OTP Tuesday: Huntingbird


Presenting OTP Tuesday! Each Tuesday I will introduce you to a new One True Pairing! Tune in each week to find out which fictional couple you need to agonize/squee over next. Sorry not sorry, but we’re still in the Marvel-verse (I promise I’ll return to other fandoms eventually) with Huntingbird.

Who Are Huntingbird?

Huntingbird is a ship from Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD television show. It pairs Lance Hunter and Bobbi Morse, who is also known as the hero Mockingbird in the comics, hence the name Huntingbird.

Lance Hunter

I love Lance Hunter. He’s the best. Hunter first appears in season 2 of AoS following the downfall of SHIELD. Season 1 referenced the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier by showing how SHIELD had been infiltrated by Hydra, and their attempts to restart the organization, with Phil Coulson as director.

Hunter comes into play as an outside contractor — mercenary, really — working with a former SHIELD agent. When that agent dies, Hunter stays on with SHIELD. Initially, this is to get revenge. Over time, however, Hunter begins to feel like SHIELD is the home he always wanted.

The other agents seem to generally like Hunter, and he starts building friendships. He particularly likes to tell them about his awful ex-wife. The other shoe drops when an undercover SHIELD agent returns to the base — and it’s his ex, Bobbi Morse. Hunter initially freaks out, but they manage to work together civilly enough and eventually rekindle the romance.

Hunter shows a lot of depth and skill in his work for SHIELD. He manages undercover situations and is excellent in combat. Not so great is his judgment, which is often impaired by his emotions. Hunter was never one for SHIELD’s mission; he only cares about the people around him. This hurts him when Bobbi is injured and he goes off book.

Eventually, Hunter realizes that SHIELD, while not necessarily important to him, is important to the world. When he and Bobbi are compromised, they give themselves up rather than hurt SHIELD. They leave the show in season 3, leaving fans wanting more.

Bobbi Morse

Barbara Morse is the other side of Hunter’s coin. She was a SHIELD agent before the organization collapsed and has an intense loyalty to the mission. Despite being well-educated in science, Bobbi prefers specialist work — undercover, combat, and the like. When we first meet her, she is undercover at Hydra, shadowing Jemma Simmons.

Bobbi is able to rescue Simmons when Simmons’ undercover work goes astray. They make their way back to base, where Bobbi and Hunter are unhappily reunited. However, we learn that Bobbi was the one to recommend Hunter to Coulson for employment. She is a consummate professional and is not one to let feelings interfere with her work.

This becomes problematic when we learn that Bobbi has actually been undercover in SHIELD; she works for another subset of SHIELD that disapproves of Coulson’s actions. When all is revealed, Bobbi must choose between her team and her principles; principles win. In the end, though, Bobbi is able to see both sides and help SHIELD mend itself.

Later, Bobbi is captured by Grant Ward and Agent 33, who blame her for Agent 33 being captured by Hydra. They torture her to get her to confess, but Bobbi is too strong. Instead, they realize the best way to hurt her is to hurt Hunter, and they set a trap. Bobbi throws herself in front of the bullet meant for Hunter, saving the love of her life.

She doesn’t die, though for a while it’s pretty bad. Rehab is difficult for Bobbi, and she chafes at restrictions on her actions. She works in the lab but is eager to return to specialist work. When Bobbi does return, things go well… until they don’t. Bobbi and Hunter mutually decide to sacrifice themselves to save SHIELD and head off on their own.

Why is Huntingbird OTP?

I originally only watched the first season of Agents of SHIELD, which was enough to get me hooked on Fitzsimmons. With some interesting updates on that front, I decided to give it another shot because I just desperately need to gush about those two (keep tuned for that). What I did not expect was a whole new slew of ships.

I loved Hunter from the get-go, and I knew the “hell beast” ex-wife was going to make things interesting. But Huntingbird proved poignantly sweet in a way I didn’t expect. It’s a truly great ship and I’m beyond sad they left the show — I think they could have carried on a lot longer.

I’m still not up to date on AoS so you’ll have to wait on Fitzsimmons and other OTPs, but I just watched “Parting Shot” and I need to talk about Huntingbird to overcome my excessive tears. The Spy’s Goodbye was just too. perfect. I was literally sobbing. I’m sobbing again now watching that clip. Huntingbird is an amazing ship, and their ending was undeserved but deservedly beautiful.

