AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Finale & THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: Why They're So Similar

AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Finale & THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: Why They're So Similar

I couldn't help but notice some amusing parallels between the season two finale of ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the greatest Star Wars movie. Plus, some speculation on season three. Obvious SPOILER warning...

Editorial Opinion
By DougMcCausland - May 12, 2015 10:05 PM EST
Filed Under: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Customarily, the middle act of an epic tale will be the darkest, leaving our heroes beaten and battered. However, they will always come out of it much stronger, leading to a climactic final act.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was just renewed for season three, and though it may not be the final season, I couldn’t help but notice many parallels in the season two finale, along with some plot threads throughout the season, to the middle installment of the original Star Wars trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back.

Some of these similarities may be a result of humanity’s monomythic storytelling tendencies, while others are coincidences or outright homages to the greatest Star Wars film of all time. Anyway, kick back and read on for how season two of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. relates to Empire, and what to expect in season three based on the fundamentals of the hero’s journey and our knowledge of Marvel lore…

Luke/Skye: The Hero’s Journey

Mythologist Joseph Campbell, a mentor figure to George Lucas, wrote about the idea of the “hero’s journey”, or “monomyth”, in his seminal work The Hero With A Thousand Faces. He supported the idea that most mythic and contemporary characters experienced the same fundamental journey in a path to discover their true potential.

In the second installment of each of their respective franchises, Luke and Skye discover the and cross over into the metaphysical world, truly tapping into their inner potentials for the first time. In the same way we had alone time with Luke and Yoda on Dagobah training in the force and taking steps towards becoming a Jedi Knight, we get to experience Skye’s transformation into an Inhuman in her mother Jiayang’s mountain retreat.

This culminates in a scenario when the hero discovers the sinister nature of their parents, who have undergone a similar journey yet took a wrong turn somewhere down the line. In both Anakin Skywalker and Jiayang’s cases, they were literally torn apart and rebuilt into something darker. Both of the parent figures offer their child their hand in world conquest. Thankfully, both Skye and Luke attone for the “sins of the father” and reject the dark path that enticed their parents. This is really the peak of both of their character arcs.

At the beginning of Return of the Jedi, we see Luke a full fledged Jedi Knight with the power to take down Jabba the Hutt’s criminal empire. It would be wise for the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. team to avoid killing the momentum of the storytelling and taking the exposition route for the Anonymous Secret Warriors team that was teased in the season finale. This would be the beginning of the “return home” portion of the journey, where the hero would be at peace with what they learned before while tying up loose ends.

Because the hero has already experienced the majority of his or her character arc, they can now turn their attention to helping others. While Luke focused his attention on redeeming Vader, the turncoat wild card agent Ward has experienced his own drastic character arc, serving as a foil to Skye. His arc, at this point in the show, can be described as him wanting his old job back, regretting that he quit in the first place. In the same way Skye has become the ultimate hero, Ward is now the ultimate villain as the new head of HYDRA and his rivalry with Skye will come to the forefront of the show. This will create some great material for season three.

Need A Hand, Coulson?

Kevin Fiege noted that every Phase Two film would feature the loss of a hand in tribute to the famous “I Am Your Father” scene from Empire Strikes Back, with Nebula, Ulysses Klaue, Bucky Barnes, Aldrich Killian, and Thor (albeit in a Loki-projected illusion) losing their hands to the Marvel head honcho’s sadistic whim.

Though Skye follows Luke’s quest pretty closely, Director Coulson graciously sacrificed his own arm for Skye’s sake. Or rather, Mack went all Jack Nicholson and chopped it off out of nowhere with a god damn axe. I guess that’s cool. Maybe.  

Coulson said he was going to weigh his options for a new hand, though it’s safe to say that, similar to Luke, he will be getting a cybernetic enhancement in the form of a Deathlok arm. We’ve already seen it used effectively on Mike Peterson and John Garrett. It’s definitely a better option than limb regeneration through the Extremis virus…


Empire Strikes Back is the “dark” installment of the original trilogy, going as far as to having one of our heroes, Han Solo, be captured and inhumanely tortured by the villains with an added angle of attempting to lure another hero into a devious trap. Insert Agent Bobbi Morse into Han’s role, though her torture was decidedly more graphic. I couldn’t have been the only one cringing the whole time.

 “I Love You.” “I Know.”

One character expresses their true feelings for another character immediately before the latter character is imprisoned in a giant gray block in a heart wrenching cliffhanger... only with the sexes of said characters reversed. Does this mean we’ll get to see Fitz in a sexy slave bikini in season three? Only time will tell, folks.

A Little Return Of The Jedi Sprinkled In

Okay, it’s not explicitly an Empire Strikes Back reference, but Skye sends those three words to Coulson’s team in a coded transmission from the S.H.I.E.L.D. tanker as Coulson orders his wing to break off from the attack run in a total homage to the Battle of Endor scene from Return of the Jedi.

Delving deeper into the Return of the Jedi parallels, after the moment where Jiaying offers her hand to Skye in an attempt of world conquest, the former decides to go all Emperor Palpatine on Skye, deciding to kill her when she realizes Skye cannot be converted to her cause. Her Vader tendencies were then transferred to her husband, Calvin Zabo, himself a monster, who follows the same exact redemption path Vader takes in Return of the Jedi by lifting the person who had been manipulating him for the past twenty years and murdering her on the spot out of love for his child. 

Doug is a freelance writer who has contributed to What Culture!,, Roqoo Depot, and more. You can email Doug at dmccausland1(at) 
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AwesomePromoz - 5/13/2015, 7:31 AM
Yes I definitely enjoyed the Star Wars homages in the season finale. I also felt like there were many in Thor the Dark World, such as the banter between Thor and Loki while they were piloting the Dark Elf ship: "I thought you knew how to fly this thing!" "How hard can it be?" and of course Thor losing his hand, and the dark ending where Odin appears to be dead and Loki has control of Asgard.

Of course, it stands to reason that Marvel has every motivation to place subtle and blatant homages to Star Wars in their material, considering Lucasfilm and Marvel are both under the Disney masthead, and whatever cross-promotion they can embed proves mutually beneficial.
RextheKing - 5/13/2015, 3:41 PM
Hands/arms lost in phase 2:
Iron Man 3 - Killian
Thor 2 - Thor
Cap 2 - Bucky WS
GoTG - Groot
AoU - Klaw
AoS - Coulson
If some lost a hand in Daredevil I can't remember.
PeterDarker121 - 5/13/2015, 4:12 PM
AMAZING article!!
clogan - 5/13/2015, 5:10 PM

The asian guy Stick chopped the hand of.
GinjaNinja - 5/14/2015, 6:51 AM
Did anyone lose an arm in agent carter? I don't remember stick chopping a hand off
Oxbow - 5/17/2015, 11:06 PM
he chopped a guys hand off in the opening scene of the stick episode.

great article, get thee to the main page!
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