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Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. turned a corner when it revealed Agent Ward's true allegiances in "Turn, Turn, Turn." And ever since that development, there's been an ongoing discussion in the comments sections of our weekly reviews about the character's similarities to Whedonverse villains like Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Angel/Angelus and Spike, as well as a debate over whether Ward can be redeemed after everything he's done. 

Basically, there appear to be two schools of thought regarding Ward's arc as it relates to the world of Buffy, and I'm not sure one is any more correct than the other. But the gist is that on Buffy and eventually Angel, both Angel and Spike served as heroes and villains at different parts in the story. Each character had an interesting arc over the course of the two shows, and viewers saw their good and bad traits. Ultimately, both characters were redeemed in their own way, and the end of Angel left them in viewers' good graces. Of course, whether or not Ward is more similar to Angel or Spike depends on how you view each character, and whether or not you think Ward is redeemable at all, but there are enough parallels between Ward and both Angel and Spike that I do believe Ward's chances of redemption are looking decent in the long run. Let's take a look at the the two arguments, shall we?


Case #1: Ward = Angel/Angelus

Some S.H.I.E.L.D. fans believe that Ward mirrors the Angel/Angelus story because the Agent Grant Ward persona is a lie that conceals his true villainous nature. Of course, that comparison only works if you believe that Angelus was the "real" character, with Angel being the "cover," and that's not a view that all Buffy fans share. 

A little backstory for the uninitiated (and shame on you, uninitiated! Buffy's the best!): Angel/Angelus was a vampire who was introduced in Buffy's first season. Angelus was a soulless asshole who was actually cursed with a soul by a gypsy tribe; the soul transformed him into Angel, who was portrayed as hero who suffered from the guilt he felt over all the murdering and terrorizing he'd done as Angelus. That guilt eventually made him want to be a better man, and it put him on the path to redemption. After falling in love with Buffy, he became an ally in her fight against the world's evil forces—until he experienced a moment of true happiness with her (in one of the series' many metaphors, this meant the two had sex). As a result of Angel's newfound happiness, he lost his soul and reverted to Angelus's jerkface nature. Angelus then became the Big Bad of Season 2, and he set about tyrannizing his former friends. Sure, his soul was eventually restored and everyone's pet goldfish were safe once again, but the character's villainous turn reminded viewers (and Angel) that having a soul was a form of punishment him. Angel's complicated nature is why some fans struggled to decide which version of the character—Angel or Angelus—was "true."

For the sake of this argument, I believe Angel was the real man because we knew him as a hero for most of the two show's runs. His soul made him feel human (it did not, however, make him the man he was when he was human—that guy was kind of a lousy tool). Angelus might be his true vampiric form, but the soul kept it in check.

So, how's this relate to Ward? Well there's one glaring problem in comparing Ward to Angel, and that's the question of how souls change people and their actions. It's not really an issue in a world that doesn't involve gypsy curses and vampires. So all we've really got to go on is Ward's own conscience, and even that still isn't entirely applicable. Ward also doesn't care about destroying the world, and there's no way he's Big Bad material, so I'm not sure an Angelus comparison is accurate. He's just a guy who follows Garrett's orders and occasionally feels conflicted because he has feelings for Skye.



Case #2: Ward = Spike

The other faction of fans believes that Ward is more similar to Spike—another soulless vampire—who was first introduced as a villain who was capable of love (or at least a sick, obsessive version of what he believed to be love). While Spike eventually became a sort of ally to the Scoobies, it happened through circumstances he couldn't control, and his allegiance was actually only to himself—he would've joined whichever side would give him the best chance of achieving his desired results. 

Spike eventually also fell in love with Buffy, and fought by her side as a result of this love (and because he'd had a chip implanted in his brain that kept him from harming innocent human beings). He eventually went so far as to complete a series of challenges that resulted in having his own soul restored in an effort to prove to Buffy that he was a good man who was worthy of her love. It took several seasons for Spike to make the transition from a villain to the man who eventually sacrificed himself to close the Hellmouth (long story), but Spike was eventually redeemed in the eyes of many fans, and it was ultimately his love for Buffy that made that possible. 

In contrast to our early encounters with Spike, Ward was introduced as a hero; it was only later that he was revealed to be a double agent working for Garrett—and by association Hydra. But that means he's always been a villain, which actually puts him closer to Spike than to Angel. The good acts that Ward committed were part of his cover, whereas the acts that Angel committed prior to losing his soul weren't a lie. Angel really was playing for the good guys, even if his only reason for doing so was that he felt guilty for all the bad stuff he'd done as Angelus. 



So: Is Ward redeemable, or is his villainy more of a permanent thing? 

In short, yes, I think Ward is redeemable. While there's always the question of whether he'll even survive long enough to make this entire discussion valid, if he does, I suspect that once Garrett is taken care of, we might find that Ward is closer to the Spike we knew in Buffy Season 4—a somewhat harmless individual who couldn't hurt innocent people because the U.S. government had planted a chip in his head. Buffy and the Scoobies didn't trust that Spike, but he was useful to them, so they kept him around.

On S.H.I.E.L.D., Ward's love for Skye and his desire to be seen as a good guy in her eyes could perhaps serve the same function as Spike's brain chip or Angel's soul. And by that logic, there's still hope for him. While S.H.I.E.L.D.'s characters and fans won't soon forget the people Ward killed, or the fact he betrayed the trust of Coulson's team (it's not as if fans forgot every heinous act Angel and Spike ever committed), Ward doesn't have to be written out of the series and he doesn't have to remain a villain. He's a ruthless killer, but so were Angel/Angelus and Spike, and both characters eventually found redemption.

