson and May of not trying "hard enough" to redeem him.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse:
    • The entire reason this show exists is because of Coulson's Ensemble Darkhorse status in the MCU.
    • Lorelei is also quite popular due to her cunning, looks, and skill in battle.
    • Antoine Triplett gets a lot of love for being a really nice guy and for having nice chemistry with Simmons. Many fans were ecstatic when he joined the team near the end of season 1 and essentially replaces Ward.
    • Before she had even appeared yet (or even being cast yet), Mockingbird had gained a lot of hype after she was revealed to be joining the show's cast. CBR's SDCC announcement poll has her announcement as the highest rated announcement of the second day, even beating Sam Raimi's Evil Dead TV series announcement, The Walking Dead season 5 trailer reveal, and Guardians of the Galaxy sequel announcements. She also dominated a later poll concerning new characters people are hyped for in the second season, with 46% of the votes going to her.
    • When she does appear, this does not change. Going from Tumblr, in less than twenty minutes of the episode finishing people were posting their love for her character, even ones who never heard about her or what was such a big deal about her.
  • Evil Is Cool: Best exemplified in the episode "Providence", where the scenes with the heroes at their Darkest Hour are interspersed with what the bad guys are up to. Quite a few fans found the baddies more fun to watch.
  • Evil Is Sexy: Lorelei and Raina are both quite attractive. Ward isn't too bad himself, either.
  • Fandom Rivalry: One with Arrow, which can easily be summed up as "Marvel vs. DC: Live-Action TV Edition". This has expanded to include Arrow's spin-off, The Flash (2014), as well as Gotham and Constantine, and likely the future Supergirl and Teen Titans shows as well.
    • During the first season, fans naturally weren't very happy with How I Met Your Mother forcing Cobie Smulders into a smaller role than intended.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Ward and Simmons if recaps, comments on recaps, and the occasional podcast are being considered. That ship seems to have gone down in flames, following the reveal that Ward is a Hydra agent who, incidentally, tried to kill Simmons, and very nearly succeeded.
    • After the aforementioned Ship Sinking, Fitz/Simmons (always a close second) seems to have taken the top spot, with Simmons/Skye not far behind.
    • While Ward/Simmons and Simmons/Skye are both popular, the two leading ships on the show seem to have always been Fitz/Simmons and Skye/Ward.
  • Foreshadowing: 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.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: Early in Season 1, Brett Dalton did a shirtless photoshoot in which he cuddled a Precious Puppy. In the last third of the season, we find out that during his teenage years, Ward had a dog named Buddy he was very fond of - and who Garrett eventually forced him to kill. However, Ward apparently spared the dog by tricking the dog into running off on a hunting trip, thus giving the dog a chance to escape.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff:
    • Skye is very popular with viewers in China, where her actress was a minor pop star under her birth name of Chloe Wang.
    • Fitz-Simmons's near-universal popularity with UK audiences probably has more than a little to do with the rarity of hearing regional note  British accents on other American TV shows; so to have one-third of the show's main cast not only British, but (mostly) avoiding Received Pronunciation, is quite refreshing. Also, seeing British characters portrayed as young, attractive, and protagonists all at once on American TV is still pretty rare, which again adds to their appeal.
      • By the second season, adding Nick Blood as Lance Hunter, also a Brit with a non-RP accent, who's also a badass Deadpan Snarker, is naturally popular with Brits for the same reason.
  • Growing the Beard: It seems to be almost universally agreed that the show really started to get good in the final third of the first season, when the plotline of Captain America: The Winter Soldier starts having an effect on the show. The premise of the show is largely retooled as a result of the events of that film, and among other things, it drastically affects the pace of the show for the better. Season 2 picks this up, and so far has been pretty strong and well-received because of it.
    • Ward literally starts growing a beard in this time. It's fully fleshed out in season 2, based on the promos.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • "Tahiti. It's a magical place." Now that we've seen what those magical memories were implanted to cover up.
    • Furthermore, as of "T.A.H.I.T.I.", we now find out the full meaning of "Tahiti": It's the code name for the place where the mysterious blue alien who provided the drug that revived Coulson is being held. And by "provided" we mean "literally had the drug sucked out of its body". Not such a "magical place" after all. Next episode, Sitwell asks about Tahiti, and Coulson's response has changed: "It sucked."
    • Coulson increasing the number of seconds he was dead with every retelling becomes this once we find out he was dead for days.
    • Nick Fury giving Coulson the Bus to fly around in? Starting to look like something Fury did to assuage his own guilt at ordering the whole "refusing to let Coulson die" thing. Especially when he goes on about what a "really nice bar" he had installed.
    • As for Director Fury, Dr. Streiten, Agent Hill, and Agent May, possibly among others, hiding the circumstances behind Coulson's resurrection? Now it looks like they didn't want him to find out because of the possibility that there may be a Double Agent among them who wants to use this information to further Centipede's activities, and are going to any means possible to prevent said Double Agent from learning said circumstances.
