On Free Will, Tough Choices, and Why You Don’t Want To Stand with Ward

If you’re not watching the new season of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, you should fix that. For a show that had a less than stellar first season, it has, so far, had an excellent, interesting, and intense second season. In a post-Winter Soldier world, the newly-appointed Director Coulson and his team have more enemies, fewer resources, and the kind of complicated problems that lead to greater stories, and much deeper character development.

While I’ve counted myself as a fan from pretty much the get-go, I have to admit that I was nervous about how the show would handle one particular story arc this season, and I fretted about it quite a bit during the summer hiatus:

How would the show deal with Grant Ward and the fallout from his betrayal?

Interviews with the cast and writers featured the word “redemption” waaaaaaay too often for my comfort level, and I was worried the narrative would gloss over the murder, rape threats, and Nazi affiliations in order to more easily bring Ward back into the fold, and avoid upsetting the status quo. When all of the season two merchandise and promotional posters still included Ward standing next to May and Skye, my worries did not decrease. Especially when Trip was conspicuously absent.

But we’re eight episodes in, and the show has refused, at every turn, to let Ward off the hook. I am consistently surprised and impressed by how the narrative reminds us, repeatedly, that what he has done is terrible. That choices have consequences, and when you make bad ones, you have to live with the fallout.

Where I find myself angry and disappointed instead, is with the show’s fandom.

Tumblr is full of fun GIFsets, artwork, and playlists, and I love seeing ones from shows I enjoy. But here’s the thing. Ward’s not Team anymore. He gave that up when he murdered Victoria Hand in cold blood. But still, even months after he chose the other side, SHIELD fandom still wants to include him in their arty graphics.

I saw so many melancholy Skye/Ward Tumblr GIFsets that I had to give up and blacklist the dude’s goddamn name. But still, I can’t avoid it. And every time something like that crosses my dash, I have another rage induced blackout. Not just because he’s not on the team anymore; I get so angry because half the time they skip over the newer additions to the cast (Trip, Mack, Bobbi) in order to include Ward in team graphics, even though he’s a traitor AND NOT ON THE TEAM. The only new team member who I see get regularly included is Hunter, and if you can’t figure out why, I’ll give you a minute to catch up.

Turns out, there’s an entire movement backing Ward. They’ve got a Tumblr, a hashtag, and merchandise. They make cookies. They wear bracelets. They want you to know: they #StandWithWard.

I’ve read through pages and pages of their Tumblr posts, I’ve trolled through some of their hashtagged tweets. Mostly I see people calling Ward a victim, lashing out at Ward’s critics for “victim blaming,” laying all the responsibility for Ward’s crimes at Garrett’s feet. I see people comparing Ward to Akela Amador, Mike Peterson, and Bucky Barnes.

(And here is where I inevitably must remove my hands from my laptop in order to not throw it out the window any time I see someone say “Bucky Barnes is a villain” because no and also fuck you.)

I see you, guys. I see you standing with Ward. But what I can’t, for the life of me, understand is why. Is it because he’s an attractive white dude and, thanks to decades of media conditioning, you’re unable to find any real fault with any problematic action he might take, because scruffy hot white dudes are always the hero?

This was my initial reaction, but I took a step back and gave the problem some real thought. For days, I tried to think of a similar fictional character who had earned my respect and sympathy after doing terrible things. I love redemption stories! I love a good villain! Layered, complex villains and anti-heroes are some of my favorite characters.

Zuko’s journey, from desperately searching for honor and his father’s approval to being a full-fledged member of Team Avatar, is one of my favorite parts of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Spike’s transformation from William the Bloody to somebody Buffy could trust was amazing. Characters like Narcissa Malfoy from Harry Potter, Klaus and the other Mikaelsons on The Originals, and Crowley on Supernatural, are all categorized as different shades of “villain” though they can (and do!) occasionally help save the day.

But those characters, and all the other ones I thought of, all started off as clear villains. Was there ever a character who was introduced as Team, but then turned traitor? Anyone who killed innocent people, all of their own free will, but was later redeemed? Someone who could look back on their actions with regret and take steps to try and make up for the terrible things they did?  Finally, it hit me.

Folks, it’s time to talk about Faith Lehane.

Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Faith came to Sunnydale after her former Watcher was murdered in front of her. She expected to find a kindred spirit in Buffy, but through events that weren’t always within Buffy’s control (previously dead boyfriends returning from Hell, evil Watchers trying to steal gloves and stir shit, incompetent Watchers fucking shit up completely), Faith felt like she didn’t belong in the group. Because she always felt like it was Buffy’s group: Buffy’s school, Buffy’s Watcher, Buffy’s friends, Buffy’s family. Buffy’s town.

After Faith accidentally killed a man and the Watcher’s Council attempted to drag her back to England from punishment, she switched sides and started working for the Mayor. On his order, she killed people, and would have helped him murder the entire graduating class (and probably most of the town, if not more) if his Ascension plan had succeeded.

She had a really messed-up home life, she had seen more violence than any 17-year-old should, and she felt completely alone. She felt like she didn’t have any other choice. (Starting to see the parallels now?)

But when she walked into the Mayor’s office and offered to work for him, she did that of her own free will.

Later on, after exploding high schools and year-long comas, she made another choice. She walked into a police station and confessed to the homicide she had committed. She was eventually sentenced to a prison term, and because her super strength would make most prison security measures a joke, every day she stayed there was a choice as well.

In the days before she made the choice to confess, we get to see her struggle with the weight of the things she’s done. The most important thing, for me, is that she acknowledges the things she did were wrong, and holds herself accountable for them. Because of that, we see her pain, her desperation, how badly she wants to run away from the consequences of her actions.

But, in the end, she doesn’t. She makes the hard choice and stays to face those consequences.

That’s part of the reason why I love her so much. I love the idea that a person can climb back out of that kind of darkness. That you can make the decision to be better than you were, and if you’re strong enough, you might just succeed.

It’s here that the parallels between Faith and Ward end, because above all else, Faith shows remorse.

Angel: I think you have to ask yourself: are you?

Faith:  What?

Angel: Sorry.

Faith: And what if I can’t say it? There are some things you can’t just take back, no matter how sorry you are, right?

Angel: Yeah, there are. I’ve got some experience in that area.