In the end, both Angel and Spike were big damn heroes in their own way, eventually slaying dragons and demons and monsters from hell as the Angel series finale cut to black. But their characters' complicated natures were what made them so interesting, adding layers to them as people, so why should Ward be any different? Is Ward only a villain? Sure, it's a possibility, but the road behind him on S.H.I.E.L.D. is littered with references to his feelings for Skye, and if we're going to look toward Angel and Spike as his predecessors, I'd say Ward's love could indeed redeem him, or at least set him on the path to wanting to be redeemed. He's still got a lot of life left in him. There's more to the guy than just his pretty face and his ties to Garrett. But of course, that's only my opinion based on how I've interpreted both Angel and Spike's character arcs, and what hints they might provide with regard to where Ward's headed. What do YOU think? 

thekaitling:list:can-ward-be-redeemed/

 

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 5/17/2016

Season 3 : Episode 22

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Don't forget that he risk his life hundreds of times to defend culson's team. He deserves a slow and elegant second chance to do good. He and skye are perfect!
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He can and I hope he will (Ward &&&Triplett;) but do it right, explore the character's history etc. And don't make it easy or too obvious.
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He's actually the only character I can stand with Fitz.
Just make his redemtion arc into something that makes him even more layered, not the contrary (making him a living trope).
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(Ward &&&Triplett;)
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Whedon originally wanted to kill Spike off, but the character's popularity kept him alive until Whedon could figure out what to do with him. Whedon eventually settled on multi-season redemptive character arc that made Spike one of the most interesting characters on television, a fan favorite, and one of the main reasons for actually sticking with Buffy in its later seasons. Whedon knows what he's doing this time around, and has wasted no time setting up what will be THIS SERIES' redemptive character arc. Ladies and gentlemen, you might as well get used to the idea of Ward as the series' primary anti-hero for years to come, because that's clearly where this whole thing is going.
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Of course he is and he should be redeemed for the simply fact he is not a real villian he is a tool. His love for skye is what can help him become redeemed
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YES he CAN take a look back at the aftermath ep the epilogue to thor the dark world we see someone FORCING ward into atempting to kill his younger brother my take is grants a TRIPLE agent sheild, hydra & fury's secret warriors COUNT ON IT
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Mr. Whedon,

Do not fall for the love conquers all trope. You are better than that. You're welcome.
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I hope he isn't. I like the new, manipulative, dark Ward. He's more interesting, more layered. Plus, we all need a good bad guy and he has the chops for it.
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I'd rather he not be.. This show needs a good bad guy.
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I don't care for either of these comparisons. As stated by several others, the lack of a soul is key to Angel and Spike during their darker days. Ward has made a conscious decision.

However, my opinion about whether or not Ward can be redeemed is tied into the organization he represents. HYDRA was born from Nazism. It's an organization dedicated to enforcing order on a worldwide level at the expense of human lives. Ward is working for a fascist organization. He is part of an organization that believes and has dedicated itself for decades to order at the cost of freedom, autonomy, and lives.

The redeem him is the easier option, I think. Thus far, this is a show that hasn't taken a lot of chances in their storytelling. While having Ward turn out to be HYDRA does demonstrate taking a chance, they need to fully commit to it and be willing to go all the way with him.
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We knew Angel believed he could turn evil again but he was introduced to us as a hero & I believe that and not Angelus is he true persona. Spike is the bad guy you just can't help but love & man I didn't need to forgive him for his heinous acts, a lot of them were hilarious (playing poker with kittens anyone?) Ward I think is more like Spike, he can be redeemed cuz of his love of the girl.

Also Ward cannot be perceived as truly evil, he doesn't believe in the Hydra spiel, he is not Red Skull as Skye compared him too in last ep. He owes Garrett something, which we will learn what that is, soon enough I think. Also Ward became interesting because of his growing feelings for Skye & turning evil. Angel & Spike were AMAZING characters from the get go
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There's two questions here: 1) can he be redeemed (yes) 2) should he be redeemed (no)
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If Ward is redeemed, this is gonna suck!!! How will he be redeemed? He will either have to have been brainwashed or he had a change of heart.

If you go with brainwashed, that sucks! Brainwashed has been done twice this season, and it was the main plot of The Avengers.

If you say change of heart, I don't buy this either. So you kill a bunch of people, release all the bad guys and give them the most destructive weapons available, but because you changed your mind all is forgiven? That is dumb!

And there is always the classic "we don't like you or trust you but because you are our only hope, we have no other option" has been done to death! I can't stand another one of these.

