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  • Face Death with Dignity:
    • Raina. She knows that Jiaying will kill her during their meeting. She is calm and unafraid the whole time, accepting that her purpose isn't to lead the Inhumans, but to show Skye what her mother really is and set her on the path to leading them.
    • Hive calmly accepts that there's nothing he can do once the Quinjet is in space, and peacefully spends his last few moments talking to Lincoln as a fellow Inhuman.
    • Knowing that his time is at an end while the Framework is collapsing around him, Radcliffe pours himself a drink and watches the sunrise, waiting to be reunited with Agnes. He raises a glass and quotes T. S. Eliot before being deleted mid-quotation.
  • Face–Heel Turn: The show has many ways in which to turn a good character evil, be it through brainwashing (numerous agents such as Agent 33/Kara), Explosive Leash (Deathlok for a while) or Evil All Along (Ward). It's also pulled a fast one from time to time, most notably with Simmons.
  • Facial Dialogue: Half of one, as Coulson speaks, and May doesn't but he reacts like she's been answering him the whole time.
    • Same with Kasias and Sinara — usually he is the only one talking.
  • Fake Guest Star:
    • In Season 2 three of the four actors who joined the lead cast are still credited as guest stars, despite appearing in every episode since their appearance and having more or less equal screen time with the leads: B J Britt (Triplett, introduced in 1x14note ), Henry Simmons (Mack, introduced 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.
    • Natalia Cordova-Buckley is a semi-regular character in Seasons 3 and 4, but only became a regular in Season 5.
    • In Season 4 Mallory Jansen (AIDA/Agnes/Ophelia/Madame Hydra) portrays the Big Bad of the entire Season, featuring heavily in all three big story arcs while only missing two episodes, and appearing in more episodes than John Hannah (Radcliffe), who is a main cast member.
  • 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.
    • In "The Singularity", Fitz and Simmons pull this on Mac so they can finally complete a long-overdue conversation about their relationship. Mac isn't fooled for a second, but like everyone else on Coulson's team he ships Fitzsimmons so he's not too bothered.
      Mack: Do you know how many times Bobbi and Hunter pulled the "My comms are down" trick?
  • 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.
  • Fantastic Racism: A subplot in Season 2 and continuing from there.
    • Anytime S.H.I.E.L.D. discovers a "gifted" person they are put on an Index and assigned a handler in case they go crazy with their powers and need to be put down; but the process can be demeaning and psychologically scarring to the individual in question.
    • In the wake of Agent Triplett's death, several S.H.I.E.L.D. agents display this towards the gifted and Simmons in particular seems extremely disgusted by the idea of Inhumans, likening them to a plague that needs to be eradicated.
    • The Inhumans themselves look down on anyone who wasn't born with a (latent) power, with Gordon disregarding Cal as a 'science experiment' despite the Inhumans themselves being the product of Kree experiments. Taken Up to Eleven with Jiaying, who stages an attack from S.H.I.E.L.D. to justify an offensive attack on them.
    • The Asgardians suspect anything the Kree do on general principle and the Kree in turn seem to consider the Asgardians as violent brutes who like to pick fights.
    • The Watchdogs look at the Inhumans as alien infiltrators, ignoring the basic fact that they're actually the descendants of the victims of an alien research project, many of whom didn't even know they were latent Inhumans until they involuntarily underwent Terrigenesis.
  • Faux Affably Evil:
    • Raina. She manipulates, kidnaps, and tortures while never saying a single harsh word. The most egregious example is when she purposefully leaves Debbie to 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.
  • Fingore: Kara and Ward's torture of Bobbi at the end of Season 2 includes shoving pieces of wire under her fingernails.
  • 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.
    • The flashbacks in "One Door Closes" suggest this is also true for "real" S.H.I.E.L.D. — most of the council fought together to take back the Iliad, while the rest fought at The Academy, and this seems to have made their loyalty to each other pretty unwavering.
    • Robbie/Ghost Rider and S.H.I.E.L.D, especially Daisy and Mack. She started off thinking he was an Inhuman serial killer, and he found her to be a nuisance to his Ghost Ridering, and they actually fought twice before starting to work together to investigate his uncle's connection to Lucy Bauer. Likewise, Mack thought the same thing as Daisy and was less sympathetic as he doesn't really believe Ghost Rider to be a separate entity from Robbie, or that Robbie cannot always control it. Once the Spirit of Vengeance went into him, he started to bond with Robbie, knowing full well how terrifying being a Ghost Rider really was.
