Bill Paxton in "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (ABC/Kelsey Mcneal)

Bill Paxton comes to "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D": A blast from Coulson's past

Paxton will play John Garrett, who may have some clues about Agent Coulson's resurrection


Neil Drumming
March 5, 2014 12:55AM (UTC)

I was just watching “The Terminator” for the umpteenth time this weekend and was surprised to see Bill Paxton in a tiny part at the beginning of the film. On IMDB, he is credited, hilariously, as “Punk Leader.” As Paxton recently told IGN, his long film career includes the distinction of having been offed, in character, by the titular boogeyman in three very memorable sci-fi flicks: “The Terminator,” “Aliens” and “Predator 2.” If only Kelly Lebrock had whacked him altogether in “Weird Science” instead of … well, this:

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Tonight, the “Big Love” star returns to television for a recurring role on ABC’s laboriously titled “Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” He will play John Garrett, a former senior officer of bristly Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton). Garrett also has a history with Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson. As the geniuses at Marvel and ABC undoubtedly anticipated, upon learning the character’s name, I immediately went to the Marvel Wiki to see what I could dig up.

As expected, Garrett is a bit player pulled and resourced from Marvel’s vast comic book universe. His first appearance was in something called “Elektra: Assassin #2.” I’ll leave it to the true comic geeks to plunder their archives for that edition. Here, however, are some eyebrow-raising factoids about Garrett easily plucked from Marvel’s online Wiki:

Despite a history of repeated criminal offenses which included assault, battery, grand larceny, and four counts of statutory rape. John ended up becoming an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. with his past records clandestinely expunged.

Paxton has, in the past, played quite a few creeps with potential, but never one so … criminally accomplished. I’m betting that the family-style “Marvel: Agents” airing on the Disney-owned ABC shies away from the seedier footnotes in Agent John Garrett’s past – especially since his file includes details much more germane to the over-arching story of the show.

Garrett, codename “Aquarius,” is described as having been severely injured in the line of duty. As a result, parts of his body were replaced with robotic implants, making him essentially a cyborg. From the moment Agent Coulson seemingly died in the "Avengers" movie, it was rumored that the Coulson who would appear on “Marvel: Agents” was either partly or wholly mechanical – a cyborg.

From the outset of the show, the jocular senior officer has maintained that while he was, in fact, mortally wounded, he was able to recover while spending time in Tahiti. It has since been revealed that Coulson was artificially resurrected. The nature and purpose of that resurrection is still, as they say, shrouded in mystery. It’s likely that Garrett’s appearance will reveal, if not why, a little bit of how. Tonight's episode is, after all, titled "T.A.H.I.T.I."

While Marvel is famous for its mutants, “Agents’” mandate is to steer mostly clear of superpowers, per se. So cyborgs are pretty much the most we can hope for. Over on Fox, Karl Urban’s already got a robot leg – and that show’s looking like it might get terminated. Let’s hope Bill Paxton makes Clark Gregg show us an adamantium forearm or something.

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Neil Drumming

Neil Drumming is a staff writer for Salon. Follow him on Twitter @Neil_Salon.

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