Of course, Marvel does indeed piss me off and make him a good guy again, I'll still watch the show. After all, it is entertaining. But it will still suck!
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It can be done slowly and with taste.
He's lost everything he believed in and frankly didn't believe in it much from the get go.
It might be interresting to explore the character's motivations in detail because, right now, to make him absolute evil (Nahaha) wouldn't work either.
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Ya, but Ward is his own character, and the way he was introduced to us is very different from both Angel and Spike. Angel was a good guy who turned bad due to forces outside of his control. It's easy to redeem him because (when he has his soul) he feels remorse for his past actions and sincerely tries to be a better man. His guilt makes him sympathetic, and it's such a huge part of his character right from the beginning. Conversely, Spike was the common 'bad guy turned good' trope. He was a major villain right from the get go and he even reveled in his dark nature. Everyone loves the idea of a love so powerful that it can turn the most evil or villains into a good guy, which is why it's also easy to route for and redeem Spike. We can forgive his past villainy because we want to believe love can change him, and he was only evil before because he hadn't met his true love. Isn't that every girl's fantasy? Taming the beast within the man? Ward, however, is starkly different from both Angel and Spike. Ward not only deceived the characters in the show, but us as well. That's why I think his story is so much more compelling, because we, as viewers, feel just as betrayed as the characters in the show. We were sure we knew who he was, but he's broken our trust. Not to mention that even though he's been bad from the beginning, and he supposedly loves Skye now, he is still acting like a villain. His love for Skye does not overcome whatever obligation he holds to Garrett. He's not trying to be the better man, he's just following orders, and that inspires little sympathy from viewers. The only redemption I can see for him at this point would be to sacrifice himself in the not-too-distant future. He's betrayed everyone far too much at this point, and he's not a character anyone would want to keep around. I think it'd be really stupid if they turned around and trusted him again after all this. He's not missing a soul, he's not an evil vampire, he's just a guy who, despite loving Skye, continues to do evil things.
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Great analysis!
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OMG I'm so going to binge watch my DVDs of Buffy and Angel! Where was this site when those shows were on! Anyway here is the deal, we don't know what happened to Ward to make him become the man he is right now. He did say he was in Hell before Garrett found him. We don't know what exactly that was. So if you're in Hell and anyone offers you help to get out you'll take anything to get to a different place than you were before. He may be redeemable if his past circumstances pushed him to accept the path he is on now.
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Maybe he can be redeemed if they put a chip in his head or find some way to "neuter" him so he can't hurt anyone or betray their trust again.
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There was also Willow. Let's not forget that she spent an entire season as The Big Bad.
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Yep for poor Tara who was in the opening credits on the episode she was killed!!
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I know. It was sad that that episode was the only one where she was in the opening credits. I always thought of her as a regular cast member at least by the fifth season.
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It wasn't an entire season. More like a few episodes.
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It seemed longer than that. Was she losing it throughout the season perhaps? I remember she was dabbling in more powerful magic and sort of losing control.
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Yes but she didn't go full on dark side until Tara was killed which was (if memory serves) about 4 or 5 episodes before the sixth season finale.
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Three episodes. I've watched them about a dozen or so times. Just them. Wore them out the way I did season two of Buffy and season four of Angel post-Angel lost his soul.
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I voted yes but I wonder if my vote is more wishful thinking than anything else. Can't clear my thoughts on that one.
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Spike and Angel were totally different as they were vampires. Angel was only really "good" when he had a soul cursed on him (three times - once by gypsies and twice by Willow after he managed to lose it) that he had it - as soon as it was gone he was back to being his old self. Spike was more gradual and changed after spending time with Buffy and the gang and actually decided he wanted to become a better man so he sought out his soul on his own.


I really hope they don't write a redemption arc for Ward. I'm not interested in the show going in that direction - I hope they do more exploration into his character and why he aligned with Hydra and so forth but I don't want to see him have a sudden change of heart or anything.
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He could have also just been brainwashed, meaning that there wouldn't so much be a change of heart as a return to his former self. It's the Marvel Universe, so there are several "plausible" explanations for how that could've come to pass.
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This is a very, very flawed comparison: As many have already said, in both Spike and Angel's cases, the presence (or lack) of a soul was a key element. Can we credit their behavior to the status of their soul? Absolutely: Consider how immediate, and how dramatic, the changes to their personalities were when they lost or regained their souls.

Unlike both Spike and Angel, Ward has not been transformed into a monster by spiritual castration: His ruthless commitment to Hydra and the murders he has committed on its behalf were all choices made by Ward, the man---not Ward, the gypsy-cursed, soulless demon.

Ward is irredeemable. To find otherwise would force Caulson and the others to question every decision they've ever made, and ever will make, regarding the enemies they've faced and will face in the future. For if someone as plainly evil as Ward is worth mercy and a chance at redemption, then what right have they to condemn anyone else?

Now, if it turns out Ward has a chip in his head, that would obviously change things. That would, however, be a disappointing cop-out.

Ward is destined for redemptive suicide: He'll sacrifice himself to save Skye and others, in what will likely be the downfall of Garrett.
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Spike and Angel had their souls lost and restored, the only way you could compare Ward to either of them is if it turned out that the part of Ward's brain responsible for empathy and morality was surgically removed and then put back in. Really the character that you could compare to Angel and Spike is Deathlok.

The only character in another Whedon show you could compare Ward to is Faith. The Mayor turned a vulnerable traumatized (probably, they never gave us much on Faith's past) teenager and guided her into being a ruthless killer, just like Garrett did to Ward. By the end of the series Faith was an accepted member of team good guys so by comparison Ward should be redeemable. Personally I would have preferred it if Faith were killed off but that's just me.
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Let's not forget, however, that Faith willingly did time in prison for her crimes. (OK, not the full stretch but at least she turned herself in). Ward can't simply say "Oops, my bad" and get back in the game. There must be penitence of some sort. At least a season's worth.
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What if I don't want him to be redeemed? What if, as a viewer of such shows as Warehouse 13, Once Upon a Time, and Grimm, I'm sick and tired of my bad guys turning good?
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The reactions to this are kind of all over the place. I think there's some confusion as to why this is a discussion at all. No one is saying the the Buffyverse and SHIELD are similar universes or the characters are easily comparable—responses equating to, "this shouldn't even be discussed" are silly, because fans of the Buffyverse have been looking back at characters like Angel and Spike, two characters who've been both heroes and villains, and discussing similarities in the character arcs in the comments of the reviews for weeks.

I wanted to give those fans a better place to discuss that rather than just in the weekly reviews where they tend to get lost among the rest of the episodic discussion. The question isn't whether Ward's comparable to VAMPIRES, but whether or not Ward as a character can be redeemed after what he's done.

