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Agents Of SHIELD / Tropes I to M

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. provides examples of the following tropes:

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    I 
  • I Call It "Vera":
    • Coulson calls his car "Lola".
    • The Destroyer Gun is named "The Bambino".
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Oh Fitz. Finds out the woman he's in love with and spent six months doing everything he could to rescue from another planet fell in love with someone else while she was there. He promptly gets to work rescuing him too.
  • An Ice Person: Donnie Gill, aka Blizzard.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Victoria Hand seems to be the designated carrier, as a side effect of carrying the Conflict Ball. The whole deal with extracting Fitz and Ward in "The Hub" makes no sense because if she wanted Coulson's team to be the extraction team she should have said so in the first place instead of stone walling them. In "The Magical Place" she acts as if Skye wanting to follow the money is some crazy hacker's trick instead of being one of the most sound, fundamental and time-proven methods of running an investigation known to man. Finally, in "Turn, Turn, Turn," her method for determining who is not an infiltrator for HYDRA is apparently to pretend that she herself is an infiltrator for HYDRA, then demand that agents swear loyalty or be executed. How this is meant to detect genuine HYDRA infiltrators, versus maybe getting her shot by loyal S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, is unclear. It's also based on the idea that no loyal S.H.I.E.L.D. agents when given the choice between betraying the group and death wouldn't simply lie. Added to this is the fact that she assumes all the members of Coulson's team must be HYDRA moles, just because she has evidence to believe that Coulson is one, even though the team is relatively newly assembled of people who were mostly unknown to one another beforehand. Furthermore, having ordered them all to be killed on sight because of the risk she believes they pose, she's willing to give Simmons a chance to prove her loyalty for apparently no other reason than that she happened to be in the Hub, and not on the Bus, when the Uprising started.
    • In "Yes Men", Ward gets the drop on Lorelei with a tranq gun. He's been told that she has the ability to charm most men with her voice and all men with her touch. Not only does he not shoot her immediately, he allows her to get within arm's reach.
      • Coulson and Sif both catch one here for sending any male agents against Lorelei. When your enemy has the power to instantly dominate men, leave the men on the plane.
    • Eric Koenig gets this in "The Only Light in the Darkness" when he debriefs Coulson's team with a super-accurate lie detector. Despite his suspicions that one of them is The Mole and the lie detector throwing big red warnings all over the place, one adroit answer (with a liberal use of Exact Words) is enough for Eric to conclude everything's fine.
    • In "...Ye Who Enter Here," when you're investigating a mysterious alien city associated with a device which kills you if you touch it, you would really think that the guy you send in would be wearing gloves. Sure enough, within seconds he touches something dangerous and it nearly gets a bunch of people killed.
  • Ignorance Is Bliss:
    • The reason Coulson's special team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents exist is that The World Is Not Ready for most of the weird things happening in the world. He even gives an Appeal to Obscurity example to hammer his point. Playful Hacker Skye feels differently and thinks an Unmasqued World is the way to go.
    • "Providence" reveals that once S.H.I.E.L.D.'s secrets have flooded onto the Internet, Skye realizes that Coulson was right: The World Is Not Ready.
    • Coulson's being kept in the dark about his resurrection, and the implanted memories of Tahiti were specifically to keep him ignorant of the real circumstances of his resurrection (see And I Must Scream), which otherwise were too unbearable for him to go on living.
  • I Have Your Wife:
    • Raina coerces Mike's help by kidnapping his son.
    • Cybertek has this as standard practice for gaining employees. It's known as the "incentives program".
    • A heroic example in "Closure". Turns out, Thomas Ward survived his entire ordeal years ago. And Team Coulson robbed a bank just to abduct him in order to get under his surviving big bad brother's skin.
  • I Love Nuclear Power: It's suggested that Scorch gained his pyrokinetic abilities thanks to a nuclear plant that caught fire near his house.
  • Immune to Bullets: Hive's brainwashed Inhumans are immune to the ICER rounds due to the way he messed with their neural chemistry. This makes capturing them alive more difficult than it could be. It comes to a head in the finale, when Hive's minions detonate a gas bomb in the Playground, turning a number of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents into Alpha Primitives. The agents only have ICERs for personal defense, rendering them practically helpless.
