The following article contains spoilers.

As Disney’s / Marvel’s / ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D prepares for the second half of its third season, the team’s perpetual foil — rogue agent Grant Ward — will move center stage, as a new take on an old villain, Hive. And that’s perfectly okay with me.

Casual viewers or those who jumped ship may have written Ward and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D off as a run-of-the-mill procedural with stuffy stock character. But if you haven’t watched since The Winter Soldier caused major disarray, you’re missing out on the best spy show — and the best evildoer on television.

Yes, I Know Ward (and S.H.I.E.L.D) Kind of Sucked At First

What a tool.

When Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D began, Agent Grant Ward (ably embodied by Brett Dalton) was the uptight field operative; he represented the typical macho hero you might expect from a show about spies. He preferred to work alone, though he followed orders without question. He believed devoutly in the value of honor, but he’d also happily beat the piss out of an enemy. Grant Ward was the warrior that we’ve seen over and over and over again since James Bond leapt from the pages of Ian Fleming’s novels. In short, Grant Ward was boring as all hell.

Of course, cynical viewers could have levied that very claim against the whole of S.H.I.E.L.D, a show that was a by-the-numbers “monster of the week” letdown. Then, The Winter Soldier happened, Hydra revealed its true form, and the cast of S.H.I.E.L.D was left holding the bag. It was the best thing that could have possibly happened, because what started as a fairly routine procedural became a white-knuckled episodic spy thriller. And Agent Ward went along for the ride.

See, he’s evil now because of a day’s growth and dark clothing.

His Depravity Knows No Bounds

Since revealing himself as a deep-cover member of Marvel’s nefarious spy group Hydra — and total dill hole — Ward has undergone a transformation that has not only been thrilling to watch, but also turned him into S.H.I.E.L.D’s most fully realized character.

Once his betrayal surfaced, Ward spent the rest of Season 1 happily following Bill Paxton’s orders and fucking over his ex-friends with thinly veiled glee. It was a spark of life we hadn’t yet seen in the character. It seemed like Ward had found his calling as a Hydra henchman…until Bill Paxton gets his face murdered off:

In Season 2, Ward spends some time in S.H.I.E.L.D custody trying to convince everyone around him that he’s mended his evil ways. In the opening episodes, Ward uses his apparent feelings for team-hacker Skye to assure both S.H.I.E.L.D (and audiences) that he’s a good guy (which was kind of a letdown, honestly). The series juxtaposes these heartfelt sentiments with Ward’s origin story: His seriously fucked up home life, and his ruthless, puppy-slaughtering training in the Wisconsin wilds.

Why?!?!?!

When paired together, Ward’s story pushes viewers to care for his character, a surprising turn of events considering Ward’s initial staleness. Even more surprising, the series takes a drastic left turn when Ward murders his family in cold-blood to avenge an abusive childhood. This is simply the first taste of Ward’s governing dynamic: He’s desperate for the love he never received, but he’s too scared of rejection to ask. For Ward, violence is the easiest option.

This is most evident in Ward’s relationship with Agent 33, a confused rogue agent who tags along on Ward’s adventures for a large portion of Season 2. His efforts to help her understand her place in life (and her super-scarred complexion) are Ward’s last attempts to get on the right side of the fight. For the first and perhaps the last time, wesee Ward as a man who’s desperately fighting every killer instinct that’s been beaten into him for the sake of saving a kindred spirit. And then, he makes a huge mistake and plants three bullets in her.

From that point on, Ward can’t even grasp or contemplate redemption. He’s put through an emotional wringer and plays by the rules —or, at least, he tries. But he fails hard he has no other choice but to be bad. It’s an arc that proves worthwhile because it’s doled out in small, tantalizing bits, naturally, over a long period of time.

He’s Only Going To Get More Menacing

In Season 3, Grant Ward has spent most of his time returning to Hydra’s roots by pursuing an ancient entity trapped at the edge of the Universe. Though he’s reverted to the routine of taking orders, Ward has never been bashful about his independence, and he’ll only take orders so long as it suits him.

Okay, on the surface he seems like a pretty stale bad guy, but given the context of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’s larger story and the path we’ve seen Ward take, the characterization is well earned and totally riveting.

Ward is a man who followed faithfully only to see his idol destroyed. He tried romantic love only to get shot by one chick and beaten senseless by another. When he finally finds a gal to reciprocate his longing, he’s manipulated into killing her. He’s a man who’s been cast aside his entire life, and that reality has made him a remorseless terror.

And now that he’s composed of billions of little murder bugs, you can bet Grant Ward is only going to become more horrible.

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