Whedon fans watching SHIELD naturally jumped to examples of characters who were redeemed on other Whedon shows because they're easy bait. But this could have been written with any other number of TV characters who were redeemed over time. Horrible people are redeemed all the time on TV. Sorry guys, but it's true. So the question isn't actually whether he's a Spike or an Angel, it's can Ward, and should Ward, be redeemed after his actions? Spike and Angel are just examples of characters who were redeemed or forgiven for their actions, chosen because those were the two characters most people were discussing. As several people pointed out below, Faith is a great example to use here, too.
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Yeah, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, of course, but I have to admit I'm a little baffled by the amount of people that feel Ward can't be believably redeemed. I understand those who don't want him redeemed, because they prefer him as a villain - that's not how I feel, but I get that. But for those who believe he can't be redeemed, I'm a little confused. This is television, not real life, and it's not only in Whedon shows that bad people are redeemed on television. As you say, it happens all the time.
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The fact it happens all the time makes it a cliche, and a lazy way for the writers to get out of their box. What would be a bit brave is for him to go out in a blaze of evil.
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Actually making the most "boring" character in the show turn evil, in my eyes is Whedon genius. Usually loved characters turn bad, not one who seemed like "cardboard" turn evil, & that making him interesting.
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I was talking about the redeem possibility. The turn to evil is great.
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I think it would be cliché if the power of Skye's love redeems him, or if happens at the end of the season. If they take their time with his redemption over the next few seasons, I wouldn't call it lazy. But then, I'm looking longterm - maybe other viewers aren't. I definitely don't want him redeemed anytime soon.

If Ward dies in a blaze of evil - especially at the end of the season - it would be such a waste. He's just gotten interesting; why kill him now?
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I'd love to see him arc across several seasons, but TV doesn't usually work that way. I'm still against the redemption story line, because it is a cliché, and lazy writing.
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The problem of cause Ward lack the charm of Spike whether being an evil dude or a good dude. But as evilness of Angelus as his worst but no excuse for that evil.
I think the question is should he be redeem,
Personally I have had far too much of redeemable evil guys, I want someone to be evil because they enjoy being evil.


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Interesting comparisons. I think, in Buffy/Angelverse, both Spike and Angel were good men. We don't know much about either one before they were turned, but Spike seemed a decent sort -- besotted and a bad poet, but a good man. Angel we know even less about, but I always got the sense that he was, at worst, feckless and lazy but not inherently mean or cruel. Being turned, and losing their souls, made them evil. However -- I never thought Spike asked to have his soul restored. I always thought (and still do), that he wanted the chip removed so he could kill Buffy, once and for all. I think he got the surprise of his life when his soul was restored, instead. For him, it was a long learning curve to become the man who sacrificed himself to close the Hellmouth, and to become Angel's ally. As far as Grant is concerned, I don't see him as a good man. An expedient man, yes, but good -- no. I think his motives are power and control and he thinks he has that with Hydra and not S.H.E.I.L.D. I don't think he can be redeemed, at least not without some catastrophe that acts as an epiphany.
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And of course, it's S.H.I.E.L.D., not S.H.E.I.L.D. Wish comments could be edited after posting. I need to learn to proofread better!
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No, I never got the sense of either Angel or Spike being naturally good men. Angelus was originally feared throughout the land -- even by other vampires -- for his ruthlessness. Spike also just seemed to really enjoy hurting people.

BUT, most of us fans were willing to accept them because we started out seeing them as evil and then watched their slow transformation to good. In neither case did we start out thinking they were on our side only to be brutally betrayed.

That's the main difference, here. It's how the viewer was introduced to the character.

I submit that had we MET Ward back when he was abused by his brother and after he did whatever terrible things he did that convinced him he was a bad person, and then watched him be groomed by Garrett, then see him trick everyone into having him invited into Coulson's team AND see him struggle with being bad but wanting to be good -- THEN we might get behind seeing his redemption.

But, it's too late because of the way we were introduced to him.

BTW, I'm in the camp that did NOT find Good Ward boring. I liked him just fine. What I don't like is how the writers manipulated us into believing he was good -- seeing him be totally congruent even when in private, whereas now we see his evil grin and stare every time a good guy isn't looking at him.
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The flashbacks on Buffy established Angel and Spike's characters and actions as humans before they were turned. As codakatz said, Angel was a shiftless layabout, while Spike was a fop in the worst sense, and ridiculed by his social set.
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how can you compare Ward with Angel and Spike? Ward is not supernatural, he is just a human who so far is now a villain. I'm hoping he's just being a triple agent for SHIELD but he did kill Hand.
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the argument about him following orders does not work. Any man willing to kill so easily is a man that deep inside enjoys the kill. This applies to both good and bad guys, but in this case, he has acted strictly against the characters and killed innocents who only wanted to protect freedom. And let's be straight, comparing this to Angel or Buffy is like oranges to apples.

In TV, Movies or anything, in theory, anyone can be redeemed, but he should not be, does he need to remain the bad guy working for Hydra, no, but he can never truly be a good guy for his actions deserve nothing less than jail, for life. Spike and Angel were both supernatural beings, where as Ward is human, a major difference in my opinion.

I would love to see him remain a bad guy and stand against both SHIELD and Hydra, that I think could be interesting but for that to happen, Skye would have to die at the hands of Hydra. Then he would blame Hydra for the killing and SHIELD for putting her in that situation.

He makes for a great bad guy, keep him that way.
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I'd say it's like comparing apples to automobiles!
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He can be redeemed. This is television, they can do pretty much anything. Realism in character arcs isn't really a high priority with people's short attention-spans nowadays.

He shouldn't be redeemed though. I felt killing a bunch of random S.H.I.E.L.D. red-shirts was bad enough. But then he went and killed Agent Eric Koenig, which is INEXCUSABLE!!!

