‘Agents of SHIELD’: Coulson Return NOT Explained in Premiere; New Story, No Movie Easter Eggs

Published 2 years ago by , Updated May 22nd, 2013 at 10:53 pm,

shield coulson return mystery gregg Agents of SHIELD: Coulson Return NOT Explained in Premiere; New Story, No Movie Easter Eggs

Joss Whedon’s penchant for killing characters is well known, so when Agent Phil Coulson – everyman of the Marvel movieverse – got pierced like a tissue on a paper spike in The Avengers, we all knew that, though shocking, it was also quite inevitable. Coulson’s resurrection in ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. though? Not so much.

But alongside that re-birth comes one of the more compelling questions about the new series, like: how did Coulson come back? And: how will S.H.I.E.L.D. tie in to the Marvel Universe? Now, we have some answers.

In a new interview, Clark Gregg is shedding some light on that question, what he thought about being brought back by the man who killed him and Agent Coulson’s appeal.

“I kept waiting to see, are we going to shoot a version where [Loki] misses? And they didn’t, so I was really surprised to get that call and I wanted to make sure it didn’t do anything to undermine what we achieved there and when [writer-director Joss Whedon] explained the mystery and how they planned to deal with it, with Agent Coulson being around, I was very sold.”

As for when we’ll find out about that burning question concerning how Coulson made his way back to the land of the living, Gregg doesn’t seem to indicate that we’ll get a clear resolution anytime soon.

He’s back. He’s thinks he knows how he’s back. We’ll have to see.

shield coulson return mystery gregg flame Agents of SHIELD: Coulson Return NOT Explained in Premiere; New Story, No Movie Easter Eggs

So, why bring Coulson back? What’s his value to a cinematic universe that is chock-full of superheroes and a pool of eerily similar S.H.I.E.L.D. drones from which a replacement could have come?

“Agent Coulson represents the people who don’t have superpowers, the guys who actually can be killed — or at least seem to be and yet come back sometimes … Marvel has such a lock on how to do really incredibly visual affects and stunts that we’ve got stuff on our show that I just don’t think we’ve seen on TV before.”

Coulson’s relatability also came up during Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. creator Joss Whedon’s address to advertisers and the press at ABC’s upfronts, where Whedon also clarified that the decision to do a S.H.I.E.L.D. show didn’t come from a place of corporate synergy, or tie-ins, and that the show would stand on its own and not merely be a repository for “Easter Eggs”.

“What I loved about The Avengers became SHIELD, and there’s no better example of that than Clark Gregg, an actor who so talented that not even I could kill him.

He represented the human side of the superhero world in the Universe, and that’s why we built S.H.I.E.L.D. around him. We didn’t build it because it would work with the movies, or be an Easter Egg to hide things in, or because I grew up reading comic books; we built it because we had a story to tell about what it’s like to be an ordinary person in an increasingly extraordinary and unreal world.”

shield coulson return mystery gregg lola Agents of SHIELD: Coulson Return NOT Explained in Premiere; New Story, No Movie Easter Eggs

Here’s the thing with all of this talk about Coulson’s humanity and how he is a kind of bridge into this amazing world of superpowers: while that was true, it sorta went away when Marvel decided to kill him and then bring him back.

Right now, all we know is that Coulson is back. If Whedon and company want to keep the on-screen reason why a mystery, that is their prerogative, but for as long as it remains a mystery, fans will wonder whether he is a droid, some kind of immortal, another comic book-y twist, or simply a part of a major conspiracy.

Without question, some of those things threaten to sever Coulson’s “human” tether completely and the others could run the risk of alienating fans – while also making Coulson into a less likable, less trustworthy character. It might even strip away the “everyman” reputation that has been integral to the audiences’ ability to accept a fantastical world without the familiar heroes from the Marvel Universe – one that the show is, apparently, loosely connected to.

Obviously, there is a benefit to this guessing game – ABC and Marvel need this show to come out of the gate with awe-inspiring ratings, especially if it is truly going to stand alone and not exist as required viewing for movie fans. Ample buzz only helps them in that endeavor, but if fans are kept in the dark for long, one has to wonder if this might be a detriment while making irrelevant all of the good intentions behind the return of a fan favorite character.


Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premieres on ABC this fall.

