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Main Character Index > Villainous Organizations > HYDRA > Leadership | (Grant Ward) | Operatives | The Centipede Group


Grant Douglas Ward

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/ward_grant_douglas.jpg
"I'm not looking for mercy or absolution."

Species: Human

Portrayed By: Brett Dalton, Austin Lyon (teenager), Trenton Rogers (young)

Voiced By: Alejandro Gómez [Disney dub], Manuel Campuzano [Sony Dub] (Latin-American Spanish dub); Alejandro "Peyo" García (European Spanish dub)

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Appearances: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

"There's not enough good left inside me."

An anti-social Level Seven (formerly a Level Six) agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. who was said to have a strong moral foundation. He became a member of Agent Coulson's team that is assembled to investigate strange events around the world. However, he was really an agent of HYDRA loyal to John Garrett, who recruited him into both organizations at the same time. Following Garrett's defeat, Ward is imprisoned by S.H.I.E.L.D. in The Playground's basement prison, and is used as a source of information on HYDRA.

In the Season 2 finale, he steps up to took control of a HYDRA Cell in order to gain vengence on his former team after he accidently killed his girlfriend during an ambush he set up. By mid-season 3 however, after killing Coulson's Love Interest, Ward is brutally killed by Coulson only for his body to be used for inhuman purposes...

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Ward's deceased body became possessed by the Inhuman parasite known as Hive. See the HYDRA Leadership page for more information on him.

For his heroic counterpart in the Framework, see the Framework page.

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    A-E 
  • Abusive Parents: As bad as his brother Christian was to him, his parents were worse — to both of them. Garrett is a version of this as well. When Garrett rescued Ward from prison where he faced hard time for attempted murder, Garrett used this to act as a substitute father figure to Ward, using the connection to manipulate him and train him into the perfect double agent.
  • Accidental Murder: He accidentally kills Kara/Agent 33 at the end of Season 2.
  • Affably Evil: Even at his worst, he never loses his friendly tone or charming personality. And contrary to Garrett, it's genuine.
  • Alternate Self: In the Framework, where HYDRA rules supreme, a version of him is still alive and Daisy's — or rather Skye's — boyfriend to boot. On top of that, it turns out that this Ward is actually a good guy secretly working against HYDRA. No matter what reality it is, it seems that Grant Ward can't not be The Mole, which Simmons wastes no time lampshading when she finds out.
  • Arch-Enemy: He's this to the original Team Coulson plus Triplett, because he was "family" and betrayed them. After the climax of Season 2, where he tortured Bobbi and Kara was killed in the rescue operation, Hunter hates Ward as well and Ward now reciprocates in his hatred of S.H.I.E.L.D., wanting to see them suffer. About the only main character that Ward hasn't pissed off personally is Mack, though Bobbi has at least seemed to recognize the danger and restrained herself.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: He becomes the new head of HYDRA by simply kicking the butts of the surviving members until they acknowledge him as "director".
  • The Atoner: Ward did genuinely try to make amends and protect his brother Thomas from harm after hurting him in his youth, going so far to take drastic measures against their abusive parents in order to protect them. Unfortunately the measures he took only frightened his younger brother to run away from him, costing Grant the only member of his family he truly loved and cared for.
  • Ax-Crazy: He already suffered from an Ambiguous Disorder along with traces of self-delusion. After he accidentally kills Kara, he becomes more noticeably unhinged. It really says a lot that becoming possessed by Hive was the best thing that could have happened to him.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: As is tradition with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. He drops the habit after he reveals himself as a HYDRA mole.
  • Beard of Evil: In the first half of Season 2, he has a thick beard and is a captive HYDRA agent. His attempt at mourning his actions and being The Atoner makes it double as a Beard of Sorrow. Then he goes on the lam, sends a giftwrapped Bakshi to Director Coulson, and shaves it off.
  • Becoming the Mask:
    • After being revealed as a HYDRA mole, he admits to developing genuine feelings for Skye, to which Garrett says he regrets making him keep the cover for so long. He also claims to have genuinely cared for Fitz and Simmons.
    • He tries to specifically invoke this in Season 2, claiming that he's still a member of Coulson's team, despite the fact that in Season One he only pretended to be a member of the team to be a spy for Garrett, until he was eventually discovered. Given the horrific things he's done in addition to his well-established status as a Manipulative Bastard and Consummate Liar, no-one's buying it.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: Ward has an incredible capacity for self-delusion. Despite having killed Kara himself, he repeatedly says that S.H.I.E.L.D. murdered her.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Hinted at with Skye in the interrogation scene.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Don't mess with Skye. Don't even think about it. Though this likely isn't his Berserk Button anymore since she made it perfectly clear they'll never be a couple.
    • Don't call him a Nazi.
    • Don't compare him to his parents and older brother Christian, whom he hates — especially not to tell him he's even worse than they are.
    • Don't call him a Dirty Coward who uses his Dark and Troubled Past as an excuse for not taking responsibility for his own actions.
    • Don't threaten his younger brother Thomas.
    • Ironically being called out for his actions, especially horrific ones. As when his brother Thomas pointed out with his murder of Christian and their parents. Which makes sense, as Grant Ward has a specific view of himself.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Forms one with Malick since they are the only heads of HYDRA left in season 3.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: He takes control of HYDRA in Season 3, but all he really manages to do is provoke Coulson into killing him.
  • Big Brother Instinct:
    • According to his backstory, Ward learned how to fight in order to protect his little brother (and himself) from their big brother, who was physically abusive. He shows shades of this towards Skye, too. "FZZT" reveals that he has this towards Fitz-Simmons as well.
      Ward: How can I protect you from something I can't even see?
    • This is all revealed to be an act designed to get their trust, though he did in fact love Skye and actually care about Fitz-Simmons.