I hope he dies a slow and painful death in the season finale. Preferably brought on by Director Fury himself.
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Our justice system doesn't have recourse for vampires and magic, but it does have recourse for men and their ill deeds, for regular people even those under the influence of others. Marvel Agents of SHIELD lives in a world with that justice system, and that alone says Ward cannot enjoy redemption.
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Redemption doesn't have to include keeping him on the team. He could allow himself to be captured in order to stay in a fight to save teammates. He could sacrifice his life for the team. He could see the error of his ways and become a vigilante, hunting down other members of Hydra. There are certainly redemption story options that fit a pseudorealistic superhero setting like the MCU.
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Redemption at death is reserved for religion and fantasy fiction. If he dies to save the team or something along those lines, he's still guilty of the things he's done, he just isn't around any longer to answer for that. If he completely switches sides, he's still a major player in the deaths of countless others and the destruction of SHIELD itself.

We like Black Widow, but she doesn't know if she herself can be redeemed, she struggles with it almost every time we see her. And we've never witnessed her past ill deeds, we the audience only have her word and the words of a few others to witness the breadth of her evils, so it's easy for us as an audience to accept her as she is now. Ward doesn't enjoy that buffer, and he's so far shown no interest in that level of redemption, but we have definitely seen first-hand how incredibly destructive he is directly to our protagonists.
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"Redemption at death is reserved for religion and fantasy fiction. "

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. IS fantasy fiction. I hope you weren't laboring under a different impression...
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Agents of SHIELD is fiction, but not "fantasy fiction", it is more grounded. You wouldn't find it next to Piers Anthony or Tolkien were they able to share a shelf.

All fiction is fantasy, but the term "fantasy fiction" doesn't refer to all fiction.
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Does anybody else on the staff watch this show? I'm so very curious to hear what their opinions are, especially those outside of Whedon fandom. I've never watched Buffy or Angel (saw the original Buffy movies, but I know that's a bastardization of what Whedon had in mind), so it seems like other views would be interesting.

I honestly don't think a character with this much blood on his hands can be redeemed on TV, the medium doesn't usually have a forgiving enough audience due to its diversity. Comic books redeem characters like this all the time through cheap tricks, but that medium has a narrow audience who has been raised on cheap tricks that are often narratively bankrupt.

Genre TV fans are also a narrower group than general tv fans, so something like Angel might get away with it easier than Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, a narrow group might be more prone to discussing it with each other and finding the common argument that holds up.

As for this "I believe Angel was the real man" argument, nothing you wrote before that suggests it to be the case. You said Angelus was cursed with a soul, before that he had none and was a monster (literally too), therefore Angel is an affectation forced upon him, but since he's sexy and likable it's better to just keep that guy around.

Here's the thing, there's blood on Ward's hands, he killed and kills and kills again BECAUSE of who he is. If we accept your argument that Angel is the real person, then Ward is the polar opposite and has no magic that can allow a change.

The show tried to make a play for the notion that Ward was bullied as a child into hurting others so he's doing that again, but that argument has a strict limitation and it's somewhere before we get to MURDERING PEOPLE.

If they try to make Ward play out like what you've described with Spike (and that description is very closed from the non-initiated regarding the Buffyverse), it'd feel cheap because Ward isn't a vampire and he doesn't live by a different set of rules for that and there aren't any challenges that can magically redeem Ward's soul - he's a guy who has chosen to kill and facilitate a lot of death and pain, the Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn't have enough fantasy elements to allow a switch to be flipped there.

The notion that Ward can be redeemed is fangirlism/fanboyism at its worst - you have a series that's trying to make a realistic take on characters who live in a comic book universe, and forgiving Ward shouldn't be possible. There may be sympathy for why he did what he did, but there can be no forgiving that he crossed the line and continues to do so. Putting a chip in his head or a spell on his soul won't change the fact that the original man, the true owner of his body, killed people mercilessly, deprived many people of their lives, all to further someone else's belief system; and in this show's universe, that's enough to damn him permanently, as it should - no man should be above justice, no matter how much love there is in his heart for someone. That heart is tainted, it's black, it's stolen countless others' loves and not even for sustenance but simply to further evil deeds - he knows Garrett's beliefs are purely destructive and selfish since he himself is not a believer, and yet he still follows.

Ward has become almost Jayne from Firefly except in reverse... AND WITH MASS MURDER.
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Maybe I'm selling the show short, but I'm surprised that you feel the show is trying to create such a realistic take on the Marvel universe. I don't get that at all. What have you seen on this show to make you feel this way? To me, Arrow is an example of a realistic take on comics, because they've done their best not to introduce "magical" super powers. But perhaps I'm misunderstanding what you're saying here.
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The Marvel Cinematic Universe has always tried to stay grounded, not too dissimilarly to Arrow in that regard. They try to keep magic as close to the sci-fi realm as possible, saying Thor and the Asgardians are akin to powerful aliens whose powers only seem like magic to mere men where Thor comics really didn't make that distinction. Even the sci-fi elements have been built up slowly rather than beaten over the audiences' heads, starting with Iron Man being almost believable and leading into Thanos and the Chitauri, and now we have Guardians of the Galaxy and Dr. Strange on the horizon, but they're still trying to worldbuild a believable universe for these characters to inhabit. There aren't a lot of thinly-veiled secret identities in the MCU, where Arrow is stretching that beyond credulity on a weekly basis (Ollie shows up off the island and immediately the city gains a new emerald vigilante who is blond and the same height - WHO COULD IT BE????), they have made choices to keep it as grounded as possible while still being a Marvel universe.
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Well, the voting and comments on the subject are pretty evenly split, so I think the writers can get away with either choice, but will alienate half their audience whichever they choose.
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I don't think leaving him unredeemed will significantly harm the half of the audience that is willing to accept him. He's not that well-loved a character, his romance with Skye is mostly seen as creepy and juvenile and simplistic, there's easily an avenue for him to simply not be redeemed at all at this point.
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I don't want to write too much because I definitely agree that redeeming Ward would just be a terrible decision. There should absolutely be repercussions for the character's actions, and the way the universe has been built up, those repercussions should involved him never being able to gain back the trust that he betrayed.

