Spoilers for all works set prior to Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame are unmarked.
Agent Melinda Qiaolian May
Portrayed By: Ming-Na Wen
Voiced By: Sonia Casillas [Disney dub], Irina Índigo [Sony Dub] (Latin-American Spanish dub), Izabel Lira (Brazilian Portuguese dub).
Appearances: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. | Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Slingshot
A highly experienced agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. who is an Ace Pilot and weapons expert. She is a member of Agent Coulson's team that is assembled to investigate strange events around the world and easily one of the strongest characters in the series. With Coulson now Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., May functions as his Number Two in the fight against HYDRA.
- Aborted Declaration of Love: During her explanation of why she kept TAHITI a secret from Coulson, she almost let it slip that her feelings for Coulson might be deeper than their friendship.May: I did it for you, to protect you! I ... You mean a lot to me. A lot.
- Ace Pilot: She serves as the pilot for the team, though early in Season One a few team members were skeptical as to whether or not this is all Coulson had planned for her, given her fame within S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Action Girl: So much so that her nickname is "The Cavalry", even if she claims to hate being called that. Initially, she joined the team on the condition that she was only there to pilot the plane and provide nominal support. But after a few close scrapes, she eventually volunteers for field combat duty. "Repairs" and "Melinda" reveal May's reluctance because she once rescued a S.H.I.E.L.D. team single-handedly, hence "The Cavalry" nickname, but is haunted by the memory of having to kill a young Inhuman girl mind-controlling the team.
- Affectionate Nickname: Just as Fury called Coulson his one good eye, Coulson calls May his right hand after losing the other one.
- Agony of the Feet: In "Beginning of the End", May nailguns The Mole's foot to the floor to end their fight. Several times.
- Alliterative Name: Melinda May.
- Almighty Janitor: It's hinted she's a famous and very experienced agent who decided to step away from the field for a desk job, and now officially is just the pilot of the team's jet. She eventually moves out of this role, becoming Coulson's right-hand and an active field agent again.
- Anguished Declaration of Love: In Season 5, May finally tells Coulson that she loves him during their argument about his impending death, figuring it will shut him up.
- Anti-Hero: She's firmly on the side of good, but she occasionally does some less-than-heroic things, such as mercilessly beating up the imprisoned and combat-incapable Ian Quinn after he shoots Daisy. To be fair, he did shoot Daisy.
- Apologetic Attacker: May of all people gets to do this when she is about to knock out a bank manager, although she doesn't manage to sound very sincere.
- Apron Matron: After the revelation that May became/becomes Robin's adoptive mother in the original timeline, Daisy suggests that she was a "strict, hard-ass mom". Unamused, May gives her a "Mom look" which Daisy immediately said proved her point.
- Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Downplayed, but there. May is not prone to bragging, but if you place her skills in doubt, she'll gladly tell you how badly you'll get your ass kicked before proceeding to do exactly that.
- Back from the Dead: As of "Uprising", May qualifies, after Simmons and Radcliffe induce minimum brain activity before reviving her to "reboot" her brain to stop a certain hyperactivity caused by a ghost. Coulson says that they should start a club.
- Badass Boast:
- Badass Family: Her mother is a Retired Badass secret agent.
- Badass in a Nice Suit:
- She wears a pantsuit in "Ragtag" when she's disguised as a businesswoman.
- Also in "Melinda" during the incident that earned her the nickname "The Cavalry".
- Badass Normal: Generally regarded as the most dangerous fighter on the team. In a world of superhumans and aliens, she's fighting both, usually with nothing more than her bare hands.
- Badass Teacher: She takes responsibility for training Daisy in the time skip between Season 1 and 2. Judging from how many levels in badass Daisy takes in Season 2 (going from knowing exactly one move and not being able to reliably release the safety from her gun to taking down ten men with a mixture of martial arts and gunplay in one scene), it's pretty clear May's training is more effective than Ward's for Daisy.
- Batman Gambit:
- Fury knew Coulson would want her on his team, so he got to her first, explained the details of Coulson's resurrection, and asked her to keep an eye on him in case he Came Back Wrong. She came up with a list of team roles she'd need in case things went south, which Fury translated into the mission profile he gave to Coulson: a biologist for looking after his body, a mechanical engineer for the machine for looking after his mind, and a special forces operative for helping May physically take him down.