    • Twisted even further in Season 3 Episode 'Closure'. His youngest brother Thomas confirmed that Grant became way worse than both Christian and his parents, which were already bad people, yet he still thinks he is helping him.
  • Big Brother Mentor:
    • He takes Agent 33 under his wing and helps her reclaim her identity in the wake of her brainwashing at Whitehall's hands.
    • His first appearance in Season 3 is about pushing Werner von Strucker to find his inner HYDRA so he can move into his father's business.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: Lorelei. He's a normal human and she's as strong as Loki.
  • Boxed Crook: Starting off in Season 2, he provides HYDRA secrets to Team Coulson on the condition that Skye is the one he delivers them to, since it's the only way he can get her to speak with him. This was also how he was recruited into S.H.I.E.L.D. — and by extension HYDRA — by Garrett.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: Ward exploits this trope by pretending to leave Kara at S.H.I.E.L.D., claiming Coulson to be the better man to help her rebuild the life she lost to HYDRA. This, however, was part of their plan all along, allowing Kara to capture Bobbi.
  • Breakout Villain: He was going to be killed off in the first season finale, but his reveal as a HYDRA agent went so well that plans changed allowing him to be a long term Big Bad, which culminated with season 3.
  • Broken Ace: Grant Ward is cited as one of the best agents ever produced by S.H.I.E.L.D./HYRDA, being considered a top-notch combatant and a spy on par with Natasha Romanoff. However, his horrific upbringing has left him severely antisocial and unable to properly work with people.
  • Broken Pedestal: No-one takes the news that he's been Evil All Along particularly well, but the biggest and worst reactions come from Skye (for whom he was a mentor and Love Interest) and Fitz (who viewed him as the hero he'd like to be himself).
  • Cannot Spit It Out: After involuntarily throwing his brother in a well, he swears to never let anybody hurt him again, instead of just apologizing, and does it in such an extreme way it completely alienates him.
  • Canon Foreigner: He has no comic book counterpart. Turns into a Canon Immigrant in the first arc of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. comic.
  • Catchphrase: Over the course of Season 2, his watchword becomes "closure."
  • Cerebus Retcon: Everything prior to "Turn, Turn, Turn" takes a darker turn when we find out his persona was engineered to make the team trust him.
  • Character Development: Towards the end of Season 1, he was shown to be purely a follower, unable to function if he didn't have orders, however long term, to obey. Over the course of Season 2 he learns to set goals for himself and become his own man, and by the end of it he is ready to step up to a leadership role. Unfortunately, this character development didn't come with any moral development, so ultimately this means he has transitioned from being an evil minion to being an evil leader.
  • Chick Magnet: Slept with both May and Lorelei, earned Skye's affection before his true colors were revealed, and gained Kara's undying devotion.
  • Combat Pragmatist: If it can be utilized as a weapon, chances are that Ward's gonna use it against his opponent.
  • The Comically Serious: His response to a joking question that Coulson asked him? A legitimately serious answer without a hint of irony. Then Coulson injects him with a Truth Serum in order to get Skye on their side — although he later claims the serum was fake, and given it never shows up again despite its obvious uses, it probably was. Not to mention, he never let anything that might reveal his true intentions slip.
  • Consummate Liar: It comes with the territory. He claims that being drugged with Truth Serum in the pilot was a ruse, and he told Skye nothing that was above level 1. When he's hooked up to a lie detector that checks against 96 different variables, he manages to beat it by drawing on his genuine feelings for Skye to fool Koenig into thinking the machine was getting a false-positive. He also impaled one of his fingers with a paper clip, to throw off the readings a bit more.
  • Cold Sniper: Once boasted to have made a shot from two thousand feet, and we've seen him with a sniper rifle more than once. This comes in handy when assassinating Rosalind Price in Season 3.
  • Crazy-Prepared: It turns out that he lines his jackets with armor plates. They come in handy when Skye shoots him in the back.
  • Creepy Monotone: He starts speaking with one in Season 2 after claiming to have achieved some form of enlightenment during the hiatus.
  • Cunning Linguist: According to Episode 1.02, he can speak six languages.
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • Coulson mentions that Ward's anti-social tendencies aren't surprising, given his family history. This is hammered home in "The Well": his older brother was one hell of a cruel asshole even as a child.
    • It turns out that it got even worse afterwards with Ward having been targeted by Garrett, manipulated, and trained into becoming exactly what Garrett needed, using techniques that included dumping the sixteen year old in the woods alone for six months with only a dog, and ordering him to kill said dog later on as a way of teaching him that caring is weak.
    • Hell, even before Garrett he had issues. He drove a thousand miles just to try and burn his brother alive in the family home. His options after that act of attempted murder were hard time which would have darkened his psyche even more, or Garrett, which did the same but with a purpose.
  • Deader Than Dead: Months after Ward's death, his body, possessed by Hive, is annihilated in the Season 3 finale.
  • Death Seeker: During the third season, when Daisy tells Hive that she is glad Grant is dead, Hive reveals that he, in a way, is too.
  • Decoy Protagonist: A non-lethal example. Ward is the first S.H.I.E.L.D. agent we see in the pilot and set up as the co-protagonist of the show, along with Coulson and Skye, turns out he's actually a Deep Cover Agent and one of the bad guys.
  • Deep Cover Agent: In Coulson's team, for HYDRA. Everything about him was fabricated to create a different persona than his true one, right down to being a fan of the Patriots football team. In truth, he hates that team.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: At first, he prefers to work alone and resents being put on Coulson's team, but he later warms up to his teammates and even joins them on game night. He exploited this trope to give Coulson "someone to fix" and gain his trust. However, he genuinely defrosted a bit, much to Garrett's annoyance.