However, all this discussion and comparison to Angel is a little weird. The fact of the matter is that Angel used to be a human before he became a vampire. When he was cursed with a soul, all that did was return to him that which was taken when he was turned. From that perspective, Angelus is the affectation. Being a soulless bloodsucker was his curse to begin with, and the gypsy who "cursed" him with a soul really just restored his humanity.

Also, you seem to have pretty good taste in television, and fairly broad taste at that. You should definitely check out Angel. It's got a bad rap as a spin off of Buffy, but it reaches much loftier heights than that show ever did, and contains some of the most intense character development of pretty much any tv show out there. By the end of the fifth season, all of the characters have gone through so many changes, it puts all of these more well-regarded shows to shame.
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I'll have to take your word on Angel, I only had Kaitlin's interpretation up in her article to compare to until your point. I can only argue based on what you're saying that once Angel became a vampire, his needs as a vampire permanently (?) stripped him of that humanity, and giving him a soul wasn't restoring that humanity but truly cursing him with the worst of both worlds. From what I've heard, the character made the best of that though, which is probably why it's still a beloved character today with those fans.

Thanks for the compliment. I don't have much more free time right now for new shows, and I worry there will be too much baggage to jump into Angel without having watched Buffy first, but I'll consider it.
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for this comparison to be logical, they'd have to both be monsters or both be spies.. but instead one is a fantasy vampire and the other's a spy. so it doesn't fit. there's no underlying evil nature that was forced onto Ward from being turned into a monster to fight against. Ward either needs to get killed off or be a singular agent and stay with Hydra and OUT of SHIELD so we don't have to keep dealing with it. if Coulson couldn't even forgive May for working with Fury, how could he forgive Ward for working with Hydra and killing all these people? He may have a soft spot for Skye but that doesn't mean he can be a good guy, even baddies fall in love. I almost expect Ward to sacrifice himself the end of the season, but for Skye not SHIELD.
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Ward needs to be killed or turned into a permanent bad guy. No redemption, because it would seem forced. He has killed SHIELD members and has already shown himself as a traitor. And I doubt that Fury or anyone else would accept him because of what he has done. If they take him back it will lessen the credibility that they have built up over the past few episodes.
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agreed - and he would make a GREAT big-bad for next season - especially if his "clairvoyant" mentor were to say - be killed by agent coulson right in front of him. do i have any knowledge that this will happen - no. do i think the odds are at least 50/50 - damn straight!
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There's a big difference. Ward isn't a vampire. He can't justify his killing as a way to stay alive. He's a murderer. He should be sent to jail. And he killed SHIELD members. Even if he was to be forgiven for the murders he could never be part of SHIELD again.
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You're asking the wrong question. It's not CAN he be redeemed, it's SHOULD he be redeemed.
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and the answer to that is no.
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Utterly unredeemable. I get the Angel/Spike comparaisons, but, although they both set in fantasy and Wheadon-approved, the MCU and the Buffy-verse are two completely different entities, with sets of rules that doesn't matches one other at all. It's not that Grant cannot do anything truly heroic before the end of the season; it's just that, in the grand scheme of things, it will be too little, too late. S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives, which are government agents, got killed; technologies and national secrets got stolen; very dangerous criminals got released. Even Christ himself couldn't get back from that!

It doesn't really matter what Sky, Finch or Simmons think about this whole thing... if Coulson had that much problems forgiving May for just spying on him for Fury, can you just imagine how he will treat Ward when he learns of his betrayal?

Guys like Fury and Coulson do not care about possible redemptions, especially after such a high level of betrayal. They'll take one look at their former operative and see only one thing from now on: Hydra. So, for all you people thinking Grant may get back on the team later on: keep on dreaming, kids! Fact is, if he doesn't end the season with a bullet in the head, he'll be either in the fridge or on the run.

There's no salvage for Ward.
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Sorry, I don't buy the comparison of Ward to either Angel or Spike. For one reason, the vampires were set up as evil from the beginning and who worked hard for redemption. And, when Angel flipped, it really was beyond his control. And when we met Angel, it was never really clear how much of an ally he was.

The main reason we can't accept Ward's redemption was (as you alluded) that we had nearly a full season of thinking of Ward as a really, really good guy. We feel far more hurt and betrayal from Ward than we ever did from Angel or Spike -- and that's because our introduction to them was never as full heroes. THEY were redeemable because we saw them slowly convert from bad to good. AND because we were never tricked into thinking they were good only to find out it was all a lie.

I personally doubt Ward will be written out of the show, but I will NOT be happy with the writers if they throw some ridiculous conversion at us and expect us to accept Ward back with open arms.

