She may have started as a simple hacker on Marvel’s [Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.](tag:722469) but Skye (Chloe Bennet) has proven herself to be one of the strongest characters of all time.
In almost every TV show or movie out there with strong female characters, there’s often one predictable weakness – love. A character’s strength is defined by both physical and emotional strength. However, very few female characters tend to pass the emotional strength test. It is almost inevitable to see our favorite heroine compromise the entire mission and risk her team just in the name of love – whether romantically or otherwise.
Even everyone’s favorite action girl, Buffy Summers, failed the emotional strength, not once but on many occasions. Despite her strength, Buffy almost always let emotions cloud her judgment. In season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy risked the entire gang by letting her feelings for Angel prevent her from making the right calls. By the time she got the guts to spill Angel’s guts, he had already killed Jenny Calendar and many other innocents. When she has an argument with her mom at the end of season 2, she becomes overly emotional and goes off-the-grid and leaves her mother and the Scooby gang worried-sick. Sure, every time you have an argument with your parents, the solution is to run away. We continue to see Buffy’s unsound judgment with Riley and later Spike. She may be the strongest girl alive, but Buffy was very far from emotional strength.
The Halliwell Sisters aka The Charmed Ones tried a lot to let the innocents come first before their personal affairs, but they have occasionally failed. In season 3, Phoebe betrayed her sisters for the sake of her feelings for Cole, risking their lives. When your team puts trust in you, you don’t want to betray that – even for love. Also, most of her fights with Prue and Paige were simply because she couldn't see the truth - her judgment was clouded by love for Cole. In fact, Paige is probably the only Charmed One who doesn’t seem to compromise her charmed duties or sisters for the sake of love.
On Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle risked the entire world because of her love for Hope. The worst happened when she ignored Xena’s advice and led to the death of Xena’s son. Even though Gabrielle eventually killed Hope, an irreversible damage had been done.
So, what makes Skye outstanding? Skye has not only proven to be a strong skilled fighter and a super-powered inhuman, but also a very emotionally strong character. With her combat skills, thanks to the training with Melinda May, Skye has become a skilled fighter who can stand for long on her own against even Melinda May herself, Mockingbird and probably Black Widow. Sure they are more experienced and can probably take her down after a few minutes, but when she uses her Quake powers, they stand no chance against her. Ask Melinda May.
But, superpowers and great action skills aren’t what make Skye interesting. It’s her emotional strength. It’s her power to make the right choices even when confronted with the most difficult situations. It’s the fact that the mission takes priority over her feelings. If you can count on any character to make the right choice regardless of the situation, it would be Skye.
Skye had a crush on Grant Ward ever since the day she joined S.H.I.E.L.D. Her Skyeward dream didn’t come true until shortly before realizing that Ward is H.Y.D.R.A. Skye was the first to discover that Ward is HYDRA. Any other character would have hung onto the whole “there must be another explanation” excuse and kept her boyfriend’s evil secret a secret … risking the lives of her team. But not Skye. She swallowed her feelings and turned against Ward.
Beware of spoilers from Marvel's Agents of SHIELD season 2 finale.
In season 2, Skye had a chance to let Ward back into her life. After all, Ward kept his promise by leading Skye to her father and also fighting on her side against HYDRA. They were just about to have a moment when Skye shot Ward FOUR times.
Speaking of Skye’s father, at the beginning of season 2, I was always worried that when Skye met her father she would flip and go all evil – or be swayed by her daddy to turn against Coulson. But Skye proved me wrong. She didn’t let her emotions get the best of her. She let her father in – with a clear understanding that she couldn’t trust him. Take most superheroes, reunite them with their long-lost probably evil parents. Sit down and watch them freak out. They shut down their parents and won’t even take a second to listen to their side of the story. Skye didn’t do that. She listened to her father’s side of the story. And you know why? Because she wasn’t worried that listening to the other side would change who she is. Cal poured out all his emotions about how much he’s done to re-unite his family and how much he cared about Skye and how he would do anything to protect her. However, this didn't make Skye forget Cal's little monster adventures.
Fast-forward to the season 2 finale, and everybody is worried that Skye would choose The Inhumans over SHIELD. Haven’t we learned anything about Skye so far? Skye spent her entire life searching for her birth parents and then she finally finds them – evil. She had all the reasons to choose Jiaying’s side over Coulson’s. Instead, she didn’t let their maternal bond distract her from doing the right thing. Even though she does have a little fight with May, it had nothing to do with her feelings for Jiaying. They just had different approaches on how to find out what happened. She never trusted Jiaying. She kept digging to find out what her mother was up to – until she eavesdropped on Jiaying killing Raina. Her dislike for Raina and her love for Jiaying meant nothing to the big mission: protecting people. She was willing to kill her parents – not because of her unresolved mommy and daddy issues but because as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., her mission to protect people took priority over her personal issues.
The same, however, can't be said about the other female characters on Agents of SHIELD. Jemma Simmons was willing to compromise the mission at HYDRA base to execute her revenge on Ward. Melinda May betrayed Coulson to Team Gonzales just because Coulson was keeping secrets from her and hanging out with her ex-husband. But Coulson can always count on Skye to make the right choice.
Unlike Buffy Summers and Phoebe Halliwell, we can count on Skye to take down any evil killer regardless of her feelings towards him/her. And she would do so without hesitation.
I think this is the kind of strength we want to see more in female characters. Maybe we will start seeing more of them following Skye’s example. Maybe we’ll see more rational decisions which are not purely influenced by romance, personal issues and other emotions. I’m not saying that having emotions is a weakness. It’s not. But the strength lies in the ability to overcome those emotions and make sound judgments without risking the mission or the team.
That said, I’m hoping that Agents of SHIELD will continue to build this strong character we’ve seen in Skye and maybe, just maybe we’ll see her elevated to join the rest of the Avengers in the movies, starting with Captain America: Civil War.
UPDATE: My definition of "emotionally strong" does not mean lack of feelings / emotions. Emotional strength is the ability to have emotions without letting them control you. It is the ability to make the right choices / sound decisions when things are tough. It means that you don't make decisions based on the heat of the moment. You always weigh your choices carefully, even if it means sacrificing something you care about for the the greater good. It is easier for villains to take advantage of the emotionally weaker than the emotionally stronger people. The latter will always make the right calls without being swayed away. As I said, having emotions is not a weakness. The weakness is letting the emotions define you.
Those who don't get my point, think of it this way: If the President realized that the wife he loves so much was a terrorist, would you want him to support her terrorist activities because she means the world to him? Heck no, you would want him to make the tough call and protect his country. That's Skye for you!
PS: I love all the female characters listed here. They're only here for comparison purposes.
Marvel's Agents of SHIELD returns to ABC this fall Tuesdays 9pm.