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The Grant Ward Conundrum: Analyzing the Complex Role of One of SHIELD's Best Characters

Posted on the 05 June 2015 by Virginiamae @SugarRushedBlog
The Grant Ward Conundrum: analyzing the complex role of one of SHIELD's best characters
The twist regarding Grant Ward which was revealed towards the end of season 1 in Agents of SHIELD was one fans will almost unanimously pinpoint as the moment when the show kicked into high gear.  I never counted myself among the number of those who bemoaned the slower pace of the earlier season 1 episodes, yet I do agree that like the moment when Dan shot Keith on One Tree Hill, it was that shocking turn in the story that caused the show to become something new, something bolder and darker and much more compelling.  So if everyone can agree that the reveal of Ward’s true allegiance and malevolent nature was the best thing that could have happened to the show (and most viewers would), then why are so many fans feeling increasingly polarized regarding the character of Ward as he is portrayed in Season 2?  There are so many sides to this story, but the one I find most important is that viewers can find their way to enjoying the character of Ward in his place on the show, and that while some of the writing (especially in season 2B) has veered off-kilter for him, there is every reason to suppose that he can have an exciting and wonderful role to play in Season 3.  Now let’s review the controversies that swirl around Grant Ward and consider how we can come to terms with him.
Ward the villain or Ward the team member?  It’s not that simple.  I want Ward to find redemption as much as the next #StandwithWard enthusiast, but that doesn’t mean I’m looking for simple answers like “Ward rejoins the team.”  I think that would be completely unrealistic and crazy.  Can Ward function as a hard-edged, unpredictable frenemy?  Absolutely, and I loved him in this function during much of Season 2.  Like Klaus of The Originals or even Spike from Buffy, Ward is one of those baddies who we ultimately know possesses more than a glimmer of the potential for good.  But he operates on the fringes at best, because of what he’s done and who he is.  He can make a wild leap into the light or further still into the blackest night (as we saw in the Season 2 finale) at the drop of the hat; Ward is volatile and out of control, but always thinks he is in totally control - this is the whole fascination of the character.  Trying to pin his possible redemption down to a “Ward turns good and rejoins the team” destiny is too narrow for such a layered and often nefarious character.
The Grant Ward Conundrum: analyzing the complex role of one of SHIELD's best charactersInconsistent writing.  Naturally, I wasn’t crazy about the Kara storyline or the way the writers woke up one morning seemingly blanking on Ward’s softer tendencies regarding his old team, which was clearly established in Season 2A.  There’s plenty of interest that we can unpack from Ward and Kara’s damaged, codependent, confused supposed love story, but where they lost me was in having him suddenly express so much hatred towards his former SHIELD cohorts.  When did that happen?  The biggest problem of all, actually, is the suggestion that sharp-as-a-tack warrior Ward would be stupid enough to shoot May knowing full well, of course, that she could easily be Kara in disguise.  Sure, Ward’s a sociopath capable of great violence and terrible acts in general, but he feels a bizarre kinship to his SHIELD frenemies, and is also far too intelligent to accidentally kill Kara in such a ridiculous manner.  The writers need to go back to examining the two sides of Ward, the good and the evil, as they did so masterfully in Seasons 1 and 2A.  I’m sure these missteps can be amended quite easily, not least of all because Brett Dalton’s flawless performance begs for a further exploration of the character’s true nature.
And the less said about that terrible fourth wall breaking “Stand with Ward” line of dialog from Kara, the better.
The Grant Ward Conundrum: analyzing the complex role of one of SHIELD's best charactersSkyeward:  The viewer’s ability to enjoy the anticipation, mystery, and conflict of this thwarted romance and its aftermath is tied to their capacity to appreciate Ward within his complex role on the show.Just as it makes little sense of expect Ward’s redemption to follow a simple path, the strong feelings and powerful suggestions of the Skyeward ship is anything but a matter of “Skye should never be with Ward because he is evil,” or its counteragent, “Ward should turn good again and then he can be with Skye.”Let Skye and Ward have a twisted, fascinating sort-of flirtation and underlying possibility of love that keeps us guessing, and let that connect back to the question of to what extent Grant Ward can ever be redeemed.His affection for Skye was never reduced in my perception by the Kara affair, not least of all due to the randomness in that storyline’s execution.The writers still have every chance to pursue a path for Skyeward that doesn’t bow down to black and white meanings or blunt dismissals that would fly in the face of everything that is provocative, sexy, and intriguing in the pairing.Ward the victim.  While some fans feel that Ward’s traumatic history is an excuse for his actions, still others loathe the character for so often relying on his past miseries as a rationalization for his awful deeds.  What we need to accept is that Ward’s childhood and molding by Garrett did force him down a horrible path, and that is something we can sympathize with while never giving him a free pass for his crimes.  It’s not one or the other, it’s both: Ward’s completely wrong to use his past as a crutch to sidestep his guilt, but that past is what it is, a tragic backstory that is key to understanding his character.
Bottom line, I love the character of Ward and Dalton's portrayal, and how much discomfort and trouble he brings to our SHIELD agents, bringing suspenseful drama at every turn.  Ward shakes things up and makes us question his nature in new ways every time he appears.  That tiny chance that he could be redeemed in any way is what I find most compelling, and I can't wait to see what he'll do next.  
What would you like to see happen with Ward’s character in Season 3?  Should he be the big bad or be wedged between good and evil?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

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