AND I don't want to see him be an ongoing enemy. So... CRAP! I'm screwed.
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oh this is totally going in the direction of redemption. His feelings for Skye are there for that purpose. Actually, Buffy and Angel is a good example :)
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Hitler loved Eva Braun, does that redeem him? Sick people can love and still be evil, that alone cannot be enough of a redeeming feature to save a character.
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maybe not in real life, but in silly fiction, it is - the purpose of the fiction will be to redeem him, so there is a major difference with reality here. There's a finger pushing things around as wanted.
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Well, that's the thing, isn't it? How silly do we want our fiction, what lessons do we as a society want to pass down? The Marvel Cinematic Universe is trying to be as unsilly as it can, given it's a superhero universe.
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if he wasn't beyond that line, we would not be talking about redemption because it would not be necessary. And then we go to the other side of this love equation in comic book spirit: Skye. My take is,, he might arrive to do big sacrifices for "love" and aspire to redemption, but his love should not be accepted by Skye, because she is the good guy and this is a comic book. That's the piece that cannot happen, if you ask me. But him turning against his own world of crimes and blood to help the person he "loves", that''s always there as a dramatic possibility and, in my opinion, very likely to be used in this case.
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Love exclusively cannot be a redeeming feature in fiction that is meant to be grounded, and some people cross lines that cannot be uncrossed. Ward is a bad guy, through and through, there can be no excusing what he did or redeeming from what he did, there is simply too much blood on his hands. All of SHIELD operates in a somewhat gray zone, but Ward is way beyond that. If you redeem him, especially from love, you end up with that silliness. If the lesson the fiction tells is that you can align yourself with evil and kill indiscriminately only to get a free pass later, you're sending a pretty shallow and thoughtless message. Redeemable bad guys are ones who don't have blood on their hands, especially to Ward's level - they have a code of ethics personal to them.
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I'm not sure what you are trying to say here... are you saying that the silly thing would be to redeem a bad guy out of "true love", or that the silly thing would be to have unredeemable bad guys and pure good guys only? Because by giving you a redeemable bad guy, I'm already making the superhero universe as unsully as it can be, in my opinion.
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If, in fact, his feelings for Skye are what you think they are.
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I actualy don't care about what is that he feels for Skye. It is fictional love, created for a purpose, and planted in the show as "love", and that's usually the same type of love all the time. The type of love that is stronger than anything and will make the bad guy take the bullet for a good guy. And I tell you why I think this: because it is what makes sense in fiction. You give a bad guy just a little bit of love for another character, it doesn't really go anywhere. And this is not such a sophisticated show in terms of feelings. The example of Kaitlin was good because Angel and Buffy had that situation too. Except maybe Angel was more of a "tortured soul" instead of just a bad guy like Ward seems to be. Well, maybe we will see his conversion into "tortured soul" as it develops. But either way, that planted love is there to address redemption, and that justifies this article from Kaitlin too!
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It's always easier to classify Ward under the "cannot be redeemed" category. It's straightforward -- and boring. Just like how it's easier to cop out and say he was controlled/brainwashed. The road to redemption, however, will definitely be a more interesting path for the writers to explore.

(Skip the next part if you hate CW shows!) Not sure if anyone here watches The Vampire Diaries/The Originals. Cus Ward actually reminds me of Klaus. What makes Klaus compelling is his inner struggle (and that is what got him his own spinoff). Both behave they way they do because of their adolescent experiences and they eventually meet someone who makes them aspire to a different life. That's why when Ward turned, on top of his infatuation with Skye, his character became more 3D. Sure, I have my doubts about his survival. But if he survives, his character arc would be something to look forward to, wouldn't it?
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Too early to speak of redemption. Agent Koenig's spilled blood is still fresh.
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I also want to point out that there is a difference between Ward redeeming himself and the rest of the team forgiving him/taking him back. I'm going with the Faith comparison again here, but Faith redeemed herself, yet many characters didn't really forgive her. They were willing to use her for the big showdown against the First because they needed to, but I'd say several of them still didn't really forgive her, and probably still were not very keen to work with her once all that was over. I just say this because I've seen some people saying that they don't think Ward can be redeemed, because they can't see the others forgiving him and taking him back. He can redeem himself, but still do his own thing or work with others.
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I personally dislike comparing characters from different shows. First they're different shows; second there is different mythology involved, and; third the only thing Agent Ward has in common with Angel and Spike is that they are played by male actors.
There is another theory out there regarding Agent Ward which I hope is the direction the writers are going. That Agent Ward is really the villian/antihero Taskmaster. Since I don't know much about the Marvel universe I did a little digging. There are a lot more compariable traits of Agent Ward to the Taskmaster that make more sense. I really hope this is the direction the show is going with his character.
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Ward + being a bad guy = now he's interesting and important.
Ward + being an agent of SHIELD = he's booooooooring!
Angel and Spike were always interesting whether they were good OR bad.
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Redeeming Ward would be such a pussy move at this point.
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If Ward gets redeemed, I might lose my interest in the show. He's already done a bunch of horrible things. It would be stupid if the others forgave him or accepted him back. I just don't see the link between Ward and Angel, Spike, Faith or even Alpha from Dollhouse. They're too different.
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I have no doubt that the writers have the ability to redeem him, but depending on HOW they do it I too might loos interest in the show. I don't want to find out that he has an evil twin, was conveniently hypnotized by alien technology, or drank some magic potion that "turned him evil". I want him to earn his redemption not have some magic wand waved and everything goes back to normal.
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Comparing Ward to Spike and Angel is like comparing a horse to a dog. Sure, they both walk on all fours, they have a head, but that's about where the comparisons end.

Spike and Angel redeemed themselves after getting souls. Before Spike regained his soul, one could argue he was on his way to redemption...however, everything he was doing was to get Buffy to fall in love with him, not because he necessarily wanted to be a good guy.

Ward, however... He's been a double agent for his entire SHIELD career. And he killed Victoria Hand, plus however many other agents. He's not getting off lightly. He was an entirely willing participant.
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The city of Greendale disagrees on that horse/dog thing.
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Sorry dude, that went right over my head, no idea what you're talking about.
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The show "Community" had a 2-part season finale recently where an insurance inspector from the city where the community college is located, Greendale, had a law saying that all animals with 4 legs and a tail are classified as dogs.
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Wow...well, I don't watch Community, so no wonder I didn't gt it.
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These characters share a few traits, but the big difference is Spike and Angel were evil because it was in there nature to be evil. Ward is Evil because he made a choice. Clearly there is some back story about Ward's childhood we have yet to learn, but he still made the choice to put on a black hat.