- May pulls one on everybody in "The Magical Place". She encourages Hand in kicking Daisy off the plane, knowing that Hand's by-the-book command style would prevent Daisy from being effective in any case. May also knows that the rest of the team will go behind her back to assist Daisy and that Daisy herself will refuse to abandon the mission. Daisy goes off the grid and tracks down Coulson's location, just as May expected her to do.
- May pulls off another when she and Lincoln send Lash to Daisy in Lincoln's place, on the assumptions both that Hive would greet the incoming Quinjet instead of Daisy and that Lash would kill Hive and spare Daisy (he goes one step further and saves her by killing the parasites that had infected her).
- Battle Couple: She and Phil Coulson fell in love while protecting the world from terrorists, aliens, robots, and interdimensional beings.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: During the Framework Arc, removing May's regret indirectly caused a great deal of damage: because she didn't kill Katya, the insane Inhuman child in the warehouse in Bahrain where she was the only witness to what had happened, the girl would grow up to have a more public meltdown later in life, triggering world-wide anti-Inhuman prejudice and giving HYDRA a means to take over.
- Big Damn Heroes: She earned the name "the Cavalry" due to rescuing people right in the nick of time. She's done a lot of that so far in the series.Fitz: Is that the extraction team?
Ward: Better. It's the Cavalry.
- The Big Damn Kiss: Has one in "The Force of Gravity" with Coulson in the middle of a fight.
- Blood Knight: Since May's only happy when she can fight someone, she eventually breaks out of the peaceful illusion (a spa day) she's trapped in by Radcliffe and Aida.
- Blessed with Suck: After her experiences in Izel's realm, she suddenly develops empathic abilities, meaning she can feel the emotions of others. Unfortunately, she is unable to feel any emotions of her own. Not only that, but her first instance of this ability causes her to experience a panic attack when she tries evacuating a room, nearly compromising her mission for the first time. She is also capable of getting "contact high" when she touched someone drunk. If it wasn't for her ability to sense the absence of emotion in Chronicoms, this ability would be less of a superpower and more of a disability comparable to PTSD.
- Blood Knight: She loves to fight. When she was first placed in the framework after being abducted by Radcliffe and Aida, she is in a peaceful illusion (a spa day). As she's only happy when she can fight someone, she eventually realizes she's in an illusion and breaks out. This is dealt with by giving her a scenario where she seemingly escapes the Framework and fights her way out of the building.
- Blunder-Correcting Impulse: Played with; the team does fine, but May's frustration with serving as Mission Control and having no ability to influence the action as it happens leads her to return to combat in spite of her trauma and misgivings.
- Break the Badass: She doesn't just get knocked down a peg or two, she ends up on the floor in "Turn, Turn, Turn" after Coulson discovers that she's been spying on him.
- Broken Ace: May is cold and reserved because of trauma in the past (which is the reason she initially shunned fieldwork), but she is still easily the most formidable character in the series. She's smart, savvy, and destroys anyone short of superhuman (and even a few who are) in combat.
- Broken Bird: The mission in Bahrain where she was forced to kill a gifted child whose powers drove her mad to save her agents. Since that day, she has transformed from a rule-breaking, fun-loving, kind woman into a stoic, cold, and somewhat ruthless agent.
- Came Back Wrong: After she returns from Izel's home dimension, she seems devoid of emotion and has gone full Knight Templar on helping her team. She later is revealed to be able to feel other people's emotions.
- Canon Foreigner: She had no comic book counterpart before the show started.
- Canon Immigrant: She was introduced in the Prime 616 Marvel Universe with the 2014's S.H.I.E.L.D comic series.
- Cartwright Curse: She loses her ex-husband Andrew Garner just as they were rekindling their relationship, then she loses the Framework-version of him when the Framework is shut down, and after she and Coulson finally admit their feelings for each other and get together, then spend his final days in Tahiti before he succumbs to his terminal illness leaving her alone again.
- Cutting the Knot: Will often take the direct brute force solution when others are discussing what to do.
- In "0-8-4", the team tries to figure out how to get into the lab with the doors sealed. May jumps into a S.H.I.E.L.D. SUV and rams it through the doors:May: You guys talk a lot.
- In "FZZT", while Coulson and Ward are trying to figure out how to get the locked and barricaded barn doors open, May just kicks in the nearby regular door.
- In "Repairs", Coulson tries to calm down Hannah enough so she can trust him, but with the crowd getting more agitated, May shoots Hannah with the Night Night pistol.
- In "The Magical Place", Daisy tries to shut down the machine Coulson is plugged into. May just unplugs it.
