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10 of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Most Formidable Foes

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is set to premiere its third season tomorrow night in the US and the show is already promising to bring with it some new villains to stir up trouble for Director Coulson and his team.

Grant Ward has taken it upon himself to become the new head of Hydra and the Inhuman Lash is being teased as a dangerous enemy. With these new and old faces headed Coulson’s way and prepared to make their mark on S.H.I.E.L.D., it seems only natural to take a look back at some of the most dangerous villains that we’ve seen so far.

10. Donnie Gill


Originally labeled as a “bad seed,” Donnie Gill was always more of a pawn than anything else, first to Ian Quinn in Season 1, and then to Hydra in early Season 2. Much of his actions were simply those of a teenage boy with poor mentors, but the consequences were lasting and far more deadly than the standard acts of rebellion made by powerless teenagers. Donnie’s transformation into Blizzard led him down a dangerous slope that resulted in the death-by-freezing of numerous innocent people. The general recklessness of Donnie, coupled with the fact that he was “ready to comply” to Hydra’s demands, made him quite the threat to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s agents, particularly to Agent Simmons who was forced to confront him head-on whilst undercover at Hydra. Though eventually taken out by a bullet shot by Skye, Donnie’s days as a powered-individual were spent using his gifts as tools for cold-blooded murder.

9. Ian Quinn


More of a pompous nuisance than anything else, Ian Quinn’s issues with S.H.I.E.L.D. stemmed from the fact that he was willing to do just about anything for a certain dollar amount. Quinn was essentially the Clairvoyant’s b!tch throughout much of Season 1, running glorified errands for the then-nameless villain and using his wealth to support Cybertek (which was really just a Hydra front all along). He transformed from slimy bad-guy to genuine villain when he shot Skye in cold-blood before leaving her to bleed to death on the cellar floor of the otherwise beautiful Italian villa. The action solidified him as an actual threat because, for the first time on screen, he actually did something threatening. For the most part Quinn simply talked the talk but in “T.R.A.C.K.S.” he backed up his words with a very real gun and two bullets that nearly ended Skye’s life.

8. Carl Creel


Though he didn’t stick around for long Carl Creel, AKA Absorbing Man, had a lasting impact on S.H.I.E.L.D. due to his choice of employer. Creel’s involvement with Hydra set into motion much of the action of 2A and gave the villainous organization a momentary upper hand over S.H.I.E.L.D. As part of Hydra’s Compliance Program, Creel willingly did the bidding of Sunil Bakshi and played a large role in the retrieval of the deadly Obelisk. Creel was directly responsible for getting the Obelisk into the hands of Hydra, and subsequently Daniel Whitehall, and was equally at fault for the deaths of Izzy and Idaho, two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents that died at the end of the very episode in which they were introduced.

7. Katya Belyakov


Though only appearing in “Melinda” in a flashback no less, Katya Belyakov has had a lasting impact on both S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent May. The young Inhuman was directly responsible for the deaths of numerous people, agents and civilians alike, and became increasingly evil the more she used her powers. In addition to the physical toll she had on S.H.I.E.L.D., Belyakov had an enormous emotional impact that shifted much of the agency’s internal alliances. Belyakov was responsible for the events in Bahrain that landed May the nickname of “The Cavalry” and turned her into the stone-faced agent that she is today, effectively cutting her off from husband Andrew Garner and placing a noticeable strain on her relationship with Coulson.

6. Cal Zabo/Johnson


Certifiably insane, Cal Zabo made it clear from his first introduction that he was willing to do absolutely anything in order to be reunited with his family. Already established as a vicious killer, responsible for the slaughtering of an entire Chinese town after his daughter was taken from him, Cal made certain that his reputation preceded him once he began to clash with S.H.I.E.L.D. The formula he created in an attempt to acquire Inhuman-esque powers turned Cal mad and made him an unstable foe whose volatile nature was directed towards the people he felt were responsible for destroying his family: Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D.

His hatred of Hydra for “murdering” his wife was equaled only by his hatred of Coulson for somehow becoming the father-figure to Skye that Cal so desperately wanted to be. His bouts of rage fueled more than one murder-spree and eventually led him to forming a team of villains brought together for the sole purpose of destroying Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D. Though he was redeemed by the end of the season and gifted with a new identity thanks to the T.A.H.I.T.I. program, Cal Zabo/Johnson proved himself to be quite the S.H.I.E.L.D. threat when running around as the monstrous Hyde.

5. Sunil Bakshi


Oftentimes it’s the second-in-command that gets their hands most dirty, which holds true in the case of this Hydra villain. As Whitehall’s right-hand man, Bakshi often ended up being a larger threat than his boss, causing mayhem well into the back half of Season 2 and keeping viewers and agents alike on their toes. Heavily involved with Hydra’s Compliance Program, Bakshi played a substantial role in the brainwashing of Agent 33 as well as the other nameless victims of the manipulation technique. Bakshi often served as the physical face of Hydra and eagerly put S.H.I.E.L.D. in the crosshairs whenever an opportunity arose.

Bakshi often went toe-to-toe against Coulson and his agents, striving to prevent S.H.I.E.L.D. from acquiring anything that might give them an upper hand over Hydra. It was the unrelenting desire to please others combined with his personal ambitions of climbing the ranks that really made Bakshi such a threat. Considering the majority of the people he was trying to please were the leaders of a terrorist organization hell-bent on world domination, and that he wished to have his own place of leadership in said organization, it’s no wonder that Bakshi was such a constant thorn in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s side.

