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!

Vision in Marvel Comics

1) Coulson is Not A Robot

Seeing Coulson first get stabbed through the chest and heart by Loki’s blade, then seeing his human-looking brain get operated on, confirms that Coulson was not and is not a Life Model Decoy, nor is he the android Avenger known as Vision – a common fan theory immediately following the events of The Avengers. That doesn’t mean he can’t become Vision one day, especially with all the upcoming connections, from Scarlet Witch to Ultron, but he’s not right now.

And that doesn’t mean The Clairvoyant, who can seemingly kill people via smartphone, isn’t connected to Ultron. After all, we’re told Ultron is a threat The Avengers see coming, hinting at an introduction or at least some teases in the films before it (see: Captain America: The Winter Soldier – which just so happens to premiere around when season one of Agents of SHIELD concludes).

Coulson is not a mechanical man nor do we believe he’s a clone. It’s bigger than that.

Asgard in Thor 1

2) Asgardian Magic

The references to “The Magical Place,” the still-mysterious operations Coulson went through, and the interesting word choice at the end of the episode when Coulson is told that Nick Fury moved “Heaven and Earth” to make sure he lived, all tease a potential connection to Asgard. Heaven & Earth is actually the title of a Thor comic series.

Coulson being an Asgardian or healed by Asgardian “magic” (after being killed by a half-Asgardian) doesn’t quite fit though – especially seeing the amount of death in Thor: The Dark World where soldiers dropped like flies – not to mention Thor’s mom, Frigga, getting stabbed and being killed off. Coulson being of Asgardian descent would be lazy storytelling, considering his encounters with Thor and another Asgardian in Episode 8: The Well. Don’t count on it.

Page 3: The Inhumans & Kree Connection

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!

3) The Inhumans. What?

The Marvel Studios movies are going to be jumping deeper into the cosmos beginning this August with Guardians of the Galaxy. They’re also collecting Infinity Stones/Gems as we saw in the post-credits scene of Thor: The Dark World, leading to the inevitable brawl with Thanos and the formation of the all-powerful Infinity Gauntlet artifact (more on that here).

Guardians of the Galaxy will likely be another stepping stone on that Infinity path and we’d expect The Inhumans to be as well – assuming Marvel Studios announces it as one of their 2016-17 releasesThe Inhumans have been widely talked about by Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige as a hot property they want to explore, and we believe it could make for an interesting followup to Guardians of the Galaxy, another possible source of an Infinity Stone, and a potential tie-in for characters like Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver who have superpowers with unknown origins (at this point). With Twentieth Century Fox owning the film rights to all things mutant-related from Marvel Comics, The Inhumans can serve as their workaround to explain Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. In fact, for Agents of SHIELD, Marvel secured the trademark “Registered Gifted” to label people with special abilities. And although that hasn’t reared its head too much yet in the show (outside of Scorch in Episode 5), with most of the powered antagonists finding their origins in Extremis/Centipede tech, it will eventually.

What does this all have to do with Coulson? Outside of the playful tweet above by Clark Gregg (direct reference to The Inhumans or misdirection?), back in the day when the Skrulls and the Kree were rumored aliens to appear in The Avengers, we heard rumors that Coulson may not be all that he appears to be. We even heard he might have Kree connections/origins, and when we asked someone at Marvel, they asked where we heard that, playing coy. Take that for what you will. While the Skrull (enemies of the Kree) rights are confusing and sort of shared between Fox and Marvel, the Kree rights haven’t been officially confirmed either way. With key Kree character Ronan the Accuser appearing in Guardians of the Galaxy, however, there’s a good chance his people will play a part as well. If they do, that will undoubtedly service the background story behind any film based on The Inhumans, should one exist one day.