  • I Need A Drink: Coulson's first move after retaking the Bus in "0-8-4" is to the convenient on-board bar. Which Fury, in the stinger, notes that he generously provided.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: The Clairvoyant's identity is ultimately revealed this way; he knows too much about Raina.
  • Information Wants to Be Free: An early theme in the series is the security vs. privacy debate, as well as the control vs. freedom of information debate. The show mostly comes down in favor of the security and control of information sides, and the message seems to be that it's easy to demand freedom of information when you're not responsible for its consequences.
  • In Medias Res: "0-8-4" opens with the crew on their way back from a mission, Coulson saying that he thinks they've seen the last of the trouble, and an explosion; then it cuts to "19 Hours Earlier". By the time the story gets back to Coulson's remark and the explosion, it's turned out that several things aren't as they first appeared.
  • Inside a Computer System: The Framework works as one during the third arc of Season 4.
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • Thor's not just handsome, he's dreamy according to Skye and May.
    • In "FZZT," it's not a vaccine it's an anti-serum.note 
  • Inspector Javert: Colonel Talbot doesn't care if Coulson's team was involved with the villains or not — he has his orders to bring them in, no matter what. This fades as Season 2 progresses, though.
  • Instant Sedation: The Night-Night gun, as well as its smaller counterpart the Night-Light gun, puts out anyone hit with it immediately.
  • Intangibility: Coulson, Fitz, and Robbie Reyes get trapped between dimensions in the episode "Deals with Our Devils" and are unable to touch people in the "real" world (though they don't fall through the floor, and Reyes is able to touch and travel using a car in the "real" world).
  • Interservice Rivalry: There is a school rivalry level one between the various S.H.I.E.L.D. academies. Operations takes pride in how difficult their training is. Science and Technology takes pride in how hard it is to get accepted into their academy in the first place. Both of them look down on the Analysts.
  • I Reject Your Reality: "Real" S.H.I.E.L.D. is entrenched in their views that Coulson has been compromised by the GH serum and can't be trusted. Whenever anyone brings up that Coulson's been trying to stop HYDRA from getting ahold of alien artifacts (even Bobbi, who is part of their board of directors) they twist the facts around so Coulson is hunting these artifacts for himself and not for the greater good. Also, despite the fact that HYDRA spent decades and decades infiltrating SHIELD (starting right after WW2), they also seem to hold Nick Fury solely responsible, because in his role as The Spymaster he kept a lot of things secret (like bases and resources that were essential to thwarting the HYDRA takeover).
  • Irony:
    • The Mole was on the Bus to find out the secrets behind Coulson's resurrection. In the process, they seduced May solely to cement their cover—not knowing that she had the full details of the project the entire time.
    • John Garrett, the man whose motive through his entire run on the show was staying alive no matter what, had "Don't Fear the Reaper" playing in his jet scene at the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • It Gets Easier: Defied by May:
    May: [to Skye] For the record, experience doesn't make it any easier to cross someone off.
  • It's Quiet... Too Quiet: Robbie's reaction to an empty hallway during a stakeout in "The Law of Inferno Dynamics" is to point out that it's not really as clear as it looks.
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    J 
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • In Season 5, Team S.H.I.E.L.D. meet a man named Deke who is excessively cautious and constantly insists that they shouldn't do what they're planning to do. Given that they have no backup and no real resources to call on, it probably would've been wiser to listen to him. Also, given that keeping one's head down around the Kree often can accomplish more in the long run, he does have a valid point to make, since Daisy's reckless all-steam-ahead rescue of Jemma would, even if he hadn't been a traitor in the first place, have likely blown their cover.
    • In Season 6, Sarge calls Daisy out on having Daddy Issues regarding Coulson. Daisy, despite her insistence to the contrary, quickly proves him right with her response.
  • Just Plane Wrong:
  • Just Shoot Him:
    • In "The End of the Beginning", Ward's reaction to finally meeting the Clairvoyant. Except he turned out to be a decoy; which (as of "Turn, Turn, Turn") it seems Ward knew all along.
    • Played to utter hilarity in "The Beginning of the End." Garrett dons his Deathlok armor after Faking the Dead and it seems like he'll come back as an even bigger threat in Season 2, right? Wrong! Coulson blows him to smithereens immediately after that.