So far, Ward has not. He doesn’t own any of his past actions, and has yet to show anything like real regret.

Fitz: You tried to kill us.

Ward: No. I wanted to save you. Garrett ordered me to kill you and Simmons. He expected me to put a bullet in your head. But I couldn’t. I gave you a fighting chance to find a way out, like you always do. Like you did.

In that conversation, Ward manages to evade any kind of responsibility for dumping Fitz and Simmons into THE OCEAN. If he really wanted to help, if he was really trying to give them a “fighting chance” he could have given them scuba equipment, or a working radio. He had time, and knew that plane, and Garrett was busy. He could have done something that might actually save them, rather than forcing them to magically find a last-minute solution. Which they did, in spite of Ward, not because of him. And their solution wouldn’t have saved them anyway if Nick Fury hadn’t shown up like an avenging angel in a black leather jacket. Correlation is not causation, folks.

The first time Ward sees Skye after getting put in a cell, he shows her scars on his wrists and confesses to having tried to kill himself.

Ward: I went through a rough stretch. First pair of pants they gave me had a button on the back. They took that away. But you fold a piece of paper just right, it gets sharp. When they took that away, I started running at the walls.

Skye: You should have run faster.

Skye, bless her little hacker heart, is having none of it. The fact that Ward tried to kill himself doesn’t garner him any sympathy from me either, not in this context. He has given no evidence that he is feeling depression-levels of remorse or regret for his actions. This is not a man being crushed under the weight of his grief. He seems merely aware that he has no good options at this point, and that he may well spend the rest of his life in a SHIELD cell. Rather than face the outcome of his choices, he tries to run away in the only way left to him.

That’s not tragic. It’s just cowardice.

Because, again, at no point does Ward show any kind of regret or remorse for the things he did. If he had, I might sympathize with his predicament; it is hard to redeem yourself from inside a jail cell. But instead, he blames Garrett, he blames HYDRA, he blames his family.

Christian Ward: You twist every act and blame it on somebody else. Mom and Dad were terrible, but they didn’t put the match in your hand when you burned down that damn house. And I didn’t squeeze the trigger when you killed all those people.

Grant Ward: It is my fault. I let you all hollow me out. Control me.

See, again, how he neatly dances right up to the edge of taking responsibility, and then hands it off to someone else? The buck stops… over there.

He agrees to cooperate with the team, and gives them usable intel. But only in exchange for getting one-on-one time with Skye. But even then, he shows no sign of remorse. Not even to the woman he professes to love. All he seems to be doing is pushing forward with Raina’s idea that if he can introduce Skye to her birth father, they’ll all big one big happy monster family.

But here’s some hard truth for you, buddy. Monsters are what you make of them. Even if Skye has Kree/Inhuman DNA, that doesn’t make her a monster. It just makes her not strictly Earth Human. Aligning yourself with Nazis and murdering your allies in cold blood? That’s what makes you a monster.

I’m not 100% opposed to a Ward redemption story. I’m not in favor of it, because Ward’s decision to double down on villainy this season has made for some great narrative turns. But if the show plans to do it (and I feel like they will, eventually), they need to do it right:

  • First, Ward needs to say, out loud, to at least one person on the team, that he knows what he did was wrong, and that he’s sorry for it.
  • Second, he has to give himself over to whatever that group of people decides is appropriate punishment. Generally, I vote jail. Murderers go to jail.
  • Third, he then has the long, arduous process of doing whatever he can to make up for what he’s done. Picture Sisyphus rolling that big ol’ rock up a hill, and that’s what I think should be laid out for Ward in the next few seasons.

I know he has a tragic backstory. It seems like his parents were abusive, and his brother was as well. I can sympathize with that. He was already in an emotionally fragile state when Garrett recruited him, and the time he spent with Garrett was hardly free of emotional manipulation or violence. When he was a young man, he didn’t have any choices available to him. The young Grant Ward was a victim.

But then he grew up. He spent time with other people, a lot of time with a lot of other people. He was exposed to morals and beliefs other than Garrett’s. He spent the better part of a year on a plane with Coulson’s team, maybe not free of Garrett’s influence, but at least out of his reach. And as he grew up, and became an adult, he had more choices available to him than he did as a child. He could have run. He could have fought. He could have disappeared.

I’m not trying to erase what happened to Ward. He was obviously traumatized, and victimized. But being a victim doesn’t give you the right to victimize others. It doesn’t mean you get away with murder. We can understand a character’s pain without excusing their behavior.

If Ward is really a good man, wouldn’t he have had doubts about what Garrett wanted him to do? Wouldn’t he have seen the ramifications of what was in the works, and wondered if it was the right thing to do? Especially after Skye got shot and nearly died. For months, he had ample opportunities to voice his doubts and fears to Coulson, in an environment where he would have been safe. They live on a plane! They could have kept Ward hidden from Garrett.

Even if Ward was so swayed by Garrett’s manipulation that he never once had a single doubt that Garrett’s actions were correct, do you think he was never afraid of him? Dudes like Garrett don’t usually traffic in love-based loyalty as much as fear-based obedience. I bet his time spent on the Bus, away from Garrett and his expectations for what he needed Ward to be, was a relief. Wouldn’t it be tempting, for someone who has admitted to not giving a shit about HYDRA’s master plan, to spill the beans in order to secure yourself the freedom to not be afraid anymore?

The argument I see online seems to be that Ward didn’t have a choice in anything we saw him do in the first season, because he was under Garrett’s control. But I just don’t buy it. Ward may have been loyal, he may have been afraid, he may have been emotionally compromised at an early age, but when it comes to the events we see in Agents of SHIELD, he had a choice.

Even if we hand-wave away everything that happened in season one, what did Ward do after he escaped in season two? Did he backpack to Tibet to meditate and seek enlightenment? Did he volunteer at a soup kitchen? Did he go to Kenya to dig wells and build schools?

No. He strapped a bomb to his chest, threatened to murder civilians en masse, used a mother and her child as a human shield, murdered his brother and their parents, and allied himself with HYDRA again.

Christian Ward: You lie to yourself. You want to know why? It’s simple. You can’t reconcile all the ugly, horrible things you do with the hero you so desperately want to become.