- In "Face My Enemy", Coulson and May have infiltrated an auction gala and meet a laser grid. Coulson says he's got it and prepares to go in ninja-style but May just casually crosses the beams, triggering the alarm, because "they already know we're here" (their cover has just been blown, so they're kind of in a hurry).
- In "0-8-4", the team tries to figure out how to get into the lab with the doors sealed. May jumps into a S.H.I.E.L.D. SUV and rams it through the doors:
- Dark and Troubled Past: She is a legendary S.H.I.E.L.D. agent known as "The Cavalry" but she hates that name and hates field work, which was why she volunteered to become a paper pusher. Turns out she had to kill a deranged child who was psychically controlling others to inflict pain on her behalf. The experience resulted in her divorce and traumatized her from ever wanting to have children of her own, and is reminded of the event each time her nickname is spoken.
- Deadpan Snarker: May can pull off some one-liners here and there.
- Declaration of Protection: In "Face My Enemy" she tells Coulson that she will take care of him even if the GH-325 takes over his mind like it did with Garret.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: She is not a completely defrosted one. More like going from Arctic to "chilly." She freezes up again when she finds out Coulson kept secrets from her and that Daisy knows what happened in Bahrain - because that little girl was an Inhuman like she is.
- Dented Iron: After May gets tele-fragged in the Season 5 premiere, she is unable to get medical treatment or to get any sort of bedrest that would normally come with the wound she later diagnoses as a bilateral tear of the quadriceps. She instead continues walking on it, fighting Kree, Inhumans, and Vrellnexians throughout the Bad Future in the first half of the season and is never mentioned to get any sort of actual medical treatment for her leg even after the team returns to the present. Daisy notes in "The Real Deal" that this certainly had irreversible effects on May's strength and that May would never be at 100% strength again, which May indicates is true with a wince. Despite this, May takes on Sleeper Mechs and Remorath all throughout the second half of the fifth season and defeats Sarge's entire team by herself in "Window of Opportunity".
- Determinator: May opens Season 5 by getting tele-fragged through the leg, which should be a Career-Ending Injury but May continues using the leg throughout the Bad Future arc and fighting despite never getting proper medical treatment for the leg. She self-diagnoses the wound as a bilateral tear of the quadriceps, to which Enoch notes that she should not be standing, much less running away from Vrellnexians or going toe-toe-toe in combat with Inhumans and Kree Warriors.
- Does Not Like Spam: According to Coulson, she hates coffee. Agent 33's impersonation of May was ruined because she didn't know this.
- Do Not Call Me "Paul": Inverted. She's fine with being addressed by her given name, it's her old moniker of "the Cavalry" that she doesn't like to hear anymore.
- Doesn't Like Guns: Not that she isn't willing to use one, but she doesn't like to carry them if she thinks it's unnecessary. This may simply be an extension of not wanting to be brought into combat. The one time it comes up, someone goes at her with a gun and she disarms him, steals it, and uses it. May later discusses this when Fitz is showing off the ICER guns, and she picks one up.May: Never said I didn't like them. I said, if I need a gun, I'll take one.
- When May seemingly murders Sarge in Season 6, the rest of the crew find it strange that she used a gun to do it instead of beating him to death, one of the big clues pointing towards the rampant possession by Izel occurring in the base.
- The Dreaded: Oh, Crap! is the default reaction of anyone when they realize Melinda "The Cavalry" May is gunning for them.
- Drowning My Sorrows: After her encounter with the Berserker Staff and post-action in "Girl in the Flower Dress", she reaches for alcohol.
- Easily Forgiven: Averted. Coulson was furious that she hid the truth about his resurrection from him and kept him Locked Out of the Loop. He point-blank told her she wasn't his friend anymore, although they eventually reconcile after a while.
- Emotionless Girl:
- She's not big on expressions.Daisy: Which non-expression is this?
- Rendered literal in Season 7, when she loses the abilities to feel her own emotions, but instead feels the emotions of those around her.
- She's not big on expressions.
- The Empath: As a side effect of her time in the other dimension, she is able to feel the emotions of others by touching them, though she still can't feel her own, and the ability doesn't work on LMDs like Coulson or Chronicoms (hence her emotionless state dealing with them two episodes ago).
- Empowered Badass Normal: The Asgardian Berserker Staff makes her effectively unstoppable when she gets a hold of it.
- Exact Words:
- When questioned if Daisy's presence on The Bus would help the team, she gave her professional opinion: "No." What she didn't tell Agent Hand was that she knew Daisy would help them more off The Bus. She even tells Ward "don't assume the worst about me."
