*This will have spoilers up to Season 5 of Agents of Shield*
I just finished Season 5 of Agents of Shield and the show has become one of my favorite TV shows ever. It helps that I’m a huge Whedon fan, I used to watch Buffy, Angel, and Firefly in college with friends. I also love Marvel and spy stuff (though not as much as Star Wars) and I appreciate the fact that Agents of Shield is at its heart, a tribute to all sci-fi, superhero, spy, and space opera themes everywhere.
But more than the theme, Agents of Shield does something that is rare in TV these days. Developing very deep and complex characters, as well as their relationships (romantic/friendship/work) while having a sometimes silly and obviously very unrealistic plotlines.
I think that’s the point of the show. It never takes the plot seriously, sometimes even makes fun of itself, but the character reactions to the plot, betrayals, abandonment, death, injury, love triangles, humor make it an amazing show.
Let’s first talk about my favorite two characters, Daisy (Skye) and Coulson. The two start out with a very rocky relationship, with him stealing her away from Rising Tide and making her into a very reluctant ally. At first their relationship was more one of a principal and troubled student, with her getting herself in trouble and him trying to get her back. Then became trust, as the two of them realized they were more alike than they realized, when they had the alien DNA going through their veins. That trust began to build as Coulson admitted to her his alien writings and how he may be going crazy.
Later on, Daisy finds her parents, and all of the sudden, she didn’t feel like she needed Coulson as a surrogate father figure anymore. Or so she thought! Her parents ended up being INSANE, her mom tries to kill her, all the while, Coulson never gives up on her. And welcomes her back (even when she couldn’t herself deal with the guilt) of rejecting SHIELD and becoming Hives’ slave.
Fast forward to Season 4 and 5, and Daisy finds herself finally realizing she’s not only a part of SHIELD, but one of the strongest and capable agents on the team. She accepts Coulson back as her Director, friend, and father. But Coulson holds back that he’s dying and is wanting Daisy to become the new director, even though she wasn’t quite ready. In the end of Season 5, Coulson realizes he put too much on her. Daisy also would stop at nothing to save Coulson’s life, even at risk of the entire world.
But Coulson ultimately made the decision, the people he loves vs saving the entire world. It wasn’t easy, but he decided to not take the life saving serum and instead give it to Daisy to save both her and the world from Talbot. As Coulson goes to finish out his last days with May (more on that in a moment), he gives Daisy a big hug, says he’s proud of her, just like any great dad would do. Then they both tell each other they love each other.
I love this because it shows a different type of relationship rarely seen in TV. It shows of a man who essentially adopts this ragtag hacker and helps find her way in a complex world. There’s nothing at all romantic about their relationship, it’s always sort of a mentor/student role that eventually turns into a father/daughter role. It shows that even when she rejects him for a time, that he never stops giving her everything, including sacrificing himself so that she can save the world. It shows that just because you love someone doesn’t mean it’s easy, and you’ll argue and have to agree to disagree ALOT. The energy on screen show that the actors do care for each other in person, and that it’s not all contrived. Friendships both on and off screen can drive the narrative to not only be believable but inspirational.
Now the other relationship that I love in Agents of Shield is of May and Coulson. Early on in Season 1, I called the ship. But that ship didn’t sail until end of Season 5! It was a long simmer and one very expertly done. I think May and Coulson always had a love and respect for each other, but May became off-limits when she married Andrew and then become disconnected after Bahrain. Also the whole Grant/May fling probably didn’t help their chances either. Coulson and May are the parents of the SHIELD team, and often their differences of opinion come to a head. She often sees him as reckless, but he also sees her as reckless too, throwing herself into basically any fight.
It seemed like in Season 3 and 4 that nothing would come of their relationship, especially with the whole Robot May situation. Still one of my favorite lines, “Robot May was much more supportive.” Add that to the fact that Coulson was dying in Season 5 (which apparently was supposed to be the last season, but with two more seasons I’m betting Coulson doesn’t actually die) but we’ll see as I start Season 6!
I love how he was trying to protect her from another heartache of losing someone she loves, but it’s sort of the “it’s better to have loved than to never love at all” mantra. Eventually the two, while under gunfire and arguing admit they love each other. Although Coulson never quite says the words, he does pull her close and make out while shielding them from gunfire, so if that doesn’t say love than I don’t what is. Also, Daisy’s reaction to them kissing was PRICELESS, totally the face if you walked in on your parents making out as a kid.
But for May and Coulson, it was never about passion, really, but a longstanding and strong relationship forged out of life’s biggest highs and lowest lows. They often didn’t need words, just a hand on a shoulder there and a knowing nod here. Their relationship really reminded me of Kanan and Hera in Star Wars Rebels. Never quite time to further the romantic side of the relationship, but all of the other parts were there.
Since I haven’t seen season 6 and 7, I don’t know if any more happens with their relationship, but I’m really happy with how the writers and directors did it. Sometimes the best on-screen relationships are the ones that just exist. They don’t have to have a name even, just that it’s there.
Now I know I should talk about Fitz-Simmons, and their relationship is one complex thing after another. It’s cool they got married in the show, and their loyalty to each other rarely wanes, even when one (Fitz) gets a dual personality. I loved it best when they were the awkward nerdy scientists together, but I guess that can’t happen for 7 seasons. Though in reality, my husband and I have been awkward nerdy people together for 12 years now, and maybe that doesn’t make for great TV, but makes for great reality.
Moving on, Mack and Elena (Yo-Yo’s) story arcs are quite cool, and they’ve definitely become some of my favorite characters in the show. I love that Mack is presented as a professing Christian and not your typical TV show one. He is firm with his convictions, but does it in a way that’s respectful to all. Sometimes the other characters get frustrated with his lifestyle, but ultimately at the end of Season 5, they realize he’s the only one with firm moral grounding. The only one who could keep SHIELD’s mission to protect people remain the core. So I loved that the show really respects a Christian man and actually realize he’s the only one that stays firm and doesn’t react with his emotions, even when things are incredibly tough.
That brings me to Yo-Yo who always has a tendency toward revenge and the ends justify the means. She makes incredibly tough decisions in the show that ostracized her, but in the end, was able to help save the world and break the time loop with her warnings. I think Mack and her are a good balance to each other, and their relationship is so rocky at times, but that they come together at the end of Season 5, stronger than ever.
There are many other relationships in the show, but these are some of my favorites. Agents of SHIELD shows what a team of people can do, when lead by people who have strong moral convictions to save and protect people. The team and its leaders are never perfect, they fight, they get immature at times, but in the end, they are a team forged by the bonds of extreme hardship.
In today’s world, most of our interactions are now only on a screen. Many are not part of any sort of team anymore, whether it’s a sports team, work team, ministry team, or service team.
Even myself, not having active, in-person service and ministry for 6 months has left me filled with such emptiness. Probably why I was binge watching Agents of SHIELD, I was so attracted to watching a show with such a strong team of people, faults and all.
But now I get to be part of my AWANA ministry team again, and I find myself almost comparing us to the SHIELD team. It’s silly, for sure, but I guess it shows how much I relate to the show. Sure, there isn’t time travel or aliens or the Matrix, but the real life hardships are there. All of us have gone through incredibly hard and impossible times in the past 5 years I’ve known all of them. A lifetime of hardships.
But that’s what makes us stronger. Forges us into a team. In a time I was feeling so burnt out and not wanting to continue, now I’m on fire more than ever. And being part of a team, a team that cares for each other deeply, and has a common goal, has made me so happy. While Agents of SHIELD is just a show, I get to experience a real team, with real leaders who would sacrifice everything to save the one lost sheep.