  • First-Episode Spoiler:
    • #CoulsonLives! was 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.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: In the Season 5 finale, the twist that due to temporal shenanigans, the team has realized there's still a version of Fitz alive is hinted at by the team conspicuously not mentioning his name during a memorial that seems to be for him.
  • 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.
    • Similarly, in "Rise and Shine", General Hale questions the plausibility of Coulson and company going to the future know, everything else in the MCU that's no less implausible.
  • Fleeting Demographic Rule: Three years after SHIELDRA came within milliseconds of executing every threat on the planet to HYDRA's One World Order with drone strikes, conspiracy theorists are again a kooky minority; in "Hot Potato Soup", the fourth Koenig brother, Thurston, is a slam poet activist at a beatnik bar with no clientele.
  • Flock of Wolves: Coulson has a serious mole problem:
    • Skye is initially 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.
    • "Ye Who Enter Here" reveals that Bobbi and Mack are conspiring together for a rival branch of S.H.I.E.L.D. Hartley was also part of this group, but she died before The Reveal so her potential betrayal had no impact on the plot.
  • Flying Car: Lola, which makes for the difference between "new" and "improved".
  • Food Porn: Fitz describing his sandwich in "The Hub" certainly qualifies. No wonder he gets mad once Ward throws it away.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Coulson's "rusty" when it comes to breaking down a handgun. He makes a remark about how he had it down as muscle memory. 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 resurrected. 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.
    • The condition of the Kree body discovered in "T.A.H.I.T.I." indicates that it died a very violent death as it is mangled, and its entire lower half is missing. This foreshadows the revelation two seasons later that the Kree who were conducting the experiments on the Inhumans were driven off-world by a violent slave revolt led by Hive.
    • 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. Tony himself used the exact same words in Iron Man 2, so this could well qualify as fore-foreshadowing.
    • 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 FZZT, 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.
    • As it turns out, Ward's status as A HYDRA mole is foreshadowed as early as the first episode when he and Coulson are chasing Mike Peterson into a train station. Coulson's determination to try and talk down and save Peterson is objected to by Ward, who protests them going through so much trouble to save "some nobody." Of course, that's exactly the kind of attitude one would expect of a HYDRA agent.
    • Similarly, Ward shoots Mike Peterson down with a sniper rifle (albeit non-lethally) even after Coulson is closed to talking him down. Wouldn't want to risk damaging a valuable Centipede asset, would we?
    • In "The Bridge", Ward is assigned to find 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. Of course it doesn't matter where he stands during the exchange- he's in on the kidnapping.
    • In addition, Ward explicitly tries to kill May in the episode "Yes Men", then tries to pass it off as just a product of brainwashing when the gun is empty. However, we just learned that the brainwashing was reversed before he pulled the trigger.
    • In "The Magical Place" Raina tells Coulson that the people he works for are "just as capable of using cruel means to reach a justified end" as the people she works for. Considering The Reveal of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, she's much more right about that than she realizes.
    • In "The Patriot", Jeffrey Mace confesses that he didn't actually do what everyone thought he did in Vienna, using his Inhuman super strength to save someone from being crushed under debris. This is exactly how he dies for real in the Framework.
    • In the season 4 finale, Coulson wore in an unusual outfit (for him); a leather jacket, a pair of leather gloves, and he carried a chain around, basically seeming like he took some fashion cues from Robbie. These are hints that he's harboring the Spirit of Vengeance that allows him to temporarily transform into a Ghost Rider in order to beat Aida.
    • The very first thing we see in Season 5 directly tells us the events of the season finale: One of Robin's drawings on Enoch's fridge, depicting two people holding hands on a beach, with a large blue bird-like thing above them. It's May and Coulson in Tahiti with the Zephyr overhead. Several other drawings, a van driving down the road and a large grey human shape with several smaller stick figures on its body, foreshadow Hunter's van and Talbot after absorbing the Gravitonium (and several other people into himself), respectively.
    • In "Rewind", part of Fitz' imprisonment directly foreshadows the twist in "The Devil Complex":
      • Fitz speculates that he had a mental split brought on by his brain trauma from the Framework and did things without realizing it.
