It's hard to believe that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is now in its fifth season. The series has gone from strength to strength, and is now Marvel's highest-rated show on Rotten Tomatoes. It's about to celebrate its 100th episode, a milestone that promises to feature faces from the past even as it continues the current arc.
Coulson and his team have come a long way since they first assembled in Season 1. S.H.I.E.L.D. itself has changed shape countless times; it was brought down by Hydra, but resurrected by Coulson himself. The show's future is currently uncertain, although ABC President Channing Dungey is "cautiously optimistic" for Season 6. Whatever the future may hold, though, now is the perfect time to cast an eye back to the past and celebrate S.H.I.E.L.D.'s best moments.
This Page: May and the Asgardian Staff, Skye's Terrigenesis, and Ward's Turn
10. Agent May Wields The Asgardian Staff (Season 1)
Season 1 tended to tie into the movies a little too much. Still, one of the most effective tie-ins was 'The Well'. It saw Coulson and his team hunt down an Asgardian staff weapon. Anyone who wielded this staff became a berserker, and it was being used to cause riots in Scandinavia. Holding a third of the staff left Ward tortured by visions of his past; impressively, although the episode teased Ward's demons, it somehow still avoided revealing his greatest secrets.
Towards the end of the episode, the story took a twist. May took up not a third of the staff, but the whole weapon. Incredibly, she proved able to wield it without effect. Later, Ward asked May how she'd resisted the pain of what she'd seen; in a haunting character moment, May explained that her regrets were always with her. She faces them every day when she wakes up.
9. Terrigenesis (Season 2)
When Stan Lee came up with the idea of mutants, it was really because he'd become tired of writing origin stories. With mutants in play, he no longer needed to imagine radioactive spiders, super-soldier serums, or Cosmic Ray bombardment; superhuman powers were just triggered by a fluke of genetics. For Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Inhuman gene would come to serve a similar function.
That all started with "What They Become," the Season 2 episode that saw Daisy undergo Terrigenesis. This was essentially a death-and-resurrection scene for the character. Skye, the hacker who longed to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, died; she was replaced by Daisy Johnson, a.k.a. Quake, who would effectively become S.H.I.E.L.D.'s lead superhero.
8. Grant Ward's Betrayal (Season 1)
Fans had spent the first half-season complaining that Brett Dalton's Grant Ward was simply too good to be true. It wasn't unusual to see reviews argue that no secret agent and assassin could ever be so nice a person. Ward just seemed to break fans' ability to suspend their disbelief. Then, in a dramatic twist, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. revealed that Ward had been an agent of Hydra all along. The Ward fans had seen in the first half of Season 1 was nothing more than a mask. He really had been too good to be true; that was precisely the point.
Even more impressively, S.H.I.E.L.D. revealed this in a last-second twist. Hydra seemed to have been defeated, and fans were beginning to wonder what would come next. Then, in the final sequence of 'Turn, Turn, Turn', Ward shot down some S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, murdered Victoria Hand, and rescued key Hydra leader John Garrett. It was an unforgettable moment and would reshape the whole series.