Marvel Monday :: relationships between female characters on Agents of SHIELD.

15 Sep

So tonight we are here to talk to you about relationships between the female characters on Agents of SHIELD.  As the chart illustrates, there are many.  And we’re going to discuss them all.  Because it’s important.

(And she’s Skye until she says she’s Daisy singularly.)

Skye (Chloe Bennet) and Melinda (Ming-Na Wen).
The most obvious relationship analogue here is that of mother and daughter. Melinda acts as a somewhat beleaguered mother figure to the youngest team members, but especially Skye. At first, she’s a bit dismissive of her, questioning whether Skye should be on the team at all; Skye looks up to her after Melinda saves her life in the pilot, and in 1×11, she goes undercover posing as Agent May (much to May’s chagrin). But May’s feelings toward Skye don’t really start to warm until Skye’s shot in the stomach in 1×13. In the scene where they try to revive her with (at that point unknown) Kree blood, May asks tensely, “Is it working?” and shows visible relief when Skye stabilizes. Then, after the team discovers Ward’s betrayal, May goes to visit Skye, bringing her a drink, and they have a talk about how Skye’s dealing with it. From that point on they’re much closer, and by the time the second season has started, May is Skye’s new SO and we see them running missions and training together. May’s still her blunt self – “Don’t get cocky, this is step one” – but she and Skye clearly respect and are fond of each other. This, of course, makes it all the more heartbreaking when Skye eventually is forced to (she thinks) make a choice between her people and her team, and the two have a confrontation. “I hope your mother is everything you wanted her to be,” says Melinda, stone-faced. Later, Skye feels threatened and uses her new powers against May, though May is mostly unscathed. Eventually, of course, the truth comes out and Skye rejoins the team, but the future of her relationship with May is a bit uncertain.

Skye and Jemma (Elizabeth Henstridge).

Skye and Jemma, as we would be the first ones to tell you, are everything.  As Jemma says to Trip (BJ Britt) while Skye lies in her medical pod, “We have nothing in common…couldn’t be more different.”  “But you can’t imagine your life without her,” he says, to which she agrees.  Skye is the team’s first mission and then the team’s new recruit, and immediately Jemma is bubbling over with excitement about Skye being on board.  They’re friendly, they and Fitz (Iain de Caestecker) work together, Skye is distraught when it looks like Jemma is going to die and then ecstatic when Jemma is safe and alive, and then “I can’t be a part of your bad girl shenanigans! I like following the rules and doing what’s expected of me.  It makes me feel nice” and nothing is ever the same.  There are hilarious moments (manscaping) and heartbreaking moments (when it looks like Skye is going to die and Jemma is distraught) and moments where I honestly don’t know what the writers or actresses were thinking if not what I got out of it (their, erm, doctor-patient scene in 1×15) and it’s pretty clear that these girls are close as all hell.  Season two puts something of a pin in this, but Skye still saves Jemma’s life and still says how glad she is Jemma is alive and Jemma still threatens to kill Ward in part because of what he did to Skye while physically guarding Skye from him and Jemma doesn’t understand Skye’s powers at first but she still tries to help save her life no matter what and “I just want you to be safe, Skye. You know that, right?” and everything hurts.  The best thing about them, in my opinion, is that they are such different people, but they still care about each other so much. Skye’s recklessness combined with Jemma’s caution gave us the infamous “I can’t be a part of your…bad girl shenanigans!” scene, which was hilarious. They compliment each other so well: Jemma is a planner and when she tries to be spontaneous, it fails, and Skye’s spent her entire life having to think on her feet so she excels at it. Skye is blunt and snarky and funny and Jemma is generally a bit more diplomatic, unless she feels very strongly about something. And Jemma pays attention to the details that Skye doesn’t really think twice about – she brings her the Hula girl from the Bus, after all, and made her the gauntlets to control her powers. And most of all, as evidenced by the multiple examples above, they directly look out for each other.  They celebrate the other’s well-being and save the other’s life and try so hard for each other and all I’m saying is that if one of them was a boy they would already be canon by now.

Skye and Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki).
Less to go off of here.  Skye and Bobbi have interacted the least out of the main four at this point, but there are still instances of significant life-saving and Bobbi calling Skye a rockstar and there’s a foundation for something really solid and good here.