    • In "End of the Beginning", Garrett mocks Sitwell for having never been injured in the line of duty, when even Skye (a newly-installed Level 1 agent) has taken "two in the gut" while on a mission. Between this episode and the next, Sitwell gets destroyed in a head-on collision with a truck in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Sure, he was revealed to have been working for HYDRA, but still... the timing.
    • Quite possibly the entire season after the revelations at the end of "Turn, Turn, Turn" that Ward has been a Hydra agent all along. It seems his "good" actions were done simply to endear himself to various members of the team in different ways: training Skye, jumping out of a plane to save Simmons, teaming up with Fitz, having sex with May, etc.
    • Coulson comments that, considering Ward's background, it's a surprise that his situation isn't worse it turns out that it is worse, but not just due to his family.
    • In "Seeds", Skye takes comfort in having S.H.I.E.L.D. as a family. As of "Turn, Turn, Turn", S.H.I.E.L.D. had been revealed as a puppet for HYDRA, all its secrets are gone, and S.H.I.E.L.D. itself is dissolved.
    • As of "Turn, Turn, Turn," the line "You're the worst at following orders!" has become this: Since Garrett is actually the Clairvoyant, he's literally the worst at following S.H.I.E.L.D.'s orders.
    • Every single time that Coulson confides in May about his worries that there's more to his resurrection become this when it's revealed in "Turn, Turn, Turn" that she knew the truth the entire time.
    • Ward's line to Coulson,"I can only imagine how painful this must be for you, sir, betrayed by someone you trained and believed in," becomes much harsher after we find out that he's been the mole this entire time.
    • Coulson screaming to be allowed to die while they were conducting the T.A.H.I.T.I. procedure on him becomes this after the revelation at the end of "Nothing Personal" that he used to be in charge of the project. In fact, he was so horrified about the results that he recommended it be shut down, or else he would resign S.H.I.E.L.D. It may not have been just the pain, but the firsthand knowledge he had about the consequences of what they were doing to him that made him prefer death.
    • Skye's Kirk Summation on Ward, calling him a Nazi for serving Hydra, takes on a much scarier dimension for those who've seen The Stinger for Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Hydra is now being led by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, who's very much A Nazi by Any Other Name.
    • Early in Season 1, Brett Dalton did a photo shoot in which he cuddled a puppy. Fast-forward to "Ragtag" in which Garrett tries to get Ward to kill his dog.
    • Coulson's reaction to seeing the blue alien in "T.A.H.I.T.I.", as of "Nothing Personal", seems to be the result of bad memories of his time overseeing Project T.A.H.I.T.I. appearing to come back to him briefly.
    • In "The Hub", Coulson stated that when he sends a team in with no extraction plan, he takes care to inform them of that first. Turns out a violation of this rule by S.H.I.E.L.D. was what started Garrett on his way to HYDRA, which only serves to make Coulson all the more Genre Savvy in hindsight.
    • The first scene of "The Beginning of the End" sounds like a discussion between a HYDRA "true believer" working for Cybertek and a mercenary who doesn't mind working for the bad guys if they offer a good enough "incentives program". Turns out the "incentives program" that nobody had ever turned down was kidnapping a family member to ensure recruitment, and both men were being controlled in this way.
    • Less than a week after the Scottish Independence vote failed, the second season showed Fitz (who's Scottish) separated from Simmons (who's English) and completely unable to cope, with the team explicitly saying he'd gotten worse since she left. Of course, considering that the series started filming its second season two months before, this may just be a coincidence.
  • He Really Can Act: Brett Dalton was criticized for being bland, and being little more than a handsome face, as Ward when the series first launched. Then came the twist and his characterization suddenly had a new spark, revealing that the initial restrained persona was a deliberate choice, similar to how Anna Torv was criticized at the beginning of Fringe before she got to break loose as Bolivia.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • A piece of fan art casting characters from the Disney Animated Canon as The Avengers features Mulan as Black Widow. Here, Mulan's voice actress, Ming-Na Wen, really does play a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Melinda May.
    • As noted above, one of the major complaints about the show was a lack of characters and villains from the comic books. As it turns out, the show was waiting for the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier to reveal Hydra as the true enemies.
    • As noted below, Skye has constantly been accused of being a Mary Sue by detractors. Come "The Only Light in the Darkness", it's revealed that, before she became Skye, her given name really was Mary Sue.
    • Adrianne Palicki's previous comic book outing was the Wonder Woman 2011 Pilot. That makes it kind of chuckle-worthy when she and Simmons are saved by an invisible jet in her first episode as Bobbi Morse. Then there's the fact that, notably, in what is something of a Big Lipped Alligator Moment, Wonder Woman (Palicki) at one point pulled out two metal batons to fight 'bad' guys with, just like Mockingbird does in the show and comics.
  • Hype Backlash: A possible reason for all the online negativity directed towards the show.