- She says that if she needs a gun, she'll take one, not that she doesn't like guns.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: Before Bahrain, her hair is curled. After, she loses the curls and ends up with straight hair.
- Expy: With her dress sense and Dark and Troubled Past, she's basically the producers' way of putting Black Widow in the show.
- Fantastic Racism: She doesn't hate all gifted people just the Inhumans, but she does originally have some distrust of them - the ones who were indirectly responsible for her traumatization in Bahrain.
- Friends with Benefits: "Friends" might be pushing it but the benefits are certainly there with her and Ward. It's a case of Fire-Forged Friends; since she and Ward both were affected by the Berserker Staff, they are the only ones who truly can help each other cope. Despite what she might think, he really respects her fighting skills. This obviously ends after Ward is exposed as a HYDRA agent, and he later taunts her about being upset he lied to her.
- Generation Xerox: It turns out her mother is an intelligence agent too, though not for S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Hazy-Feel Turn: To an extent she loses some of her Undying Loyalty to Coulson because he kept her Locked Out of the Loop about the Theta Protocol (and that he saw Andrew behind her back) and takes a seat on "Real" S.H.I.E.L.D.'s board ostensibly to be Coulson's advocate, but Simmons and Coulson both give her an earful for joining them in the first place. She gets worse when she finds out that Daisy knows what really happened in Bahrain.
- Hell-Bent for Leather: Usually seen wearing a leather vest or jacket. When Daisy impersonates her in "A Magical Place", she chooses a leather jacket for her costume.
- Heroic BSoD: May is in the midst of an extended one at the beginning of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., retired from field work due to emotional trauma, and only agreeing to join the team because Coulson promised her she was only being asked to pilot the Bus.
- Heroic RRoD: If not an outright Career-Ending Injury — Daisy notes in "The Real Deal" that the Tele-Frag-through-the-leg that May suffered back in "Orientation" has almost certainly had a serious and permanent impact on her physical capabilities.
- Heroic Sacrifice: In "New Life", May leaves Izel's home dimension to kill Izel before she can do so to Daisy, knowing that the only thing keeping her alive is being in Izel's home dimension (since death is meaningless in said dimension) after Sarge had run her through with a sword the episode prior.
- Hypocrite: She gets mad at Coulson for keeping her Locked Out of the Loop about certain things when he becomes Director, mainly the Theta Protocol, and that he's been seeing her ex. Coulson is more than happy to remind her that she kept him Locked Out of the Loop regarding his resurrection.
- Ice Queen: She and Daisy tend to clash a lot as a result of her frigid demeanor.
- I Did What I Had to Do: She'll cite this trope when the team calls her out on some of the more questionable actions like using an Icer on a scared gifted who was cornered by an angry mob and she joins Gonzales' S.H.I.E.L.D. as a way to protect Coulson's people....which the team really doesn't approve of.
- Inscrutable Oriental: She's a woman of few words, which is often lampshaded by Daisy, a woman of many words.
- Irony: After withholding the details of Coulson's resurrection from him throughout Season 1, Coulson neglects to inform her of Theta Protocol throughout Season 2. When May tries to give him a What the Hell, Hero? for this, Coulson is all too happy to remind her how she lied to him the season before.
- It Gets Easier: Defied by May:May: [to Daisy] For the record, experience doesn't make it any easier to cross someone off.
- It's All My Fault: Rejected. In Season 1, when Fitz and Ward blame themselves for Daisy getting shot, May tells them that Quinn is the one to blame. In Season 3, when Mack blames himself for not realizing Daisy had fallen under Hive's sway, she tells him not to beat himself up.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: She is blunt and seemingly cold towards people, but she's obviously a very moral person who cares for her teammates.
- Just a Machine: May's attitude towards LMD-Coulson in the beginning, much to his frustration. She later grows out of this, treating him the same as she did Coulson.
- Just Following Orders: Her justification for keeping Coulson in the dark about his resurrection. This makes Coulson even more furious.
- Killed Off for Real: May takes a fatal wound from Sarge in "The Sign" and dies in "New Life", only for Simmons, by her own indication, which starts the process of healing her, leaving May in a coma at the end of the season.
- The Lancer: Reluctantly stepped into this role because she can see that Coulson isn't what he used to be and is clearly the one in charge after him.