    K 
  • Karma Houdini:
    • At the end of the first season, Quinn and Raina, despite brief turns in prison earlier in the season, are able to escape Garrett's downfall.
    • Skye's father plots a gruesome death for Whitehall during the mid-winter finale of Season Two, but before he can enact his revenge, Coulson comes out of nowhere and downs Whitehall with a single pistol shot. Given what Whitehall did to Skye's mother, such a death is far too quick and kind. Skye's father agrees.
  • Karmic Death:
    • In "Girl in the Flower Dress", Debbie, the Centipede doctor, who experimented on people and caused them to explode, is incinerated by one of her test subjects.
    • In "Beginning of the End," Garrett, who betrayed S.H.I.E.L.D. to HYDRA and used Mike Peterson as a lab rat for techniques to save his own life, first gets beaten within an inch of his life by Mike, and then finished off by Coulson with the HYDRA beam weapon.
    • Kasius first gets hit with one of the silencing implants he uses on his slaves by Jemma and then shortly after, gets run through by Mack with his Shotgun-Axe after killing Future!Yo-yo in front of him in "Past Life".
  • Kick the Dog: Quite a few.
    • In "T.A.H.I.T.I.," Ian Quinn mocks Garrett about the agents he lost trying to track Quinn. He gets beaten down for his troubles.
    • In "Nothing Personal", The Mole shows that in addition to being a traitor, a multiple murderer, and a member of an organization founded by a Nazi, they're also sexist.
    • In "Beginning of the End", The Clairvoyant taunts killing Fitz and Simmons with heavy sarcasm.
    • In "Ragtag", Garrett orders Ward to kill a dog, just to prove a point.
  • Kidnapped Scientist:
  • Killed Off for Real: So far, each season has featured Character Deaths that have been rendered permanent
    • Season One has Dr. Debbie, Edison Po, Victoria Hand, Agent Eric Koenig, and John Garrett all confirmed dead.
    • Season Two has Isabella Harley, Senator Christian Ward, Antoine Triplett, Sunil Bakshi, Commander Robert Gonzales, Raina, Kara Palamas, Gordon, and Jaiying all confirmed dead.
    • Season Three has Rosalind Price, Luthor Banks, Kebo, Will Daniels, Grant Ward, Stephanie Malick, Lucio, Gideon Malick, Alisha Whitley, Lashnote , Giyera, Lincoln Campbell, and Hive all confirmed dead.
    • Season Four has Senator Ellen Nadeer, LMD May, Agnes Kitsworth, Director Jeffrey "The Patriot" Mace, Dr. Holden Radcliffe, and Aida all confirmed dead.
    • Season Five has Lt. Evans, Anton Ivanov, Werner von Strucker, Ruby Hale, Brigadier General Hale, Carl "Crusher" Creel, Qovas, Brigadier General Glenn Talbot, and Dr. Leopold Fitz all confirmed dead, though the original Fitz is still technically cryogenically frozen on a spacecraft somewhere up in Earth's orbit which The Team is planning on retrieving, whilst Ian Quinn, a minor antagonist from the first season, was revealed to have been absorbed into the Gravitonium courtesy of a vengeful Franklin Hall. Meanwhile, Phil Coulson, who's slowly dying thanks to the deal with Ghost Rider that cost him the Kree blood that was keeping him alive, decides to retire as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. so that he can spend what remaining time he has left to take Agent Melinda May on holiday in Tahiti.
      • The "S.H.I.E.L.D. in Space" arc also Inverted the trope since it took place in a far future where, despite the deaths of several notable characters such as Ben, Grill, Faulnak, Robin Hinton, Sinara, the entire Kree Watch, Elena Rodriguez, Kasius, and Enoch, none of them actually mattered, since The Team had successfuly prevented the event(s) leading to this dark future from ever happening.
    • Season Six sees the deaths of Damon Keller, Pax, Jaco, Agent Davis, Izel and Sarge. May takes a fatal wound from Sarge in "The Sign" and dies in "New Life", but Simmons, by her own indication, begins the process of healing May, leaving May in a coma at the end of the season. The finale also sees a hyper-advanced LMD of Phil Coulson, complete with a brain upload from before his passing, which essentially resurrects Coulson for the final season and inverts the trope.
