One of the challenges of making a TV show like Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is creating characters that can stand the test of time. With the A-list Avengers largely off-limits, the TV series has drawn from Marvel’s rich pantheon of comics, and occasionally minted a new creation or two, to develop its cast of characters. The result has been a slew of recurring characters who have been both diverse and memorable. Here’s a rundown of the best recurring characters whom Team S.H.I.E.L.D. has met.
(This list is limited to characters who have never been part of the series’ main cast.)
As the erstwhile husband of Agent Melinda May, Dr. Andrew Garner already had a lot going for him in terms of memorability. And actor Blair Underwood certainly didn’t disappoint when it came to portraying the charming “Mr. May” (as Grant Ward called him). May and Dr. Garner quickly became one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe‘s most diverse couples, in terms of both race and personality. She was the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who suffered a horrible trauma that left her broken and led to their divorce. He was the S.H.I.E.L.D. consultant who, in one of season three‘s dizzying twists and turns, became the Inhuman serial killer known as Lash.
Andrew’s transformation into Lash corroded his sense of morality. He defined the purpose of his crusade as “trying to sort the good from the bad,” in regards to his Inhuman victims. As Director Phil Coulson stated, it was a poor interpretation of a therapist’s role. Nevertheless, each Inhuman is meant to serve a purpose, so viewers were left to wonder what Lash’s purpose was.
We finally got our answer when S.H.I.E.L.D. dramatically pitted Lash against the parasitic Inhuman leader called Hive. Lash proved to be capable of resisting Hive’s mind control, and Lash saved Agent Daisy Johnson from Hive’s “sway” before being killed. It was a heartbreaking end to Agent May’s relationship, but Andrew/Lash definitely left an impact on the show that will not be forgotten.
Ever since Captain America: The Winter Soldier brought S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Project Insight Helicarriers crashing down in Washington, D.C., the spy agency’s relationship with the American government has been spotty at best. Since then, the show has had at least one government official who serves as a secondary antagonist. For the latter half of season one and the entirety of season two, that character was Brigadier General Glenn Talbot, who only recently became an ally of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season three delivered a starkly different character: Rosalind Price.
Portrayed by House of Cards star Constance Zimmer, Rosalind became the head of the newly formed Advanced Threat Containment Unit, which had a clearer name than the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division. (Of course, S.H.I.E.L.D. is a cooler acronym than ATCU.) Sparks began flying between Rosalind and Director Coulson, with the question of “Can we trust Roz?” driving the first half of season three. Behind the veil of their spy-related banter, Rosalind and Coulson developed a romance that felt real and worthy of both characters.
Of course, on a show like S.H.I.E.L.D., no one’s future is certain. Grant Ward killed Rosalind, and her death left Coulson broken and vengeful. It wasn’t only Rosalind’s death that was painful for viewers — it was also the death of possibilities for a shared future between her and Coulson. Losing Rosalind was what led Coulson to murder Ward in cold blood, a grisly act that came back to haunt him in the form of Hive. Only time will tell if Coulson is truly able to move on from losing such a strong partner.
In addition to the “Can We Trust This Government Official?” role, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has also developed a role that I’ll call the “Season-Long Hero’s Journey.” Basically, this is a character who’s connected to the season’s main antagonist or focus. In the season premiere, S.H.I.E.L.D. rescues someone who then disappears until the mid-season finale, by which point they’ve become an agent. In season one, the role was filled by Mike Peterson, who was a client of the Centipede Project and later Project Deathlok, albeit unwillingly. Season three’s role fell to an Inhuman, Joey Gutiérrez.
Joey Gutiérrez is technically the second LGBTQ character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the first being Iron Man 2 villain Justin Hammer. However, Hammer was outed (forgettably so, to be honest) in the Marvel One-Shot All Hail the King while in prison — and in a post-credits scene, no less. On the other hand, Joey’s story of coming out became an intriguing parallel to the necessity of hiding his Inhuman powers. Joey tells Daisy Johnson, “I’ve lived with a secret before. I was miserable until I came out with it.” Daisy replies, “This secret… The world’s not ready to hear.”