      • No fewer than eight books on mental health, brain trauma, and split personalities are visible in the stack of books his desk.
  • 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 Coulson 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.
  • For Want of a Nail: The reason the Framework is a Crapsack World — each of the five prisoners was calmed enough to accept it with a Cosmic Retcon of "their greatest regret" — which had world-shattering consequences;
    • Melinda May's assignment in Bahrain ended with her killing an Inhuman child who was mind-controlling everyone around her. In the Framework, she succeeded in rescuing the child, who went on to kill over a hundred people in the US, permanently souring humanity's view of Inhumans and leaving her a cold, professional shell.
    • Phil Coulson has become weary of his life as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and subconsciously desired a normal life. In the Framework, he thus rejected an offer of S.H.I.E.L.D. membership; without him, the Avengers never formed, and HYDRA completed its coup de tat and rose to power, killing most of the world's superhumans and subversives.
    • Alphonso Mackenzie mourns his daughter, Hope, who died just days after birth. In the Framework, she survived, and he never joined S.H.I.E.L.D., instead living a quiet life as a single father.
    • Jeffrey Mace has always regretted not being a true Inhuman, instead being dependent on a chemical cocktail for hour-long boosts of superhuman strength and resilience. In the Framework, he is Inhuman, and the heroic director of the S.H.I.E.L.D. resistance.
    • Leo Fitz has always desired his father's acceptance, a thuggish drunk who bemoans his son's love of science. In the Framework, his teetotaler father dotes on him... while still being thuggish and authoritarian, raising Fitz as a Mengele-like Morally Ambiguous Doctorate who proudly builds weapons for HYDRA.
  • 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.
    • For part of season four, the opening logo screen gets taken over, changing the title to "Agents of HYDRA," with an Ominous Visual Glitch reminding us that they're still in the virtual world.
  • Freudian Slip: Fitz has one while talking to Skye in the pilot.
    Fitz: So, uh, when you get back, I'll show you my thing. Uh, thing, it's's my hardware. My equipment! [to himself] Hang up...
  • Funny Background Event:
    • 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.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    • Lampshaded by Ward during his interview.
      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 explained. T.A.H.I.T.I. appears In-Universe, so it may get some explanation down the road — a Freeze-Frame Bonus reveals as partially Terrestrialized Alien Host Integrative Tissue I..
    • Fitz-Simmons developed the D.W.A.R.V.E.S. robots (which are 8, given one is Snow White) and the I.C.E.R. knockout bullets.
    • In season 4, Simmons is the new Director's S.A.D.I.S.T., and is continually subjected to W.I.M.P.

  • Gainax Ending: "Ascension" wraps up the plot that the season was building towards. Then, instead of going with a denouement, the episode has a Smash Cut establishing a Time Skip serving as a Sequel Hook, leaving a lot more questions than answers.
  • Gaining the Will to Kill: FitzSimmons do this while remaining the Non-Action Pair. In the first season everyone was surprised whenever either one took slightly violent action, fast forward to season 4 where both regularly carry guns and simultaneously shoot a Mook without hesitation.
  • 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 and action heroines. 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).
    • Played with in Season 2, where Team Coulson now consists of seven men (Coulson, Fitz, Triplett, Hunter, Mack, and Sam and Billy Koenig) and four women (May, Skye, Simmons, and Bobbi); however, Coulson is now mostly behind the scenes and does less field work, while Sam and Billy appear very rarely and seem to mostly work outside the main team, making it still an even split between the eight field agents. Triplett and Hunter are the only male combatantsnote  while all but Simmons of the women are now combatantsnote , leaving a 2:3 ratio of male/female fighters. Ward is also out there, but he's no longer part of the team.
  • Generation Xerox: an odd but justified example, given how Hydra is most recently influenced by the example of Red Skull, the successful Hydra heads (that is, long-lasting season Big Bads) are mostly such as Garret, Whitehall, and Malick are the ones who head science division.
  • Genre Savvy:
    • Having more mileage in the MCU than anyone else, Coulson is all over this trope.
      • Coulson's reaction to learning of Scorch's name:
        Coulson: Ah crap. They gave him a name.