While I don’t trust the elder Ward any more than his brother, this line hit the nail right on the head for me. Ward, like most villains, still sees himself as the hero of the piece. And he has a specific idea in his head of how a hero should behave. The things he’s done, the choices he’s made, don’t exactly fall under the heading of “Heroic,” so those actions can’t be his. It must be someone else’s fault. That way he doesn’t have to challenge his internal image of Grant Ward, Tragic Hero.

Because what kind of hero would do those things?

The people we see in this show who have actually had their choices taken away from them, either by having explosives put behind their eyeballs (Akela Amador), or their child’s life threatened (Mike Peterson), have expressed remorse over what they’ve done Akela welcomes the prospect of a quiet prison sentence, and Mike can’t face his son knowing the terrible things he did to keep Ace safe.

Every single member of the Avengers has a backstory full of tragedy and violence. But somewhere along the way, each of them made a decision about the kind of person they wanted to be. To mangle a Dumbledore quote, the difference between being a hero and being a villain is the moment when you make a choice between what is easy, and what is right.

Finally, I’d like to remind you of the moment when Ward revealed to the audience that he had been working for Garrett all along. Garrett had been arrested, and was restrained under armed guard. Victoria Hand was taking him to the Fridge with a SHIELD security detail, where they planned to lock Garrett away.

Even if Ward was too afraid of Garrett to talk to Coulson, even if he was so turned around after years of emotional manipulation and violence to ask for help, even if he couldn’t bring himself to admit to another human being that he might have been wrong to put his faith in Garrett, the man was in chains and on his way out of Ward’s life forever. All Ward had to do was nothing.

Instead, he stood up and shot Victoria Hand five times.

So, please: Tell me again how Ward is a victim. Because I still don’t understand.

Written by Beatrice


  1. Great read! Congrats on your first blog post =)

    You bring up some strong points and I also do not really agree with people supporting a Ward redemption story. I think I understand why they do though (I highlight in the next paragraph). He is a villain and honestly I think it is okay to like a villain. I think that one of the joys of a good show is if they can craft a villain that you love to hate. In this case you have a traitor who did some pretty dispicable things and you can’t really explain why he did those things. Was he manipulated, is he too psychologically damaged, and/or does he have his own agenda? For me he is not quite that villain that I like yet. Right now he is that villain that makes me think WTF is he doing. I suspect this season will spend a lot of time exploring the reasons why Ward is the way he is. I am glad they are taking this route. Nothing would of been worse then just giving him a quick redemption. Somethings cannot be undone or forgiven and I think Ward has placed himself in that sort of scenario.

    I have a lot of praise for the show when it comes to season 1. I know they had a slow start and a lot of that had to do with the events of Cap 2. Sometimes the show was dull but everthing made more sense as the season progressed. Ward was always sorta overdone and boring to me. He took on the role of the silent killer. Emotionally detached, badass, and dark. These are things a lot of fans love in their heroes, or I should say anti-heroes. He started to show emotional development as the show went on then suddenly flipped a switch and because a monster. The way he played the whole team and betrayed them was masterful. I mean, the guy went deep undercover for a long time and built strong relationships with the team. Then suddenly, with the exception of Skye, he turned on all of them with no remorse. Maybe a select group became so enamored by him that his betrayal was too shocking. All of a sudden their favorite good guy character was actually a horrible bad guy character. They refuse to believe that he will stay a bad guy and pray for his eventual redemption.

    Again, I like the post a lot and look forward to reading more! Just wanted to comment my two cents.

    • Thanks Dave!

      I think Ward’s evolution as a villain has been extremely well-done, and if you judge my enjoyment by how much I want to kick him in the face, I have REALLY been enjoying his story line this season.

      I have absolutely no problem with anyone loving a villain. I love villains! Villains can tell great stories. But don’t hand me a villain and tell me he’s a hero.

      And Ward’s not an anti-hero, either. He’s a villain. Anti-heroes are people who do the wrong things for the right reasons. A good example would be Mal Reynolds, who would definitely put a bad guy through his spaceship’s engine if he felt it was necessary, but would never hurt civilians, or good people just trying to do their jobs.

  2. Complete agreement.

    I’d like to see the character redeemed, because at this point he’s so thoroughly irredeemable that if they pulled it off it’d be impressive. It seems like the scary folks who defend Ward at this point are saying that if he flipped again tomorrow everything would be just fine and he’d be fully redeemed. That’s totally wrong–if he flipped again tomorrow he’d just be an even worse villain: An arbitrary one.

    To pull it off will take time–we’re talking, like, four seasons deep. That said, judging from the quality of the second season and the second half of the first season, I’d say they’ve got the patience and skill to do it right.

    • I almost don’t want them to redeem him at all, because I’m so thoroughly enjoying his descent into full-on villain mode that I just really want to see where the writers are going to take him next.

      Every episode I keep expecting them to have Ward do something that will kick-start the redemption arc, and every episode he just does something EVEN MORE HORRIBLE. Next week, Ward does his impression of Angelus and leaves a murdered puppy on Skye’s doorstep.

      But you’re right, if they DO plan to redeem him, it would have to take ages. And it has to start with regret and remorse, otherwise it means nothing.

      • Like, if we’re talking Six Seasons and a Movie, the movie’s where the final redemption had better happen.

        • If I’m writing Ward’s final redemption scene, it ends with him taking a bullet for Skye. She sheds a single Dean Winchester tear, then moves on with her life of badass hackerdom.

  3. I read your article and I wish to politely disagree with your skewed opinions of Grant Ward.
    First of all, yes I am fully aware he has done very bad things and I agree that he should atone for those bad things.

    Grant Ward has been a victim of abuse and manipulation from a very young age. An age where a child learns his way in the world. The people around this child, his parents and older sibling for example, should have shown him love, reasonable discipline and the difference between right and wrong. But they didn’t, they abused him, they destroyed him.

    Then he met Garrett who molded the teenage Ward with more twisted ideals and because Grant Ward didn’t know any different, he believed Garrett was the answer to his problems.

    Garrett had his own agenda, a vendetta against SHIELD, and he projected that onto Ward by isolating him and filling his head with lies. What hope did he have against that?

    That is emotional abuse, pure and simple. Grant Ward is a victim.