  • Delinquents: As a young teen, he ran away from the military school his parents sent him to, stole a car, drove it a thousand miles to get back home, and then tried to burn his house down while his older brother was still inside. Agent Garrett recruited him while he was in juvenile hall awaiting trial for attempted murder.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The death of Kara was his, as he lost all resolve at that moment and from then on was driven purely by revenge.
  • Death Seeker: According to Hive (who took possession of Ward's body after his death in "Maveth", and thus gained all of his memories and feelings too), Ward was actually glad to be dead, saying that the turmoil in his life had left Ward a man who only felt suffering while he was alive.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Was initially set up and advertised as the Big Bad for Season 3, but quickly gets Demoted to Dragon by Gideon Malick and then killed by Coulson in the mid-season finale. Hive has his memories, but is very clearly not Ward.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Flashbacks reveal that Ward finally fought back against his abusive brother by running away from military school and attempting to burn the house down with him inside. His brother survived and wanted him to be tried as an adult, while his parents didn't care.
  • The Dragon: He started out as Garrett's right-hand man.
  • Dragon Ascendant: With all of HYDRA's leadership dead by the end of Season 2, Ward seeks to take over the organization himself in order to avenge Kara's death, setting himself up as the most obvious Big Bad going into Season 3. He later forms a Big Bad Duumvirate with Malick.
  • Driven to Suicide: After Garrett's death and his own capture, he tried to kill himself at least three times.
  • Dumb Muscle: Comes off as one at first, but then we learn a bit more about him, such as the fact that he's fluent in six different languages, and quickly caught on to the suspicious behavior of the PMP officers.
  • The Empath: Due to psychological damage from his abusive parents, Ward is a rare villainous example whose overexpose to positive emotions drives him to outright murder his True Companions (which he then denies is his fault or responsibility), while exposure to negative emotions leads to loyalty and respect. After Garrett repurposed his Tykebomb mentality and then suddenly died from insanity, Ward flailed around as a Psychopathic Manchild (on the inside), growing worse with rejection from his former Team, until achieving a level of hypocrisy and sadism so twisted that the Greater-Scope Villain (who's Eldritch) considered him the best of HYDRA.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: When he gets a turn with the Asgardian Berserker Staff.
  • Entitled to Have You: Ultimately what his relationship with Skye/Daisy boils down to. In his mind, he likes her so they should be together, and even though he manipulated her and hurt/killed many of her friends, all he needs to do is prove he loves her and she should accept him as he is. He does eventually accept she's not going to forgive him when she responds to his attempt at 'rescuing' her from HYDRA (after kidnapping her and handing her over to them) by shooting him, but only because he now has Kara to obsess over.
  • Escape Artist: Can slip handcuffs fairly easily.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • He tries to convince Skye that, despite being a HYDRA plant and lying "to everyone about everything", his feelings for her are genuine. She doesn't buy it.
    • He genuinely seems to have developed a loving relationship with Kara, given that he walked right into Coulson's hands when Deathlok napped her. Coulson even names this as a reason why he thinks that he isn't completely beyond redemption. He leaves Kara with S.H.I.E.L.D., recognizing that's he's not a good influence on her and wanting her to recover her past. Which turns out to be a foul play, but the trope is still played straight, as him accidentally killing her emotionally shatters him.
    • In spite of everything, he still cares about his younger brother Thomas all along. Too bad Thomas is still afraid of him and has no problem with letting Team Coulson take him down. Especially when he found out that Ward had brutally murdered their older brother and parents in a fire.
    • When Garrett ordered him to kill FitzSimmons, he did so with reluctance. Fitz screamed that he knew Ward cared about them, and Ward said he did, admitting it was a weakness.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Ward seemed rather disgusted when he saw Garrett murder a Marine Corps general by using his broken rib to stab him in the neck. He's also clearly upset that he had no choice but to lock up the other officers, saying that Garrett's actions weren't necessary.
    • He also takes offense when Skye calls him a Nazi.
    • He keeps his promise to not shoot down the Bus when Skye agrees to go with him in "... Ye Who Enter Here". Too bad Whitehall pulls rank on him.
  • Evil All Along: Implied when he reveals his true colors in "Turn Turn Turn", and confirmed in "Ragtag" when we learn that Garrett recruited him for HYDRA years before he became a Double Agent inside S.H.I.E.L.D.
    • Word of God is that hints were dropped about his true colors all season. Of note is the scene from "Yes Men" when he fights with May while under the spell of Lorelei, ending with them both on the floor and having a gun to her head; the way the scene is edited, it implies he pulled the trigger after he was released from her control.
  • Evil Counterpart:
    • He may or may not have had one in his older brother, but if Christian was the worse brother when they were younger, then as time went on the polarity was reversed. Both of them grew up to be lying liars (though Ward refuses to lie to Skye, either about how HYDRA works or about her father), though suffice it to say lying is part of Senator Ward's job description, whereas Grant Ward is simply manipulative; also Christian is a Senator, while Grant chose to side with HYDRA, if only because Garrett did as part of his own ultimate plans.
    • In naming himself the "Director" of HYDRA, Ward seems to be making himself a counterpart to Coulson, and his new structure for HYDRA seems to be based on principles he picked up while he was undercover with S.H.I.E.L.D.
    • When his tenure as "Director" ended with his group dismantled thanks to the efforts of three agents. Due to his lack of training as a leader or experiance. He played to his strengths and became the second to the true power of HYDRA. Effectively become this to May. His former teammate and one time lover.
  • Evil Duo: In the latter half of Season 2 with Agent 33.
  • Evil Feels Good: In "Maveth", after trying to justify his evil actions Ward felt a true sense of purpose.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Late in season 2 Coulson tries to request his assistance for help in locating and ultimately fighting HYDRA. While there are some short-term benefits to this, things eventually wind up much, much worse for everyone involved. Not that Coulsen had much choice in the matter.
  • Evil Mentor: To Werner von Strucker in the same way Garrett was to him; physical abuse mixed with verbal encouragement about how much greater he can become.
