This week’s mid-season premiere of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was built around the long-awaited answer to one of the biggest questions in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – how did Agent Coulson survive the events of The Avengers?

While that tricky question was only partly answered, it raised a much more important and interesting question in why he was resurrected. Needless to say, there’s a lot more that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. needs to answer on this front and star Clark Gregg promises that more is coming. Let’s take a look at some updated theories on what’s going on with Coulson.

We’re going to assume you’re caught up with the show and films if you’re reading ahead, so yes, obvious spoilers abound for those who’ve not seen Season 1, Episode 11: The Magical Place or Thor: The Dark World. Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s highlight a few things actor Clark Gregg, Agent Coulson himself, has said about the big reveal, why it’ll be worth it for fans, and how it’ll play out in the second half of the season.

“The way our team has kind of turned the back half of this season into a reveal that uses the mystery of Coulson’s death not just as a standalone reveal but as an integral part of the bigger reveal, which is that this organization Centipede, run by this person the Clairvoyant, has been part of almost everything we’ve done and connects on a deep level to everything going forward. [Centipede] is determined to destroy SHIELD and, to Coulson’s chagrin, has some of the same questions about SHIELD that Coulson himself is starting to evolve.”

“The fact that they’ve already managed to kind of make the reveal of what Coulson’s doing alive [be] the one thing that the Clairvoyant wants is just part of the way the back half of this season is going to be — more exciting and more satisfying than the first half of this season, where so much work had to be done to kind of set up this world of these people and this team, and all these separate pieces get kind of woven together.”

This statement came before Episode 11 aired. Now that we’ve seen it, we know that Coulson’s visions of being on a beautiful beach in Tahiti were artificially implanted to help cover up the awful memories of the pain and suffering he endured in his seven days of constant operations to keep him alive – operations that had him pleading for S.H.I.E.L.D. to let him die. Coulson had literally lost the will to live and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s surgeons (and some crazy brain-tampering robot) – at the personal request of Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) – messed with his mind and memories to change that outlook.

That’s not “the reveal” though. The reveal was only detailing what Tahiti (“The Magical Place”) was really all about. It’s just part of something bigger and more important that we’ll learn more of throughout the next few episodes and, likely, all the way to the end of the season – and it might be tying into some important story elements coming up in future feature films, but more on that later.

Coulson should have died, but SHIELD kept him alive using methods and technology we’re still unclear on. However, there’s more to the story than an epic recovery, because Coulson – for reasons not yet known – is special. As Agent Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows) made it clear to Agent Ward, it doesn’t make sense for SHIELD’s executives to be so concerned for any individual agent. They’re giving Coulson special attention because there’s a very specific reason why he needs to survive. So, let’s look at some reasons, hints and confirmations as to why Coulson is so important to SHIELD, to Nick Fury and Commander Maria Hill, and how the complete reveal ties into the interests of the Clairvoyant and the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Page 2: Coulson Bot & Asgardian Magic

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., starring Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge, returns next Tuesday with “Seeds” @8pm on ABC.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier hits theaters April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 31, 2015, with unannounced films coming May 6 2016, July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for your Marvel movie news!

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