Welcome to Bae Watch Wednesday, where I tell you all about the fictional characters you ought to be crushing on. Sorry not sorry, but I finally caught up on Agents of SHIELD and I’m high key in love with all the characters, so it’s gonna be AoS for awhile.
Who is Melinda May?
Agent Melinda May is one of the main characters in Agents of SHIELD. She is also one of the fiercest warriors in the entire MCU. Considering the MCU also includes heavy hitters like Thor and Captain America, that’s saying something, but I stand by it.
Melinda May attended the SHIELD operations academy around the same time as Phil Coulson, though Coulson was in communications. For her part, May became a SHIELD specialist, a no-holds-barred, kickass secret agent. May and Coulson were paired together often early on and formed a formidable team together.
Sometime after entering the field, shortly before the Avengers Initiative kicked off, things were going well for Agent May. She was married to a civilian psychiatrist, Andrew Garner, and they were considering having a family. She still worked closely with Coulson. On a mission to Bahrain, however, everything changed.
May was forced to kill a young girl who was controlling SHIELD agents. She saved dozens of lives, earning her the nickname “the Cavalry,” but was aghast that she killed a child. Given that she was contemplating motherhood at the time, the repercussions on her psyche were great.
After Bahrain, May retired from field work, moving to administration. She stopped working with Coulson and divorced Andrew. The legend of the Cavalry lived on, but Agent Melinda May had lost her spirit and wanted nothing to do with SHIELD work.
That is until the battle of New York happened. When Coulson died and was resurrected, May was dragged back into things. Coulson recruits May for his field team, insisting that she would be “just the pilot.” She seems reluctant, but we later learn that May had already been recruited by Nick Fury to keep an eye on Coulson.
Just the Pilot
May assembles a crack team ready to handle anything that could possibly be thrown at them, and they are successful in the field. May did not account for Coulson picking up a stray, the hacktivist Skye. Skye throws a wrench in May’s plans, and she is initially unhappy with the new recruit. Over time, May comes to see Skye’s value and even grows to care about her.
When SHIELD falls, suspicion is cast on May. Coulson is upset to learn that she was spying on him for Fury, but they eventually repair their trust. They work together with their team to reestablish SHIELD, with Coulson as director and May as second in command. May helps Coulson deal with psychosis as a result of his resurrection.
Later, the Real SHIELD debacle places more strain on May. Coulson faces a coup from a rival SHIELD faction, and May is always going to support her partner. She sneaks Coulson out of the base, but that leaves her to rescue their team and keep things going smoothly at home.
They eventually reintegrate both teams, but Coulson’s power is shaky. May also decides she needs a break from SHIELD and returns to Andrew. She is happy to give her marriage another chance, and things seem to be going well until Andrew mysteriously leaves her.
May doesn’t want to rejoin SHIELD, but she decides to go on a mission with Lance Hunter to enact revenge on Grant Ward, who had tortured Bobbi Morse and betrayed their team. May, always stoic and self-contained, struggled to work with the impulsive Hunter. Both were driven by deep love and loyalty, however, so they made it work.
The later seasons throw trauma after trauma at May. She learns that the reason Andrew left her was that he was Inhuman. He gradually loses control over his powers. May is forced to fight her husband, and he eventually dies saving Skye, now known as Daisy.
After Andrew’s death, May grows closer to Coulson. However, before things can get good, May is kidnapped by Dr. Radcliffe, who replaces her with a Life Model Decoy. May is placed into the Framework, an alternate reality program. Radcliffe tries to keep May happy by removing her greatest regret — in the Framework, May never killed the girl in Bahrain.
Except, that change makes the world a much worse place. Due to May’s actions, the little girl ended up killing hundreds. She lived with that regret. She also worked for Hydra, who came to power as a result. It was a dark, terrible world. May was eventually rescued by her team but continued to carry the weight of her actions — particularly killing Director Mace.
After escaping the Framework, May and her team are thrown forward in time to a dystopian future where Earth is destroyed. May is injured on arrival, and never really recovers. She is separated from her team and forced to fight in a gladiatorial battle. Later, she is sent to the ruined surface of Earth.
May and the team eventually return to the present but must race against time to prevent that dark future. They also learn that Coulson is dying, again. May is furious that he won’t fight to stay alive, to stay with her, and confesses that she loves him. They save the day, but cannot save Coulson. He “retires,” and May leaves SHIELD to spend the rest of his life with him, however, short it may be.
Why is Melinda May Bae?