That could make his redemption all that much more interesting, but I am not holding my breath. If he survives long enough he will be redeemed, it's a Joss Wheadon show. Almost every character in his shows will be both hero and villain at some point.
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Can he be redeemed? Maybe. Will he? I doubt it. For starters, most of the show's energy stemmed from his treachery. Also, he already has a replacement in Tripplett. I mean, why else are they showing Tripplett working with the team, doing the same stuff that Ward does and building a relationship with them, if Ward would be sticking around/redeeming himself? He might as well either die or become one of the show's major villains.
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Better a hundred evil Wards than one good Triplett
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Definetly is closer to Spike. Spike wanted a soul BECAUSE he fell in love with Buffy, he started to changed because of that. Angel was good because of his soul and then he met Buffy.
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I don't think either comparison really works, because Angelus and Spike had no souls. Having no soul is a legitimate excuse for villainy, as all vampires automatically have evil natures. Spike was actually one of the least villainous vampires there was.

Ward is a regular old human being with a soul, and is still choosing to be evil. He should know better, has (or at least was born with) a conscience, and yet is still making the conscious choice to be an evil bastard. He can't be redeemed by getting his soul back, as he already has one.
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I can see your point, but remember that we don't know anything about the relationship between Ward and Garret, at least yet (except the very generic "he saved me" part). Is a man who does bad things for someone whom he considers a father and a savior so unredeemable?
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I'm not saying he's irredeemable, just that the comparison between him and Angel and Spike doesn't work. Maybe he can be redeemed, but his redemption arc would be nothing like Angel's or Spike's, which sort of nullifies the point of the article.
I agree that we'll have to see what his backstory is and then decide whether he has a reasonable motive for his loyalty to Garret.
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Great article, Kaitlin. I can see good comparisons to both Angel and Spike. However, from the various comments I've seen in your S.H.I.E.L.D. reviews, I think the comparison of Ward to these two often undermines the argument for his redemption, because a lot of people seem to automatically say "There's no comparison; Angel and Spike were soulless vamps that became good once they got their souls back." For those people, I offer up a different comparison from the Whedonverse - Faith.

Faith wasn't "evil" for as long as Ward has (presumably) been, but there's a lot of similarities between their evil origin stories. Both has rough childhoods growing up in which they were neglected; I don't think we're ever specifically told whether Faith faced some kind of abuse like Ward did, but I would say it's fairly likely. Both eventually came to a point where they believed they were inherently bad (Ward because he allowed his older brother to make him torment his younger brother; Faith because she accidentally killed the Mayor's guy.) After which, both were taken in by a paternal figure who they viewed as "saving" them, and who nurtured their evil natures, turning them even more into killers (Faith - the Mayor, Ward - Garrett). And of course, for those who oppose the Ward/Angel/Spike comparisons because of the vampire thing, Faith/Ward is more apt because Faith is human (aside from super strength), still killed a lot of people, but ultimately was redeemed.

Faith, for me, is one of the most complex and interesting of Whedon's characters, so I really hope that Ward gets as good and well-developed of a redemption story as she did. I think it's entirely possible for him to be redeemed, and without losing this more interesting side of him that was introduced when we discovered he was Hydra. I think (hope?) the show will take their time with his redemption, and that he can ultimately still remain a gray character to keep him from becoming just like the boring Agent Grant Ward that he was at the beginning of the season.

BTW, my take on the comparisons between Angel/Spike and Ward is that they are comparisons that do have merit. I don't think the fact that they're vamps with souls means they are completely incomparable to Ward. The Buffy/Angel fanverse has had a lot of interesting discourse over how accountable Angel's and Spike's soulful selves are for their soulless selves actions. I don't want to get too much into the argument here, but it is my stance that it's a little more complicated than their souls "automatically" redeem them - especially for Angel, whose previous human self was already kind of a jerk, and who, as a vampire, really took a lot of pleasure in torturing and killing his victims. That to me has always hinted as a darkness in Angel that he has to fight even as a vampire with a soul.

Which is why, for me, I don't see the comparisons between these two and Ward as entirely useless. However, to those that do, I think a more accurate comparison to a Whedonverse character is Faith.
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Well you definitely said it more eloquently than I did! :)

Faith is still my favorite Whedonverse character (with Wesley close behind) because of that arc she got.

And Angel's actions in season 2 of Angel definitely help your point. He still had his soul then but he didn't care who got hurt in his quest to stop W&H. He may not have been the one to physically do it, but he has the blood of all the lawyers Darla and Dru killed on his hands. Angel is definitely a darker hero than many want to view him as.
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Yeah, when I was younger (I was about 8 when Buffy first began airing), I viewed Angel's situation as very black and white - being soulless made him bad, and therefore he can't be held accountable for those things he did as a soulless vamp. It made me so mad when he returned with a soul in S3 and some of the other Scoobies (not just Xander, even) were not quite willing to forgive him right away.

Nowadays, though, I just think it's a much more complex situation than that; I think it's oversimplifying to just give Angel a free pass all the time (and that's more boring, too!). The fact is, if it was that black and white, there would be no purpose to Angel's quest for redemption, which was a huge part of who he was.

Glad to find another Faith fan; she is one of my favorite Whedonverse characters too. I always wanted more of her. Her arc in Buffy Season 4/Angel Season 1 was one of my favorite storylines.

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