    Yes, he killed Victoria Hand and it was shocking, but have you forgotten that this woman was ready to abandon Coulson and the team AND sent Ward and Fitz into a situation with no extraction plan.
    Victoria Hand wasn’t innocent.

    Ward doesn’t enjoy killing anyone, you can see it in his eyes. After he shoots Victoria Hand and Garrett’s regaling him with yet another war story, you can see Ward’s eyes show disdain for his SO. He’s realising what kind of person Garrett is.

    He goes against Garrett’s orders to kill Fitz and Simmons outright and instead gives them a fighting chance. It is even acknowledged by Fitz that the Pod was meant to float but malfunctioned.

    Is that really the actions of a cold blooded killer?

    As a final point, Ward has not allied himself with HYDRA again.

    He was never loyal to HYDRA in the first place, just to Garrett.

    Yes, he is seated with Whitehall in final scenes of Episode Eight, but look closely at his eyes, Ward is playing a game, infiltrating HYDRA for his own purposes.

    I will always Stand With Ward and I trust the writers of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

    • First of all, thank you for being polite. It’s much appreciated.

      Secondly, I’ll have to just as respectfully disagree with you.

      I went back and checked the scene with FitzSimmons in the pod, and the pod doesn’t malfunction. It’s built to be compatible with all SHIELD ships, and when it landed in deep water, it adapted as it was programmed, and because of that, they sank. So it wasn’t like Ward deliberately put them into a pod that he thought would float, and keep them alive, but it failed. Fitz and Simmons hid in the pod themselves, and Ward ejected them from the plane. I suppose it’s possible he assumed they would hide in the pod, and assumed it would float, but he hasn’t earned that kind of belief from me. It seems more like a happy accident that they survived, so Ward doesn’t really get to take credit for that.

      Just because Victoria Hand was ruthless in her dedication to her job doesn’t mean she deserved to be murdered. SHIELD requires it’s top-level operatives to be ruthless. Whether or not we think she made the right call, sometimes sacrificing operatives for the greater good is part of the job. I never said she was innocent, I said she was an ally. She trusted Ward to do his job, and have her back, and he murdered her.

      Also, I have to ask, would you say that about Nick Fury? He ran SHIELD the same way.

      I don’t think Ward is or was loyal to HYDRA, but he has allied himself with them. All three of the men at that table are planning to betray the others, but for the moment, they are reluctant allies, sharing resources and information and working together.

      I haven’t seen one sign of real regret or remorse from Ward, and because of that, to me, he’s an unrepentant villain. I trust the writers, too. I think they’re doing a great job of writing a layered, complicated story for Ward. I just don’t think he’s a hero.

      • If I remember the episode correctly, given as I found the grossly unbalanced fight between May and Ward highly distressing to watch more than once, Fitz actually says to Simmons, when they are in the Pod itself:

        “I spent the last hour trying to figure out why we sank.”

        Why would he say that if wasn’t meant to float?

        What use would the Pod be if it sank?

        Ward did try to give FitzSimmons a fighting chance to survive when he released the Pod.

        • I pulled it up on Netflix, so here’s the direct quote from Fitz: “I spent the last hour trying to figure out why we sank. We’re at the bottom of the ocean, in case you missed that bit. These pods are built to be compatible with all SHIELD aircraft, submarines, spacecraft. On impact, the atmospheric adaptation must have tried to compensate. We slowly sank as it increased the density of the outer walls.”

          I took that to mean that the pod’s automatic response was, “oh hey, we’re in water, I should act like a submarine and keep the pod airtight.”

          Of course, it’s entirely possible that this was just a plot device that the writers didn’t think through as much as we have. I didn’t read it as a malfunction, just a case of the automatic response not being quite what the user might have preferred.

          A grossly unbalanced fight scene? I always saw May and Ward as pretty evenly matched. He’s got the reach and the muscle, but she’s got the skill and the speed. Sure, she kicked his ass in the end, but it was a tough fight.

      • Actually, Fitz tells Simmons that he spent an hour trying to figure out why the pod sank. It should have adapted, meaning that it should have become a life boat. Not sink to the bottom of the ocean. Can we stop rehashing this since canon has already disproved all the fanon made up to justify hating on Grant Ward?

        And Ward HAS shown remorse. He felt it after he killed Nash in 1X17, he tells Garrett that there wasn’t supposed to be any bloodshed in 1X18, he tells Skye that he’s not a good man in 1X19 and producers have already confirmed that the first time Grant Ward was his most honest was in 1X19.

        Then in the season 2 premiere, he tells Skye that he knows what he’s done and what he is. He specifically tells her that he’s not asking for forgiveness and that he just wants to help her. In episode 2X03, he told Skye that he didn’t blame Garrett for what he’d done. Again, taking responsibility for HIS crimes.

        You also forgot to mention a VERY important piece of dialogue when you referenced the scene with Christian.

        Grant Ward told his brother that he takes FULL RESPONISBILITY for all of HIS actions.

        That scene was not about Ward deflecting all of his crimes and placing any blame on others. He’s admitted to them all. He’s never once blamed ANYONE for his crimes. Not Garrett, not his family, not the team. No one. He’s owned up to everything.

        He knows he’s done a lot of bad for what he believed were the right reasons. Whether you agree with them or not, is irrelevant. To the character, he believed he was doing the right thing to save the man he loved like a father. To the bitter end, Grant Ward was still trying to be “the good son”. Those are producer Maurissa’s words from the Declassified book by the way. Not mine.

        At the end of the day, Grant Ward is the very definition of an anti-hero whether you like it or not. He’s capable of doing a lot of bad for what he believes are the right reasons (killing Hand to save Garrett who was going to actuall kill Garrett in case you forgot). But he’s also capable of doing good things for the wrong reasons (giving Bakshi to Coulson to get him out of the way so that he could easily infiltrate Hydra and keep his promise to Skye).

        At the end of the day, HE thinks what he is doing is for the right reasons. Even though he’s making some hard choices that may or may not be getting people killed.

        Grant Ward has never killed anyone who is “innocent”. Not even Thomas Nash was “innocent”. He’s killed bad guys and other agents who are soldiers just like him. He’s involved in a massive war and he’s on the front lines by himself. But he hasn’t harmed a single civilian. Those are the ONLY innocent people within this universe of spy vs. spy.