  • Exact Words: He's skilled at saying something that a mark will interpret as "A" when he means "B".
    • In "The Only Light in The Darkness" he convinces Eric Koenig that he came to Providence "for Skye". Eric interprets this as him having feelings for her (which he does), but he's really there to capture her on Garrett's orders.
    • In "Writing on the Wall" he tells Bakshi that he can get the man "close enough to Coulson to put a bullet in his head". Bakshi thinks this means delivering Coulson to him on a silver platter, when in fact, it was the other way around. He lampshades this during a phone call with Skye.
  • Expy: He has two from a previous Joss Whedon show.
    • An ally that becomes a deadly enemy, with a penchant for psychological torture and mind games and an obsession with the lead heroines of the show who kills the love interest of The Mentor and leading authority figure? Angelus says hi.
    • A human being who turned to the dark side; a troubled and violent teenager from an unhappy, abusive background who developed misguided loyalty to an evil father figure who manipulated them and encouraged and exploited their murderous tendencies and skills. Ward is like an unredeemed Faith who continued to work for the Mayor for 15 years. The difference between the two is that while originally both refused to accept blame or responsibility for their actions. Faith , unlike Ward finally did leading to her redemption in the rain.

    F-M 
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Gets his chest caved in, fairly slowly, by Coulson.
  • Forced to Watch: As a child, Ward's elder brother dropped their younger brother down a well. He was forced to watch their brother struggle to tread water and hear his pleas for help, but could not drop him the rope. If he did, the elder brother threatened that he would join their brother in the well. Ward says it was the first time he ever truly felt hate. He later claims that he was also forced to personally beat his younger brother. In Season 3 said brother makes it clear however that Grant went way overboard with how he tried to protect him and became much worse than both Christian and his abusive parents.
  • Foreshadowing: Ward does a very convincing job of faking the effects of a Truth Serum. Late in the season, it is revealed that he has been lying about his allegiance, working for HYDRA all along.
  • For Want of a Nail: Both versions of Ward were Boxed Crooks who were given an offer to join S.H.I.E.L.D. and accepted it. The agent that recruited him then became his mentor who he learned his life lessons from and modeled himself after. The only difference is which agent it was. Ward in the real world was recruited by John Garrett, and thus became a villain and a mole for HYDRA just like Garrett. Ward in the Framework was recruited by Victoria Hand, and thus became a good person... And a Reverse Mole, because some things never change.
  • Freudian Excuse: Ward's Abusive Parents and Big Brother Bully helped shape him into the man he chose to be, as did Garrett's brutal tutelage. Though Team Coulson point out that this is not an excuse for him to get away with everything he did. As well as his brother pointed out that in the end Ward had a tendency to never take responsibilty for his actions and choices, refusing to accept that his actions in the end were his own.
  • Godzilla Threshold: For Coulson in the second half of Season 2, he is their "Bad Option" because they're out of good ones. While going after the remaining HYDRA figureheads still unaccounted for, Coulson says to Hunter and Deathlok that he has go and get Ward to find Dr. List, the HYDRA scientist they are looking for.
  • Hannibal Lecture: He tries to do it to Skye, only for her to be smart enough to first shut it down instantly, then actively play on it to make sure he has no more information than he's already given.
  • Heartbroken Badass: Getting tricked into killing his own girlfriend made him become the new leader of HYDRA in order to get revenge on S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • The Heavy: Despite never making it to Big Bad status, he is nonetheless the most recurring threat throughout the series, until his death in the Season 3 mid-season finale, and definitely the one the heroes have hated the most so far.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Is often seen dressed casually wearing a leather jacket, which visually contrasts with his status as a One-Man Army. Continues this trend into Season 3 as HYDRA's new leader.
  • Hero Killer: Has killed the most named heroically aligned characters on the show, including Victoria Hand, Eric Koenig, and Rosalind Price. Furthermore, he successfully tortures and comes very close to killing Bobbi, likely the team's biggest badass (and Hunter as well, for that matter). While he ultimately fails in killing her, he succeeds in heavily injuring her to the point of breaking her morale in her job. It's unlikely Bobbi has ever faced anything else like that in her career.
  • Hidden Depths: As shown in Mama's Boy below, he's softer than he lets on. He's also not as dumb as you may believe. A good example of this is in the episode "FZZT" when he imitates Simmons' imitation of himself. Very hidden. He's a HYDRA agent.
  • Honey Trap: He had a sexual relationship with May as part of his cover during the first season. As you might expect, making May a Woman Scorned didn't go well for him.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: He says his canine companion, Buddy, is "better than human" because he's "smart, loyal, and trustworthy." Given his family history and the people he works for, it's easy to see where he's coming from. Garrett then confirms this by ordering him to kill Buddy.
  • Hypocrite: Apparently people like Bobbi who betray those who trusted them should be punished without mercy for closure. The fact that Bobbi did not actually betray Kara willingly unlike himself is not brought up by him. The fact that he spends half an episode ranting at her that she deserves her torture and worse for her betrayal while believing himself blameless for his own is ironic but in character.
  • Ignored Epiphany: In Season Two, he claims he realized he was wrong to give all his loyalty to Garett. Then in Season 3, he turns Werner into his pupil using Garrett's methods.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Uses a silver plate as a shield and throwing object, in a manner like Captain America!
  • Improvised Weapon: Against himself when he's Driven to Suicide following his actions in the first season. He breaks the buttons on his pants and uses the sharp edges to cut his wrists. When this fails and he's given buttonless pants, he rips pages out of books and folds the paper until the corners are sharp enough to do the job. This fails too and his reading material is taken, causing him to ram his head into a wall until he's forcibly sedated. This would explain his Beard of Sorrow, since he obviously wouldn't be allowed near a metal razor.