  • Idiot Plot:
    • In "The Hub", S.H.I.E.L.D. can't send an extraction team for Fitz and Ward because all their assets are busy, thus requiring the rest of the team to go on a rescue mission. However, instead of simply telling the team this so they can plan and implement a sanctioned extraction, this fact is hidden from the team, requiring Skye and Simmons to infiltrate the Hub's mainframe to discover the truth. If they hadn't chosen to do so and Coulson hadn't launched a rogue mission, Fitz and Ward would have died. Yet Victoria Hand acts as if this were the plan all along.
    • In "The Magical Place", Victoria Hand does a complete 180 and tries to shut Skye down completely for using rogue tactics, citing the above incident, despite the fact that she's getting heavy heat from Fury and Hill to locate Coulson.
    • In "The Only Light in the Darkness", Eric Koenig grabs the Idiot Ball with both arms. Despite his suspicions that Ward may be a HYDRA agent and the super-sensitive lie detector throwing big red warnings all over the place, one adroit answer from Ward is enough to get Eric to trust him completely. He doesn't even talk to Coulson or any of the others who've passed debriefing and warn them or share his suspicions.
  • Internet Backdraft:
    • When casting was first announced, some people expressed their displeasure at the show not including any people of color in the cast, as the highly desaturated promo pictures, as shown on the main page, mislead some fans into believing both Ming Na Wen and Chloe Bennett were white. These concerns were renewed when, contrary to expectation, B.J. Britt was not made a lead.
    • When they released the first image of Adrianne Palicki as Mockingbird, fan response seemed to be a mix between those complaining about her not being blonde, to those complaining about her being described as 'Head of HYDRA security, to those telling the others to calm down because its pretty obvious she's undercover.
    • Hartley's death. Largely cited as an example of Bury Your Gays, a lot of fans seem to not quite realize that Hartley was never confirmed as a lesbian, but rather fans clung to this idea and ran with it, while the producers decided against her being gay due to the obvious Unfortunate Implications. Its also largely connected to Victoria Hand's death in the first season too, who was gay in the comics, but her sexuality was never brought up (largely due to it really not being important), while she was largely unliked by the rest of the fandom for being Too Dumb to Live.
  • Iron Woobie: Both May and especially Coulson have become this as the series moved along. Coulson specifically has had it rough in the second half of season 1.
  • It Gets Better: Season 1 received a lot of complaints for being slow and dull, thanks to being constructed largely as a Prolonged Prologue for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. When the film's release got closer, it picked up considerably.
  • It Was His Sled: Ward being a traitor is a pretty well-known fact now thanks to it coming to light when the show first began to Grow the Beard .
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Miles Lydon is a Rising Tide hacker whose actions in "Girl in the Flower Dress" caused the deaths of a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and a superpowered man who was tortured for his gift. Despite not being directly responsible, Coulson forces him to wear a tracking bracelet that makes him unable to use technology for a fixed period of time or he'd go to jail. Then Coulson strands him in Hong Kong with nothing but the clothes on his back and a bracelet that turns him into a Walking Techbane, which would mean that he'd have to use a proxy to contact any buddies for help.
    • Grant Ward cements it by the time he appears in "Shadows", if he hadn't already done so in the final stretch of the previous season.
    • Skye's Father may be this. As much of a monster as he supposedly is, he just wants to reunite with his daughter and he's utterly devastated upon hearing that Skye thinks he's evil.
  • Launcher of a Thousand Ships: Many if not most fan discussions on the subject (particularly after Skye/Ward got thoroughly sunk at the end of Season 1) seem to start off not with "Which couple do you ship?", but "Who do you ship Simmons with?"
    • Adding to the above Ensemble Darkhorse, even before her first appearance, people are already shipping Mockingbird with everyone. Hawkeye and Simmons are the most popular (due to being the canon-Official Couple with the former in the comics, and being a biologist just like the latter), but Skye and May are also rather popular. The only exception is Coulson, likely due to him being the Team Dad. When she does appear, Bobbi/Simmons intensifies thanks to a lot of Les Yay, but also Hunter/Bobbi too.
  • LGBT Fanbase: They even have their own hastag: #superqueeros.
  • Like You Would Really Do It:
    • "T.R.A.C.K.S." ends with a mortally wounded Skye stuck in a hyperbaric chamber. Even with Joss involved, like they're going to kill her off while her storyline is clearly central to the show.
    • "The Only Light in the Darkness" has a tense scene with Eric Koenig drawing a gun on Ward when he's suspected of being a HYDRA agent. No points for guessing the odds of Ward being outed and his plans foiled.
    • "Hen in the Wolf House" introduces HYDRA's head of Security, Bobbi Morse, in what appears to be a case of Adaptational Villainy. Almost no one actually thought she'd be HYDRA. Similarly, two episodes before that, Simmons was teased as having undergone a Face-Heel Turn and joined HYDRA, but given she was by far the least-threatening member of the team, besides Fitz, no one bought it for a second.
