Last week on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Melinda May calmly joined Agent Robert Gonzales' group of agents that call themselves "the real S.H.I.E.L.D." Everyone has a different approach to the hierarchical shakedown on the ABC series — even FitzSimmons is taking rebellious action by replicating and hiding Nick Fury's toolbox from Bobbi, Mack, and the others. This week, however, we are in for an additional treat as flashbacks on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will reveal the origin of "The Cavalry," Melinda May's dreaded nickname.
Early on, we were lead to believe the nickname derived from her ability to always get a weapon when coming into a situation unarmed. However, there have been many clues along the way that point to a traumatic incident in Bahrain that involved both May and a potential member of the gifted index. The appearance of May's ex-husband Doctor Andrew Garner has confirmed that May has been through a lot during her time with S.H.I.E.L.D.
In the first episode, Melinda May had benched herself with desk work. That's how Coulson found her when he wanted to recruit her. The former field agent had taken herself out of commission following the incident in Bahrain. The name, on the other hand, become legend. Even Jemma Fitz and Leo Simmons didn't realize that they were being piloted by "The Cavalry" until "0-8-4" in Season 1. What happened to Melinda May? Here are all the clues we've gotten in different episodes along the way.
"She took it upon herself to get them out. Said she could fix the problem. So she went in, crossed off the enemy force. Didn't say how." —Coulson
In this Season 1 episode, Skye was presented with a few different versions of the story that made her mentor infamous. First, FitzSimmons "pranked" her with a tall tale about May eliminating a threat (more than 100 mercenaries) that was torturing multiple S.H.I.E.L.D. agents for information by riding in on a horse, guns blazing. Then, Grant Ward decides to hop onto the prank and claim she only faced 20 trained men with a single pistol and no backup. He may be good at lying, but he's not good at jokes.
So interesting — in this episode, the team is confronted by a woman who they think might be telekinetic and Skye is insistent that she be treated with care. How like mother, like daughter!
At the end of the episode, Coulson gave Skye the true, albeit vague, story of how Bahrain went down. According to Coulson, he was with May and none of them were armed.
"A civilian girl and a few of our guys were stuck inside a building being held by the followers of this gifted individual. Or worshippers. We never found out. [May]...took it upon herself to get them out, said she could fix the problem. So she went in, crossed off the enemy force. Didn't say how."
How much do you wanna bet that the civilian girl was part of "the problem," and May has never revealed this to anyone? Coulson explained how May used to be warmer, but lost part of herself in that building. At the end of the episode, we learned that Coulson told her to "let the girl go," which was only what he thought she needed to hear at the time.
"Turn, Turn, Turn"
"The time I spent sifting through the ashes with you in Bahrain? I gave you a second chance..." —Coulson
When Hydra split S.H.I.E.L.D. and everything became chaotic, Agent Coulson felt betrayed by both Fury and Melinda and reminded Agent May why he wanted her on his team in the first place. We sort of learned that the team was Fury's idea and Melinda had been recruited by the original director himself. Still, if anybody understands the importance of a second chance, it's Phil Coulson.
"You of all people know what happens when powered people lose control. You had to put one down. Isn't that why they call you The Calvalry?" — Robert Gonzales
That's what Gonzales said to May while holding up an After Action Report from Bahrain in last Tuesday's episode. It seems as if we are getting this part of May's backstory right when we need it most. Her emotional connection to the gifted index and its implications relates to both Skye's journey on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the upcoming Civil War storyline in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Image: Patrick Wymore/ABC