        Has he made questionable choices? Absolutely. But so has Coulson.

        There are no heroes anymore. This world is not black and white. They are no longer just the good guys vs. the bad guys. They are all spies. They all do questionable things.

        Grant Ward is not out to watch the world burn. That’s Whitehall and possibly Skye’s dad.

        Daniel Whitehall is the one true villain of this show at the moment. Everyone else is still very much redeemable. Even Skye’s dad and Bakshi aren’t too far gone yet.

        I actually don’t ever expect Ward to “die” for Skye in order to be redeemed. Ward is way too important to Coulson’s narrative for that. But that’s a whole other topic about how Shield and Ward are both on a path toward redemption and how Coulson can’t rebuild Shield without Ward and Ward can’t be redeemed without Coulson.

        The character that I’m thinking they COULD go the route of redemption by sacrificial death through is Skye’s dad. Maybe even Bakshi, if they decide to go there with Simmons. But not Ward. He’s going to be around for a long, long time.

        And as long as he’s still showing remorse and still trying to be better, he is still capable of being redeemed. And we will still Stand with Ward no matter how many articles like this suddenly pop up. The movement is strong. And articles like this only make fans band together more and become a stronger force to be reckoned with.

  4. Okay, I definitely disagree with virtually everything you’ve written.

    Understand, first and foremost, that the writers know what they are doing. They had the first four seasons planned before the pilot even aired. The fact that the word ‘redemption’ was and continues to be ‘featured’ is because that has been the plan since day one. One thing that Jeph Loeb has stated, is that Marvel does not do ‘take backs.’ They are not going to simply ‘gloss over’ the people Ward has killed, but that doesn’t mean that someone can’t still be redeemed.

    I will say this once and only once: there was NEVER a rape threat. That is how some fans have interpreted it, which is understandable if you take that line completely out of context; like many have and continue to do.


    Raina: “Skye we need Skye, and that’s all you ever wanted, isn’t it? The evolution he speaks of she’ll be an important part of that, so go get her, Grant Ward.”

    Ward: “Get her for what?”

    Raina: “The world is going to change, and when it does, she could be yours.”

    Ward: “Wow. You really are crazy. Skye detests me. She thinks I’m a monster.”

    Raina: “Are you? Is that your true nature, or is that what Garrett made you to be?

    Ward: “I don’t know.”

    Raina: “Well, we know about Skye’s parents, about the darkness that lies inside her. I believe in a world where her true nature will reveal itself. And when that day comes maybe you two could be monsters together.”

    Here Raina is doing what she does best: manipulates. Like Skye even just said at the beginning of Season 2, she pinpointed Grant’s weakness (Skye) and used that against him. She played with his emotions – giving him a small semblance of hope. Of course, it wasn’t out of the goodness of her heart. The entire plan was so he would go ‘get Skye’ and bring her to Raina.

    Then we see Grant and Skye confront each other again.


    Skye: “But some people are just born evil, I guess.”

    Ward: “Yeah. Yeah, maybe they are. I’ve learned things about you, Skye history things you’ll want to know. You and I aren’t that different.” (again, this correlates to his discussion with Raina and what she told him about Skye’s parents and her ‘true nature’.)

    Skye: [chuckles] “You’re not the evil I was referring to. Garrett is evil. You’re just weak, doing anything you’re told. I hope Garrett orders you to walk into traffic.” (Skye knows she can’t take him physically, but she knows what words can cause the most pain and utilizes it).

    Ward: “You’re right, Skye. You woke up a weakness inside me. And for the first time in a while, I wanted something for myself. Maybe I’ll just take what I want wake up something inside of you.”

    This is something I cannot fathom how some fans just glossed over. This all directly correlates to his discussion with Garrett and Raina. He, for the first time in his entire life, wanted something/someone for himself. He wasn’t acting on orders. He compartmentalized everything in his life in order to do his ‘job’ – to follow orders. He sacrificed that free will due to submission and years of intense conditioning. He wasn’t talking about ‘taking Skye’ in a sexual manner; he meant take her in the context of leaving with her. It also deals with what he told Skye in Only Light In the Darkness: “What I want, is to stay here with you, and imagine the world outside doesn’t exist.”

    The ironic thing about the entire exaggerated ‘rape threat’…is the fact that WARD is the only character who has been *raped* on-screen!! Yet that gets completely glossed over on an ongoing basis! Its never mentioned. Lorelai literally raped him onscreen in ‘Yes Men.’ I don’t hear any outrage about that!


    ‘Nazi affiliations’

    Ward has never been and is still not HYDRA. They have repeated this fact *multiple* times throughout the show. I don’t know how much clearer they could possibly make it. Ward was only ever invested in the welfare and protection of John Garrett. That was John’s entire reason for conditioning himself a ‘weapon’ and soldier. He knew he was dying and needed all the help he could get in order to carry out his vendetta against SHIELD. Ward was a pawn. Ward has never been aligned with HYDRA, just like Raina has never been aligned with them. They used them for their own personal agendas. SHIELD operates in much the same way: manipulating people. We’ve heard Coulson state that they (SHIELD) practically TEACH it at the academy.

    Ward is one of the main 6. He is not simply going to disappear. If they were to kill him off, it would be a waste of character development and the time that has gone into telling his incredible back-story. That would be one of the *worst* decisions. That would be similar to dismissing Skye’s heritage and Coulson’s revival. Its set up and established for a reason. So yes, he will continue to be shown on promotional materials. Trip is NOT a series regular. People need to understand this. Showing him on promotional material would be like showing Koenig. It’s not going to happen. Look, I LOVE Trip! I frankly would’ve preferred him become a regular over Lance Hunter. Who knows, hopefully BJ will one day come on full-time. Fingers crossed.

    Ward is not ‘Team’ anymore…he never truly was. He never really was attached to any organization. That is the POINT. He was recruited and conditioned by Garrett (after being abused and neglected by his family), then told a gruesome story about how SHIELD betrayed John (left him to die after serving them where he put his life on the line) – which lead to John having Grant infiltrate SHIELD via the academy and ensure he be placed on Coulson’s team to find out how he was resurrected. –> That was the mission.


