~ Grant Ward showing his true colors to Raina - and his most famous quote.
Grant Ward, or simply referred to as Ward, is a major character in the ABC TV series, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., appearing as the secondary antagonist of Season 1, a major antagonist of Season 2, the main antagonist in the first half of Season 3, and as a posthumous antagonist in the second half. A version of Ward later appeared in the Agents of HYDRA arc of Season 4, this time being a supporting protagonist.
He was a sadistic, manipulative, delusional and psychopathic HYDRA operative posing as a loyal S.H.I.E.L.D. black ops specialist before becoming one of the organization's remaining leaders. He was also the most personal adversary of Phil Coulson and his team.
He was portrayed by Brett Dalton, who later portrayed Hive (who was possessing Ward's body), and voiced Agent Brick in Milo Murphy's Law.
Having grown up abused by his own family, Ward was recruited and trained by John Garrett before becoming one of the many HYDRA agents who had infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. He strategically got himself onto Phil Coulson's team under the orders of Garrett, who was secretly a mastermind known as the Clairvoyant. During this time, he began feigning interest in his teammates, especially the hacker Daisy "Skye" Johnson, whom he developed genuine feelings for.
Following Garrett's death, Ward went on a journey of self-discovery that involved killing his own family and rejoining HYDRA under Daniel Whitehall to fulfill his promise to Skye in reuniting her with her father, Calvin Zabo. Following Whitehall's death, Ward began helping former S.H.I.E.L.D. operative, Agent 33, in gaining closure against the ones who were responsible for her being brainwashed by HYDRA, including Sunil Bakshi. Ultimately, Ward was tricked by Melinda May into killing Agent 33 during their kidnapping of Bobbi Morse.
Blaming S.H.I.E.L.D. for his own pain, Ward became one of the remaining leaders of HYDRA to avenge Agent 33. He later teams up with co-leader Gideon Malick to help in bringing back an ancient Inhuman that inspired HYDRA's creation, Hive. After Ward later killed Phil Coulson's girlfriend, Rosalind Price, he was finally killed by the former to avenge Price and his other victims. However, shortly after his death, Ward's body became the host of Hive until the latter was ultimately destroyed, thus destroying Ward altogether.
I'm agent Grant Ward. I could rupture your spleen with my left pinky... blindfolded.
~ Jemma Simmons imitating Grant Ward.
Grant Ward, while infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D., generally had a bad temper but was able to stay calm and collected during sticky situations. He was slightly anti-social with strong morals and was known to be "deadly". On his days off, however, he enjoyed a nice book or even singing along to his favorite West Side Story song. As time progressed, Ward seemed to soften somewhat, developing friendships with his fellow Agents, which was eventually cemented upon rescuing Agent Simmons after she jumped from the Bus. Ward did not seem overtly interested in relationships but for a time had a purely sexual relationship with Agent May. However, when he began to develop feelings for Skye, this arrangement ended.
See, I've seen the real Grant Ward, the one buried deep inside. He's a coward who always has an excuse or someone else to blame.
~ Bobbi Morse to Grant Ward about his true nature.
However, in reality, Ward was a master manipulator who was able to adjust his personality in order to gain the trust of others. During his time as a part of Project Centipede, Ward was shown to be blindly loyal to Garrett, whom he viewed as a father figure, and that he owed him everything. This was contributed to after Garrett trained a young Ward when he felt torn down by his family's abuse. Regarding his loyalties to Garrett and Coulson's team, Ward did appear partially conflicted, especially with his genuine feelings for many of his teammates and his increasing reservations about Garrett's actions, especially after he took the GH.325 formula. This was backed by the fact that he couldn't bring himself to directly murder Leo Fitz and Simmons, but instead ejected them into the ocean.
Following Garrett's death, Ward slowly evolved into his own person. During his imprisonment, Ward became more remorseless as he attempted to use his knowledge Skye's father to exploit regardless if it emotionally hurts her. He also murdered numerous guards during his escape, and also both his brother and his parents as revenge for the years of abuse they put him through, and showed a lack of empathy for when Daniel Whitehall confronted him about it. Ward slowly became more delusional, which started when he believed that aiding the team against HYDRA would help re-earn their trust, but this ultimately ended when Skye and Simmons both attempted to kill him on several occasions. Ward was also a hypocrite as he believes that because his family tortured him for years as a child, he had every right to kill them and that it justifies all of the cruel acts he has committed. During his time of torturing Bobbi Morse to help Agent 33 gain closure for Whitehall brainwashing her, Ward showed to be far more sadistic as he showed signs of enjoying the pain that they were inflicting on her. After being tricked by Melinda May into killing Kara Palamas, this was the last straw for Ward as he vowed vengeance against S.H.I.E.L.D. and was willing to join HYDRA as one of its last remaining leaders into order to gain "closure".
