Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Just Killed Off One Of The Original Team
Well, we sort of saw that one coming, didn’t we? On last night’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. mid-season finale “Maveth,” the villainous Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) found himself face-to-face on an alien planet with Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), after the latter tracked Ward down for killing his new girlfriend. And so, for that act, as well as two-and-a-half seasons of treachery, torture, and an arc that saw Ward lose any chance at redemption… Coulson killed him.
Like, killed him, dead.
More specifically, after a knock down, drag out fight, Ward found himself gasping for breath, lying on the ground. Coulson, using his robot hand (long story) slowly pushed down on Ward’s chest, crushing his ribcage until the HYDRA agent stopped moving. Then Coulson dropped the murder weapon next to Ward, and headed through a portal back to Earth.
Oh, and then an evil entity that lives on the planet took over Ward’s body and headed back to Earth, hooking up with Gideon Malick (Powers Boothe), the head of HYDRA. Bum ba BUM.
It’s been a weird, strange journey for both Dalton and the character of Grant Ward; and a curious, kind of sad end to his arc. Clearly we’re not done with Dalton—the Angelus-esque twist will certainly let the actor continue to wreak havoc on S.H.I.E.L.D., and Coulson’s guilt over killing Ward won’t clear out any time soon.
But the bigger question is, other than as a foil to the team, what was the point of Ward? Did he leave a lasting impact as a character? And not to get too preachy, but what was the lesson we needed to learn from him?
The problem with Ward, in my humble opinion, was that he was a twist always in search of a storyline. As the boy scout super-agent first introduced in the pilot, the writers were always imbuing him with a secondary agenda, making him as bland and earnest as possible so his eventual reveal as a HYDRA agent and betrayal of the team would hit that much harder.
It was too much of a turn, though. Going from Superman to the Joker isn’t an easy task to accomplish, and there was too much whiplash in the change to make it ever sit right with the audience. From there, he went through every iteration possible. Manipulative supervillain. Bond-esque baddie. Murderous maniac. Guy with beard.
All the while, an interesting redemption story lurked under the surface—Marvel head Jeph Loeb liked to note in reference to Ward that the best Marvel villains often have a complicated journey to heroism—but every time we learned more about Ward’s family life, his upbringing, we just learned that he was even more depraved than we first thought.
So Ward’s story wasn’t one of redemption, how he took his bitterness and turned it into something better… It was the story about how a lunatic failed in every possible aspect of his life. Ward, at the end of the day, was a bully. He tried to control Skye/Daisy (Chloe Bennet). He attempted to force his family to take the blame for his crimes. He was angry about not being a success, and built his own HYDRA with one purpose, to take down the daddy figure (that would be Coulson) who scolded him.
Ward wasn’t a villain in the mold of Loki, or a tragic hero like the Hulk: he was a pissy, Donald Trump-esque baby who eventually died alone.
It’s certainly possible (and even probable, given the craziness of the Marvel Cinematic Universe) that Ward, post entity, might come back with his mind wiped, ready to truly be a hero. But for now, the Ward we knew is dead and gone… And frankly, I’m hard pressed to say that isn’t a good thing.
At the very least, the death of Ward finally puts that story to a close, and—like the twists post Winter Soldier—opens the show up to new stories, and new arcs. Here’s hoping Ward-Entity doesn’t have daddy issues, too.