  • Magnificent Bastard: The Clairvoyant could give Loki a run for his money in the manipulator department. Especially considering, he doesn't actually have any powers. All in all, Bill Paxton is very fun to watch on screen.
    • By "Hen in the Wolf House", Coulson pretty much became this. Besides previous moments of brilliance, he turned a Sadistic Choice back on the person giving him it, turns her into an asset to use against Whitehall, while also having Simmons safely extracted by Bobbi and Trip and just narrowly misses the chance to find Skye's father. Don't try to scam Coulson.
    • Whitehall seems to be pretty good at this to. He's got agents everywhere and seems to know exactly how to tick off people at every turn.
  • Mary Sue: Skye has been accused of being one, though at this point it's hard to say how much of that accusation is legitimate and how much is exaggerated by taking everything involving Skye in the worst possible light. The show didn't take a full season to give a nod to this, revealing the orphanage named her "Mary Sue Poots".
  • Memetic Badass: May is one in-universe, with various tall tales of how she got nicknamed The Cavalry.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "I rode a horse today!", the only visible post from the "Norse paganist hate group" in "The Well." Subjected to further mutation after "Repairs", which involves a story of May riding a horse.
    • "Tahiti, it's a magical place." This phrase has even been accompanied on at least a couple of occasions by a cartoony image of Coulson wearing a grass skirt and lei and playing a ukelele.
    • It's common for people to give Ward a bunch of overly manly nicknames like "Agent Rockfist Ironchest."
      • As of Season 2, Reddit has dubbed him Beardy McTraitorson.
    • The following episode, "Providence", gives us a delightfully snarky response to HYDRA's two-armed salute.
      "Put your arms down, Kaminsky, you look like a West Texas cheerleader at a pep rally."
  • Memetic Sex God: Only a few hours after she first appeared, Tumblr was filled with people declaring themselves 'Bobbi-sexual' or something similar.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • "The Well" has an example in Ward's flashbacks; turns out his Dark and Troubled Past had something to do with his older brother crossing the MEH at his expense. "Throw him the rope, and I'll throw you in there, too."
    • An In-Universe example in "Girl in the Flower Dress": Skye decides Miles crossed the MEH by selling Chan Ho Yin out to Centipede for a million dollars. This on top of hacking S.H.I.E.L.D. against her orders. Chan Ho Yin may be a tool, but this revelation made Miles come across as a bigger tool and perhaps irreparably lowered Skye's opinion of Miles.
    • Raina sails over the line in her next appearance, when she forces Mike Peterson to hand Agent Coulson over to her, threatening to kill his son if he didn't.
    • Edison Po when he insists on torturing Coulson's memories of his death out of him. Even Raina wasn't pleased that he would resort to potentially deadly torture.
    • Having had his In-Universe crossing point in the previous episode with his manipulation of Seth and Donnie, Ian Quinn definitely crosses it in "T.R.A.C.K.S." when he shoots Skye and then later gloats about it to Coulson. Even before this happens, we can see he has an extremely callous attitude toward Mike Peterson, viewing him as little more than a weapon.
    • Lorelei forces a husband to murder his own wife simply because she can and then later rapes Ward whilst he's under her control. However she makes it clear she crossed it many centuries ago, when she gloats to Sif about making her lover a "pet" and using him as a Sex Slave. She even forced to Sif to kill him in the end. It's made clear she's done all this and more countless times over her very long life.
    • Agent Garrett is clearly over the MEH by the time he's revealed to be the Clairvoyant. Even his most visible crossing point, provoking Ward into shooting an actor he set up to pose as the Clairvoyant, happens before he's implied to have been the Clairvoyant all along. More generally, he crossed the MEH with his spy game against his own organization. He crossed it at least fifteen years before the series began, he targeted Ward, made him think that he was going to protect him (Ward had burned down the house with his abusive brother inside and his parents wanted him tried as an adult), before dumping him in the woods for six months with very little except the clothes on his back and a dog called Buddy. He later ordered Ward to kill the dog because caring about anything is a weakness. And if even all that wasn't bad enough for you, his ultimate crossing point comes when he orders Ward to kill Fitz and Simmons.
    • Agent Ward arguably crosses it by killing first the two guards helping to escort Garrett to the Icebox, and then Victoria Hand, which is followed by the next episode spend half its runtime establishing him as blindly and eternally loyal to the Clairvoyant. This ultimately gets subverted in the last couple of episodes when you see him put through Training from Hell courtesy of Garrett, who he came to view as a better father than his real father ever was, and by the time he's captured at the end of the season finale, it's clear that not only would he have become even more of a psychopath without Garrett, he'd been thoroughly brainwashed by Garrett, to the point where Coulson acknowledges that in the end, he was little more than a blind yes man for one of the biggest psychos in the MCU, and even when he tries to cross off Fitz and Simmons, he readily admits that it's not because he wants to, it's because he has to. Plus, the second season premiere reveals that he has a lot of regrets about his past, even trying to cross himself off no less than times after being locked up.
  • Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize: Double subverted. The writers pulled a fast one by revealing that Brad Dourif's character (Thomas Nash) was not the Clairvoyant; however, the Clairvoyant happens to be portrayed by another big-name actor, Bill Paxton.
  • Narm: As of Season 2, HYDRA's new-found obsession with putting their logo on everything, painting it on the walls of their offices and even issuing HYDRA jackets. It may be a handy shorthand for cluing the audience in, but it still looks silly for the terrorist organization that managed to stay secret for 70 years to suddenly be walking around in team jackets.
    • In "Face My Enemy," one of the show's all time best fights is preceded by the inevitable Gainaxing you get from May in a flimsy nightgown thrashing around to loosen a rope.
    • In "A Hen in the Wolf House", Bobbi's fights in the episode are generally well-received, though a number of people have complained about the hair-flip at the end of the first fight for being unnecessary and groan-worthy. Crosses into Narm Charm, however, as just as many have commented on how it helped sell the scene.
  • Nausea Fuel:
    • "Eye Spy" contains such lovely Eye Scream sights as poking needles into eyes, pulling eyes completely out of people's heads, and severing optic nerves. In-universe as well as out. Fitz looks like he's fighting the urge to be sick when it comes to his part of the operation.
    • "The Hub" has Simmons extracting a data storage device from a fellow Agent's sinus cavities through his nose with a fiber-optic device. We see an x-ray of the process rather than a direct fleshy view, but it's accompanied by appropriate squishing noises.
    • "The Beginning of the End" has this for Ian when he witnesses Garret using a Marine Corp general's rib bone to stab him in the neck, giving him the urge to vomit.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Nick Fury chews out Coulson for wrecking the plane at the end of "0-8-4".
    • Mack from "The Asset", a stereotypically redneck truck driver who turns out to be a highly trained S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.
    • Patton Oswalt as a nerdy, Coulson Fanboy, Agent Eric Koenig. He's a two scene wonder as of the Season 1 finale, and might become an Ascended Extra.
    • Tsai Chin as May's mother in The Tag of "The Only Light In The Darkness"
  • Paranoia Fuel: Just as in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, virtually any S.H.I.E.L.D. agent you or the heroes have trusted up until now could secretly turn out to be a Hydra operative. So far, this has been true of Sitwell, Garrett, and Ward. This trope was invoked In-Universe in the episodes "End of the Beginning" and "Turn Turn Turn", with both Hand and Coulson becoming paranoid of people they have trusted up until now.
    • To make things creepier, thanks to the second season revealing HYDRA have brainwashing technology, now even previously trusted and loyal agents, willing to die for SHIELD can be turned into loyal assets that HYDRA can control as easily as any other asset. They keep their basic personality, but they become morally twisted into serving HYDRA regardless.
  • Portmanteau Couple Name: Several. Fitzsimmons (Fitz/Simmons, and pretty funny in that it's an actual in-series nickname), Skyeward (Skye/Ward), Skimmons (Skye/Simmons), Philinda (Phil/Melinda), Fitzward (Fitz/Ward) and Mayward (May/Ward). Season Two also introduces Simmorse (Simmons/Bobbi Morse), and Huntingbird (Hunter/Mockingbird).
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap:
    • A common complaint about Grant Ward is that he was stiff and boring. Ironically, that's all changed with The Reveal that Ward is a Hydra agent who's murdered several good SHIELD agents. Several fans have declared they now find Ward much more interesting.
    • Skye attracted a lot of ire from fans accusing her of being a Mary Sue with excessive Character Shilling. Then came her discovery of Ward's treachery with a well-acted scene from Chloe Bennet expressing her grief and horror at finding this out, followed by pretending she's still fooled by the bad guy and going along with him, staying one step ahead of him most of the time, and delivering to him a couple of well deserved "Reason you suck" speeches. Now some fans who admitted to hating her are expressing their love for her.
    • The show itself with the second season. Previously considered OK but with a lot of online negativity, the second season had such a huge bump that many have now began praising it as one of the best things Marvel have made.
  • Ron the Death Eater: May has been getting this nonstop after the Season 1 finale from Ward-apologists.
  • Scapegoat Creator: If you see anyone complain about anything on this show, chances are the blame is put on Joss Whedon, despite the fact that Whedon is a co-creator of the series, and so far has only directed and co-written the pilot episode. He's not quite as involved with this series, as say, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The opposite also occurs, as people praise the show and give the credit to Whedon, despite his lack of involvement in the show.
  • Ship Mates:
    • A lot of fans of the show feel the dynamic neatly divides into 'shipping Coulson/May, Skye/Ward, and Fitz/Simmons. (It doesn't hurt a bit that the actors playing Skye, Ward, and Fitz-Simmons have all to some degree come out in support of this combination.) Gets complicated towards the end of Season 1 by the introduction of Audrey and The Reveal that Ward is The Mole, but a lot of fans still seem to 'ship two out of three going in to Season 2.