      • In "Yes Men", when Coulson finds out that Sif has been blown out the hatch in the interrogation cell, he immediately responds:
        Coulson: She's an Asgardian! Open the hatch and let her back in!
      • In "Providence", Coulson immediately realizes that Colonel Talbot's "peacekeeping" forces are anything but, and orders an evacuation of the Hub.
      • In "The Only Light In The Darkness" he explains that their current target worked in a physics lab which was trying to harness "something called 'Dark Force.' And nothing bad ever happens when you work with something called 'Dark Force'."
    • 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. Turns out that it wasn't; he turns up in season 3 as Talbot's bodyguard.
    • In "Love in the Time of HYDRA", Talbot gets a call from his wife several minutes after a shapeshifter impersonating her entered the base. He immediately works out what has happened, orders the base to be put into lockdown, and informs his next-in-command that if he's seen somewhere he's not supposed to be, it's not him.
    • At the beginning of the LMD story arc, both Mack and Yo-Yo are quite vocal about how Fitz and Radcliffe should have known better than to create artificial intelligence based on pretty much every science fiction film made on the subject within the last thirty years. Mack even shows off his rather extensive familiarity with such films later in the same episode as Yo-Yo quizzes him on obscure robot films such as Chopping Mall.
  • Genre Shift: Season 4 shifts away from pure Science Fiction to include supernatural elements like Ghost Rider, who is explicitly not Inhuman. This coincides with the introduction of supernatural heroes in the Phase Three films, Doctor Strange being the standout example (though Black Panther likewise has a supernatural element).
  • The Gods Must Be Lazy: In "The Well" Coulson complains about the apparent lack of the Norse god of "cleaning up after yourself" while dealing with the aftermath of Thor: The Dark World's climax in London.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Although S.H.I.E.L.D. are the good guys, it is occasionally hinted at that the organization engages in activities such as assassinations. This is confirmed in the second season, when we're told that "hostile gifted individuals"note  are sometimes crossed off the Index. We also later see a S.H.I.E.L.D. assassin from the "dark side" of the organization.
    • In season 2, we see this played out when Hunter, who at times borders on comic relief territory, cold-bloodedly executes a HYDRA leader, clearly on orders from Coulson.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Several characters fit the specifics of this trope such as Coulson. Daisy and Bobbi Morse. In particular with Daisy, the series follows her character arc from being a meek and mild hacker to her first kill to being able to kill a room full of mooks without breaking a sweat.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: At the beginning of "The Ghost," a group of white supremacists are massacred by Ghost Rider. One of the skinheads is dragged off-screen, and all the audiences sees is a large amount of blood splattering against the side of his vehicle after a short bout of screaming. A later conversation between Mack and Coulson reveals that Ghost Rider ripped out the skinhead's spine. Apparently, through his ass.
  • 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.
    • Some episodes showcase agent Ward speaking fluent Italian and Spanish, and stilted but comprehensible Russian, 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.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: 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 for that season.
  • Green Aesop: A subtle one in "The Asset": Quinn is implied to use ecologically short-sighted methods like strip-mining to make a profit, but it's not the focus of the episode, and in the end, Dr. Hall is the one who nearly kills everyone.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Averted when Ward tries to talk his way into a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility. No matter what he says or does, even the usual 'call their superiors' trick, they absolutely refuse to let him in and invite him to call up the chain of command. He does eventually get them to let him in, but he needs a helicopter shooting at him to do so.
  • Guest-Star Party Member:
    • Sif joins forces with Coulson's team in "Yes Men" and "Who You Really Are".
    • Maria Hill teams up with Coulson, Fitz-Simmons and Triplett in "Nothing Personal".
    • Nick Fury in the Season One finale.

  • Hacker Collective: When she first appears, Skye is a member of a hacker society called "Rising Tide". This society suffered from Chuck Cunningham Syndrome from the second season onwards.
  • Heel Realization: Coulson talks a murderous, superpowered, pissed-off Mr Hyde on a rampage through SHIELD headquarters into one in the season 2 finale, convincing him that his wife is beyond redemption and he should help stop them.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: It's a recurring thing in the series that while random agents usually wear combat armor complete with helmets, the main characters wear leather jumpsuits or just a t-shirt (or in Coulson's case a suit and tie).
