I love Agents of Shield. I love reading the reactions on the O-Deck. I love Coulson, May, FitzSimmons, Mack, Mockingbird and Lance, and now I even love Daisy.
But we need to talk about Grant Ward.
This writing staff has done some pretty amazing things with this character. The Fall of Grant Ward started with him as a sharpshooting company man who became a rogue with a hidden dark side, who later transitioned into a psycho ex-boyfriend with daddy issues, and then a Hydra player climbing the (evil) corporate ladder.
And kudos to actor Brett Dalton, who made all of those perilous transitions without ever hitting a false note. Sure, there’s a few times that I really didn’t care about his relationship with Agent 33, but for the most part he knew how to play an insufferable, unflappable badass with zero empathy.
The thing about Ward is that there was no redemption arc for this guy. Which was great. He wasn’t murdering SHIELD agents in cold blood one episode and then welcomed back into the fold after a brooding scene or a good cry. His arc was just a steady down, down, down to the abyss.
So, when Coulson kills him while he is defenseless on the desert planet, you feel the same pain Coulson does. There’s no bringing this guy back to the light. He’s betrayed and he’s murdered (a lot) with no other reason than that he wanted to and it made him feel good. In your head, you’re thinking “do it, Coulson!” Even though your ethics may be in conflict with the impulse, it’s certainly an impulse that you, as a viewer, understand at this point.
And they’ve certainly done a LOT of work to get us there, and skillfully. Just imagine them talking this over in the writer’s room…
Writer 1: And then, as we have spent 2 seasons deconstructing this character completely and made him do all sorts of evil shit basically for his own amusement, Coulson uses his cybernetic hand to crush Grant’s chest and Grant dies, visibly, on screen. No ambiguity. Dude is gone. The audience sighs in relief and winces in regret all at once.
Writer 2: Yeah, and then because Coulson is still a good guy, he pulls off his cybernetic hand and leaves it by Grant’s dead body on the remote alien desert planet, because he feels guilt over killing Grant, even though he shouldn’t. He wants to leave that piece of him there, even though we all know he will always carry it with him.
Other Writers: *Weep in Joy and Sorrow*
Producer: Whoa! Wait a minute. Ward is one of our most popular characters. He’s the bad boy that makes our young female (and some male) viewers swoon! That chiseled jaw! That brooding temperament! We have to keep him in.
Writer 1: So, like maybe we bring him back as an alien zombie god or something?
Producer: Yes. Tell me more…
Grant Ward’s arc has gone a lot of places, but it ended this week. Dude is dead, no doubt. So the question becomes: What do we have in his place?
An Inhuman with crazy powers who takes on the memory and personality of its host and apparently has other undefined superpowers?
Basically, a new bad guy with Ward’s face, Ward’s mind, Ward’s memories, and (most likely) Ward’s issues. No doubt he/it will be super bad and do all sorts of evil shit wearing Ward’s face. But it won’t be Ward, will it? No, because Ward’s story has ended. Thoroughly.
So what’s the purpose in bringing in ZombieWard? The Crazy Hydra God (“CHG”) could have taken any form, as it showed previously. Making the CHG the supreme leader of Hyrda while wearing the face of SHIELD’s other biggest enemy is, I suppose, a nice thematic touch. But the ZombieWard that we are about to see doing all sorts of Big Bad stuff in the next half of the season won’t be a new character. It won’t even be the same actor playing a different character (ala Fred/Illyria). It will be the same actor, playing the same character PLUS MORE EVIL.
I don’t want ZombieWard. I don’t think we need him. CHG? Sure. Maybe even Brett Dalton playing CHG? Sure, if he has the acting chops to bring a new character out through it. But I fear this is just going to be ZombieWard, a lingering reminder that someone in the AoS shop just couldn’t let Grant Ward go.
Let him go, writers. It’s time.