Honestly, Melinda May is older than my general baes, but you’d never guess. Ming-Na Wen is — somehow — 54, but you wouldn’t know it looking at her. It’s a recurring joke on the show that people assume she is younger than she is, but for good reason. Between her youthful appearance and the way she moves, it would be easy to assume that May is much younger.
And honestly, I feel like my usual words — cute, hot, etc — that I use to describe the baes just don’t fit. Cute could never do Melinda May justice. Sure, she’s beautiful, there’s no denying that. But May is so much more than her appearance — she is power and deadly grace in human form. Maybe awe-inspiring is the right word.
Despite her hatred for the name, I love that May is called the Cavalry. She hates it because it reminds her of her darkest moment, Bahrain. She hears “Cavalry” and remembers how she killed a young girl. Sure, she saved many lives. But she couldn’t save that one life, and it ate away at her for the rest of her life.
But “Cavalry” is such a fitting name for May. She thinks of it as destruction. And, to be sure, Melinda May is a force of nature. She fights more amazingly than anyone else we’ve seen in the MCU. May is not brute force or impressive strength. As she herself puts it, she’s a tiny Asian woman.
Instead, May is deadly grace. Everything she does is smooth and fluid, but deadly nonetheless. She likes to remark that if she needs a gun, she’ll take it, and we see her do so several times. But she needs no weapon most of the time because she is a weapon. It’s incredibly empowering to see a female character be the best, fiercest, most intimidating warrior.
But that is not all she is. In a battle, when all seems lost, you hope for the Cavalry. Those are the troops that can save the day, who ride in and turn the tide of a battle. That, to me, sums up Melinda May. When all seems lost, you hope for May. She can save everyone, and she frequently does.
May is that hope, in Agents of SHIELD. She gives hope to her team when they struggle to cope with the terrible things they have dealt with. After all, she learned long ago how to deal with trauma. She gives strength to Coulson when he feels like he can’t go on any longer.
May is more than just a symbol of hope for her team. She quickly becomes the mom of the main SHIELD team, just as Coulson is the dad. But while Coulson is a dorky dad, with lame jokes, a cool car, and open warmth, May is the mama bear. Heaven helps the idiot who touches her kids… er, teammates.
This is most obvious in May’s interactions with Daisy. Initially, May did not like “Skye.” She didn’t trust the hacker, not without reason. When SHIELD falls, however, Skye turns to May for support. Ward’s betrayal was hard for both, as May was sleeping with Ward and Skye had a crush on him. They worked together to channel their anger into productivity.
Later, May becomes Skye’s SO when Skye becomes an agent of SHIELD. They form a deep bond based on mutual respect, trust, and caring. When Skye’s mother meets with SHIELD, she wonders why May doesn’t handle the negotiations. May responds that she cannot be objective when it comes to Skye.
After Bahrain, May gave up on becoming a mother. She thinks she lost that potential a long time ago, so she is shocked to learn in the future that she adopted a young Inhuman. She cannot believe that she was a good mother, but Daisy essentially tells her she already is.
May loses that future “daughter” when they break the time loop, but she is still a mother. She is a mother to Daisy, but also to the rest of the “bus kids.” May is fiercely protective of her team, and always willing to do whatever necessary to keep them safe. She may not be as openly affectionate as Coulson, but she is a great mom to these poor kids who desperately need her guidance.
What’s Not To Love?
Right from the start, Melinda May has been one of the most iconic and inspiring characters on Agents of SHIELD. Her chemistry with Phil has been an almost insufferably long will-they-won’t-they that has finally paid off. Her relationship with Daisy and the other bus kids makes her endearing, though she’d hate being called that.
But May is more than just her relationships with other people. Even on her own, she’d be incredibly interesting. Her fighting style alone makes her captivating, and she could easily carry her own show.
Plus, May is one of the most well-rounded, well-adjusted characters on TV. She has been through a lot in her life but never lets it hold her back. After Bahrain, she learned to channel her trauma through meditation and action. She uses her emotions for a purpose, rather than letting them run her.
After Bahrain, May tried to close herself off. She left field work, left her husband, left her partner, and tried to disappear. But she still had so much to give. She could have rejected any closeness, but formed familial bonds with her SHIELD family that kept them all alive, many times. She could have rejected love, but still was willing to be with Coulson, in the end.
No matter what life threw at Melinda May, she never stopped. She looks life in the eyes, braces herself, and fights back. That’s unbelievably inspiring. Melinda May is an icon. She is the Cavalry — she gives hope, and not just to her SHIELD team. She gives us hope, too.