  • Kill It with Fire: At the end of "Hot Potato Soup", the LMD's are disposed of in the incinerator at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, but the May LMD is spared, with the hope that she may lead Team Coulson to the real May.
  • Kill Me Now, or Forever Stay Your Hand: The tactic that Gonzales uses with Agent May at the end of "Afterlife", prior to offering her a spot on "real" S.H.I.E.L.D.'s board. She declines to take a shot, claiming that he wouldn't be so stupid as to really hand her a loaded gun. However, it really was loaded after all.
  • Kirk Summation:
    • In "Turn, Turn, Turn", Coulson brushes off The Clairvoyant with "This is you being a psychopath."
    • Coulson gives an epic one to Ward in "A Fractured House". Remember how Ward thought he was The Atoner? Could he not have been more wrong, and is Coulson ever pissed off!

    L 
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    • During Ward's interview in the first episode.
      Maria Hill: What does S.H.I.E.L.D. stand for, Agent Ward?
      Agent Ward: Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.
      Maria Hill: And what does that mean to you?
      Agent Ward: It means somebody really wanted our initials to spell "shield".
    • Coulson hangs a lampshade on his dramatic entrance.
      Coulson: Sorry, this corner was really dark and I couldn't help myself. [beat] I think a bulb is out or something.
    • May and Ward both argue with Coulson about his odd insistence on hiring Skye, with Ward pointing out that she's a member of an anti-S.H.I.E.L.D. terrorist group and May flatly stating that the team already has a lack of combat-ready agents.
    • "Providence" sees the use of the double-fisted "Hail HYDRA!" salute getting ridiculed by Garrett, who says it makes the user look like a cheerleader.
    • In Season 4, OF COURSE a fight between Ghost Rider and Hellfire, both characters with fire based powers, happens in a warehouse where fireworks of all kinds are stored. Lampshaded by this exchange;
      Mack: Did two fire dudes just fall into a warehouse full of fireworks?
      Coulson: You HAD to see THAT coming.
  • La Résistance: Skye regards Peruvian anti-mining rebels as this in "0-8-4" when Coulson arrives in the Peruvian countryside, fighting against perceived injustice due to the Peruvian government's willingness to exploit the countryside for natural resources. The Peruvian Army's military police soldiers were perfectly willing to kill the team and blame the rebels (even though they'd rescued them from the rebels and Coulson was their leader's ex-partner, in more ways than one) to get the device (a powerful weapon which they'd commissioned former Nazi/HYDRA scientists to build in the first place).
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In season 1, HYDRA is shown to have infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D., with Garrett, Ward, and Sitwell as confirmed double agents. In season 2, S.H.I.E.L.D. returns the favor, with Simmons among those infiltrating HYDRA.
  • Last-Name Basis: Everyone is referred to by their last name, barring personal moments, with the exception of Skye, who doesn't have a last name.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler:
    • Coulson's "death" in The Avengers.
    • The episode "Turn, Turn, Turn" ends up being one for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, provided you didn't see the movie that only opened four days earlier. In a deliberate attempt to give the audience some breathing room, the episode was aired as a rerun before the following week's new episode.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • The flight designation for "The Bus" is S.H.I.E.L.D. 616.
    • After the rocky reception the first half of the season received from critics and fans, Coulson's line about being sick of secrets and conspiracies could be seen as one.
    • May acknowledges that the team has a "small but active fanbase" in "All the Comforts of Home".
  • Legacy Character:
    • "Rag-Tag" reveals that there have been several different Deathloks before Mike, the first of whom was John Garrett.
    • Be it as a major villain (in Season 6) or an LMD (in Season 7), Coulson easily proves as far as this series is concerned that even in death he's not going anywhere.
  • Legion of Doom: "One of Us" revolves around Skye's father assembling a team of supervillains to take down Coulson's group. The villains in question are all superhumans who were imprisoned or mistreated after ending up in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Index.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: In "Failed Experiments", May decides to allow Hive and a Kree Hunter to fight to the death, with the intention that the Kree Hunter would win and kill Hive. Unfortunately, Hive wins.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Fitz and Simmons, with their constant, comfortable switching between gentle concern and indignant bickering with each other. The basic dynamic even survives Fitz's Love Epiphany towards Simmons mid-Season 1 but not the events of Season 2.