- Laser-Guided Karma: She ends up on the receiving end of this. Her being abducted and replaced by an LMD is a direct result of her insistence on Radcliffe reading the Darkhold to find a way of rescuing Coulson and Fitz in the previous episode.
- Last-Name Basis: Pretty much everyone calls her May, even those she's close to, and the only person to regularly use her first name is her ex-husband.
- Lethal Chef: According to her ex-husband Andrew.May: You hungry? I can cook you something.
Andrew: I'm not that hungry.
- Living Legend: "The Cavalry" is well known among S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.Fitz-Simmons: [simultaneously] She's the Cavalry!
May: I told you never to call me that.
- Lotus-Eater Machine: Is trapped by Radcliffe in a simulation designed to keep her relaxed. It fails the first time because the tranquil environment doesn't feel real to her. After her short fight with Aida, he realizes that she thrives in conflict and redesigns it to give her an enemy to fight.
- Made of Iron: At one point, May is thrown into a brick wall with enough momentum to shatter a normal human's spine. Despite being briefly knocked out and slightly battered, she just walks it off. She also dislocates and then relocates her wrist like it's nothing.
- May starts Season 5 by getting her thigh tele-fragged into a pipe. It slows her down in the first half of the season only slightly, and when Enoch meets her many episodes later she diagnoses the injury as a torn quadriceps. Enoch notes she shouldn't be walking, let alone spin-kicking alien slavedrivers.
- Mama Bear: When you've got the Team Mom who is also a secret agent, this is bound to show up sooner or later. It turns up in "T.A.H.I.T.I.", when she beats Ian Quinn bloody for shooting Daisy. Coulson interrupted her less than a minute in, so who knows how badly she'd have hurt him.
- MayDecember Romance: Punny Name aside, if we go by actor ages May has almost 20 years on Ward.
- Memetic Badass: In-Universe. Students at S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy started to add twists to her personal legend as a way of pranking the incoming freshmen. It's gotten to the point where nobody remembers the real details anymore, except for Coulson who was there.
- The Mentor: Season 2 sees her taking on this role for Daisy and teaching her how to be a field agent. There are scenes of them sparring, sniping, and also lessons on how to stay in control of one's emotions. This becomes especially important when Daisy develops Inhuman powers because every new Inhuman needs a mentor to guide them through the change. It was supposed to be her biological mother but instead, it's the Team Mom.
- The Mole: She built the team (short of Daisy) specifically to help take him down and fix him if it became necessary at Nick Fury's request to keep an eye on Coulson after being given the full details of Coulson's resurrection, and deal with any complications that arose from said resurrection. She reported to Fury from the beginning until Fury's supposed death.
- My Greatest Failure: Her biggest regret was killing Katya in Bahrain. While this mission may have made May a Living Legend among S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, she still feels enormous guilt over having to kill a little Inhuman girl who was mind-controlling and killing people.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: May sharing the location of Providence base with Maria Hill ultimately causes Hill to lead Talbot's team there, costing S.H.I.E.L.D. the best equipped and most easily defended of Fury's secret bases.
- No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction: May rejects the simulation meant to keep her calm because sitting in a day spa isn't her natural environment. Having an opponent to overcome is what she lives for.
- Not Herself: A combination of trauma from nearly dying and unforeseen side effects from the healing tube seems to have caused May to suffer from suppressed emotions. She has barely any reaction to seeing the Coulson LMD. Beforehand, she also brutally beats down Enoch and probably would've done lasting damage had the team not stopped her.
- Not So Above It All: In "The Well", she echoes Daisy's assertion that Thor is "dreamy", and not simply handsome, and at the end of "Repairs", she pulls a prank on Fitz.
- Not So Stoic: Quinn shooting Daisy got under her skin, which was lampshaded by Ward after the epic beating that ensued.
- Number Two: She's the second "parent" for Team Coulson and Coulson himself calls her "my right hand" during "Laws of Nature".
- One-Woman Army: Her nickname is "The Cavalry" which she earned after an impressive combat operation she completed alone in Bahrain. The leader of a strike team said that if Coulson's diplomacy failed, he would "send in the cavalry". May ended up saving them by herself. Ironically enough, while she is this trope through and through, this event is not an example because everyone was taken out by someone else but it looked as though she did it.
- Parental Substitute:
- Not quite on Coulson's level, but May is still closer to a mother than anyone else Daisy has ever had. When Gonzales takes the lead in negotiating with the Inhumans because Coulson isn't objective with regards to his teammates, Daisy asks May why she didn't serve as the negotiator. May said that she isn't objective when it comes to Daisy.