To make sense of this, The Inhumans are super-powered individuals, the result of experiments done on early humans in the past by the Kree Empire, back when they setup a science outpost in our solar system. The lore and connections this property offer up, especially in connecting the Guardians of the Galaxy to what’s going on here on Earth, are very intriguing. Perhaps Coulson is of Kree descent – human but not really? Maybe he’s an Inhuman? While an exciting idea for us, we’re not sure if Agents of SHIELD is going that big in setting up The Inhumans, let alone offering meaningful connections to Ultron, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. While it would work (we think), we’re not sure if Marvel is bold enough to put that much into the TV show – at least from what they’ve done with their connections thus far (see: Thor 2 tie-in episode). We don’t even know if The Inhumans are really in the cards for Phase 3 of the movie franchise.

Mahr Vehl

Coulson being a member of the Kree ties into one of our older #CoulsonLives theories that he could be Captain Mar-Vell, initially put on Earth to spy on humans for the Kree. If not an actual Kree, perhaps a result of their experiments, an Inhuman.

Still, Coulson being different, special, and seemingly having occasional, ever-so-slight hints of superhuman powers would make this theory interesting. By superhuman hints, we’re referring to the Marvel One-Shot “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to Thor’s Hammer,” where Coulson took out a pair of would-be robbers.

Page 4: Super Soldier Serum & Scarlet Witch

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!

4) Super Soldier Serum

The problem with bringing Coulson back means that “death” in the Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn’t really mean too much. That is, if he’s human. If SHIELD can just take as many days as they want to rebuild someone’s body – specifically a human body – and play with their brain to erase/replace memories, then what’s the big deal about Nick Fury being in intensive care in the Captain America: The Winter Soldier trailer? If Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) gets ripped in half by Ultron or Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) takes a few bullets, no big deal, right? Not necessarily.

One of our more interesting theories early on for how Coulson lives (see all 10 here) is that he was the kid in that one scene in The First Avenger (WWII era) whose mom called out to him as “Phil” – someone who might have been part of some post-Captain America supersoldier project with another version of the serum. This can conceivably play into Coulson’s loyalty and love of Steve Rogers.

We know the military continued experimenting on this front, hence The Hulk. This theory resurfaces since “The Magical Place” episode intentionally shows blue serum being used as part of Coulson’s operation. Why would that be included? If anything related to supersoldier serums and Coulson’s myterious past is part of the truth, then it may tie-in to the return of HYDRA and/or other villains appearing in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. We know the villainous genius Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) is returning for the sequel and he teased the following:

“…Zola finds a way to defeat time and you won’t be disappointed with the way that’s been treated in the film, that’s what I would say.”

Zola, in Marvel Comics, is a master of genetic engineering who found a way to keep living by transferring his mind into a robot. Could his return in Captain America 2 tie-in to the final episodes of this season of Agents of SHIELD?

5) Scarlet Witch & Family Ties

The mysterious “cellist” we keep hearing about, first in The Avengers and again in Agents of SHIELD – is that Scarlet Witch like we all believe? Is she connected to the “Clairvoyant”? If so, Elizabeth Olsen is quite a bit younger than Agent Coulson, so perhaps – as some of our astute readers have suggested – her relationship with Coulson is that she is his daughter and there’s some weird SHIELD cover-up going that has her unimpressed with the organization – hence her and her brother’s (Quicksilver) antagonistic origins. Maybe Coulson returning is what brings the pair to join Earth’s Mightiest to take down Ultron in The Avengers 2?

This possibility, a stretch upon a stretch (we know), could feasibly tie into the Inhumans theory. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch’s abilities may be Inhuman in origin, just like their special dad. Crazy? How else do we explain their powers?

From reading the comments in response to our coverage of the series so far and the Agents of SHIELD mid-season premiere, it’s clear there’s a sense of disappointment regarding the story and reveals, but at the very least, it has us all talking and thinking about what it all means and what it may lead to. Don’t be surprised if none of our theories are even close and if many of the hints we perceive are intentional misdirection. All we do know for sure is that there’s more to Agent Coulson’s resurrection than we know and future episodes will (hopefully) provide more answers. Share your thoughts and theories in the comments below!

More: How Will Agents of SHIELD Change Things Up in 2014?

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!