    Garrett: “Listen, if the job was easy, it wouldn’t-

    Ward: “Yeah, the job was to blend in, gather intel on Coulson’s revival. That’s it. You said yourself you didn’t want any bloodshed.”

    Garrett: “That was before I found out Coulson didn’t know squat.”

    Point is, Ward was never loyal to *Anyone* other than his warped father-figure: John Garrett.

    Victoria Hand was *not* squeaky clean. People seem to also forget this. Another thing that gets easily glossed over:

    When Hand corners Jemma and Trip and gives them that HYDRA ultimatum and they decline – she states that the number of people she trusts is now 7. That makes me (and many others) wonder: “How many people/agents did you just KILL?!” Something that seems like a glaring problem, would be if a SHIELD agent feigned loyalty to HYDRA under her threat in order to bide their time to gain intel and try to infiltrate them from the inside. So the question becomes, how many innocent people did she just finish murdering in cold blood? Also, I’ll point out that she was ready to leave Fitz & Ward without an extraction plan in place – leaving them to die. And then there was her resistance to gather a team to help find and retrieve Coulson. This is partially due to SHIELD’s training, where their agents are expendable. (Kind of set themselves up with Garrett’s vendetta in that sense.) Another thing you seem to be forgetting, is that on that small courier jet, Hand gave Ward an ultimatum (she likes to do this apparently). She told him to murder Garrett in cold blood as opposed to doing the ‘just’ thing and bringing him to prison to do time for his crimes. What would have happened if Grant declined? If he didn’t feel comfortable killing someone in cold blood (despite most specialists being trained to do just that – again, people forget that is what SPIES do). She would have killed both Garrett AND Ward right then and there. Such a nice Agent, right? Definitely a good person.

    I will take this time also mention that all of Ward’s kills have been purely tactical. The man was trained to be highly efficient in risk assessment. Keeping that and his life-debt + conditioning from Garrett in mind:

    *Ward kills Hand + 2 agents on the plane. – She threatened not only Ward’s cover, but John’s life. So, Grant had to make the ‘hard call’ and eliminated her to protect John.

    *Ward kills the 2 guards at the Fridge on John’s order, in order to gain access to the cells at the Fridge and once again, keep his cover. (I highly doubt that if Ward knocked them out, and they came to later on, that they wouldn’t report him, yeah?)

    *Ward kills Koenig. Why, you ask? Eric seemed like a nice enough guy. But when Koenig was about to see Ward appear on the NSA’s video footage of the Fridge’s rooftop, his cover was once again threatened.

    *I will take this time to mention that Ward did NOT kill the 2 cops that were about to arrest Skye outside of the diner. For any cold-blooded killer, it’d be all too easy to just take a kill shot and shoot for the cops heads. But he didn’t do that. Instead, he chose to incapacitate – not kill. He shot one in the arm, the other in the leg. It was just enough to stop them from detaining Skye.


    I’m happy to see you’re aware of our movement!! Thank you! I’m quite flattered. Yes, we proudly #StandWithWard. And if you took some time to bother seeing WHY, I think you might eventually understand. There have been countless metas, thesis’s, and in-depth, introspectives written on his character and his journey. These have been compiled not only by the everyday fan, but actual professional therapists and profilers! I highly encourage you to check out the Grant Ward Defense League & Stand With Ward tumblr pages for more information.

    Bucky Barnes, Akela, Mike, and Ward are all similar, but there is one clear distinction. The first 3 were all physically controlled (which partially included brainwashing or blackmail). Ward was controlled via other means, but no less damaging and effective: conditioning on top of years of abuse.

    The fact that people like you diminish Ward and the fans that support him due to his good looks is vain and extremely shallow on your part. It’s beyond upsetting. Can you really not see past his (albeit striking) good looks?! I don’t care if he looked like the Swamp Thing. >>I relate to his STORY<>compassion<< – John shot him with the rifle.) Skye would listen to him. She was (and continues to be) his light in the darkness. That, and Ward had vital information on Skye's family that he wanted to share with her. Two birds, one stone.

    Ward: "It's true, and so will be every word I say to you for the rest of my life. I'm not asking for forgiveness. I just want to help you. And when that information proves true, I hope you'll come back. There's so much I want to tell you about- [tablet beeps] [sighs] your father."

    Ward knew that a simple "I'm so sorry" wouldn't mean anything, nor would I expect him to just say sorry! That is not something one can just apologize for. He is taking ownership of what he's done. THAT is accepting responsibility.

    You're comparing Faith's multiple seasons arc with Ward barely 1.5! If you want to compare the two, give Ward a few more seasons before you try to force an unfair comparison!

    Fitz: "You tried to kill us."

    Ward: "No. I wanted to save you. Garrett ordered me to kill you and Simmons. He expected me to put a bullet in your head. But I couldn’t. I gave you a fighting chance to find a way out, like you always do. Like you did."

    Ward doesn't *AVOID* responsibility for what happened to Fitz. He is EXPLAINING his intention at the time. There is (again) a difference. That pod was designed to FLOAT. Grant (aside from being a highly trained Specialist) knew that plane's abilities. ….Did you really just suggest Ward pull out Scuba equipment?! Yes. I can picture it now:

    Ward: Open the door.
    Fitz: No.
    Ward: Come on, I want to give you guys some nifty stuff. Just open it a sliver.
    Simmons: No.

    ……HOW would that have possibly worked?! No. Instead, he took into account where they had secured themselves: a med pod.

    Fitz: "I've spent the last hour trying to figure out why we sank. We're at the bottom of the ocean, in case you missed that bit. These pods are built to be compatible with all S.H.I.E.L.D. aircraft, submarines, spacecraft."

    Fitz made a point to establish the fact that he couldn't comprehend (at first) why they actually sank. The pods were MEANT to float.
    Fitz knew that, Ward knew that. The Pod's abilities were something that both men knew about as they were well trained with SHIELD's technology.

    Fitz: "On impact, the atmospheric adaptation must have tried to compensate. We slowly sank as it increased the density of the outer walls. I measured the rate the water rose on the glass. Did the math we're at least 90 feet down. You can't see the surface.”

    Jemma: [sighs] "How did we survive the fall?

    Fitz: "The plane must have been in vertical flight mode, flying low."

    Once again, something that Ward took into account: the plane's low-flying path over the water (in order to avoid detection on radar).

