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Background

Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is a crossover TV series that provides additional details about the superpowered law enforcement agency in the Marvel movies. SHIELD, an abbreviation for Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division, is the intelligence and counterterrorism agency of Marvel that investigates “strange” occurrences. The TV series focuses on a select team led by Agent Phil Coulson (whose character was first introduced in Iron Man). Other members of the team include Melinda May (weapons expert), Grant Ward (black ops specialist), Daisy Johnson (hacker), Leo Fitz (engineer), and Jemma Simmons (biochemist). Together, this crack team solves some of the most dangerous cases.

A belly of the whale scene exists in season 3 episode 10 (Maveth). The SHIELD team heads to the planet of Maveth to find the “unnamed inhuman,” a being with exceptional powers. On Maveth, two rival forces attempt to find the unnamed inhuman--HYDRA is seeking to bring the powerful inhuman to earth in order to take over the world and SHIELD to working to prevent the inhuman from leaving Maveth. At the end of the episode, SHIELD agents fight off HYDRA operatives and the ultimate showdown occurs between Fitz & the inhuman, and Coulson & Ward. In the final moments, Fitz shoots a flare gun into the inhuman’s body and Coulson crushes Ward’s chest in with his robotic hand.

The fight between Coulson and Ward is an incredibly dramatic representation of Coulson’s inner struggle. Ward has once been a valued member of the SHIELD team, but it was revealed in the previous season that he was actually a HYDRA spy. Upon hearing this news, Coulson feels betrayed by someone he thought could be trust. Thus starts a manhunt for Ward, as Coulson fights his internal demons and crushing pangs of doubt. In a different episode, Coulson lost his hand and saw it replaced by a robotic prosthetic. As a result, Coulson was forced to mentally re-evaluate his own humanity. With the prosthetic, he was only partially human and that realization factored into some of his tactical decisions.

In the final battle, Coulson was faced with a moral question: uphold his sense of justice and bring Ward in for trial or kill Ward on the spot. As a federal agent, Coulson maintained strong ideas of truth and justice. At the same time, Ward and wronged the entire SHIELD team and Coulson had to confront his human emotions of anger and revenge. In the final minutes, Coulson crushes Ward’s chest with his robotic hand and casts it aside, as a final symbol of Coulson’s inner struggle. By casting the robotic hand aside, Coulson attempts to distance himself from Ward’s death. Now Coulson is left wrestling with guilt and anger while simultaneously working to stay alive.

Prior to this episode, most viewers saw Coulson as a stereotypical “law and order” federal agent. His level headed attitude was a defining characteristic but now that exterior was gone, replaced with raw emotion.

What would I change?

While this scene is undoubtedly one of the most dramatic of this season, Coulson’s personal struggle is not fully explained to the viewer. I would add more scenes when Coulson is alone, so the audience could see the hidden side of him. A scene of Coulson throwing something in his office or punching a wall would show the viewer the turmoil of his mental state. Even a dream sequence of Coulson fighting Ward and being forced to decide jail or death would be event more dramatic to the audience. In order to better understand this scene, the audience needs more background.

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