They Deserve Each Other

Huntingbird is great because it features two people who are skilled in very similar ways, and yet still so different. Bobbi is an A+ SHIELD agent and a consummate spy. Her combat skills nearly rival Melinda May (nearly), and she lies with the best of them when undercover.

For his part, Hunter was formerly in British special forces. While his hand-to-hand isn’t as beautifully deadly as Bobbi’s, he can hold his own. He also does great work undercover, which we see when he flawlessly executes an American accent to trick a Hydra head.

At the same time, they are wildly different in temperament. Hunter is brash, loud, and just a little stupid (in the best of ways). He isn’t afraid to poke the bear to achieve his ends. Bobbi is a spy through and through. She is a total professional, and can sometimes seem cold.

Bobbi working for the rival SHIELD faction drives this home. Despite the friendships she’s made with Coulson’s team, she doesn’t hesitate to continue working on the other side. She knows she needs to do what’s right and focuses on that to the exclusion of everything else.

Hunter takes this as an affront. He’s a mercenary, with no loyalty to SHIELD or its mission. His loyalty is to his team and his friends. To ask him to betray those teammates is unthinkable. Bobbi tries to protect Hunter, but when he is captured she tries to convince him to see her way.

He, of course, doesn’t see her side and returns to Coulson to help fix things. When both teams reunite, things are strained between Bobbi and Hunter because of their different approaches. In the end, however, they are most loyal to each other. They also agree on the importance of SHIELD, valuing it above their lives.

Don’t Die Out There

What really makes Huntingbird great, though, is the progression of their relationship. As someone who lives for enemies to friends to lovers, I adore the idea of two people who can’t deny their love, no matter how hard they try. Huntingbird hits this note beautifully.

Right from the start, you can tell where Huntingbird is heading. Before we even meet Bobbi, we hear Hunter complain about his ex-wife and how horrible she was. That makes it all the better when Bobbi shows up and we find out who she is. Watching the two of them bicker and try to deny their love really warms the heart.

Over the course of the season and a half that Huntingbird is present, we see a truly wonderful growth in their relationship. At first, they are barely civil colleagues with a troubled past. Then, they fall into bed together; frenemies with benefits? But as much as they complain, it’s clear the whole time that neither ever stopped loving the other.

This is clear in their tradition. Before a mission, they always tell the other “don’t die out there.” It’s their own special way of saying I love you. Even early on, when they are still feuding, they say it. There’s a sort of magic in saying the words as if you can keep the other person safe through the strength of their love.

Of course, that doesn’t always work out. When Bobbi is shot trying to save Hunter, he realizes the depths of his feelings for her. And when they are captured and interrogated, they draw strength from the other. Even leaving SHIELD is something they can survive, as long as they are together. The Spy’s Goodbye is truly beautiful, and less sad when you know they have each other.

What’s Next for Huntingbird?

Sadly, there’s not much next. To be fair, I’m not up to date with Agents of SHIELD, but as far as I know, they’re gone for good. “Parting Shot” made it clear that they had to cut all ties with SHIELD. I know at some point Hunter reappears, but I don’t know if Bobbi does.

The plan was to use their departure from the show to start their own show. Huntingbird had such appeal that the showrunners thought they could carry a whole show themselves. Unfortunately, the powers that be disagreed, and their show wasn’t picked up. So not only are we left without a pure Huntingbird show, they left for nothing.

But, never say never with Marvel, amirite? Agents of SHIELD, in particular, has gone through some truly insane changes over the seasons, and you never know what they might do. Given that the show has just been picked up for a sixth season, I have my fingers crossed for more Huntingbird, please and thank you.

Is Huntingbird Canon?

Yes! At first, Huntingbird was past-canon, as Bobbi and Hunter were married and divorced before they appeared on the show. However, it didn’t take them long to find their way back to each other. Sure, there were definite ups and downs, but they stuck together through things that would’ve made most couples cut and run.

Though they are gone from the show, we can take some comfort in knowing they left together. The two of them decided as a team what course to take, and their exit showed them planning a shared future. That’s pale recompense for losing out on beautiful Huntingbird action, but it’s still better than nothing!

I’d love to see them come back in some way, so we can see how the years have treated our lovely antagonistic couple. Maybe season six will bring us more Huntingbird goodness since AoS can occasionally be nice to its fans.

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