    Fitz: "I already spent an hour trying to rig the wireless signals on the EKG to send out a weak distress call before remembering that it's a S.H.I.E.L.D. frequency and no one's listening."

    Again, Ward knew that there was a machine capable of transmitting signals from within.

    If Ward simply walked away, leaving Fitz and Simmons in the pod, John would inevitably (and much to Ward's hope at the time – as again, father-figure/leader) regain consciousness and KILL Fitz and Simmons outright like he did with Buddy! There is a *reason* that we (the audience) saw a direct parallel between Ward's ties with Buddy and FitzSimmons. Both times, Ward was given a direct order to kill the people he cared about without hesitation. And BOTH times, he couldn't bring himself to do it (That's compassion, btw. Not something a villain or cold-blooded killer possesses). Instead, we saw Ward take the middle-ground. He chose the only available option that would give each a fighting chance to live. He shot the gun in the air, knowing that Buddy would take off running, and hoped that he and John could leave without anyone being the wiser. With FitzSimmons, he knew he couldn't leave them on the plane, he had to get them away from John. Taking into further account that the pod could float, it was their best chance at survival.

    The fact that you felt 0 compassion for someone who tried to commit suicide (multiple times) is thoroughly worrying. He was telling Skye about his suicide attempts not for sympathy. He never brought it up until she noticed his scars and gave a questioning/concerned look. He was explaining. Not to mention, this was one small interaction he's had with another human being – after months of incarceration (where he wasn't even given basic human rights: i.e. sunlight, fresh air, a trial, etc).

    In fact, I despise what Skye said to him in that moment. I get that she is still angry and hurt (and trying to conceal the fact that deep down, she does still care about him), but that was entirely uncalled for and is beyond out of character for her. She was always the one who tried to see the good in other people. The one who would tell someone that there is still hope. The fact that she would not only condone but *encourage* suicide is damning to her character.

    Ward: "My family tore me down. Garrett built me back up. The way HE wanted."

    This is not someone deflecting ownership; he's identifying what lead him here.

    Christian: "You twist every act and blame it on somebody else! Mom and dad were terrible, but they didn't put the match in your hand when you burnt down that damn house! And I didn't squeeze the trigger when you killed all those people!

    Ward: "No. It is my fault. I let you all hollow me out, control me."

    Rule #1, every abuser cannot and will not see what they did to be wrong. They use gas lighting techniques to convince and manipulate the abused to believe that they either had it coming or were responsible. That is what you are continuing to see spiral out of Christian's mouth. Ward, once again, is taking ownership of how he was manipulated throughout his entire life. That is remarkable, actually! Its extremely enlightened. Most victims need therapy to realize that what was done to them wasn't their fault. Ward is stating a fact. Christian abused and manipulated not only him, but their younger brother, Thomas, as well. John Garrett (master manipulator) did the same – only tried to eliminate any and all free will and personal attachments from his life to suit his own needs.

    Ward: "I take responsibility for my actions, Christian."

    Ward has limited information on Skye's heritage. What little intel he DOES know, he knows she'd want to hear. The trick then becomes, how do you tell someone something vital, and have them believe you, when they've lost all trust? He had to establish that he meant what he vowed – that every word he'd say to her from now on would be the truth. The valuable intel – is a starting point. Ward did not know, however, anything to do with why her mother was killed (by HYDRA) or what her parents are by nature. He is once again, only working on the information Raina has provided him. That does not mean that he fully intends for Skye to become said monster. He knows that since they met, she's longed to learn about her family. Its what drove her to join the Rising Tide and at first SHIELD. To use their resources. Ward could relate to missing out on having a loving family.

    I'm glad to read that you're in fact *not* opposed to a redemption story.

    I can't help but feel like the fans who hated Ward wouldn't be happy one way or another. If the show chose to have him apologize for his actions, people would've been enraged and fuming that it wasn't something you could just waive off with an apology. Which I agree with! I'm glad that instead of saying 'I'm sorry' or 'my bad' he is taking responsibility for what he's done and is making a personal vow to do right. For the first time, he is under *no one's* control. He's finally his own man. That should be exciting for people to see how his story develops!

    I'll point out that this show is not about showing characters that are solely 'Good' or 'Evil'. No one is 100% good or evil. If you watched Buffy (which you seem to have done), you'd understand that like in life, these characters all operate in shades of grey!
    We've seen multiple people on Coulson's plucky team commit or be responsible for murder!

    *Coulson sacrificed the scientist in The Asset – didn't have to launch him into the gravitonium, that was his choice.

    *May killed the agent who double crossed them in T.R.A.C.K.S. Why? She could've used an I.C.E.R. to knock him out and properly detain him. That was pure vengeance. (Which she did in front of Phil and Grant.)

    *Fitz used a real gun to kill a hydra agent who was about to attack Coulson in Turn, Turn, Turn. Did he have to shoot to kill? No. He could've shot him in the arm, leg, – you get the picture – to stop the attacker.

    *Simmons threw her hydra co-worker under the bus (he hadn't outright killed anyone – not that we, the audience had seen…) – so she too, was responsible for an innocent death.

    NO ONE is solely good or solely bad. If you damn one character, be ready to hold others accountable for their actions, too. Now, before you get into it (I can hear the rebuttal starting), yes, Ward has done far worse. But once again, different factors contributed to those choices. Everyone makes choices to protect those who they are loyal to. Ward did that for John.

    I sincerely hope that you are not honestly trying to tell me that 20+ years of serious abuse, neglect, and hard conditioning could be undone within under a year! You must be joking. Or at least, I sincerely hope so. This is what makes me probably the most outraged by hater's 'arguments.

    No one excuses Ward's behavior. Let me make this abundantly clear. Stand With Ward doesn't want to wash away all of his misdeeds. He should (and needs to) come to terms with what he's done. A process which he's already started, by the way. That is the first step. He can't undo what he did.

    He also couldn't run away. He was now hard-wired to be a soldier – through not only John's training, but SHIELD's. He had a mission. Being around the team sadly didn't override those orders. But, the team did something of equal importance. They welcomed him (more or less – Coulson was pretty hostile to him a lot of the time – PRE hydra-ness). They became one big family. Ward never had that luxury. It opened his eyes that he could be loved.

