The premier season of Agents of SHIELD ended with a bang. After a lackluster start, the show really picked up steam and started to become intensely engrossing when the plot of Captain America: the Winter Soldier, specifically the fall of SHIELD due to infiltration by Hydra, was worked into the show’s storyline. That Hydra story arc was most likely intended all along, since Chris Evans has said that Joss Whedon (the show-runner of AoS) told him back when they were filming the Avengers what he had in store for SHIELD.
But what about Agent Ward and his unexpected heel-turn? Was that originally part of the plan or was that a later addition, reacting to dropping ratings and criticism of the Ward character?
Agents of SHIELD started off with tremendous rating but they quickly went into freefall and continued to drop for most of the season. Fans were wondering if the show would even be renewed for a second year. (It has been) The show needed a shot in the arm to give it some new energy and the combined drama of the Hydra/Fall of SHIELD storyline and Ward’s surprise turn to the dark side gave the show the kick in the pants it needed. The series finally found its footing in the final few episodes.
Also suspect is the fact that Dalton’s Ward character was the one most often criticized by many internet fans as being a cipher. He was labeled as bland, lifeless, uninteresting and wooden. More than any other cast member, he was the one fans suggested should be killed off and replaced by someone more interesting, like Maria Hill.
All this criticism of Ward is why it seems possible—and even likely—that Ward’s heel turn was not planned all along as part of the Hydra infiltration story arc. Instead, it may be the case that Whedon and the other writers took notice of Ward’s lack of popularity and decided to use the Hydra subplot to make him more interesting and to replace him on the team with a new ‘muscle’ agent, meaning Triplett (B.J. Britt).
Dalton, despite phoning in his performances in the early part of the season, really stepped up as the evil Ward and gave his best performances in the last few episodes. Also, the act of turning Ward into a bad guy made the previously boring romance between himself and Skye (Chloe Bennet) into a much more emotional and intriguing relationship. Fans who had been lamenting the dullness of the Skye/Ward love angle were surprised and delighted by the shocking turn of events that tore the two apart and put a dark twist on the love story.
So, do you think that Joss Whedon and the other writers planned for Ward to go all Anakin Skywalker from the very start, or was it a clever rewrite that helped close out the season in a powerful way?