It’s been building for months on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.—the ultimate sci-fi team rivalry. Forget that underwhelming scuffle from a few weeks ago between our heroes and Dr. Calvin Szabo’s ragtag group of less-than-super villains. Now, our favorite Agents have someone much more formidable to deal with: the “real” S.H.I.E.L.D.! A group of renegades born from last year’s crumbling of the organization, this new team is in direct opposition to the secret-driven, alien-friendly philosophies of former director Nick Fury and his hand-selected successor, Phil Coulson. Now, the table is set for the ultimate challenge: two teams stacked with muscle, brains and advanced technology. Who will reign supreme? Let’s preview some of the likely match-ups we’ll see this season.
Both are natural leaders. Both care deeply about their team. Both are passionate about their moral beliefs, and both feel that their direction is best for the future of SHIELD.
Tragically, if things were different, Coulson and Gonzalez would probably make great allies (Coulson even admitted that he’d actively tried to recruit Gonzalez to work under him). Alas, circumstances have torn them in drastically different directions, and this super-spy agency just ain’t big enough for the both of them… but who’s got the goods to lead their team to victory? As cool and focused as Gonzalez has proven himself to be, Coulson has survived everything, from the crumbling of his entire life’s work to death… yes, actual death. On the other hand, he’s still got crazy alien blood running through his veins, so who knows when he might go off the rails next, and start writing on the walls again?
Verdict: If I had to choose a director of… well, anything right now, I’d be forced to consider Gonzalez the safer choice. However, never count Coulson out. He’s got unmatchable heart, plus he’s just so darn likeable. He might be beatable, but would you really want to?
Advantage: A toss-up, depending on whose team you agree with.
When fans of the show point to its themes of female empowerment, these are the characters they are probably referring to. Both are masters of hand-to-hand combat to the highest degree, as we saw during their skirmish this week. Bobbi, clearly the younger of the two, is taller and is a master of using weaponry like her signature batons. May is comfortable with firearms of all varieties, but prefers to use her fists and feet.
Verdict: While Bobbi may literally have more weaponry at her disposal, May’s track record is unmatchable (just ask her treacherous ex, Grant Ward). When in doubt, always bet on the Cavalry.
Advantage: Agent May
Two savvy ex-mercenaries with a long history, these soldiers-for-hire have both certainly been around the block, often on the same side. While his methods may seem undisciplined, Hunter’s unorthodox style allows him to stay a step ahead of his foes, but friends may be a different story… especially when that “friend” is an all-business powerhouse named Mack. Their last scuffle ended with Lance being choked out—is there any reason to believe that a rematch wouldn’t end the same way?
Verdict: Mack may not have retained the unbridled aggression that we saw when he was briefly possessed in the Inhumans’ secret city, but his dedication to “The Real S.H.I.E.L.D.’s” mission (and those 22-inch guns) might be enough to take down the still-conflicted Hunter.
Advantage: Agent “Mack”
While “Fitzsimmons” are hardly the well-oiled twosome they once were, we’ll pair them up for what would likely be a battle of minds, not icer guns. The longtime director of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Academy of Science and Technology, Weaver was instrumental in Fitzsimmons developing into the scientists they are today, but has she been surpassed by her students? Then again, has Leo recovered enough from his brain trauma to pull his weight, or would the at-odds junior members of the team crumble under pressure?
Verdict: Here’s hoping that Fitz and Simmons can someday rekindle the chemistry that made them an unbeatable one-two punch, in and out of the lab. Unfortunately, this war may not wait for that to happen, leaving Weaver with all the opportunity in the world to outthink her prized pupils.
Advantage: Agent Weaver
We don’t know a whole lot about Agent Calderon, Agent Oliver or anyone else on Gonzales’ squad. What we DO know is that Agent Skye is an Inhuman and has the power to, among other things, make the earth shake. Let me repeat: the girl can cause earthquakes just by getting stressed out. Sure, she’s been taken off active duty and has voluntarily vacated her hideout to escape with Gordon to… well, wherever Gordon seems to be taking all of the “gifted” folks.” However, if and when she returns to Coulson’s side, it’s game over.
Verdict: If Skye returns with any semblance of control over her powers, she can probably defeat “The Real S.H.I.E.L.D.” singlehandedly. If she hasn’t yet learned that control, she might take down both teams, plus a small country. Either way, it would certainly be an entertaining spectacle.
Advantage: Agent Skye
• Grant Ward and Agent 33: He’s a former “S.H.I.E.L.D.” agent and a lifelong sociopath with a real love-hate relationship with his former running buddies (they hate him and we love it). She’s a formerly-brainwashed ex-Hydra agent with a horribly disfigured face. Together, they are TV’s creepiest couple—and a huge boon for anyone willing to trust them long enough to invite them into the fold.
• Maria Hill: After the previous incarnation of “S.H.I.E.L.D.” crumbled in the wake of the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Agent Fury’s right-hand woman seemingly walked away and took a job with Stark Enterprises. However, someone who was such an instrumental part of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s past could certainly improve the outlook of either team’s future… that is, if she isn’t already in bed with one of them, on the down low.
• Raina: Last we saw our transformed, flower-loving lady, she’d been teleported away from a world that no longer accepted her newly-mutated self. Horrifically covered in scales and wracked with pain, Raina has seemingly been taken somewhere more Inhuman-friendly, but she never seems to stay away for long. If she resurfaces, would she lend her services to Coulson’s squad, or does she somehow blame them for her transformation?
• Tony Stark: Speaking of the platinum playboy, didn’t the man behind the Iron Mask say back in IM2 that he wanted to privatize world peace? Based on what we know about Avengers: Age of Ultron and next year’s Captain America: Civil War, it certainly appears as if Stark will be taking an even bigger interest in keeping the world safe from danger. Is putting his considerable intellect (not to mention his megabucks) behind S.H.I.E.L.D. his way of taking control of that initiative, and, if so, which S.H.I.E.L.D. team would he choose to work with?
Like any great sports showdown, there is reason to like both teams. We’ve gotten to know Phil Coulson through almost two seasons of this show, and many Marvel Films prior, and we trust his moral code and the team he’s assembled (at least those who are loyal to him). On the other hand, it’s increasingly clear that Gonzalez, Bobbi, Mack and their squad are operating with equally heroic intentions… all without the dangerous alien influence that has seemingly pervaded Coulson’s mind at times. The battle lines are drawn, and while either team is capable of emerging victorious as the lone “S.H.I.E.L.D.” unit, here’s hoping that they eventually find a way to join forces. If that happens, perhaps the whole world (and beyond) wins.