    • Skimmons and Fitzward shippers went hand in hand during season 1, although some of the latter seem to have defected to Fitzmack after Ward's betrayal.
  • Shocking Swerve: Most of the twists in "Turn, Turn Turn" work very well, but when it turns out Ward is a Hydra agent, it starts feeling like they're throwing out twists just for the sake of having twists, as if the episode needed any more. Even if Word of God says that there are subtle clues in previous episodes, especially concerning how Ward got everyone to trust him note , not every viewer agreed that acting exactly like a protagonist constituted a hint. How poorly foreshadowed was the twist? Almost no one believed it. Immediately after the reveal, the big debate between fans was whether Ward was a Fake Defector or whether they were Brainwashed. Turned out it was genuine.
  • Special Effects Failure: The show's budget doesn't seem to be enough to give some of its VFX-heavy scenes justice.
    • Once Mike Peterson starts overusing his powers in the pilot, the composition of the effects becomes obvious.
    • Ward's dramatic mid-air rescue of Simmons in "FZZT" is clearly shot in front of a green screen, in comparison to a similar mid-air rescue in Iron Man 3.
    • In "The Bridge", Coulson keeps turning Lola's steering wheel even though the green screen background shows him driving down a straight road.
    • "Yes Men", for the most part, has very passable effects, with the exception of one scene at the beginning of the episode where Lorelei shoves her previous newlywed slave 20 feet. The effects ends up just looking cheap, and the fact that those few frames appear to be noticeably sped up just makes it look worse.
    • The scene where Lola flies in "Nothing Personal" is clearly shot in front of a green screen and the CGI for the landing is obvious.
    • In the Season 1 finale, when Garrett punches Coulson, sending him flying across the room, Coulson's body seems to break laws of physics...
  • Spoiled by the Format: Zigzagged. The Season 1 finale wraps up most of its drama at about the 45 minute mark — Garrett is dead, Ward is captured, Fitz and Simmons are alive, Deathlok and his son are free — leading one to expect that in the last 15 minutes, there will be a The End... Or Is It?, or a Diabolus ex Machina. When the show comes back from commercial, the viewers see Garrett get back up, climb into the cyborg-maker chair, and declare he's unstoppable—only to be vaporized mid-sentence by Coulson. After that is the scenes of Raina meeting with Skye's father and Coulson writing out the same alien language Garrett was earlier in the episode, acting as Sequel Hooks.
  • Squick: The entirety of the surgery involved with Coulson's revival, especially the spider-legged robot probing his exposed brain.
  • Stoic Woobie: We still don't know what the precise cause was, but May clearly has high-functioning PTSD.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: In this case, the fans towards Ward. As much as a bastard he was revealed to be, he was abused by both his older brother and his parents as a child, enough so that it drove him to burn their house down. This is shortly followed by Garrett taking him into his hands and molding him over the course of more than a decade into the "perfect" obedient soldier. We can see this through how lost he was when he was being given no orders. The fact that he tried to kill himself three times since his imprisonment only reflects even more how broken a man Ward is.
  • Take That, Scrappy!: Considering Skye's the biggest Base Breaker among the new team, May giving her a dressing down over coming to her about her search for her parents in the middle of an operation in "The Bridge" could count as this for those who don't like the character. However, as noted on Ian Quinn's entry under Moral Event Horizon, it would seem even Skye's haters have standards.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Season 2 revealed that Simmons was undercover as a mole in Hydra. Not only did this give a lot of plot to Simmons, but also showed viewers a deep inner working of Hydra, all with the looming of threat of Simmons being captured or even brainwashed. Two episodes later they also revealed that Bobbi Morse was also a mole...only for their cover to be blown and Simmons and Bobbi to escape back to SHIELD. That's right, a grand total of two episodes were devoted to this plot.
  • Unfortunate Implications: The show took criticism for having the first super powered threat be a Scary Black Man. This was exacerbated by the fact that many other early villains of the week were minorities.
    • Asking the Wrong Questions goes into considerably more detail about the problematic treatment of Mike Peterson over the course of the first season.
    • The jokes about Lorelai stop being funny and become rather disturbing when you realize that they're essentially joking about how it's easy for Lorelai to rape men because they're weak. And that's before you get into the reaction of the team to Ward being raped by Lorelai.
  • The Untwist: In Season Two, Simmons is not actually working for HYDRA, but is a Reverse Mole for Coulson. The show itself actually seems to acknowledge that no one would buy it, revealing the truth before the episode that introduces her working there is even halfway over. The same goes with HYDRA's Head of Security as they already hyped her up as being Bobbi Morse, a character we all knew already wouldn't be a villain.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome:
    • Debbie being burned alive in "Girl in the Flower Dress". It's horrifying and beautifully animated.
    • Carl Creel demonstrating his absorbing abilities is a huge step up from some of the other powers seen on the show, especially when he becomes wood. The detail looks good enough that it brings a certain talking tree to mind.