Joey joined Daisy, Lincoln Campbell, and S.H.I.E.L.D. for their huge mid-season battle with HYDRA. Afterward, he joined Daisy’s team of Secret Warriors as a reserve member. He also became a nice counterpart to teammate Elena “Yo-Yo” Rodriguez, a fellow Hispanic. Sadly, Joey was mostly absent for the rest of the season. We’ll just have to wait and see whether actor Juan Pablo Raba will be back to portray Joey next season.
Rarely do villains have as much heart as Calvin Johnson. In any case, he’d probably prefer to be called “misunderstood” to “villainous.” Regardless, Daisy’s estranged father had a huge impact not only on her, but also on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Actor Kyle MacLachlan did an outstanding job of conveying the heart within the butcher. Calvin (or “Cal”) tried and failed to take revenge on Daniel Whitehall, the HYDRA leader who killed Cal’s wife, Jiaying. Yet, after Cal stitched Jiaying back together, she was out for blood. Even more so than Whitehall, Jiaying became the true threat to their family, particularly Daisy — and that left Cal at a crossroads.
Ever since S.H.I.E.L.D. took away Daisy as a baby, Cal promised Jiaying that he would put their family back together and protect it. As such, when Jiaying started a war between her Inhumans from Afterlife and S.H.I.E.L.D., Cal agreed to cause mayhem for S.H.I.E.L.D. Yet, Coulson convinced Cal that in order to fulfill his promise to Jiaying, Cal would have to protect Daisy from Jiaying. When his wife went so far as to use her life-absorbing power on Daisy, Cal took it upon himself to kill Jiaying. The scene of him holding his wife’s broken body is one of the series’ most harrowing moments.
Once the war between the Inhumans and S.H.I.E.L.D. was over, Cal accepted that he would be imprisoned for his crimes. In a moment of self-recognition, he admitted to his daughter, “My love for my family is what drove me mad.” Though he did not know it, his goodbye to Daisy (who, at that point, was still calling herself “Skye”) would be a final goodbye, since Coulson thereafter used Project T.A.H.I.T.I. to erase his memories and give him a new life as a veterinarian. Nevertheless, Skye’s time with Cal and her mother was what led her to re-assume her birth name, Daisy Johnson.
Ruth Negga‘s magnetic performance as Raina was what made the character so memorable. That, and her connections to both Skye’s father and the Inhumans. Even before undergoing Terrigenesis and developing her Inhuman powers, Raina devoted her entire life to studying evolution. Her passion for gifted individuals was what led her to become a lead researcher for HYDRA’s Centipede and Deathlok Projects. Still, she made it clear that her allegiance was to science, not to HYDRA.
After going through the Terrigen Mist alongside Daisy, Raina underwent a complete physical transformation. To put it simply, she grew thorns. Afterlife’s resident teleporter, Gordon, saved Raina from committing suicide and brought her to the Inhuman enclave. Soon, it became clear that Raina’s gift was precognition. She could see the future. Nevertheless, Raina was never an outwardly trustworthy character, so that gradually made it difficult for others to believe her visions.
Part of the fun with Raina was that she constantly hid her intentions. She was a master manipulator, and she vied to accrue power. Specifically, she aspired to replace Jiaying as the Inhumans’ leader, an ambition that didn’t pan out. Raina was only able to find peace once she accepted her fate, and that was to be an angel — a herald. In her final moments of life, Raina confronted Jiaying about the latter’s plans to exterminate humanity. When Jiaying slit Raina’s throat in order to keep her silent, Daisy witnessed it and realized her mother’s hateful intentions. It was thanks to Raina’s sacrifice that Daisy helped S.H.I.E.L.D. stop Jiaying and emerged as a leader for the Inhumans.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. just hasn’t been the same without Raina. One can only wonder what role she might have played in the Inhumans’ ever-evolving status quo.