The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3 finale was a bit of a mixed bag, but it allows us to acknowledge an actor who’s been with us since the beginning, Brett Dalton. He was introduced as the clean faced, chiseled jaw, bad ass “best since Romanoff” Agent Grant Ward, the very first team member Phil Coulson chose for his new ragtag team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. At the time, we didn’t know much about the mysterious by-the-book agent, but one thing we were told from the start was that Grant Ward didn’t play well with others.
I fell in love with this character immediately, becoming excited about all the potential he possessed. That love quickly transferred to the actor who played him. As the first season progressed and we got to dig into Grant Ward’s past, a fan base of Ward’s Warriors arose to fight for his character’s redemption. I’m still saddened that never came to pass. Throughout the three seasons of this series, we’ve been lucky to witness Brett Dalton’s talent on screen. Sadly, we now have to bid farewell to the unsung hero of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Whether Grant Ward made us laugh as he he jokingly imitated himself during the show’s first season, or broke our hearts after the reveal of his dark past, Brett Dalton always delivered. He conveyed both vulnerablity and strength. His character may have been cloaked in darkness, but Dalton made me believe he never truly lost his humanity, delivering a performance that convinced me that Ward carried both good and evil within him. The character toed the line between hero and villain remarkably well, and that was what struck a chord with audiences.
The impact Dalton made to the show was so important to viewers that many had hopes his character would receive a redemption arc, thus enabling his continued presence on the show. Setting aside the obvious turn of events throughout the seasons, I ended season three still wondering, what if? What if Ward had not been murdered, or if he had somehow been brought back to life after his body was inhabited by an alien parasite? What if Grant Ward had become the hero we thought he was at the start? All these questions were left unanswered, and this somehow makes his story feel incomplete. It’s as if we’ve reached the end of a book, only to find that the last pages have been torn out of it.
Grant Ward not finding redemption on this series is extremely depressing to me as a viewer. It’s a sad realization of the status quo that mental health has in today’s society. After learning what happened to Ward, what lead him to believe in Garrett and what lead him to join Hydra, I found myself feeling sympathy for the character. Who wouldn’t feel for the guy knowing all the abuse he’d been through that started during his childhood and carried well into his adulthood?
I don’t think anyone expected redemption during the first season so soon after the reveal, but many of thought that it might come during the show’s second season. When we first caught up with Ward after the break, we found him in a vault being kept in solitary by Coulson and his team. We learned that he’d attempted suicide three times. And when he finally broke free of his captors, we thought that he was still trying to earn a place on their team by helping them the only way he knew how. This was the turning point some fans were hoping for. Unfortunately, the character was taken down the fork in the road that travelled in the opposite direction than I wanted.
The damage continued as his dark path with Hydra did too. Despite, the fact that Ward taking over Hydra never made much sense (Ward spent all his time since the reveal continuously repeating that he was never loyal to Hydra), Brett Dalton’s talent was a tour de force. No matter what he was given in terms of writing, he was always able to command every scene he was in. It’s no wonder he’s the show’s breakout star (Dalton won an award for this category in 2014). As his character progressed and became a formidable villain, so did his performance.
Dalton was able to successfully convince us that Grant Ward was nothing more than a stern and unemotional agent during the first few episodes of the series. As the show found its footing during the back half of the first season, so did his character, who still held an important role in the team. The greatest twist the show has ever had was when Ward was revealed to be Hydra. Everyone was shocked by this turn of events. Do you know why that was? It was because of Brett Dalton’s undeniable talent. He had the ability to fit multiple hats and to take on multiple changes with his character throughout the seasons. From hero to villain, the road to his death on this series was an emotional one because of the connection he created with the audience. No other plot twist since then has landed quite the same way.
Earlier this season, the audience had to say goodbye to this character who we have watched go through many trials and tribulations. Grant Ward was murdered by Director Phil Coulson. Coulson killing him wasn’t a surprise whatsoever but it was disappointing to watch because of the character’s potential. After Ward perished at the hands of Coulson he became Hive, the inhuman villain that could control his inhuman brethren. This meant that even though Grant Ward was gone, we were still able to keep Brett Dalton for the rest of the season. We were so lucky to be able to watch Brett play two different characters in this series solely because he is so talented. Still, I would have preferred to have had Grant Ward stick around instead.
I think the first time Hive became the formidable villain we expected him to be was after he killed civilians to regain his full strength. Once Hive regained his full strength, that’s when we saw Brett Dalton reach a whole new peak in his acting. The season benefited from Dalton’s performance as Hive, but it was very short lived. The longer Hive stuck around on the show, the less menacing he became. Why can’t this show keep up with itself? Every season we are promised an amazing payoff and every season finale they fail to deliver on that promise.
Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to Brett Dalton for good during the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season three finale. Hive’s plan to infect the world with the terrigenesis mist was a failure as he ended up getting trapped with Lincoln in the quinjet that carried the nuclear weapon. Despite being the season’s “big bad”, Hive’s death didn’t have as much of an impact as Grant Ward’s death on this show. However, that doesn’t mean that Brett and Luke (Mitchell) didn’t give the best performance of the episode in those final moments where their characters perished together.
Fortunately, fans don’t need to go far for a more satisfying storyline for the turncoat agent they’ve spent the last three years loving. The current Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. comic run in Marvel’s All-New All-Different lineup is fantastic. Grant Ward recently made his debut in the Marvel Comics Universe and like his TV counterpart; he is already stealing the show. It’s definitely a must read!
This is our final review of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series now that Brett Dalton is no longer a regular on the show. But if you’d like to see Grant Ward to continue to have a place in the world of S.H.I.E.L.D. pick up Marvel’s monthly comic book subscription written by Arrow’s Marc Guggenheim. Please share your thoughts about the season 3 finale below and let us know how you feel about Brett Dalton being officially off Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for good.