Daisy Johnson has one of the best character development arcs I’ve ever seen. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D itself is a very under-rated series in the MCU, and one of its better achievements is the re-imagining of the character of Daisy Johnson, who first originated in Marvel Comics in 2004. In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Daisy starts out as an orphaned hacktivist who goes by the name Skye, a name she gave herself. After a demonstration of her skills, Phil Coulson offers her a place on his team.
In season one, Skye is kind of out of her depth in many ways as she tries to find her footing among the S.H.I.E.L.D team. Unlike them she has no physical training and no loyalty to S.H.I.E.L.D. She knows little to nothing about her parents and at his point knows nothing at all about her Inhuman heritage or her powers. She’s kind of flaky, kind of a clown, kind of spunky in a childish way, and overall she just gives off the impression of being very young and idealistic.
At the close of the first season, Skye suffers a major betrayal. It’s probably not a spoiler if you’re at all familiar with the MCU universe, but I’ll still steer clear of spoilers. All I’ll say is that this betrayal is arguably what sets Skye off on a path of change. After all, she has the rug ripped out from under her feet, her world is turned inside out. Her skin turns from porcelain to ivory. She ain’t soft, and she doesn’t forgive betrayals.
In the second season Skye discovers her powers and her parentage, and it is here that her growth really begins to flourish. Though her powers are forced on her and frighten her at first, she eventually (slowly, slowly, slowly, that is key here, the writing is excellent!) becomes used to and adept at her ability to generate vibrations powerful enough to create earthquakes. She also meets both her parents, and the trauma she encounters there would be unimaginable for most people, but Skye survives it. She re-christens herself Daisy Johnson, the name her parents originally gave her. It’s clear that despite the tragedy of her parents, Daisy has found a measure of peace and closure after having met them. She’s found an identity.
In the following seasons Daisy grows stronger and more mature, more confident in herself and her abilities. She becomes an excellent S.H.I.E.L.D agent, incredibly skilled at hand-to-hand combat, and spectacular at using her Inhuman powers. She grows assertive and develops the leadership skills she always had. Though her skin turns to steel she still maintains those essential traits that made her who she was – a stubborn idealism, kindness, loyalty, a desire to make the world a better place. Perhaps she jokes around a little less, perhaps her humor has become a bit more sardonic, but beneath it all she’s still a ray of sunshine (dimmed a little but still). She becomes so aware of her strength and abilities; she’s not afraid of anyone anymore, and she’s stubbornly proud of who she has become. It’s beautiful.
Significantly, Daisy is half-Chinese. There was a lot of brouhaha when Marvel hired Chloe Bennet given that she’s white-passing, but rather than elide Chloe’s ethnicity Marvel surprised many people by explicitly giving Daisy Johnson Chinese heritage. Her mother, Jiaying, is a major character in the second season, and there are many references made to Daisy being Asian. It shouldn’t be amazing and astounding, but it is.
I’ve never been all that crazy about superheroes, but I fell in love with Daisy Johnson. She is the very definition of taking a level in badass and her gradual character development is astonishing good. It’s clear that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D took great care in creating her character, to make her likable and admirable and just so damn cool. She’s the kind of character you want to be your best friend but you also want to be her. She kind of snuck up on me and became one of my favorite characters of all time.