While Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has introduced many new characters to the Marvel universe that has quickly won fans’ love, one of the most memorable characters is Agent Melinda May. May, played by Ming-Na Wen, is a seasoned agent who has years of experience. She is also the most physically capable character in the series. She is a consistent martial artist and an almost unmatched marksman.
Early in the series, May was often referred to as “The Cavalry” by her colleagues, though she dramatically disdains this nickname. As the series progressed, other stories were hinted at. Still, it wasn’t until the second season that the tragic origins of the nickname were revealed. And despite her calm demeanor, May harbors a great deal of pain from the accident from which she never fully recovered.
In 2008, a much sexier May agent was sent to Bahrain to investigate Eva Belyakov, a woman with superhuman powers. May and Phil Coulson confront Eva, which leads to a brawl in which she and a group of gangsters take a girl and several S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents hostage. They retreat to a warehouse, and May decides to go alone to stop Eva and rescue the hostages.
Armed with a simple knife, May enters the warehouse and kills most gangsters before discovering that Eva mentally controls everyone inside. May argues with Eva and manages to kill her before discovering that the person controlling everyone’s minds is Eva’s young daughter, Katya. After Katya kills the remaining gangsters in a terrifying display of her powers, May has no choice but to eliminate the girl to prevent her from harming the captured SHIELD agents.
Katya’s tragic death weighs heavily on Agent May’s conscience, especially since she had previously wanted to start a family with her husband, Andrew Garner. Their marriage eventually falls apart, and May gives up her years of fieldwork in favor of a desk job. However, the story of May as a one-woman army in Bahrain spread throughout S.H.I.E.L.D., and various reports were invented to explain the origin of the name.
However, it later turns out that the Belyakovs were both Inhumans, and Eva forced her daughter into terrigenesis against the advice of the former Inhumans. Due to her young age, Katya was unprepared for the transition. She could not control her new ability to manipulate her senses. She forced her mother to kidnap gangsters and S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents to make her feel her pain. Belyakov’s tragic story is eventually passed on to the rest of the Inhumans as a cautionary tale and used by the leader of the Inhumans, Jiaying, to make his powerless followers fear and hate him.
Though she doesn’t stop regretting the events in Bahrain, May eventually comes to terms with the nickname “Cavalry,” which she also uses on herself in the finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The time she spends with the rest of Phil Coulson’s team helps her re-learn how to allow people to get close to her and allows her to use her tragic past in a way that helps her grow as a person. By the end of the series, May has reached a point of personal fulfillment and becomes a teacher at the S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy to ensure that the younger generation of agents never gets their Bahrain.