  • Ironic Hell: Ward spent the entire season lying and manipulating his former comrades. Therefore, it's only fitting that he ends up getting his throat crushed by May, rendering him temporarily mute.
  • It Meant Something to Me: After being outed as a HYDRA agent, he claims that his feelings for Skye were real. Instead of being touched by this, she's sickened.
  • It's All About Me:
    • When Skye calls him out on being a lying murderous traitor, he goes on an angry rant about how hard it was to keep his cover up.
    • In Season 2, he wants forgiveness from the Team for his misdeeds, yet he refuses to grant any to his older brother Christian. In fact he murders him, right after he gets him to confess that he made Grant torture their younger brother.
    • According to his family this is a signature trait - he warps every situation so it's always about how he is the one to be pitied.
  • It's Personal: After Kara's death, Ward is obsessed with revenge against Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D. His reconstruction of HYDRA is less about actually wanting to be the new head of HYDRA and more about using it to get revenge. The enmity between Ward and Team Coulson was already personal on the S.H.I.E.L.D. side, due to Ward pretending to be their friend and betraying their trust. The fact he attempted to kill Fitz-Simmons and May, and managed to kill fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. agents only adds to their enmity towards him.
  • It's Personal with the Dragon: While he is usually working for or with someone else, most of Team Coulson have reasons to hate him more than the actual Big Bad of a given season.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: He admits he cares about Fitz-Simmons then dumps them in the ocean without a second thought, and really can't understand why Team Coulson refuses to take him back into their fold after that, acting like being a HYDRA mole wasn't any different from a night of drunken stupidness. The Season 2 finale leaves little doubt that he is beyond redemption; his "love" for Kara was mainly indoctrinating her into his idea for closure - and he dropped her off in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, not so she would be rehabilitated but so she could kidnap Bobbi and he and Kara could torture her together. When Kara dies during Hunter and May's rescue attempt, Ward refuses to accept any responsibility for his beloved's death and uses it as an excuse to go after his former S.H.I.E.L.D. teammates.
  • Just Following Orders: When dumping Fitz-Simmons into the ocean in an airtight container, he admits to them that it's not because he wants to, but because he has to.
    Fitz: You care about us!
    Ward: I do. That's a weakness.
  • Karmic Death: After so long of whining about how all his evil is justified and nothing is his fault, he finally realizes just how petty it all was and feels a true sense of purpose for the first time... just in time for Coulson to slowly crush the life out of him.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Literally, as Garrett ordered Ward to kill his dog after being accepted to a S.H.I.E.L.D. academy to demonstrate his lack of "weakness". He lets it go... And then he kills his pet.
    • Also done with Fitz-Simmons by dropping them out of the plane midflight in an airtight container. This demonstrates that his villainness is greater than his friendship with them.
    • Has Jemma tortured so Fitz can hear her scream and force him to help them use the portal safely. However he has one of his minions do it so he can remain blameless.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Betraying Bakshi to Director Coulson, and later tying up a loose end with his parents from all those years ago—not just involving arson but finally exposing them for the heartless, abusive shits that they really were.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: Done to Bobbi in the Season 2 finale, hard enough to break bone in her leg.
  • Killed Off for Real: Ward finally kicks the bucket at the end of "Maveth" when Coulson crushes his heart in with his prosthetic hand. However, "It" comes out of the alien portal assuming the form of Ward in The Stinger.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Once his true colors are revealed, he becomes one of the darkest villains on the show.
  • Lack of Empathy: Inverted. As Daisy puts it, his problem isn't that he doesn't feel anything, he feels too much.
  • Lady and Knight:
    • After losing his "liege lord", so to speak, he decides to become Skye's Dark Knight by keeping his promise to her, slaying dragons like Bakshi, and protecting her from villains like Whitehall. However, she refuses to be his Bright Lady and shoots him in the back.
    • "Love in the Time of HYDRA" sees him become this for Agent 33 A.K.A Kara. He becomes a pillar of strength for her, finds someone to repair her damaged mask, helps her rediscover her identity, and manhandles Bakshi (again), and all seemingly without ulterior motive; he even rejects sexual favors when she used Skye's face. Kara, for her part, is much more willing to be his Bright Lady (or Dark Lady as the case may be).
  • The Lancer:
    • Acts as Coulson's Number Two and is a straight man to his Silent Snarker. As May becomes more of this, he slips into The Big Guy role because of his interrogation methods and preference for solving the problem by punching out the person responsible.
    • Then he flipped switches and was revealed to actually be The Dragon to John Garrett.
  • The Leader: As the new leader of HYDRA, Ward has shades of Mastermind (likes to be prepared, and favors plans), Headstrong (is usually on the front line, and emphasizes bravery and worthiness) and Charismatic (has successfully turned numerous recruits, including Werner von Strucker, into his loyal followers). Then his lean, mean, "worthy" HYDRA gets taken out by three or four people. This shows that while he is a highly skilled agent and operator a good leader these traits do not automatically make. In the end he decides to play to his strengths and agrees to be Malick's second in command.
  • Likes Older Women: So far, the only woman he's shown being consensually physically intimate with is Agent May (at least 15 years his senior, if the actors' ages are anything to go by). Subverted when it's revealed he found seducing her to be the most efficient method to gain her trust. Whatever his actual preferences are, this was just part of the mission.
  • Love Is a Weakness: Garrett taught him that any form of compassion or sentiment is weakness. It's part of the reason why he rejects Fitz's olive branch at a chance of redemption.
  • Love Makes You Crazy:
    • Ward was unbalanced before he met Skye but with Garrett's death the only thing he has driving him is his fixation on Skye. Then she shot him in the back in "What They Become" and now he's fixated on Kara. Then he accidentally shot her, due to being tricked by May, and now returns to HYDRA.