  • Little "No": Fitz gives a slow, soft one despair and denial in "FZZT," when it looks like Simmons' last hope for surviving the alien virus has failed.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Season Three will have ten main characters. Then there's all the recurring characters.
  • Location Subtitles: Every location gets the name of the area, and a quick geostamp describing where it is. Except for S.H.I.E.L.D. facilities, which inevitably get "Location: Classified."
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Due to S.H.I.E.L.D clearence levels certain information is off limits to certain people. Everything about Coulson's death is classified to even the higher up agents except Fury himself. May knew all along, but was ordered to keep it to herself and report to Fury on a secret encrypted line in case Coulson Came Back Wrong. Coulson is furious when he finds out, especially since Fitz found the encrypted line but not what it's for.
  • Lonely Bachelor Pad: Jemma Simmons' apartment during her infiltration of HYDRA is so bare that Coulson decides to risk her cover to buy her groceries.
  • Love Dodecahedron: A rather linear one. From bottom to top: Simmons crushing on Fitz, crushing on Skye, crushing on Ward, crushing on May, crushing on Coulson, crushing on Lola (and also still in love with Audrey). Fitz's crush on Skye only lasts about a week, and then he starts to reciprocate towards Simmons, who by now has attracted the attentions of Triplett, and possibly reciprocates them. Ward and May's relationship is just meaningless sex, and Ward eventually admits feeling for Skye. As of season 4, May's LMD admits to being in love with Coulson, which implies that the original May feels likewise.
  • Love Triangle: Either a Type 3 or Type 4 forms around Simmons towards the end of Season One, with Fitz and Triplett on the other two sides.
  • Lower-Deck Episode: The entire show, from the perspective of the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe.

    M 
  • Macgyvering: Fitz builds an anti-weapon blaster out of the pieces of the separatists' Overkill Device in "The Hub".
  • Magical Database: The Index, the list of all known Differently Powered Individuals and "special objects" (re: identified 0-8-4s). It's said to not be a very long list, but given the rate at which these things keep popping up, it will likely grow to be one.
  • Magitek: Devices created from blueprints provided by the Darkhold routinely violate the laws of physics, the implication being that they are powered by magic.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: In the first season it was because the story was about a small team that was expected to operate independently. Even in later seasons after SHIELD is taken apart and then rebuilt, primary cast members still do fieldwork even though their job titles would imply that they should be spending all their time handling strategic and administrative matters.
    • Justified in very early Season 2 due to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s smaller scale and the show's expanded cast, but by Season 3, the trope is in full effect. Season 4 too, but we get shades of unseen characters contributing heavily with no direct input from the main characters such as the manufacture of the Patriot's new suit, development of LMD detection, etc.
  • Mainlining the Monster: GH.325 is revealed to be extracted from an alien corpse (probably Kree) in "T.A.H.I.T.I.".
  • Mass Super-Empowering Event: Thanks to a crate of terrigen crystals being dumped into the ocean in the season 2 finale, any potential Inhuman who is exposed to nearly anything made from aquatic life has a chance of undergoing terrigenesis. A simulation predicts that the oceans will be totally saturated within 17 months.
  • MayIncatec: The Inca temple in "0-8-4" looks like it was built by Mayans, right down to the writing on the inside walls. The Incas didn't even have writing.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • In "The Asset", when Skye tries to respond to Quinn referring to S.H.I.E.L.D. as "Big Brother" by paraphrasing a story Ward had told her about his family, only to lose track of what she's saying.
      Quinn: S.H.I.E.L.D.'s against everything you stand for. They're big brother.
      Skye: Maybe, but they're the nice big brother who stands up for his helpless little brother when he's getting beat up because he ate a piece of cake that he wasn't... you know, you kidnapped a person!
    • A moment later, Quinn coincidentally says something Ward had said earlier.
      Quinn: [after Skye takes his gun] Do you have what it takes to pull the trigger?
      Skye: Nope. [jumps out the window]
    • Something that FitzSimmons says in "The Girl in the Flower Dress" gets this treatment in the season one finale.
      [after finding out Skye may have betrayed them for another Rising Tide operative]
      Fitz: Why would Skye do this to us, for him? I thought she was our friend.