During his time as the director of HYDRA and having accidentally killed Agent 33 and lost all connections to the team he initially cared for, Ward effectively severed all ties to his humanity and whatever form of conscience he had retained before was erased. His sole objective was to subject S.H.I.E.L.D. and Coulson to the same amount of suffering as he had. Ward had also slightly became more arrogant and narcissistic as he viewed his beliefs were above all others' and when he recruited Werner von Strucker, he assumed that after one act of savagery that the boy could murder Andrew Garner, an act that caused Gideon Malick to chastise him. Ward was completely dismissive of the previous generation of HYDRA, believing their greed and lust for power was what led to the organization's collapse, which was partially true. Ward's sadism became more increased as he took great pleasure in killing Rosalind Price in front of Coulson, knowing that it would hurt him and would occasionally taunt him about it afterwards; and he showed a slight amount of enjoyment when he took part in both physically and emotionally torturing Fitz and Simmons.
However, overall, despite being manipulative, delusional, sadistic and remorseless, Ward still deeply cared about his younger brother, Thomas and even after being separated for fifteen years, Grant still loved him. When Coulson had Hunter point a gun to Thomas's head, Grant swore that he would cut Fitz from head to toe if they hurt him.
During his mission to Maveth to retrieve Hive, Ward realized that his life had gained a purpose. He reflected on how he lived his life and how he joined HYDRA, starting from because father figure, to vengeance and to closure. Ward looked back and thought of how things were at that point, and because that he was chosen for this mission, he felt that for the first time, his life was important for something. He actually felt truly loyal to the HYDRA organization rather than any individual HYDRA operative. He even spoke the words "Hail HYDRA" for the first time in his career. Months later, Hive, after possessing Ward's body and gaining his memories, stated that Ward was, in a way, glad to be dead. This insinuates that despite his relentlessness, he secretly wished to end his pain and suffering having finally undergone a life of turmoil, from his family, to Garrett, to Kara and was ready to die.
Master Martial Artist: Ward was a master in hand-to-hand combat. His fighting style combined elements of Kali, Boxing, Jeet Kune Do, and Krav Maga. Maria Hill evaluated his fighting skills with the highest available marks for S.H.I.E.L.D.'s standards, and able to match the agency's best fighters. Daniel Whitehall considered him as one of the best killers. Ward often used this to take down many opponents at the same time, whether security, or other S.H.I.E.L.D agents. He managed to defeat multiple opponents whose strength surpassed his, even defeating the enhanced Centipede Soldiers
Master Marksman: Ward was an extremely accurate marksman skilled in sharpshooting and sniping. John Garrett recommended Ward to take this course in S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy after Ward spent time in the woods using this skill to hunt for food. Ward has famously made a shot from over 1000 yards; Ward says it was 2000. He was also able to shoot Rosalind Price from a long distance, aiming accurately at her neck in order to let her die slowly in front of Phil Coulson.
Multilingualism: Ward was fluent in 6 languages, including English, French, Italian, Russian, Spanish, and one more. Ward used this skill in missions in Paris, South Ossetia, and Peru, most times as an undercover agent. He had used such skills on the train in Italy, in the Todorov Building in Belarus, and when arriving at the Barbershop Headquarters in Cuba.
Master Spy: Ward was a proficient agent trained in espionage, stealth, disguise and infiltration. He has spent years on some missions as an undercover agent. When taking a Lie Detector test, Ward put splinters of cable wire into his fingers to confuse the sensors. Infamously, Ward used this skill to infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D. as a HYDRA operative, spending years gaining trust and respect. When questioned by Raina, he explained to her methods that he used to solidify his place on Coulson's Team.
Expert Pilot: Ward was a competent pilot, able to maneuver a huge aircraft such as the Bus.
Expert Tactician: When Ward suspected that S.H.I.E.L.D. was pursuing him, he knew that they would send agents that he had never met. Ward observed that Bobbi Morse was not changing her page as she pretended to read a book. He also spotted Antoine Triplett at the bus station, subtly revealing his explosives to the agent. After the death of Kara Palamas, Ward made his goal to rebuild HYDRA from the ashes, starting with a small cell of only four operatives. Six months later, Ward had dozens of operatives under his command, all of them unscrupulous and trained in brutal fights to the death
Mother † - Abusive Mother and Victim
Father † - Abusive Father and Victim
Christian Ward † - Abusive Older Brother and Victim
Do you think this has been easy on me? Do you have any idea how hard it was? The sacrifices, the decisions I had to make? But I made them. Because that's what I do. I'm a survivor.
~ Ward trying to excuse his actions to Skye.
I know sacrifice, what it takes to move forward in life.
~ Ward upon meeting Daniel Whitehall.
My family did a number on me. Stripped me down. Left me...hollow. I was a shell. So, when someone finally did come along, and offered to build me back up, I didn't resist. Even though what he really did was make me a killer.
~ Ward explaining his origins to Agent 33.
