SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for "Missing Pieces," the Season 6 premiere of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s latest recruit has something in common with the Hulk. In "Missing Pieces," the Season 6 premiere, Doctor Marcus Benson reluctantly agreed to rebuild S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy with Director Alphonso "Mack" Mackenzie and Agent Melinda May. As May listed his qualifications, she mentioned that he taught at Culver University.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Culver University cultivated some of Earth's greatest -- and biggest -- minds. Most notably, Culver University was home to the Bio-Tech Force Enhancement Project, which turned the mild-mannered Bruce Banner into the monstrous Hulk. Other famous alumni include Thor's Jane Foster, who studied astronomy there; Erik Selvig, her professor; Andrew Garner, May's ex-husband and scientist-turned-Inhuman beast; and Victor and Janet Stein, the parents of Runaways member Chase Stein.
Benson is no mere professor at Culver University. He founded the Natural Sciences department, of which he is now director. May knows him personally, as he was Garner's favorite teacher, colleague and friend. He also boasts an IQ of 160.
"This lady said more to me in one phone call than she did in all the years that she was married to Garner," he told Mack when they met him at a bar. "I didn't know details, of course, and, well, I didn't need them. I'm not going to chase boogeymen with you guys."
"And yet you drove over two hours to get here," Mack pointed out.
"That's because of the University," he explained. "I built that department from the ground up and now they're cancelling my classes and lightening my load and I can't tell if it's because of this" -- he gestured to his drink -- "or of this: noted spies meddling in other people's business."
"I used to share a cocktail with the love of my life, but when he died, this became a way to remember him. Or forget. I don't know," he added. This means Benson is the second confirmed gay character to join the team. He was preceded by Joey Gutierrez, an Inhuman who joined the Secret Warriors in Season 3, but Joey only appeared in six episodes; the show also seemed to suggest that Agent Piper, Victoria Hand and Isabelle Hartley are queer. However, Benson may be the team's first openly gay character to take on a major role.
"I hope you haven't drowned your sense of curiosity and it will still get the best of you," Mack said. "We lost someone too. A leader. A teacher. We don't want to forget. We're trying to fill the hole he left behind. To rebuild. But we need brains."
"Are you talking plural? I only have the one," Benson shot back.
"We want you to find more. S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy. Not overnight. We wouldn't open it for a year or two, but we need you to build it from the ground up in his name," Mack insisted. "S.H.I.E.L.D.'s second chance. And from what I can gather, yours too."
Even so, Benson seemed reluctant to join the cause. Eventually, Mack admitted why they needed him so badly: "You're our best option. Two of our brightest minds are in deep space. They can't make contact, and until they jump back, we need you on this or innocent people will die."
"Did you say deep space?" Benson replied, and he officially joined the team. Indeed, he even helped with S.H.I.E.L.D.'s "boogeymen," who turned out to be a very real threat when they bombed a museum.
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Fridays at 8 pm ET/PT on ABC. The series stars Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet, Henry Simmons, Iain De Caestecker, Natalia Cordova-Buckley, Elizabeth Henstridge and Clark Gregg.