      • Furthermore, Creel is one of the first characters on the show (and one of the few in the MCU) to look nearly exactly like his comic book self, complete with a slightly misshapen head and his right side being darker than his left. And of course there's the ball and chain Mythology Gag.
    • The freezing effects of Blizzard's powers in the second season, which largely look like something out of the X-Men films.
    • "I Will Face My Enemy" features Orphan Black worthy effects for a fight between two Ming-Na Wens.
  • What an Idiot:
    • In "The Bridge," Ward is required to take up a sniper position to oversee a prisoner exchange. He promptly picks a spot where the exchange is completely obscured from his view, thereby rendering him absolutely useless in the event the exchange goes south. The reveal that he's a Hydra agent, and that Centipede is a Hydra project, makes this more understandable.
    • In "Yes Men," Ward has a gunnote  pointed at a woman he knows can take over men's minds by speaking and making physical contact. Naturally, he then allows her to speak and come up and touch him. Cue Ward's completely avoidable enslavement. Of course, being an Asgardian, its very likely that Ward's weapon would have been completely useless on her.
      • Coulson also gets some blame for sending Ward around the back alone, just seconds after he wisely kept the other male agents from going in after Lorelei.
    • Agent Hand holds the Idiot Ball most of the time she appears, up to and including attempting to convince Ward to perform an extrajudicial execution on the Clairvoyant. There are moments when she shows at least some sensibility, such as when she waits until after the Bus picked up Fitz and Ward to send the strike team in to finish the job in "The Hub", and in "Turn, Turn, Turn" when she pays enough attention to Coulson's up-close-and-personal altercation with the Clairvoyant himself to figure out that she was wrong about Coulson being her quarry.
    • Erik Koenig in "The Only Light in the Darkness", big time. The expert interrogator is debriefing the members of the team to determine if any of them are enemy agents of HYDRA. Ward starts giving vague answers that set off every alarm on Koenig's super-sensitive lie-detector, to the point where he draws a gun and demands answers. But some Exact Words turn off the alarms, and Koenig lets bygones be bygones, no questions asked. He doesn't even bother to tell Coulson or any other trusted S.H.I.E.L.D. members that something might be amiss...
    • In the second season premiere, the army has the Absorbing Man locked up in a special cell for people with powers, but is no longer visible in the cell. Naturally, the guards decide to open the door and wander right in - since he's only hiding (having turned transparent), this allows him to attack them and escape. As an added bonus, the guards hadn't radioed anyone about the possible escape, so it's a while before any alarms go off.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?: Given the Marvel logo, the fact that it's network TV, the TV-PG rating, and the 8:00 time slot, many parents probably weren't expecting the sheer amount of Fanservice, not to mention the fairly realistic depictions of violence and its aftereffects. This notably includes the badly beaten Coulson undergoing interrogation in "The Magical Place". The flashback image of him with the top of his skull removed, undergoing brain surgery by scary-looking robot, was unexpected as well. Especially since he was awake and begging them to let him die at the time. And there's Debbie the mad scientist being incinerated on screen during "Girl in the Flower Dress"... These could be the same parents who didn't see any of the films in the MCU, but assumed that since they're based on comic books, there couldn't be anything adult-themed in them, regardless of the PG-13 ratings. In part as a reaction to this, the show was moved to the slightly more mature 9:00 time slot for Season 2.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?:
    • Mike's rant at the end of the first episode can be seen as a parable on race and class relations and/or the Great Recession.
    • On the other side, Skye and Ward's dialogue in episode two could be seen as a Take That to middle class radicals who seem oblivious to the fact that their pet causes often involve the very sort of violence they claim to hate.
    • Ian Quinn from episode 3. A wealthy businessman with libertarian leanings, he despises government for regulating business and hoarding new discoveries, yet he turns out to be just as dangerous as the government itself.
    • The situation with Miles in episode 5 can be seen as a jab against hacktivists who preach about freedom of information, but won't hesitate to sell said information for a quick buck.
  • The Woobie
    • Mike has a lot of problems (lack of work, previous injury, implied marriage trouble, experimented on). He starts down the road to Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds before The Team intervenes. Then he goes back because of Rania's manipulation. Mike seems to be the universe's chewtoy. To make things even worse for Mike, he now has a cybernetic eye and kill-switch like Akela did.
    • Akela Amador. She was forced to watch her team die and remained imprisoned in a cell at the bottom of a mine shaft for four years while blind in one eye. When she was finally rescued, her "rescuers" implanted a cybernetic eye into her head which they used to send her on missions and controlled her with the threat of a kill-switch in the eye. She has to ask for permission to sleep. Her entire life post-capture is one long string of Nightmare Fuel.
    • Hannah Hutchins. A genuinely good and kind person, plagued by guilt, hated by an entire town for an accident that wasn't her fault, and tormented by an unseen force that she's convinced is demonic and she thinks God has abandoned her. She could really use a hug. Happily, Skye gives her one at the end of the episode.