4. John Garrett/The Clairvoyant

John Garrett was without question the greatest S.H.I.E.L.D. foe in the show’s first season. Hiding behind the moniker “The Clairvoyant,” Garrett managed to acquire an insurmountable amount of S.H.I.E.L.D. intel that aided in Hydra’s takeover of the organization. He used his clearance to create his ominous alternate persona and convincingly manipulated S.H.I.E.L.D. into providing him with information that led him directly to the mysterious GH325 formula. This obsession with the formula is what made Garrett truly dangerous where S.H.I.E.L.D. was concerned. The fact that he was a Hydra agent who had his own separate agenda made him doubly threatening to the organization and, specifically, to Phil Coulson and his team.

Garrett’s personal mission was to extend his own life, which motivated him to do some truly deplorable things with enthusiasm and conviction. Garrett groomed Grant Ward into a double agent, carefully inserting the younger man into Coulson’s team to gain their trust and, more importantly, their intel. The professional betrayal of being a Hydra agent, combined with the personal betrayal of pushing Ward to infiltrate and double-cross Coulson, made John Garrett a villain in every sense of the word.

3. Grant Ward


Though Brett Dalton considers his character to be more of an antihero than anything else, we’d be remiss not to have Grant Ward near the top of the list of individuals who have caused trouble for S.H.I.E.L.D. Ward, much like Bakshi, has spent most of his time playing second-fiddle to his leader of choice, serving as a double-agent for Hydra and infiltrating Coulson’s mobile unit without batting an eye simply because he was told to. Ward murdered numerous S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, most notably Victoria Hand, and betrayed his team in every imaginable way (i.e. ejecting FitzSimmons into the middle of the ocean). Ward’s loyalty to his Hydra mentor John Garrett made him dangerous in Season 1, but it wasn’t until he broke free and became an independent contractor that the ex-agent became a serious threat rather than a marginally menacing sidekick.

Without a distinct leader, Ward became the epitome of a wildcard in Season 2, flitting between Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. whenever one seemed more favorable than the other. By the close of the season, after mercilessly torturing Agent Morse and burning his family alive, Ward seemed to welcome his villainous side with open arms while putting an enormous bullseye on Phil Coulson and the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D.

2. Daniel Whitehall


Daniel Whitehall has been causing trouble for S.H.I.E.L.D. since it was still known as the SSR during the Peggy Carter era. As a follower of the Red Skull, Whitehall quickly began to focus his interests on powered-people and reaping the benefits of the gifted individuals he so sadistically captured and tortured. Whitehall’s role as a S.H.I.E.L.D. villain spanned literal decades, making him a constant threat to the organization. Though he spent many of his years imprisoned, Whitehall managed to get out just before conveniently finding his own fountain of youth. The obsession with powered individuals caused Whitehall to focus his attention on finding a way to use the destructive properties of the Obelisk on a global scale. His studying of the artifact was done with the sole goal of using it as a means of mass-eradication, making him extraordinarily dangerous to the organization striving to protect the world and its people.

Whitehall’s desire for world-domination extended past just Earth when he made finding the Kree city a priority and beating Coulson to it an even bigger one. Whitehall could cause just as much damage and pain to a single individual as he could an entire planet, and what made him such a villain was the fact that he enjoyed it.

1. Jiaying


Though the leader of the Inhumans initially seemed like an individual whose protection of the Inhumans and connection to Skye would serve as a positive thing where S.H.I.E.L.D. was concerned, it quickly became clear that Jiaying wasn’t the ally that Coulson was hoping for. She started a literal war between S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Inhumans by murdering co-Director Gonzalez, shooting herself in the shoulder, and claiming that he attacked her. Naturally this event made the Inhumans, Skye included, less than happy with S.H.I.E.L.D., and was the catalyst that led to the clashing of the two groups. Jiaying, though on paper technically less monstrous than the literal Nazi (Whitehall) that destroyed her life, was the most dangerous S.H.I.E.L.D. foe due to the simple fact that she managed to get Skye to, albeit briefly, turn on her friends and fellow agents.

Using Skye’s emotional attachment to her advantage, Jiaying manipulated her daughter until Skye chose the Inhumans over S.H.I.E.L.D. and readily fought her former mentors. Jiaying’s actions were that of a vengeful and dangerous woman who was intent on destroying any person or agency that she thought might potentially pose a threat to the Inhumans. Jiaying was ruthless, mercilessly killing anyone who got in her way (Raina included) and making it clear that her end goal was to see the demise of S.H.I.E.L.D.

*Honorable Mention: The Alien Artifacts of Doom

alien artifacts

It seems safe to say that two of the most beloved characters in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. were/are Antoine Triplett and Jemma Simmons. Meaning that the fact that alien artifacts of all things took them away from viewers and S.H.I.E.L.D. made them quite dangerous.

Fans were heartbroken when Trip met his end during Season 2’s mid-season finale at the hands, rather the mist, of the Obelisk and its Terrigen properties. Trip’s death rocked viewers as well as S.H.I.E.L.D. itself and became the catalyst for much of the events in the back half of Season 2. Jemma’s brief desire to contain or, if need be, eradicate powered-people was the direct result of her thinking that Trip’s death was somehow something she was responsible. Similarly, Skye’s own feelings of guilt over her friend’s demise led her down the Inhuman path, thus kick-starting her transformation into Season 3’s Daisy Johnson.

Not to be outdone by the alien artifact meant to transform people into Inhumans, the ominous anti-Inhuman Kree stone located in the vaults of the Playground literally consumed Agent Simmons as she screamed for help in the post-finale tag. Currently, we still have zero idea what the Kree artifact did with Jemma other than prevent her from finally having dinner with Fitz (something that left fans more than a little heartbroken) but knowing S.H.I.E.L.D, there will likely be many repercussions.


What are your thoughts on the foes above? Is one more dangerous than another? Sound off in the comments below or on Twitter!

About the author

Silje Falck-Pedersen