  • Love Redeems:
    • This is an Invoked Trope in season 2. There, Ward is actively helpful to Team Coulson so he can endear himself to Skye and tells her such. He goes so far as to sever any ties he had with HYDRA so he can provide them with a high ranking member to interrogate and comments that he is going to continue to do so.
    • After meeting Kara, his every action was devoted towards helping her heal from her brainwashing. Coulson tells him his genuine affection for her is proof that he is becoming something that approaches a decent human being. It was his love for Kara that made losing her painful enough to drive him back to HYDRA, thus making this an inverted trope as well.
    • His Framework counterpart became The Mole for the resistance after learning his lover Skye was a latent Inhuman.
  • Mad Bomber: When he escapes from custody he realizes that Bobbi is trailing him. When they end up on a bus, he reveals his duffle bag is filled with explosives that he'll set off if she still tries to follow him.
  • Mama's Boy:
    • When Skye is questioning him on Truth Serum, she asks him if he's killed anyone. Yes, but they were all terrible people and afterward he felt really bad about it and does his grandmother know about this?
      Ward: [pout] Grammsy?
    • Totally averted with Ward's feelings towards his actual mother, who abused him. He even murders her (along with his father and older brother) in Season 2.
  • Manipulative Bastard: He managed to play the entire team and they never suspected that he was a HYDRA double agent.
  • Master Actor: He lived and worked with Team Coulson for months without any of them catching on to his real loyalties. In Season 2, he even managed to convince Coulson that he was willing to leave Kara with S.H.I.E.L.D. to help her, making Coulson believe that maybe Ward wasn't beyond redemption. This was as much of an act as his S.H.I.E.L.D. agent persona.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • To "ward" means to defend, which goes hand in hand with being an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
    • It is also used as a suffix to indicate direction or bias. Which becomes important as he goes from acting in a S.H.I.E.L.D.-ward manner to a HYDRA-ward one, inverting the first example in the process.
  • The Mole:
    • He has been working for Garrett and HYDRA his entire career in S.H.I.E.L.D.
    • It appears he just can't help himself, since the version of him in the Framework, where HYDRA rules supreme, is a mole secretly working for La Résistance. Simmons lampshades this.
  • Moral Myopia: In his mind, all of his actions are justified, and actions against him are unforgivable.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Provides the male eye candy in the main cast. Skye comments on his "firmness", and ogles him with some X-ray glasses in the stinger of "Eye Spy".
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: His true loyalty is to Garrett, not HYDRA itself, and was very eager to get away from HYDRA once Garrett had the cure, much to Garrett's annoyance. He gets an earful on this point in "The Beginning of the End", as he proves incapable of dealing with the situation when Garrett goes nuts. As Coulson points out, he gave all his loyalty to a narcissistic psychopath.
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  • Necessarily Evil: Under truth serum, he said that he feels "very bad" about killing "terrible people." It's later revealed that S.H.I.E.L.D. has no truth serum and that he feels nothing at all over killing people, terrible or otherwise.
  • Never My Fault:
    • It's his main character flaw. He blames other people for more or less everything he's done, except when talking to Skye. Even when he says he's taking responsibility for his actions, he takes no responsibility for the factors that led him to take those actions in the first place. His brother eventually gives this a Lampshade Hanging.
      Christian Ward: Spare the not-apology. I'm a senator.
    • Bobbi Morse accurately pinpoints that his desire for "closure" is just a way of projecting his failings onto other people. When he reforms HYDRA with himself in charge, it's because he wants vengeance on S.H.I.E.L.D. for Kara's death - a death which could have been prevented if he hadn't indoctrinated her into seeking "closure" and had genuinely reformed her instead.
    • Further confirmed by Thomas Ward who backed up Christian's assessment that Ward always blames others for his 'bad' actions, and never admits his own role in them or taking the blame.
    • Taking to extremes in Season 3 when he declares war on S.H.I.E.L.D. for killing Kara. Even when it was his actions, including kidnapping Bobbi and attempting to murder May which lead to Ward himself killing Kara. However as been pointed out as per usual he takes no responsibility for his actions, even going so far to declare to his brother that S.H.I.E.L.D. personally killed the woman he loved.
  • No Social Skills: Maria Hill gave him the lowest rating in this department, even drawing a small porcupine (which Coulson mistook for a "little poop with knives sticking out of it") on his assessment sheet. He's actually very adept at reading and manipulating people, and only pretended to have No Social Skills to appeal to Coulson's instinct to take in and rehabilitate strays.
  • Not Brainwashed: In regards to his service to Garrett. He did all that bad stuff of his own free will.
  • Nothing Personal: In "Nothing Personal", he says this about being a HYDRA agent. It really pisses Skye off. Also his general attitude towards Team Coulson concerning their antagonistic relationship in Season 2. This changes after the finale when May tricks him into killing Kara: Now It's Personal.
  • Not So Different: In "A Fractured House", Coulson caps off his "The Reason You Suck" Speech by saying that he may very well be just like Christian.
    Coulson: Your brother saw the same angles. Maybe you two are more alike than you think.
  • Not So Stoic: He usually drops his characteristic stoicism when not on missions, like when he opens up to Skye about his brother or when he expresses his disappointment at losing to her in Battleship. Then there's his encounter with the Berserker Staff: To say that it had an unpleasant effect on him would be an understatement. Just touching one piece of it sends him into a rage for hours, resulting in him, among other things, yelling at Skye when she tries to calm him down.
  • Not Worth Killing: Decides this of Simmons after seeing how much she had changed since threatening him.
  • Omniglot: Is said to speak six languages.
  • One-Man Army: He sees himself as the "whole solution" and is annoyed to find that half the team isn't as combat capable as he is.
  • One Riot, One Ranger: He was trained to be "the whole solution" and it shows whenever he gets into a fight. He makes a habit of demolishing entire teams of operatives, whether private security or other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.