- In the Bad Future, she adopts Robin Hinton when Robin's biological mother dies.
- Perpetual Frowner: Mostly because she's extremely peeved about being brought out of retirement and getting into combat situations she was promised would be avoided.
- Pint-Sized Powerhouse: The best fighter of the team, who is only 5.3 feet tall.
- Power Incontinence: How she first discovers her powers, unintentionally copying everyone else's emotions. This later evolves to the point where she can now feel people's emotions without even touching them, which obviously drives her crazy.
- Power Perversion Potential: May's empathic powers gave her an... interesting perspective on Elena and Mack's "reunion". Despite Elena's embarrassment, May admits with a smirk that it's not all bad.
- The Promise: Coulson makes her promise to kill him if he deteriorates to the point of becoming Garrett. She's not happy about it.
- The Quiet One: She's not too talkative, to say the least. In "Face My Enemy", Daisy remarks that she's said more words during a single undercover conversation than she has in a year. According to Coulson, she was like this before Bahrain.
- Race Lift: The character Melinda May was originally supposed to be a white woman named Althea Rice. However, when Ming-Na Wen gave an impressive audition, the character was rewritten as Asian-American.
- Red Baron: "The Cavalry", and she doesn't like being called that.
- Reluctant Warrior: She only joins the team after Coulson assures her she will only act as the team's pilot/wheelwoman. Otherwise, she tried to avoid combat situations when she could (at first, anyway).
- Retired Badass: A former field agent so famous that Ward knows who she is just by seeing her, but she has no desire to do field work again. She brings herself out of retirement at the end of "The Asset", after sitting on the sidelines like she supposedly wanted and realizing she hates it.
- At the end of the series, May retires from active field work again to become a teacher at the new Coulson Academy.
- Sarcastic Devotee: Much of what she says to Coulson in the early episodes is sarcasm, backtalk, or otherwise disrespectful but she left her desk job because he asked her to. In later episodes, though, she grows into his confidante.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Fed up with Coulson refusing to trust her after finding out she spied on him for Fury and excluding her from team missions, Melinda takes off in "The Only Light in the Darkness". It saves her life, keeping Ward from outright executing her.
- Secret-Keeper: In Season 2, May knows about Coulson's urgings to carve alien symbols because of the GH serum treatment, and helps him cope with it.
- Seen It All: A lesser example, as she went on many of Coulson's early missions and saw many of the same things Coulson did, but she's also very stoic and doesn't show much in the way of emotion. In Season 6, when told that an alien is jumping between bodies, her response is "Of course there is".
- Sexy Mentor: To Ward. He looks up to her as a more experienced and skilled operative, she sometimes gives him advice and they hooked up at the end of "The Well". "Repairs" implies that it wasn't their first night together. This goes out the window after Ward is exposed as a HYDRA agent.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: As seen in "Face My Enemy", where she goes under cover with Coulson and dresses up for the occasion. Coulson certainly thought she looked nice.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Seems to have high-functioning Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the incident where she earned her hated nickname, which might be why she hates it.
- Stealth Hi/Bye: Manages to pull this on Tobias despite his ghost-like teleportation powers.
- The Stoic: She can dislocate her wrist, slip the ropes, knock someone out, and then reset her wrist without showing a hint of emotion. Even a completed Berserker Staff can't get more than a Battle Cry out of her.
- Sugar-and-Ice Personality: She may be more of the ice than the sugar, but Coulson states that part of his reason for wanting May on the Bus is to return her back to the kind-hearted woman she used to be.
- That promo clip for "The Magical Place" of her telling Agent Hand that Daisy's of no use on the plane? May did it so that Daisy could do her part in the mission unhindered.
- Also, in "Yes Men", she's revealed to be The Mole for someone. Said someone happens to be Director Fury himself, who is unambiguously heroic (even considering all the details about Coulson's resurrection).
- The summary for "Face My Enemy" states that Coulson finds himself "attacked" by May. Come the episode, and the attacker turns out to be Agent 33 disguised as May, while May's participation in the episode is completely heroic.
- Team Mom: Designated as such by Daisy when she compares an argument between her and Coulson as "mom and dad fighting." In "...Ye Who Enter Here", she has a dream where Coulson and May are acting as parents to a baby (obviously herself).
- There Are No Therapists: Averted, as she was married to one - Andrew, but the mission in Bahrain traumatized her so much that he couldn't help her and the marriage ended in divorce.