    • Coulson himself, after what we were treated to in "The Magical Place." Dead for days, then revived through unknown means and sent to surgery at least seven times, losing his will to live and having to get his memories replaced with Tahiti so that he could go back to normal. Then having to live through a portion of the revival again in order to find out what happened at all. Also, it turns out that his dad died when he was just a kid, and his mother died recently as well. Top it all off with the fact that he's lost any chance to be with the woman he loves, something that's broken her heart as well as his, and there's no question that Coulson now falls firmly under the category of Stoic Woobie. Oh, and as of "Turn Turn Turn", one of his best friends turned out to be a traitor, one of his own agents turned out to be a traitor (though he doesn't know yet), and as far as he knows, Nick Fury, a man he admires, is dead. (Actually just faking it, but again, Coulson doesn't know that.) "Providence" piles even more on him. With S.H.I.E.L.D. falling apart, Coulson is trying to cling to whatever hope he can, which comes in the form of a message supposedly from Nick Fury. When it seems to lead to nowhere, however, he goes off on a rant that being part of S.H.I.E.L.D. still means something, and you can tell this is less for his team and just him trying to hold onto that last bit of hope. Thankfully, that faith is rewarded.
    • Ward counts as a Stoic Woobie, as does May. Ward for the Abusive Childhood at his brother's hands, May for her regrets over her past as a field agent.
    • Skye. She spends her childhood shuffled from one foster family to another, giving her the notion that no one wants her. When she finds out the truth that S.H.I.E.L.D. purposely shuffled her to keep her hidden, she's faced with the possiblity that some of them might have wanted her but couldn't. Her current "foster family" is a precarious situation and May regularly gives her a hard time up to and including a harsh lecture, thus giving her the appearance of a "Well Done, Son" Guy.
    • Fitz spends most of "Turn, Turn, Turn" frantically worried about Simmons and having to remind everyone else that she's still unaccounted for. He breaks down in tears when faced by a firing squad and told he'll be forcibly recruited to Hydra (after being shot in the kneecaps and watching the rest of his team executed). Finally, he then has no choice but to fatally shoot a HYDRA agent because he can only lay hands on a real gun, not an ICEr, during the final fight]]. Despite a very sweet reunion hug with Simmons in the aftermath, it's clear that he's pretty traumatized by the end of the episode. He retains his Woobie status over the course of the next few episodes, too, suffering from a severe case of Cannot Spit It Out around Simmons, who seems to have transferred most of her attention to Agent Triplett. He finally breaks in "Nothing Personal" when he finds out that Ward is a HYDRA operative. And then in the finale he comes closer to death than anyone else, after Ward tried to drown him and Simmons, and they were only able to MacGuyver up a single-person escape plan. At the end of the episode he's explicitly still alive but suffering the effects of cerebral oxygen starvation. The guy just cannot catch a break. Things don't improve in Season 2 either: he's conscious and, at first glance, not that badly off, despite having pretty severe nominal aphasia, mild paranoia, and aggressive outbursts, but it turns out that he's hallucinating Simmons, who left hoping that separation from her might cure him, but it's only made him worse, to the point where he can no longer differentiate his fantasy of being with her and slowly recovering from the reality where he's alone, unable to work, and slowly declining into complete madness. Even the other members of Team Coulson look on him as The Woobie by this point.
    • Just to fully tick everyone off, Simmons becomes The Woobie herself in the final episode of the first series, after spending most of the episode thinking she was going to die, then not quite managing to get her "best friend in the entire world" out unharmed.
    • Donnie Gill, oh so much. Because he is extremely smart, he had difficulty making friends, with his only friend being a fellow SHIELD academy student named Seth. Both are manipulated by Ian Quinn into developing a weather control machine, which results in Seth getting killed, and Donnie being imprisoned. Because he now has cryokinetic powers, HYDRA has their eyes set on him, and brainwash him into organizing a mutiny. Donnie manages to break free from the brainwashing and flees to Morocco, but HYDRA pursues him there. Finally, when he is brainwashed once again and under orders to kill May and Hunter by freezing the barge they're on, Skye shoots him, seemingly killing him. However, they Never Found the Body, so there's still a chance he's alive and may ultimately get a happy ending...
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Agent Grant Ward is a HYDRA agent and a traitor to his own friends and teammates, but the story of how he got that way is truly heartwrenching: After being taken to juvie hall for burning down the home of his abusive parents, he was recruited to S.H.I.E.L.D. by John Garret, a corrupt agent secretly working for HYDRA. Garret trained him to be the perfect HYDRA mole, teaching him how to lie convincingly (often beating the crap out of him to get him in character) and telling him never to allow himself to care for anyone, as it was a weakness. It's no wonder he turned out to be a traitor; with someone like that training him, he was unlikely to turn out any other way. However, his present-day behavior can make sympathizing with him difficult.

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