The characters on Agents of SHIELD are veritable brainiacs, but which ones are the cleverest of the clever, and which are lower on the totem pole?
With a show like Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., no member of the organization is unintelligent. It takes a certain amount of intelligence to work in a group that not only has covert spies, but also science teams that work with superhumans and alien technology on a regular basis. An agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. has to have the kind of brain that soaks up information and adapts to anything.
That being said, some of the main characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s flagship series are definitely smarter than others. For every genius on the team, there’s someone who doesn’t understand anything going on in the lab. For each person who has a high level of emotional intelligence, there’s someone who is the worst at reading people. Before the series returns for its final season, we take a look at how all of the main characters stack up.
Lance Hunter joined the team after living his life as a mercenary in season two. He wasn’t familiar with S.H.I.E.L.D. protocol and didn’t really want to take the time to learn it. Not good with science or technology, Hunter is more of a brute force kind of guy. He is also pretty good at reading people – to a point.
After all, he fits right in as a spy, but prior to the events of the series, didn’t realize the woman he was marrying was a spy until after she broke his heart. He is very good at reading criminals, but not so good when it comes to reading people in his own personal life.
Melinda May is a very physical learner. She picks up skills very quickly when it comes to fighting styles and weaponry. She is not someone, however, who could learn to perform surgery on someone on the fly like we’ve seen some of the characters who outrank her do in recent seasons.
May outranks Hunter on this list because she’s been caught less times in the field than he has. She’s smart enough to know when her cover is actually blown, and when she can salvage a situation. May has a better strategic mind than most of her teammates, but not a better mind for research and more academic knowledge.
Don’t let her low placement on this list fool you. Elena “Yo-Yo” Rodriguez is no dummy. Not only did Elena figure out how to use her Inhuman abilities on her own, but she also crafted plans that allowed her to stand up to her corrupt government, and learned a whole new language when she was recruited in S.H.I.E.L.D.
The only reason Elena ranks in the bottom three spots on the list is because she doesn’t have the same technical or scientific know-how that so many of the main characters have. Elena is a fast learner, but she’s not quite at the same level of some of the others.
Grant Ward is actually smarter than he initially appears. If fans had taken his character at face value, he might have taken the lowest spot on the list. The big twist, revealing him as Hydra for the entirety of his time in S.H.I.E.L.D., bumps him up a few spots.
Ward is very good at playing dumb in the first season of the series. He often pretends he doesn’t understand mission parameters or science speak solely to get more information out of the people around him. He manages to convince everyone he meets that he’s the model agent, when in reality, he’s manipulating everyone.
Despite Phil Coulson being the leader of S.H.I.E.L.D. for much of the television series, he’s not the smartest in the organization. The difference between Coulson and most leaders in the series is that he’s aware of that fact and knows how to utilize the different areas of intelligence amongst his team to their greatest potential.
Coulson is very much a strategist even though he might not always seem like it. He places high value on his scientists as well as his fighters, knowing when those two types of agents can change places, and when they can’t. His plans have backup plans, and he almost always gets the job done.
Originally the team’s hacker using the name Skye, Daisy has come a long way over the course of the series. She’s an Inhuman with an incredibly powerful gift, but she’s also someone who has learned to be a team player and adapted to being both a fighter and a spy.
When Skye’s journey with S.H.I.E.L.D. began, she couldn’t remember the steps to loading a gun or blocking a punch. Now, Daisy is one of the best fighters the team has. She’s also great at pattern recognition, and still manages to find a way to work with unfamiliar technology – even when it’s from the Kree.
Like Lance Hunter, Bobbi Morse made her debut in season two. She’s a gifted spy and one of the best undercover operatives S.H.I.E.L.D. has. That means Bobbi’s strengths are usually shown in her ability to lie and pack a punch, but those aren’t the only places where her intelligence lies.
Bobbi is also a scientist. When recovering from injuries in season three, and with Jemma Simmons missing, Bobbi trades her batons for microscopes and works in the lab. While she might not have as much working knowledge as Simmons, she holds her own keeping up with Fitz in the lab.
Another newbie in season two, Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie has risen through the ranks of S.H.I.E.L.D. to become its most recent Director. Mack employs a healthy dose of skepticism with anything thrown his way. His willingness to question everything makes him someone who is also willing to learn about anything put in front of him.
Mack is an incredibly talented mechanic. Despite his frequent protests in his early appearances in the show that he was just a mechanic, his working knowledge of mechanical and engineering principals meant he was able to understand and help Fitz with complicated weaponry and inventions following Fitz’s brain injury.
A more recent addition to the series from the future, Deke Shaw seems to have inherited his aptitude for learning and technology from his grandparents. He’s a pragmatist who is able to see his best options for survival and keep several steps ahead of his enemies as well.
Deke’s intelligence is best showcased in season six. When he becomes stuck in the past, he’s able to build himself a life inspired by the one he had in his own timeline. Deke reverse engineers much of the alien technology he grew up with to create new products for the present day, proving how great his memory, engineering, and mechanical abilities are.
Leo Fitz And Jemma Simmons
Depending on the audience point of view, either resident scientist could take the top spot. Since they began their journey on the series as scientific partners, it seems impossible to separate them and give one of them second place. Instead, Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons are on equal ground when it comes to intelligence.
While Fitz’s specialty lies in technology and engineering, Simmons’ lies in biology and chemistry. Because they’ve worked together for over a decade, however, much of their scientific knowledge overlaps. Fitz is able to get back in working order after suffering a traumatic brain injury and Simmons is able to survive for weeks alone on an alien planet. They’ve also created most of the technology and weapons available to S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and been targeted for their brains by alien races. Without a doubt, they’re the brainiest of the bunch.