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Simmons has a brief one in "FZZT" after realizing she has been infected by the Chitauri electromagnetic virus.
    • May is in the midst of an extended one when she is recruited back into the team.
    • The whole team experiences this in "T.R.A.C.K.S." after Skye is shot.
    • In "T.A.H.I.T.I.", after Coulson finds the alien corpse that serves as the source of the GH drug, he's so shocked that Garrett finds him wandering down the hall like a zombie.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • In "The Bridge", Coulson voluntarily surrenders himself to Raina to get Mike Peterson's son released.
    • In "The Beginning Of The End", Fitz tries to do one of these to save Simmons. She will have none of that and saves his life, but he's not in good shape at the end of the episode.
    • "Aftershocks" has Coulson explictly stating that Triplett "died a hero" in the previous episode by destroying the Diviner's crystal.
    • In "Ascension", Lincoln flies the Quinjet with a Inhuman-conversion bomb (and Hive) into space, knowing he's not coming back.
    • In "No Regrets", The Patriot uses his Super Strength to hold up a collapsing building in the Framework to save a child trapped under debris, long enough for Coulson, Simmons, and Agent Triplett (and May) to escape.
    • In "Past Life", Enoch sacrifices his battery power to power the time machine and send the Agents back to their own past.
    • In "The End", Coulson gives the last dosage of Centipede Serum to Daisy so she can defeat Graviton!Talbot, knowing full well that the serum is his last chance to avoid dying (again).
    • In "New Life", May leaves Izel's home dimension to kill Izel before she can do so to Daisy, knowing that the only thing keeping her alive is being in Izel's home dimension (since death is meaningless in said dimension) after Sarge had run her through with a sword the episode prior.
  • Hero's First Rescue: In the premiere, Mike Peterson's heroic debut was climbing up the side of a burning building to rescue a woman trapped in the top floor.
  • Hero of Another Story: The Avengers are often mentioned as the Big Good, but they never appear in the series (unless you count Fury as an Avenger).
  • He’s Back:
    • Coulson returns in the first episode after his "death" in "The Avengers".
    • 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 Elf Village: The Inhuman city of Lai Shi doesn't take kindly to outsiders. Even its inhabitants don't know where exactly the city is.
  • 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 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 sexuality.
    • A very similar thing happens in Season 2 with Isabelle Hartley, who is also a lesbian in the comics, and was even involved with Victoria.
  • 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. HYDRA continues to be a major antagonistic presence throughout the next four seasons, led by Daniel Whitehall, Ward, Gideon Malick, Aida (in an alternate reality version of HYDRA) and General Hale.
  • History Repeats: More than a few times.
    • Fitz and Simmons in particular are subjected to this quite a lot - if something significant happens involving one of the two, something similar will usually happen to the other in the following season.
      • In the Season 1 finale, with the two facing certain death at the bottom of the ocean, Fitz finally manages the courage to show Simmons how he really feels about her by attempting a Heroic Sacrifice to save her. The Love Confession serves as the elephant in the room throughout Season 2 with the two before Simmons indirectly informs Fitz in the Season 2 finale that his feelings are reciprocated after seeing Bobbi with Hunter.
      • The Season 1 finale ends with Fitz in a coma after oxygen deprivation, and he gets permanent brain damage from the ordeal at the bottom of the ocean. The Season 2 finale sees Simmons transported to Maveth via the Kree Monolith, where she has to survive by herself (with help from Will) until "Purpose in the Machine". The resulting traumas from these two events are a major part of the respective character arcs throughout the next season, and for separate reasons, Fitz and Simmons are distanced during their respective traumas, leaving them to deal with them largely on their own.
      • Simmons gains a new Love Interest in Will Daniels in Season 3 (post-humously, unfortunately for him) during her time on Maveth, and Fitz gets Ophelia/Aida in Season 4 during the agents' time in the Framework. Both Will and Ophelia also played the role of Big Bad for their respective season, though Will plays it, again, post-humously.
      • Fitz immediately proposes to Jemma in "Fun and Games" when he sees her again, only to find out that her hearing is turned off, so she can't hear it, but when she does get the chance to talk to him later, she immediately proposes to him. Fitz (or his temporal duplicate, anyway) later makes the exact same proposal to her under the exact same circumstances in "Inescapable", only this time Jemma can hear it and says yes.