Source: EW

Follow Jason Tabrys on Twitter @jtabrys
Get our free email alerts on the topics and author of this article:


Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to Gravatar.com and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.

If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it. Keep in mind that we do not allow external links in the comments.

  1. it better be a good reason. simply pretending wouldnt cut it anymore i dont think. it would be disappointing.

    • I agree cause his statment “coulsan represents the people that can get killed, then sometimes come back”… sounds wierd and he SHOULD be a person that can die period lol

    • Here is how Coulson is back… It is so blatant as to be otherwise an utterly ignored slap right across the mouth.



      • It fries my brain wondering how no one else has mentioned this possibility. It would also explain Shield’s absence in Iron Man 3.

        • A good explanation indeed! And now I feel very stupid for not having thought of it!

      • it couldn’t have been the extremis since iron man 3 takes place after the fight in new York….. hint hint the little kid was asking tony about what had happened in new york

        • Extremis has been around in the MCU since 1999. Remember the opening flashback with the plant? SHEILD could have gotten a hold of it anytime.

          • Grabbing at straws. But it could be a cover up for this obvious mistake

        • It actually takes place a YEAR later. so no, extremis wouldn’t be involved.

          didn’t Joss already explain this?
          The Avengers were deceived, Coulson took the hit, even he said “this would never work if they didn’t have something to push…..”

          Self freakin explanatory.

    • “Hes back. He THINKS he knows HOW he’s back”

      I maintain my idea that the human Coulton actually died in the carrier. He’s buried and gone. The Coulston that carries on in Shield is an LMD that THINKS it’s this the flesh and blood Coulston, because thats what shield told it when it “woke up”.

      • Also it wasnt whedons decision it was feige. So no whedon made nothing self exlanitory

        • Two words… Clone Wars…

          Nuff said.

      • That Life Model Decoy thing keeps popping up and would be a terrible idea and a very disappointing solution for the problem. Apart from all the ethical implications of using LMDs – that are for all intents and purposes real persons – as cannon fodder for attacks as if they were somehow worth less than a real humans, it would really cheap Deus Ex Machina solution for every possible death in the show and movies that is yet to come. “Oh, you think he was dead? Ha! LMD, b****!”… “Her? Dead? You must be joking. LMD, fool!”. They should really Lindelofisms like that out of the show and the cinematic Marvel universe as a whole.

        • *it would be a

          • **really leave Lindelofisms

        • Two words….

          CLONE WARS

          nuff said.

          • Yeah well, that clone army paved the way to the Empire, a fascist regime. I don’t think that’s what S.H.I.E.L.D. is about.

            • perhaps, perhaps not. You may need to read more of the books. Also the shadowy committee Fury had to answer up to? They didn’t exactly ooze benevolence to me. Either way, if you made a bunch of duplicate clones to fill suits and hold guns, you tend not to get attached to them and see them as human but instead assets for winning battles. Much like the Republic did with their Grand Army of clones. No sentimentality when you know they are just popping off an assembly line somewhere like so many toasters.
              However, though, there have been many different incarnations of the LMD, and it is my bet that if they do indeed go down that road which was infact opened by Tony in the Avengers, then I suspect they will go with robotic android versions rather than clones. I know, I know, “but Coulson bled”. Of course he did. He wouldnt make for much of a “decoy” if he didnt, now would he? Hell even Schwarzenegger’s Terminator bled. Would be pretty telling if the enemy shot said LMD and it just fritzed and fizzled. You have to make the enemy believe you are dead in order to be an effective decoy.

              • maybe he jumped into that contraption in “the prestige” and copied himself a few times

              • Yeah, you raise some good points there. Well, we will know the answers to it all eventually. For now I’m glad that he’s back. ;)

  2. Im having less & less reasons to watch.

  3. im just happy coulson is back =D

  4. As ridiculous as Coulson’s return is, we all know we’ll be watching to see the season finale when it finally explains how he managed to return.

  5. I thought we all considered that coulsan didnt die it was for motivation. When clearly that isnt the case cause whedon woulda told gregg about that. He has no clue why he is here

  6. Coulson is a superhero… his powers are immortality, Captain America worship, and dry humor.

    • lol

    • So he’s Mr.Immortal for Great Lakes Avengers?