      Simmons: I think she is, Fitz. He's just obviously more than that.
      [later, as Fitz is about to make a Heroic Sacrifice]
      Simmons: Why would you do this? You're my best friend in the world!
      Fitz: Yeah, you're more than that, Jemma.
  • Mêlée à Trois: Season 2 opens with no less than four factions going up against each other in various combinations: S.H.I.E.L.D., HYDRA, the US Military, and the Inhumans.
  • Memory Gambit: An involuntary one, as revealed in "Nothing Personal": One of Coulson's current drives was to find out who supervised Project T.A.H.I.T.I., since, after The Reveal that S.H.I.E.L.D. was infiltrated by HYDRA, Coulson suspected that HYDRA might have had a hand in resurrecting him and possibly using him as an asset. But then, May manages to get Coulson the file that reveals who supervised the project... and it was Coulson himself, under Nick Fury's orders. T.A.H.I.T.I. was a project designed to resurrect a fallen Avenger if worst came to worst, but Coulson not only recommended cancellation of the project, he even handed his resignation because of it. Coulson revealed that the only apparent way to be able to survive Project T.A.H.I.T.I. sane was through Fake Memories, since the process was so traumatic it'd drive the subject insane. And that's exactly what they did.
  • The Men in Black: The show has a broad B-plot of showcasing the people behind the dark suits and sunglasses. In addition to being a high-level national security outfit, teams like Agent Coulson's operate as Artifact Collection Agents (whether those "artifacts" are inanimate objects or people).
  • Messianic Archetype: Lincoln is this, in the Season 3 finale "Ascension," when he sacrifices himself to take down Hive and ensure that the warhead detonates harmlessly in outer space. The symbolism is abundant, from Lincoln releasing the cross necklace shortly before his death to justifying his sacrifice for what Hive saw as "flawed" creatures by stating that, "They're only human."
  • Mexican Standoff:
    • In "What They Become", after Skye uses the Diviner to kill a few of Whitehall's goons.
    • In "The Frenemy of My Enemy", when tensions rise upon Bakshi offering Deathlok to Mr. List as an act of good faith.
  • Mildly Military:
    • While Coulson, Ward, and May are professional S.H.I.E.L.D. field agents, Fitz-Simmons and Skye aren't. During a stake out, they break radio silence to ask if Ward left them any snacks in the van.
    • Further invoked when Fitz brings a prosciutto and mozarella sandwich along on a stealth infiltration mission; Ward throws it away because enemy tracker dogs can easily follow them by the smell.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Some average Joe gets Extremis injected into him —> a conspiracy to bring S.H.I.E.L.D. down from within.
  • The Mole:
    • "0-8-4" reveals that Skye is acting as one for the Rising Tide. However, in "Girl in the Flower Dress", it is revealed that she's just there to find out what S.H.I.E.L.D. knows about her parents.
    • In "The Asset", Dr. Hall acts as a mole within S.H.I.E.L.D. to set up his own kidnapping.
    • In "T.R.A.C.K.S." a supposedly friendly agent is on the take from The Clairvoyant's organization and sets the team up, going so far as to interrogate and torture May. The latter works out about as well for him as you would expect.
    • The end of "Yes Men" reveals that May is reporting on the team to someone, presumably the people within S.H.I.E.L.D. who brought Coulson back to life. "Turn, Turn, Turn" reveals that someone to be Director Fury himself.
    • "Turn, Turn, Turn" Ward to HYDRA. Garrett too, but given how deep HYDRA goes, he doesn't really qualify as a Mole.
    • "Making Friends and Influencing People" reveals Simmons to be another heroic example, infiltrating HYDRA (on Coulson's orders).
      • Now we know Bobbi Morse aka Mockingbird was one as well with the mission protecting Simmons.
  • Moment Killer:
    • Coulson and May are sitting in a car, waiting for a target to show himself. In the meantime, they talked, and May confesses that she had sex with Ward. There's the man! Don't lose him! The discussion about Ward had to be resumed later, when the mission was done.
    • Simmons pulls these pretty regularly when talking to the opposite sex: usually when Fitz is trying to disclose his feelings for her, but occasionally when Ward tries being nice to her unexpectedly.