      • Simmons gets A Day in the Limelight in "3,722 Hours" after being alone on the other side of a Monolith. Fitz gets one of his own in "Rewind", two seasons later, also being alone on one side of a Monolith, though in Fitz's case, everyone else had been sent through the Monolith as opposed to Simmons being sent through the Monolith by herself. The two of them get one together in a Cerebral Fusion Machine in "Inescapable".
    • After May withholds the details of Coulson's resurrection from him throughout Season 1, Coulson neglects to inform her of Theta Protocol throughout Season 2. When May tries to give him a What the Hell, Hero? for this, Coulson is all too happy to remind her how she lied to him the season before.
    • Fitz tries to go on the run at the end of Season 4 and take all the blame for the events of the season, Daisy reminds him that she did exactly the same thing at the end of the previous season and throughout the Ghost Rider arc, and nothing particularly fruitful came from this.
    • In Season 3, Fitz's arc is driven by his attempt to rescue Simmons from the Kree monolith for the first two episodes. In Season 5, Fitz's arc for the first five episodes (though he doesn't appear in the first three of those episodes) is driven by his attempt to be reunited with Simmons and the rest of the agents on the other end of the White Monolith after they were taken.
    • When Daisy goes through Terrigenesis in the Framework in "No Regrets", she bursts out of her cocoon in exactly the same way she did in "What They Become". Coincidentally, both Terrigenises happened after the death of a central character.note 
    • In Season 5, Coulson is dying and needs Centipede Serum to survive, much like John Garrett in Season 1. Unlike Garrett, Coulson refuses to take the serum and instead gives it to Daisy, unlike Garrett, who only wanted the serum for himself.
    • At the end of Season 4, Aida and Ivanov attempt to invoke this trope with the Framework's history in the real world. They don't get very far thanks to the Ghost Rider.
    • In Season 6, Sarge, the Big Bad for most of the season, is a malevolent entity similar to the Spirit of Vengeance that is posessing a copy of Coulson's body. Season 3's Big Bad, Hive, an ancient Inhuman, posessses Grant Ward' body for the latter half of Season 3. In both cases, the body-stealing entity has the face of one of the original six of Team Coulson and is able to end up on Earth because of Monoliths. Both are Nigh Invulnerable and gained the memories of their host. The biggest difference between how the two posess their host is that Sarge doesn't actually know who he is until Izel tells him that he's Pachakutiq in a copy of Coulson's body created by the Monoliths over a year prior, and that Coulson is a much bigger part of Sarge than Ward was of Hive.
  • Hitler Ate Sugar: Invoked by Daisy in "Absolution".
    Coulson: You were brainwashed!
    Daisy: So was Ward.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • By the time of "T.R.A.C.K.S.", Centipede has developed dendrotoxin grenades that have similar effects as the Night-Night Gun, because they somehow got their hands on the formula.
    • Also in "T.R.A.C.K.S.", May is captured. One of her captors stabs her in the shoulder with a knife to torture her. She then uses said knife to cut herself loose and kill his henchmen.
  • Hollywood Encryption: Skye's hard drive can only be decrypted at a specific geographic location.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Regularly when Skye's hacking skills are involved. Hacking the NSA satellite streams? No problem, it shouldn't take more than one hour.
  • Hollywood Mid-Life Crisis: Cammila Reyes, Coulson's New Old Flame, suggests he's going through this in "0-8-4." Coulson suggests it's more of an afterlife crisis.
  • Homage:
    • 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.
  • Honesty Is the Best Policy:
    • Invoked in the pilot. Coulson jabs Ward with a truth serum and leaves him for Skye to interrogate, just to be absolutely clear they have nothing to hide from her.
    • Skye uses it herself in "The Asset". Rather than trouble herself with coming up with a lie to get into Quinn's office, she just tells him the truth: that she's a mole inside S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • Hope Spot:
    • 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 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.
    • In "Who You Really Are", the Kree Vin-Tak revealed that an ancient faction of his race came to Earth and conducted experiments on humans to turn them into this. The Inhumans are the results of this.
  • 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.
  • Hypocritical Humor: FitzSimmons are particularly prone to this.
    • 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:
      Simmons: Fitz?
      Fitz: Don't use my name, Jemma!


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