  • Only a Flesh Wound:
    • In the pilot, he denies that Coulson's syringe hurt him... until its truth serum takes effect and Ward admits "Yes, that did hurt, but I mask my pain in front of beautiful women to preserve my masculinity."
    • He barely reacts to a shallow bullet wound in "0-8-4". It's not until a few hours after the firefight that anyone else even knows about it. Skye freaks out upon seeing it, but Ward doesn't see what the problem is, since it's not killing him.
  • Only Sane Man: Though he didn't know that Skye was The Mole for the Rising Tide at the time, he was the only member of the team to suggest that letting the girl who hacked into the S.H.I.E.L.D. system on the team wasn't a good idea.
    • In retrospect, as The Mole himself, he didn't like having an unknown variable thrown into the mix. Considering that she's the one person on the team he developed real feelings for, he was right.
  • Order Reborn: He's rebuilding HYDRA in Season 3 into a lean meritocracy that cares nothing for heritage. "Worthiness" is everything. He's also trying to make it more of an Evil Counterpart to S.H.I.E.L.D., having his lieutenants call him "Director".
  • Overarching Villain: The most recurring and consistent villain of the show. Even after his death, his body (along with the memories) is taken over by Hive and then later a virtual version of him is encountered by Daisy in the Framework, although that Grant Ward is a heroic character.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: He justifies his kill count by saying they were "terrible people." Later subverted when he turns out to be a HYDRA mole and has no problem killing good people, either.
  • Perma-Stubble: As of "Providence" as an early form of Beard of Evil.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • He claims in "Making Friends and Influencing People" that dumping Fitz-Simmons into the ocean was been intended to give them a fighting chance while making it look like to Garrett he killed them. Unfortunately, because of the trauma they suffered as a result, neither Fitz nor Simmons agree that this was a kindness.
    • He also lets Simmons live after an attempt on his life from her, claiming that he is disappointed in her.
  • Playing Both Sides: During Season 2. He has betrayed both S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA and went on the run from both.
  • Playing the Victim Card: One of his major issues. It becomes clear that he reinterprets anything that happens to him so that he can be the persecuted party.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Once his cover's blown he reveals himself as a bit sexist, commenting that a lot of people lost faith in Nick Fury when Maria Hill was made his lieutenant; if Fury wanted "eye-candy", he suggests Black Widow would've done just as well. Though given the context, this could have been an attempt to distract Hill.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Most of his seemingly benevolent actions in the first seventeen episodes (including saving Simmons' life) could be seen this way—all to gain the trust of Team Coulson. He even discusses this notion with Garrett in the eighteenth episode "Providence", and also with Raina.
    Ward: I jumped out of a plane.
    Raina: Out of a plane?
    Ward: I had a parachute.
  • Put on a Bus: At the end of the first season, he is taken into custody by the U.S. military. Word of God has stated that they decided not to kill him off because they feel there's more left to tell with his story. Sure enough, he returned for the second season and then the third. Even the fourth season has an appearance from him.
  • Rank Up: Villainous example. Goes from deep-cover mole to Director of HYDRA.
  • Reality Ensues: Betray your team, willingly join a terrorist group, attempt to kill some of your teammates, actually kill fellow agents and a high ranking member of S.H.I.E.L.D; just like in real life, unless there was extenuating circumstances like mind control, then you will get locked up for treason and murder for the rest of your life. Either that or given to the US Government as a good will gesture. You will not be let back on the team you tried to kill, or back in the organisation you betrayed no matter the intelligence or skills you have.
  • Redemption Rejection:
    • Fitz believes that Ward still has some good in him, and tries to make him see he doesn't owe Garrett anything. Ward responds by confirming that Fitz is right about their friendship, but Ward sees that as a weakness and ejects him and Simmons from the Bus into the ocean.
    • In Season 2, Coulson offered him the chance to go through the Tahiti program so he can have a fresh start at life. He rejects it for his own selfish reasons.
  • Red String of Fate: He believes he and Skye are bound by this. He knows he's a monster and Raina leads him to believe that Skye is destined to become one as well. When she does, they can be monsters together. He eventually abandons this thinking mid-Season 2, as he recognizes that her shooting him means she'd never go along with it.
  • Replacement Flat Character: His straight-laced personality greatly resembles Coulson from before his development in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. As noted elsewhere, his entire persona was a construct deliberately designed to win the trust of the people on Coulson's team.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: In Season 2, he is obsessed with "closure". He appears to define this as confronting those who he perceives as having wronged him (or someone he cares about), torturing them until they confess their sins, and only then killing them. Because of their role in the death of his lover Kara, he began seeking closure with S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • Self-Made Orphan: He becomes this (with the additional murder of his brother Christian) in "The Things We Bury".
  • Shipper on Deck: Despite the fact that Ward was planning on killing FitzSimmons, Ward encouraged Fitz to tell Simmons how he felt about her, if only so that they would die without any regrets.
  • Sink-or-Swim Mentor: He is willing to induct and mentor anyone into his personal HYDRA, so long as they prove their "worthiness" to him, and this test is usually painful and/or dangerous.
  • Social Darwinist: He starts spouting such beliefs in Season 3, feeling that HYDRA fell because most of the prior leadership got where it did because of money or heritage rather than on personal merit. He makes it a point of recruiting those that have proven themselves through their own merit for the new HYDRA.
  • The Sociopath: Ultimately subverted. He is a Consummate Liar who doesn't even blink while casually betraying, torturing or killing people, but he is capable of feeling empathy and even love. Ward is aware of his heinous actions and the fact he is hurting people. He even feels guilt for doing them, but as his brother points out, he justifies his actions by blaming his victims, so he can stay blameless in his own mind. Daisy deduced that his problem isn't that he doesn't feel anything, he feels too much.
  • Spot the Imposter: Turns out he's not so good at this, and ends up killing Kara while she has May's face.