- Took a Level in Badass: Her empathic abilities evolve to the point of allowing her to feel emotions over short distances, though skin contact is still the most effective method.
- Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: The Berserker Staff has no (noticeable) effect on her since she hasn't repressed the trauma that drove her to her desk job. note However, she is noticeably less stoic and more expressive in battle than normal.
- Town Girls: The (aggressive if stoic and calculated) Butch to Simmons's Femme and Daisy's Neither.
- Tranquil Fury:
- Shown particularly in "The Well" where she uses two pieces of the Berserker Staff without visible effort when Ward goes Unstoppable Rage with just one. It's suggested that this is why she can handle the Berserker Staff; unlike Ward, whose rage is locked away, May and all her rage and darkness are one.
- In "Ragtag" we have this conversation between May and Daisy:May: Yes, I'm furious. But I'm sure as hell not gonna waste it on a tantrum. I'm gonna mine it, save it... and when we find Ward, I'm gonna use every bit of it to take him down.
Daisy: Wish I knew how to use that hate-fu.
May: I'm usually up around 5:30.
- After Lance turns on the team only to get forgiven, Coulson points out that shooting May in the process was a really bad idea.Lance: She's the type to hold a grudge?
Coulson: Savors it, actually.
- Two First Names: Her surname is commonly used as a female given name.
- What the Hell, Hero?:
- Fury told her about Coulson's resurrection and ordered her to keep tabs on him in case he came back wrong but not let Coulson know about it. When Coulson found out, he was understandably pissed off and gave her the cold shoulder for quite a while afterward.
- In Season 2 Simmons and Coulson both give her an earful for joining "Real" S.H.I.E.L.D." Daisy is particularly offended that she'd trust Gonzales since his men tried to kill her.
- When She Smiles:
- May is stoic and unemotional most of the time, and usually communicates in what Daisy dubs "not-expressions". But when she smiles while on an undercover op... it leaves everyone on the team except Coulson unnerved.
- Double Subverted. While her fake smile and laugh is legitimately terrible, Andrew Gardner makes her genuinely smile a few times. Fitz and Simmons think it's adorable.
- May gets another such genuine moment of smiling, when she reunites with Fitz and Simmons after they land on Earth.
- Woman Scorned: She seems to enjoy beating up Ward a bit too much.
- Would Hurt a Child: Played for Drama. The infamous Noodle Incident in Bahrain that led to her being called The Cavalry happened when May was forced to go in alone to a building where S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel and local militiamen had fallen under the sway of a mentally disturbed Gifted child who had the ability to control minds and could leach off of other people's emotions. May was forced to shoot the little girl in order to save everyone in the building.
LMD Melinda May
Species: Life-Model Decoy
Portrayed By: Ming-Na Wen
Appearances: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
An android duplicate of Agent Melinda May, created to infiltrate the team and assist in stealing the Darkhold.
- Action Girl: Just as much as the real thing.
- And I Must Scream: Radcliffe programmed her so she cannot reveal her true identity and purpose to Coulson, no matter how much she wants it.
- Becoming the Mask: Helped by the fact that she didn't know from the start what she was, she sacrifices herself for Daisy and Jemma.
- Cloning Blues: The android equivalent of this trope. She has them hard, having May's memories but knowing that she isn't May. She ultimately decides that even if she isn't real, her feelings are.
- Do Androids Dream?: She describes herself as 'all phantom limbs'. She knows she's not real, but she still feels the same things Melinda May would.
- Dying Declaration of Love: LMD-May admits to LMD-Coulson that the real May loves the real Coulson.
- Heroic BSoD: Gets hit hard in "Hot Potato Soup". When her programming kicks in and she is compelled to steal the Darkhold up to and including drawing a gun on Coulson, shortly after they kiss, which causes Coulson to realize she's an LMD and reject her statement that she is the real May stating the real May would never betray him. Followed by Radcliffe taking the Darkhold from her and then refusing to help her escape with him stating she's served her purpose and was never built to last, leaving her at the mercy of SHIELD.
- Heroic Sacrifice: After letting Simmons, Daisy, and the other flesh-and-blood S.H.I.E.L.D. agents leave, she confronts the Coulson LMD and blows him and herself up with the explosives she had set up at the exit.
- Humiliation Conga: Again in "Hot Potato Soup". Rejected by Coulson, blasted by Quake several times, abandoned by Radcliffe then shut down by SHIELD and only kept around as the other LMD's are destroyed just in case the real May is dead. Ouch.
