aka The Cavalry
"If I need a gun, I'll take one."
Melinda Qiaolian May is a talented and dedicated S.H.I.E.L.D. specialist. Trained by some of the best agents that S.H.I.E.L.D. has to offer. She quickly became a weapons expert and one of the most skilled pilots as well as a martial artist.
Full Name: Melinda Qiaolian May | Serial # A 078634 | Clearance Level 7, formally Level Red
Mother: Lian May | Father: William May
Spouse: Andrew Garner (Ex-Husband) | Phil Coulson (Boyfriend; Tahiti)
Date of Birth: Possibly Jan 1968 |
Date of Death: Feb 7, 2017 (revived), July 2019 (one dimensional, revived)
Dislikes coffee and high heels
Melinda May, also known as the Cavalry, a nickname she gained as a result of her action in Bahrain, is one of the top operatives S.H.I.E.L.D. A close friend and long-time colleague to Phillip J Coulson, May, and Coulson have worked alongside one another since S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy, working their first mission in Sausalito, retrieving an object with no exit plan. Both Agents worked closely all the way up to being a welcome wagon in Bahrain. However, the mission did not go as it was intended and ended in misery for May. Due to this, May retired from fieldwork and transferred to administration.
Agent Melinda May was initially set to be Agent Althea Rice. But when Ming-Na was cast for the role, Showrunner Maurissa Tancharoen pointed out that it would not be appropriate to use the name Rice for an Asian-American Actress, and hence the character was renamed.
Ming-Na also found out quickly her role as an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D made her a cool mom.
"Not only Is Melinda May beloved but Ming-Na’s children was so excited to see their mom as a S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent. She found out quickly that being Agent May made her a “cool” mom. Cooper said right after the 2013 SDCC episode viewing, “Mom! I didn’t know you could fly a plane. That is so cool” and Michaela said “I laugh all the time and i'm always smiling. Mommy’s the one that does the cooking and mommy’s such a klutz.” With her children being so impressed with her character, Ming-Na has said that, “For me, my career could be over right then and there, and I’d be happy.”
When Coulson was given his own field team, May was recruited, despite her reluctance to return to the fieldwork. May joined the team as the pilot and Coulson’s second in command. During the first few episodes of Season 1, Melinda May was "just the pilot" but returned to combat duty, expressing her dislike for running the backend of ops for the first few missions.
May fiercely protect the team by any means necessary, even taking on the power and effects of the Berserker staff. Due to this, she began a relationship with fellow team member, Grant Ward. Later in the season, it was revealed that Agent May had been reporting to Nick Fury about Coulson due to the effects of the GH-325 serum, as someone who knew Phil before his life had been taken from him by the hands of the Asgardian God of Mischief, Loki. She had agreed to not only keep an eye on him but later shocked us all by having put the team together instead of him. During this revelation, S.H.I.E.L.D. fell by the hands of Hydra and John Garrett, but Phil Coulson was still devastated by her betrayal and had pushed her away. Melinda takes off to find out more information on T.A.H.I.T.I, in which she discovers Phil Coulson was behind the program.
After Phil Coulson became director of S.H.I.E.L.D., May was given a role in backing up another S.H.I.E.L.D. team who was tracking the sale of stolen S.H.I.E.L.D. information. At the new base of operations, the Playground, it is revealed that May has also been tasked with watching over Coulson who is suffering severe side effects from his resurrection. During the first half of Season 2, we see Melinda fulfill her new role as second in command.
A key point in Season 2 comes when May was on an undercover mission with Coulson to retrieve a painting link to project Tahiti. She was attacked and knocked out. Agent 33 (A former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent) uses a specialist piece of tech to camouflage herself as Melinda May. Coulson managed to expose her real identity by asking her out for coffee.
A fight ensues between May and Agent 33, and the mask that Agent 33 was wearing is badly damaged. Due to this, Agent 33 was now stuck with May’s face.
Later in the season, there was a coup to Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. by another S.H.I.E.L.D. lead by Robert Gonzalez, in which May becomes in charge after Coulson must escape. She finds out that Coulson had been seeing her ex-husband, Andrew Garner at the time, reasons unknown. Melinda struggles with this new information, regardless of asking Coulson later herself, she decides to take a leave of absence from S.H.I.E.L.D.
One of the most challenging but fun episodes and story arc for Ming was playing Agent 33. According to IGN, she stated, “Yeah, I love when I am tied up in the chair and stuff and people were saying “50 shades of May.” I just love it.”
It was so much fun. Clark [Gregg] texted me, like, “They’re going nuts over here!” When I was told by the producers that there’s going to be a May on May fight I got all giddy because I’ve always wanted to play a twin. It was on my bucket list. And then once I got the script, I started sweating bullets. It was just like, oh goodness, that’s a lot of undertaking. Because it wasn’t even just a fight scene. It had to deal with Coulson and May being able to ballroom dance and going undercover and May becoming this other person in disguise. it was just the most fun, challenging episode and I’m so happy that the fans love it." (IGN)
While Melinda was away, she attempted to rekindle her relationship with Andrew, as well as take care of her father who had a hip surgery. Still not wanting to return to S.H.I.E.L.D. just yet, she agreed to help fellow agent Lance Hunter, get revenge on Hydra agent, Grant Ward. Unable to kill him, she returns at last to Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D. as Phil Coulson travels to another planet to finally get the kill shot. When they are finally reunited, they celebrate their defeat of Hydra as May embraces Coulson. As Season three continues, we find out that Andrew has transformed into an Inhuman named Lash. Melinda attempts to stay with him as they work to find a cure. Unfortunately, Andrew turns into Lash one last time officially completing the transition, who ends up saving Daisy’s life by taking Hive’s control from her.
“In College I studied Shakespeare. I mean, we were all into the theater and plays. The only thing that we would do would be like stage combat and dance and the kind of physical aspect of acting. After I did Street Fighter, I had said to myself, “you know what? I’m never going to go and do action again. Because at that time I was young. I wanted to be a serious actor.”
Looper.com, August 11, 2020
Ming-Na has embodied many characters over the years, yet Melinda May is a whole other character. Mostly because Ming-Na is the opposite of who Melinda is. Melinda May is known as a badass, selfless super-agent. We have seen her deliver some of the best action performances on the small screen. However, we were close to not having Agent May at all, as Ming-Na had decided to give up any action roles early in her career.
With Coulson away from S.H.I.E.L.D. and a new director running things, May had to try and keep an eye on Daisy but still help keep S.H.I.E.L.D. afloat. During a chase for Ghost Rider, Melinda encounters a ghost and as a result becomes infected. Over time, her mental status takes a turn for the worse and Radcliffe must kill her to save her life. After the death experience, she must work alongside Radcliffe and Aida to save Coulson from another dimension. Once they are reunited and embraced, May was kidnapped by Aida and put into a virtual world called, The Framework. While in the framework, she was a Hydra agent helping the world eliminate Inhumans. It takes Phil Coulson and Daisy to change her mission and escape this hellscape. Once out of the framework, May and the rest of the team must team up to kill Aida who had used Fitz to become a real human with Inhuman powers.