  • Monster of the Week: The non-myth-arc episodes that don't have the agents pursuing a Macguffin feature a super-powered villain or phenomenon of some kind, at least at first glance. These sometimes prove to be a Bait-and-Switch.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • In "Providence", the audience is treated to a truly somber scene where Agent Koenig informs the team that Nick Fury has been shot dead by the Winter Soldier. While the team mourns, Koenig pulls Coulson aside and casually, almost jokingly, informs him that Fury survived his gunshot wounds and is chasing after HYDRA in Europe.
    • At the very end of the Season 2 finale, Fitz and Simmons talk about their feelings for each other, and it looks like they're going to go out on a date. Awwww... Moments after Fitz leaves, Simmons is absorbed into the alien artifact nearby.
  • Moral Myopia: In "T.A.H.I.T.I.", the team assault the "Guest House" facility and kill the two guards posted there. Those two people are not bad guys. They are Just Following Orders, and those orders come from Nick Fury. Sure, the team tries a peaceful approach first, and they are in a hurry because of Skye dying, but it is surprising that nobody in the team has any second thoughts about murdering two decent guys. The fact that two out of four members of the assault team were HYDRA agents trying to discover the base's secrets was part of the suspicious lack of moralizing. In fact, the HYDRA agents were the ones who did the shooting.
  • The Most Wanted: In a What Could Have Been example, the character of Barbara "Bobbi" Morse was famous enough to get her own Spin-Off called Marvel's Most Wanted in 2015, in which she and her ex-husband and partner Lance Hunter get framed and have to quit S.H.I.E.L.D. and stay undercover to find who made them the most wanted by various sides, S.H.I.E.L.D. included. The pilot was ordered, but in the end the possible series was cancelled.
  • Mouth of Sauron: Edison Po serves as the spokesperson for the Clairvoyant. After his death, Raina takes his place.
  • Movie Superheroes Wear Black:
    • When Mike finally suits up to kick some butt, it's in a black S.H.I.E.L.D. jumpsuit. Then averted when he finally becomes Deathlok; his new outfit has plenty of red and yellow.
    • Sif wears red and silver armor.
    • Averted with Mockingbird, who wears a blue and gray outfit that looks very similar to her post-Secret Invasion costume from the comics.
    • After Skye gains her superpowers she is often seen going into action dressed in black (such as during her one-woman killing spree during the rescue of Lincoln in late Season 2).
  • Mr. Fanservice:
    • Ward is attractive and tended to display his muscles for at least half of any given episode in Season 1. In "Eye-Spy", he also spends a fair amount of time in glasses that give him the look of Clark Kent. He also has a decently long scene without a shirt in "The Well", and wears only a towel in "Repairs".
    • Even though he hasn't appeared in the series, every time Thor is mentioned in the presence of a female agent, they start gushing about him.
      Ward: I don't think Thor is technically a god.
      Maria Hill: You haven't seen his arms.
    • In the episode "The Well."
      Skye: He's dreamy.
      Coulson: I know he's handsome but—
      May: No. He's dreamy.
    • Mack has some Hot Men at Work shots.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
    • Skye, starting with the "reverse interrogation". "The Asset" is another example, having her run barefoot in a low-cut dress that's been soaked by a jump into a pool, and "Girl in the Flower Dress" has a scene with her, post-sex, in just her underwear.
    • Melinda has her fan-servicey moments, like performing Tai Chi in "The Hub". She also has her own post-sex scene with Ward in "Repairs".
  • Mugged for Disguise:
    • After General Talbot is knocked out by Coulson, Triplett dons his uniform in order to infiltrate a military base.
    • In "Face the Enemy," Agent 33 knocks out Melinda and poses as her by stealing her dress and shoes.
  • Murder, Inc.: On occasion during Season 2, Coulson appears to be pushing SHIELD in that direction with the targeted assassination of HYDRA leaders. The "reputation building" aspect of the trope also appears to be at least attempted, though not very successfully.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Fitz gets hit hard with this once he regains his original memories and personality upon waking up from the Framework.
  • My Greatest Failure: The Agents of HYDRA arc reveals what this is for several of the main characters and explores what life would be like without them.
    • Coulson's apparently is ever joining SHIELD in the first place. In the Framework, he's a seemingly mild-mannered teacher who's actually a Conspiracy Theorist that opposes HYDRA, but is too frightened to actually take them on.