- I Don't Want to Die: She admits she doesn't want to die, but that doesn't stop her from committing suicide to destroy LMD-Coulson and protect Daisy and Jemma.
- Manchurian Agent: At first she doesn't know about her true nature, with her programming designed to operate sub-consciously so that she believes herself to be the real May. She discovers her metallic nature at the end of "The Patriot".
- The Mole: She takes over May's life while the real May is kept in a coma, being used by Aida and Radcliffe to spy on S.H.I.E.L.D. and find the Darkhold.
- Murder-Suicide: She takes herself and LMD-Coulson out with a bomb.
- Super Toughness: LMD May is shoved onto the exposed blade of a table saw. It penetrates her skin layer, but is bent by her tougher metal skeleton.
- Token Good Teammate: To all the other LMDs, particularly in light of her Heroic BSoD, she's the only LMD having infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. in "Self Control" to have any real moral compass, even standing up to the LMD-Coulson and performing a Heroic Sacrifice, blowing them both up to cover the escape of some flesh-and-blood S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.
- Tomato in the Mirror: She fully believes she's the real May, resulting in Radcliffe having to use some subterfuge to get her to help him.
- Turned Against Their Masters: She pulls a heroic version, siding against Radcliffe's vision and sacrificing herself to help Daisy and Simmons.
- Undying Loyalty: Programming aside, she has this for Coulson and the team, even after she finds out that she's an LMD.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: In "Hot Potato Soup", Radcliffe leaves her at the mercy of S.H.I.E.L.D., since she's done her job of getting the Darkhold and has no further use. Additionally, he somewhat coldly tells her that she wasn't "built to last".
Framework Melinda May
Portrayed By: Ming-Na Wen
Appearances: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The version of Melinda May created in the Framework.
- Children Are Innocent: Averted. When Framework Mack tries to appeal to her this way, she just coldly blows him off, obviously still feeling guilty about letting Katya live.
- Empowered Badass Normal: After taking the Hyde serum, gaining Super Strength, although it only lasts for an hour. She uses it against Mace, but the flight in wastes most of her time and her strength crashes soon after her fight with Mace.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Framework May, who believes that all kids are potentially evil thanks to what happened in Bahrain, is appalled that they fired on a building full of them, especially since as far as she knew, there were no children at the facility.
- Freudian Excuse: May clearly has no soft spots for children after what happened in Bahrain.Mack: She's just a kid!
May: That doesn't mean she's innocent.
- HeelFace Turn: Witnessing the Patriot's Kirk Summation to her in addition to sacrificing himself to save one kid — coupled with the revelation of what HYDRA has been doing to kids — convinces her to turn on HYDRA, delivering a Terrigen crystal to Daisy.
- My Greatest Failure: Not killing Katya in Bahrain. As a result, Katya was sent to the US where she caused an incident that killed over 100 people, mostly students. This allowed HYDRA to easily take over by stoking people's Fantastic Racism against Inhumans and presenting themselves as the best solution to the problem. Meanwhile, May now has an even bigger regret in not killing Katya since she could have prevented those 100 deaths by doing so and is now an Inhuman-hunting Knight Templar loyally serving HYDRA.
- Spanner in the Works: It's implied that Aida programmed the Framework Daisy as a loyal HYDRA agent without her quake powers because she knew Daisy's powers were capable of opening the back door out of the Framework, which May derails when she sneaks a terrigen crystal to Daisy at the end of "No Regrets", giving the team the means to escape the Framework in "Farewell, Cruel World!".
- Torture Technician: One of HYDRA's top interrogators, she even boasts about her torture abilities to Daisy.May: I haven't broken him, yet.
- Would Hurt a Child: Forces Framework Mack to trick Daisy into revealing herself as a subversive by threatening his daughter.
Lighthouse Melinda May
Portrayed By: Ming-Na Wen
Appearances: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
A variant of Melinda May from a destroyed Earth.
- Dead Alternate Counterpart: She dies while her main timeline self is still alive.
- My Greatest Second Chance: May took the chance to be a mother to Robin after giving up any pretensions of motherhood after the disastrous Bahrain incident.
- Parental Substitute: May becomes this to Robin, after her real mother was lost during the calamity. Robin even calls her "Mom".
- Team Mom: Besides being an actual mom by adoption, May also tried her best to keep Fitz, Jemma, and Elena to stay calm in their situations. It doesn't work much, since they already crossed Despair Event Horizon.