I know. It's what I regret the most. Not the lying, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents I had to put down, and I'm sorry not even dropping you two in the ocean. It's this. My actions destroyed this. I'll regret that forever. 'Cause there were good times. Right? Before? I mean, for a while there, we were a good team. Weren't we?
~ Ward trying to "apologize" for his actions to his old team.
It's gonna be a long night. I knew you'd be tough. Coulson's got a good eye for talent. Always a little blind when it comes to spies in his own house.You know, you and I are a lot alike. Both of us are living one life on the outside. But who we really are. We keep that buried deep inside when no one can ever find them. It's why Coulson never saw us coming. That's why you never saw me coming.
~ Ward antagonizing Bobbi Morse while he tortures her.
Do you understand who you work for now? Good. I'm done flying solo. I miss having a team around me. I want more names.
~ Ward addressing to HYDRA operatives as their new leader.
HYDRA's fractured in pieces. We're going to rebuild it. The right way. By force.
~ Ward explaining his motive as he recruits Werner von Strucker.
Ladies and gentlemen, please return to your seats and keep your seat belts fastened. You may experience some turbulence coming up. Don't be alarmed. That's just your pilot diving to equalize cabin pressure before you freeze to death. Oh, and, uh... from all of us here at HYDRA, thanks for flying the friendly skies.
~ Ward tells plane passengers over the intercom before jumping out.
Now you know how it feels, Coulson, to watch someone you care for bleed out right in front of you.
~ Ward tormenting Coulson over the phone after killing Rosalind Price.
Everyone had this place wrong... It isn't death... It's a new beginning. Malick was right. This is all meant to be. And the fact that you followed me here, that we're in this together, that just confirms the fact that I am part of a grand plan. I see that now.
~ Grant Ward's final monologue to Phil Coulson.
Even before his reveal in the episode Turn, Turn, Turn, he was seduced and turned evil by Lorelei two episodes earlier and ended up having sex with her.
Ward is similar to Agent 23 from Get Smart, as both are double agents who are revealed to be working for an opposing organization and eventually betray their teammates. However, whereas Agent 23 is the main villain, Ward is the secondary villain.
If you define the words in Grant's name individually, Grant means "great", Douglas means "dark", and Ward means "protector". Consequently, Grant Douglas Ward means "Great Dark Protector", possibly alluding to his true nature.
Before his death, Ward was speculated to be an adaption of Taskmaster due to not being a character originally from comics, and since Skye was revealed to be an adaption of Daisy Johnson/Quake.
Following the reveal that Skye's real name was Daisy Johnson, Ward was later speculated to be an adaption of Secret Warriors member, Hellfire, due to both of them having genuine feelings for Daisy. This theory was debunked following his death.
Ward's death marks the third time Phil Coulson killed the main antagonist in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the first two being John Garrett and Daniel Whitehall. Ward is also the first main antagonist Coulson hasn't killed behind his back.
Ward is the second main antagonist that never originated from the Marvel Comics Universe, following Jiaying.
However, due to his popularity in the series alongside the other original main characters (Melinda May, Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons), an incarnation of Ward was later introduced in the mainstream Marvel universe.
A recurring theme in the series was that Ward is shot every mid-season finale he appeared in. In Season 1, he gets shot by a Centipede Project helicopter (presumably on Garrett's orders to maintain Ward's cover); in Season 2, he gets shot by Daisy four times in the back; and in Season 3, he gets shot by Coulson twice, before finally killing him on Maveth, leaving his prosthetic hand (the murder weapon) next to his body.
In the penultimate episode of Season 3, Absolution, Daisy mentions to Coulson how Ward was brainwashed. Though this statement remains ambiguous, it's possible he was indeed brainwashed this whole time. During the second half of Season 1, Ward was completely loyal to Garrett, obeying his every command regardless of his action's consequences. After Garrett's death, he loses purpose in his life and tried to kill himself three times during his imprisonment. During Season 2, he makes a list of illogical choices (risking his life to get Coulson Sunil Bakshi only hours after escaping; later killing his abusive parents and older brother and rejoining HYDRA so he can keep his promise to Daisy by reuniting her with her father). After Daisy shoots him, Ward starts seeking personal independence, not working with many people until Agent 33 dies and decides to rejoin HYDRA as its new leader. All of the potential evidence is supported by the state of Agent 33's similar actions following Whitehall's death. It's also notable that 33 act antagonistically even after scans of her brain proved that her brainwash effects had been fully removed. This is interpreted that Daisy learned from experience that there's more than one brainwashing method and thus, emotional manipulation was a likely method under which Ward could have been brainwashed.
Ward has a good counterpart in the Framework, who was recruited by Victoria Hand as opposed to John Garrett and therefore learned from a genuine and benevolent mentor instead of a toxic one. This version of Grant Ward serves as an exploration of what the real Grant could have been had he truly been the person he pretended to be, and suggests to Daisy that he actually had good inside him all along.