    • May's is killing the inhuman girl in Bahrain, (even though said girl was responsible for many deaths). In the HYDRA Framework universe where this never happened, May's greatest regret becomes saving her, as said girl ends up being responsible for a massacre at Cambridge. She even goes so far as to become nearly devout in her loyalty to HYDRA and their purge of inhumans.
    • Fitz's is the fact that his father walked out on him when he was ten. His father actually cares about him in the Framework reality, but his influence turns him into a cold-blooded murderer and a fascist leader of HYDRA. Madame Hydra's influence may also be a factor in this though, as she essentially replaced Simmons with herself in his alternate life.
    • Mack's is the fact that his daughter died in childbirth. The Framework version of Hope is alive and well and, for the most part, everything's going well for them, with the two of them living relatively normal lives. This doesn't last long, however, as they end up getting swept up in the arc's events anyways, and Mack is ultimately put in a situation where he may have to choose between his daughter and his real life back home.
    • Mace's is not being the inhuman hero he pretends to be in the real world. In the Framework, he gets to be both a real inhuman and the genuine leader of SHIELD, but because HYDRA has completely taken over this universe he primarily functions as leader of the resistance.
    • It's not confirmed by the Framework, but it's heavily implied throughout the later half of the show that Daisy feels this way about Lincoln's death.
  • Myth Arc: A few throughout the series:
    • Season 1 has Coulson's death and subsequent resurrection, which was explained as Coulson's heart simply stopping for eight seconds while Coulson repeatedly insisted it was longer than that. It's eventually revealed that Coulson was dead for days and was literally brought back from the dead by a drug derived from the blood of a Kree when Coulson is forced to solve the mystery of his resurrection by the Clairvoyant in order to Skye's life.
    • Season 1 also has Skye's parentage and why she's an 0-8-4. It's revealed in the second season that her mother was an Inhuman who was vivisected by Daniel Whitehall and then, in order to heal her, Skye's father massacred a village of people. A team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents found Skye during the attack and brought her to an orphanage with orders to have her moved around every few months to protect her. Skye's mother and father are both prominent characters throughout the second season as she becomes an Inhuman and is subsequently caught in the middle of a war between S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Inhumans.
    • Season 3 has the Monolith and the alien world it transports people to once Simmons is taken by the rock at the end of the second season. After Simmons recounts her time on Maveth, it extends to "it," the demonic entity on Maveth that is assumed responsible for the desolation of the planet. Malick reveals that the creature is an ancient Inhuman, one of the original ones created by the Kree, who was meant to control armies of Inhumans before he eventually turned on the Kree and was banished to Maveth via the Monolith. HYDRA originated as a cult of worshippers of Hive (the Inhuman) with the ultimate objective of returning Hive to Earth, but were never successful, so every person that went through the Monolith was mistakenly believed to be a ritualistic blood sacrifice, leading to the Monolith becoming known as death throughout history. It's never specified how exactly Hive turns Maveth into a barren desert planet, however, and he never actually confirms that he was responsible for this or the extinction of the alien civilization that lived on Maveth when he was transported there.
    • Season 5 has the Stable Time Loop of the destruction of Earth and what exactly caused the apocalypse leading to the Bad Future the agents find themselves in throughout the first half of the season. The endgame of the season reveals that Talbot infuses himself with gravitonium and, in an attempt to mine more to become powerful enough to defeat Thanos, he assimilates Daisy and uses her powers in conjunction with his own gravity manipulation powers to cause a magnitude 12.8 earthquake that destroys the world and wipes out most of humanity. The plot of the second half of the season revolves heavily around creating a timeline change capable of breaking the loop and averting the destruction of Earth which they eventually do when Fitz and May rescue Mack and Polly from the Remorath and Daisy uses the Centipede Serum on herself to defeat Graviton after Coulson gives it to her.
    • Season 6 has the mystery of Sarge and why he looks exactly like Phil Coulson. In "Leap", Izel and Fitz explain that Sarge's body was created when Coulson went to close the dimensional rift opened by the Monolith explosion in "The Real Deal", then was possessed by Pachakutiq, a personification of an Incan doomsday event and sent back throughout spacetime to an alien planet approximately a century ago.
  • Mythology Gag: Has its own page.

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