  • Stalker with a Crush: After escaping from USA federal custody, he acts like this around Skye. He tells her he's watching her, calls her with unknown numbers and leaves little presents that involve dead bodies. Once she shoots him in the back in "What They Become", he finally gets the message that it's not mutual, as he tells Agent 33 in "Love in the Time of HYDRA" when she tries to have hanky panky with him while wearing Skye's face. He says "I'm not crazy", because he'd have to be delusional to think he and Skye still have a future.
  • Start of Darkness: His path to villainy began when he was forced to push his younger brother Thomas into a well. He then told Thomas that he'd make sure his brother would never be hurt again to the point where he tried to burn the house down with his bully brother and abusive parents inside. Then Garrett found him and did the rest...
  • Stealth Expert: According to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s ratings, his espionage scores are the highest since Agent Romanoff. Which, in hindsight, was a clue to his true character.
  • The Stoic: He generally has a calm, collected reaction to most situations, whether it's taking on a group of armed guards or dealing with a Tesseract weapon that will kill him and the rest of the team if it blows.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: In the Season 1 finale. Taunts Skye that she is as bad as he is and threatens to simply take what he needs from her. During the fight with May he keeps taunting her, leading to her crushing his larynx just to shut him up. He gets worse in Season 2.
  • Torture Technician: He does one hell of a job torturing Bobbi in the Season 2 finale, and in "Closure", he tortures Simmons.
  • Tragic Villain: Ward was already on a dark path, but Garrett's abusive tutelage is what really set his path in stone. Imagine what might have happened if someone willing to help him had found him in juvenile hall. Such as Victoria Hand, as the Framework shows. Essentially, one good mentor figure was all Ward would have needed to become a good man.
  • The Unfavorite: The only one of the Ward brothers who wasn't regularly abused by their mother was Thomas, the youngest.
  • Villain-by-Proxy Fallacy: His need for 'closure' may fall into this. Bobbi flat out states that there will always be someone he or his people need to seek 'closure' with, because that way he never has to take responsibility for his own role in screwing up his life.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • He has a nasty one between seasons one and as the full weight of his betrayal hits him. He tried to kill himself several times before he was able to come to terms with it and offer information on HYDRA.
    • He has another one in the Season Two finale, when Bobbi won't crack under his torture.
    • He gets another in Season 3, when his brother Thomas gives him an epic Kirk Summation telling him despite how horrible Christian and their parents were Grant is worse than they ever were.
  • Villainous Crush: Towards Skye. Before Skye finds out about Ward's true allegiances, the feeling is mildly reciprocated. Afterwards, she's disgusted. Ward's feelings linger until halfway through Season 2, where he finally gives up on any kind of relationship with Skye after she shoots him in the back.
  • Villain Protagonist: Much of the pilot episode is from his point of view but the audience does not known of his villainous nature until much later.
  • Villains Never Lie: Deceive, perhaps, but never lie. This is why Skye agrees to come along as a hostage in "Ye Who Enter Here", because he kept his word that the Bus would be spared. Whitehall would have none of it, though, and orders Agent 33 to have the Bus blown out of the sky.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Though Garrett is his mentor instead of his father, the fierce devotion Ward shows him definitely gives off this vibe. In fact, his loyalty is exclusively towards Garrett and not towards either of S.H.I.E.L.D. OR HYDRA's ideologies. He says he always thought his and Garrett's association with HYDRA was only a means to find a way to heal Garrett's wounds and that they would go their own way once that objective was completed.
  • We Used to Be Friends:
    • His role in Season 2. Instead of killing him off (as was originally planned) or otherwise writing him out of the series, the writers chose to keep his character as part of the core cast, albeit in a slightly reduced capacity. In practice, this means having him held prisoner on Playground base itself, so that S.H.I.E.L.D. can use him for inside information on HYDRA.
    • While Coulson, May, Skye, and Fitz have all made it clear that the trope title very much applies to their feelings towards him, Ward insists that he genuinely regrets his actions and wants to help. They didn't buy it. Turns out their mistrust was justified as he uses their limited trust in him to insert Kara into their care so he can later kidnap Bobbi and brutally torture her. Though as revealed in "S.O.S." he was telling the truth about one thing, he misses being on a team; just not Coulson's.
  • Wild Card: For the first half of Season 2 until Daisy shoots him, never having a constant allegiance to both HYDRA and S.H.I.E.L.D. He first tries manipulating Daisy into setting him free, then after escaping drops a bound and gagged Bakshi for S.H.I.E.L.D. to find, which he later kidnaps back. He helps Whitehall capture Daisy, but does so in order to reunite her with her father (unwillingly or not) and then sides with her against the man and his troops in the ensuing standoff.
  • Would Hit a Girl: He's not above hitting women when the situation requires it, but only to the extent that is necessary. Averted with his vicious fight with May, where he attempts to use a Bench Saw on her, while taunting her about their previous sexual positions.
    • In the Season 2 finale, he brutally tortures Bobbi (with the assistance of Kara) and when she tries to escape, beats her to a pulp and breaks her knee. Of course she's way more skilled than he is (and that's saying something), so it's an accomplishment for him.
    • In the same episode, he shoots May right in the gut at point blank range. It ends up actually being his girlfriend Kara...
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: In Season 2, he seems to be trying to turn himself into The Atoner, but he's an accomplished liar and also slightly unhinged, so it's hard to tell how sincere he is. He doesn't seem to get that he can't atone on his own terms, and he genuinely seems to think that Skye will eventually forgive him for killing a bunch of innocent people, betraying S.H.I.E.L.D., and mentally crippling Fitz if he tries really hard. Coulson eventually tells Ward that he'll never be forgiven for his various crimes and that the only reason they keep him around is for information.
  • You Are in Command Now: At the end of Season 2, after all of HYDRA's heads have been cut off by S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers, he takes over the dregs as the only person with any semblance of authority in the organization.
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