Melinda and Jemma.
Jemma is another of Melinda’s ducklings, and Melinda explicitly stated that she told Bobbi about the cube in order to protect Jemma, on top of the many other things that have been done for this same purpose if indirectly.  Jemma was initially very reverent of Melinda, and still respects her a great deal.

Melinda and Bobbi.
These two are more comrades-in-arms than anything, and there’s a bit of impressive subtle parallel construction.  They’re both soldiers who have made sacrifices for their cause, some more traumatizing than others (the “let the girl go” theme, which honestly can be applied to Bobbi regarding the finale too, I expect), and they have both suffered for it but stood strong.  And they both have the ex-husband theme, though it plays differently.

Jemma and Bobbi.
It could be strongly argued that from the moment Bobbi saved Jemma’s life, Jemma had a very definite hero-worship crush on her, and while they continue to do things that may seem flirtatious they also develop a very legitimate actual friendship.  Multiple times throughout the season Bobbi and Jemma have serious conversations about one thing or another (work, other significant players in their lives) and it could be argued that Bobbi is really the only one who spent much onscreen time listening to what Jemma had to say.  I assume that Bobbi had no hard feelings about Jemma knocking her out because she understood, because even after the “real SHIELD” takeover Bobbi and Jemma continued to talk.  With some reticence on Jemma’s part for other reasons, but Jemma still jumped into the surgical act of saving Bobbi’s life with aplomb.  Again, they directly have saved each other’s lives and it’s incredible.  That episode where we’re introduced to Bobbi was basically a spy romcom.

Skye and Jiaying (Dichen Lachman).
My personal issues with Jiaying’s eleventh-hour villainy aside, I actually thought her relationship with Skye was very well done. We’ve known that Skye’s search for her bio-parents is what drives her to join both SHIELD and Rising Tide, and even when she became involved in official SHIELD business it was always at least a secondary element of her plotlines. One of the most interesting things the show did with them was keep Jiaying’s identity a secret from Skye for a few episodes after they’ve met, while the audience knows about it. Jiaying spends a while mentoring Skye first, teaching her how to use her newly manifested powers, before revealing the truth. “I was too afraid to hope,” says Skye, crying, even though Jiaying immediately tells her not to share the secret with anyone. It becomes obvious why later on, when Jiaying suddenly turns into a general bound and determined to start a war with SHIELD and will kill anyone who gets in her way, even Skye. It’s heartbreaking to watch Skye get everything she wanted and then have it yanked away from her in the space of a few episodes, but it’s well-done and powerful and I don’t know that I’m happy with it, exactly, but it was handled well.

Skye and Raina (Ruth Negga).
More parallel construction.  (This is one of my favorite terms when discussing MCU, honestly.)  Both, we eventually learn, had tough lives, and they seem to have reacted in directly opposite ways: Skye becoming generally compassionate and reaching out to help others, Raina becoming incredibly skilled at looking out for herself at others’ expense.  Yet they both point toward the same moment: the evolution of terragenesis, which yields unexpected results for both. At first, Skye is pissed: Raina’s actions caused destruction and Trip’s death. Eventually they seem to reach a peace of sorts and Raina accepts that her grand destiny is to die that Skye may live and learn, and it’s sort of beautiful.

Melinda and Maria (Cobie Smulders).
We don’t see a lot of the friendship between May and Maria, but May asks Maria to bring reinforcements at the end of season 1, when SHIELD is under attack. She chooses to do this as Maria is walking alone at night, talking to Pepper Potts on the phone, and Maria says something about how Melinda’s lucky she knew Melinda was there or she could’ve hurt her. They’re clearly friendly with each other, and there’s probably a lot more going on there than the show can get into. May’s mother, in her one scene, mentions that she likes Maria. (This led to a pervasive fandom theory that Maria was the person Melinda had been married to “once,” which turned out to be false but was enjoyable nevertheless.)

Melinda and Victoria (Saffron Burrows).
Both were agents and therefore they were colleagues.  Respect was a mutual thing, although Melinda did sort of pull the wool over Victoria’s eyes that time.

Melinda and Isabelle (Lucy Lawless).
Both were agents and therefore they were colleagues.

Melinda and Anne (Christine Adams).
Both were agents and therefore they were colleagues, but the way that Anne reacted to Melinda trying to get one over on the real SHIELD before they took over suggested there might be more going on in that background, and of course there’s mutual respect, albeit sometimes grudging.

Melinda and Kara (Maya Stojan).
Well, Kara had Melinda’s face. They fought while Kara was under various influences.