    Seeing as how you still can't comprehend how someone couldn't just shake off that level of manipulation and conditioning, may I suggest this in-depth evaluation:

    "what did Ward do after he escaped in season two? Did he backpack to Tibet to meditate and seek enlightenment? Did he volunteer at a soup kitchen? Did he go to Kenya to dig wells and build schools? No."

    …I'm not even going to touch on the ridiculous idea of going to meditate in Tibet or volunteer at a soup kitchen after escaping…I will point out that Grant is dealing with something that has plagued him his entire life, once and for all. Good for him!! Those are called personal demons. Ya know, those things that haunt your everyday life? Yep. Those. Guess you have none. Lucky you. Moving on…

    "He strapped a bomb to his chest"

    Yep. Effective way to keep SHIELD and Coulson's team at a good distance. Pretty smart, dare I say, 'tactical'? Hmm. I wonder where I saw something like that implemented before….oh right! When Skye did that to an entire office! She threatened everyone with a bomb that she waltzed in there with. Only, the trick was, that it was in fact, fake. Much like WARD's! He had a dead man's switch connected to that bomb. …or did he? If you re-watch that episode, Ward took his thumb off of that switch *MULTIPLE* times. Yet, no body parts went flying. Ergo, it was NOT connected. The C4 might have been real, but the switch was not connected to make it an actual threat. He had to make them believe that it was real, to keep them back. Smart move, huh?

    He didn't use 'a mother and child as a human shield'. He had no reason to stop to help them. He identified with a seemingly torn family (a mother alone with a small son), and they were struggling with their heavy bag. He went over to help assist them. There was absolutely no purpose aside from doing something kind behind that decision. No SHIELD members were approaching him. They had been staying at a distance, observing him.

    Grant Ward is by no means a hero. No, he will however, prove to be a kick ass anti-hero! Which I can't wait for you to see.

    If you want to understand more about WHY and HOW we can support the character, maybe instead of writing insulting, slenderizing blog posts, you reach out to SWW fans and take a look at some of the well thought out theories, thesis’s, metas, and psych analysis’s we've all comprised! That would at least show that you tried.

    But then again, I somehow doubt you even made it to the end of this post.

  5. I finished season 3 of Agents of SHIELD last week and I’m now rewatching season 1. I found this blog post today while googling for articles about the parallels between Ward and Faith, which I’ve also noticed. I don’t know if you or anyone will get to read this article, a year and a half later, but here it is.

    You make some very good points. But, the people replying to you and disagreeing with you made some very good points, too. It’s… complicated.

    I agree with you that Ward’s main problem was being unable to fully accept responsibility and acknowledge the weight of his actions. He circled around it many times, but never came to the point of offering genuine remorse and real apologies. His default setting was trying to self-justify as much as possible and blame others and the world for his problems and his bad choices, and then get angry at others and the world for not forgiving him (as if they were obliged to) and for not giving him a chance, reimagining himself in his mind as a misunderstood hero and lashing out at everyone who thought he was a “monster” (at least this was how he described their opinion), and became more and more of a monster as a result.

    However… Your comparison between Ward and Faith fails to acknowledge one extremely important thing. Yes, Faith showed genuine remorse and guilt and understanding of how terrible her actions has been. But what you failed to mention is that Faith showed that only AFTER someone (Angel) offered her care, forgiveness and help. Before that, Faith was lashing out at everyone, absolutely refusing to accept responsibility for her actions, telling them they are as bad as she is. It’s only after Angel offers her the catharctic hug at the end of episode “Five by Five” and shelter in “Sanctuary” that she comes to that place where she accepts guilt and turns herself over to be punished. Before that, Faith had just, among other things, taken over and violated Buffy’s body, raped Riley, tortured Wesley, and tried to assassinate Angel.

    So here’s the thing: we don’t know if Faith would have been able to turn things around and seek redemption if all she was faced with were people telling her how terrible she is and that she should rot in hell. If anything, it looks like it would have made her more defiant and angry and she would have continued to lash out against her former friends and mentors and commit crimes. It was Angel’s compassion and offer of help, in spite of everything she had done, that turned things around. Nobody offered anything similar to Ward. (And please don’t say that Coulson’s offer of the TAHITI programme was a “chance”. It was not. The “benevolent” mindwipe that Angel did to Connor and Coulson/Daisy did to Cal is deeply disturbing, no matter how much the shows tried to present it otherwise. It has nothing to do with redemption, it’s the closest thing to a death sentence without being one literally. It basically means “You are so far gone that all we can do to you is completely destroy who you are and create a completely new person”. Thinking of Dollhouse (the show that AoS showrunners also worked on) only makes it more disturbing, as does Daisy’s line that Hive taking over person’s memories is the closest thing to “stealing their soul”. So, did you and Coulson rob your dad of his soul, then, kill the old Cal to make a New and Improved Cal 2.0?)

    Now, I’m not saying they were obliged to offer Ward a chance. Not a tall. They didn’t owe him anything; they had trusted him and (at least some of them) loved him, and he had thoroughly manipulated them from the start, betrayed and hurt them, and it’s obvious why they could never trust him again. (Which is why it would have been best if someone else was dealing with imprisoned Ward after season 1, someone more objective, but things were the way they were and what can you do, with SHIELD in tatters it would have been nearly impossible.) He still had the responsibility and should have worked for a redemption to get one. It’s not like he simply “deserved” a chance – no one does. But… let’s not pretend that anyone gave it to him and did what Angel did for Faith. Unlike ‘Buffy’ (and to smaller extent ‘Angel’) AoS is not a show built on the premise that “Forgiveness is an act of compassion… it’s not done because people deserve it. It’s done because they need it.” And that’s OK. It’s a different show. Sometimes it feels refreshing that it does not always give chances to characters. Maybe BtVS gave its characters too many chances. It’s a topic for discussion, in any case. But in any case, while Ward was not willing or able to work for redemption, it’s not like anyone tried to make it any easier for him. Not that they were obliged to. But if I’m going to take a guess, I think that telling people how horrible and incorrigible are isn’t helpful or conductive to them turning things around and doing soul searching, especially if it’s a person who’s already prone to being stubborn and defiant, which both Faith and Ward are. If anything, it is only likely to make them worse.

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