Jemma and Victoria.
Mainly, Jemma seemed to have a giant hero-worship heart-eyed colored penciled crush on Victoria. That’s pretty much the gist of that.

Jemma and Anne.
As the director of the Sci-Tech SHIELD Academy, Anne was Jemma’s supervisor and professor.  Jemma respected Anne very seriously and Anne respected Jemma in turn, calling on Jemma’s medical expertise even after real SHIELD took over and in doing so respecting Jemma more to her face than certain male agents on her own team.

Jemma and Kara.
Well, Jemma did medical-examine Kara.  I’d like to think that in another world, a world where Kara was granted emotional agency, this could have become a friendship.

Bobbi and Victoria.
I mean, I assume they were colleagues and friends by virtue of both being agents with Isabelle in common.

Bobbi and Isabelle.
“I love your whole thing, you know that?”  Friends, mutual real SHIELD colleagues, mutual experts in putting up with Lance Hunter’s (Nick Blood) bullshit.

Bobbi and Kara.
Bobbi is the first person we see talking to Kara like she’s, well, a person.  This is powerful and later complicated by the knowledge that Bobbi’s intel is what got Kara captured. Not knowingly, not maliciously, but because it was the rock or the hard place and Kara happened to get caught in the crossfire.  This sucks, but it’s probably no reason to kidnap and torture and nearly murder someone.  But hey, that’s what A+ Guy Grant Ward is here to enable.

Victoria and Isabelle.
Girlfriends they were girlfriends we never saw it and the only clue we have aside from writer interviews is Isabelle mentioning she got a text from Victoria on the day SHIELD fell but they were girlfriends nobody can stop me.

Skye and Hannah  (Laura Seay).
These two only have one conversation, but it’s an important one for Skye. Hannah is panicking because she’s terrified that she’s called forth a demon and God has forsaken her, and Coulson brings in Skye because he seems to think Skye can get through to her. Skye’s not so sure, but she starts talking to Hannah, and even though she doesn’t really believe in God, she did grow up at St. Agnes so she knows Hannah’s basic beliefs. She’s compassionate as she explains that she’s not even sure if there is a God, but that if there was one, the idea that God is love is the one that resonated with her. Hannah is comforted and Skye learns that she’s better with people than she thought she was.

Skye and Sif (Jaimie Alexander).
Skye respects Sif, as she is naturally inclined to fangirl over someone who a) associates with an Avenger and b) is a badass woman in her own right.  And Sif sees Skye’s willingness to put herself in harm’s way for her team’s good and respects that back.

Skye and Akela (Pascale Armand).
Skye helped save Akela’s life and stuff.

Skye and Isabelle.
They worked together as agents, mostly offscreen.

Skye and Red.
You know, the self-cloning ginger Inhuman girl.  They knew each other and then fought each other.

Melinda and Hannah.
“Let the girl go,” which is to say Melinda saving Hannah’s life was one of our first real clues about her.

Melinda and Sif.
These two are something like friends, despite only having met twice and for very brief periods. The first time, they have a conversation about weapons which sounds…well, not entirely without innuendo (something about how Melinda’s handled a weapon before “but I prefer to use my hands”), and the second they go searching for clues about the series of events that lead an amnesiac Sif to land on Midgard. Those scenes are especially endearing, since Sif, knowing nothing of her own identity, immediately decides Melinda is a person she should be emulating, for example crossing her arms when she sees Melinda doing so.

Melinda and Akela.
Melinda helped save Akela’s life and stuff.

Jemma and Akela.
Jemma helped save Akela’s life and stuff.  Complete with complicated ocular surgery.

Jemma and Audrey (Amy Acker).
Jemma helped save Audrey’s life and stuff.  Complete with sympathetic conversation.

Raina and Jiaying.
At first Jiaying spoke for the possibility of Raina’s gifts.  Then she saw a less-positive outcome of them being used and did some murdering, but eh.

Sif and Lorelei (Elena Satine).
A rivalry of epic proportions, waged across realms.  This is cool because it’s not every day you see such a thing between two women.

Jiaying and Red.
Jiaying was kind of Red’s boss, so.

Raina and Debbie.
Raina murdered Debbie a lot when she stopped being useful, and they were also totally making bedroom eyes at each other.  (For everyone who’s forgotten, Debbie is the ginger Centipede doctor from the first five episodes.)

–your fangirl heroines.

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