  7. Joss has had a history of plot holes on some of his previous TV shows. For example, Shepherd Book’s history on Firefly was hinted, but never revealed. (Eventually it was in a comic book and I’m sure had the series not gotten cancelled, it would’ve told.) Another one is a mysterious group of cyborg ninjas invade Wolfram & Hart during season 5 of Angel and their true motives were never explained nor mentioned again. My point: This show will have its share if plot holes but I think Joss may be saving an explanation to Coulson’s return in a season finale. It’s really not a big deal to me. I like to speculate and I enjoy the mysterious aspect to it.

    • None of those things are plot holes, just loose ends that never got tied up because the shows got canceled.

    • Don’t know about Firefly but like Bob said, Angel was disappointingly cancelled at the end of the 5th season, I’m sure the Wolfram and Hart plot would’ve extended into season 6.

    • A plot hole is a mistake in the plot that completely unravels the inner logic of the plot. Not knowing who some characters are and what their motivations are is not a plot hole.

  8. Fury is a liar, there’s your explanation.

    • I’d be fine with that.

      • Yeah, that’s what I thought. Coulson was only “gone” for, like, 10-15 seconds before the medics got to him, plenty of time to revive him… especially with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s tech and resources. Simple as that- Nick Fury’s a schemer who wouldn’t “let a good crisis go to waste”, in the words of Rahm Emanuel. That’s the simple explanation I’m expecting and will be most satisfied with.

        • Agreed, fury lied…they even point to this with Coulson’s bloody trading cards…they say that Fury got them out of his locker and put some fake blood on them to drive home his point…
          All the while Coulson’s getting operated on or something…doesn’t sound to hard to me…

  9. In the movie it only implied he died. It never stated the fact.

    • If that was the case whedon would have explained to him that he isnt dead. Gregg is oblivious to how he is back

  10. This show is gonna be “:mildly great”, I think…something to keep us in touch and tide us over until the big movies roll around. I am looking forward to it. In fact, I will go farther: if it is really good, and comes out on DVD evntually, I will buy the seasons’ DVDs!

    I wonder if this takes hold, if someone will eventually do T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents? That is kind of the same thing: super-powered heroes and human espionage and special forces guys against human and non-human super world-wide threats. A great comic series during it’s short life. Menthor, Dynamo, NoMan, Lightning, the Thunder Squad…all great heroes and well-written, like a comic techno-thriller germinating. There is a heck of a franchise sitting there just waiting for someone to actually have the light go on and build on it!

    • If they do, it’ll likely be on CW. (T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents)

  11. “Without question, some of those things threaten to sever Coulson’s “human” tether completely and the others could run the risk of alienating fans – while also making Coulson into a less likable, less trustworthy character. It might even strip away the “everyman” reputation that has been integral to the audiences’ ability to accept a fantastical world without the familiar heroes from the Marvel Universe – one that the show is, apparently, loosely connected to.”

    I think that’s a bit much. I get the concept you’re going for but I think alienating fans in general before it even gets explained is unlikely. Some fans, sure, but it will be the main sticking point for most fans I’d assume.

    • I read this point as applied broadly to the plot device and how it unfolds throughout the season. I think there are two points here:

      1. Providing any kind of super-powered explanation could undermine what’s great about the character.

      2. Kicking the mystery down the road for two long creates the potential for unnecessary complexity around the issue of his having survived and stands to tarnish what’s great about the character.

      I think they’re both valid points and kind of underscore how much the fans care about this guy. It’s an interesting challenge/risk for Marvel to put a beloved movie character into a weekly tv show. In the (very?) unlikely scenario that the show bombs, or characters are mismanaged ala Heroes style, they could potentially lose at the box office. On the other hand, TV execs have been tearing their hair out for years on how to best calculate TV “earnings.” If this show lights up the airwaves and puts butts in seats for the movies, maybe we’ll see more of this kind of cross pollination.

      • oops. “too long” not “two long.” *facepalm*

        • Kicking the explanation down the toad is smart tv. If its a twist or big reveal done during sweeps or mid season hiatus.. Ratings gold. They keep saying how Coulston is the human element in a superhero world, they will explore his “humanity” i think, and however he was brought back will possibilty influence that.

          • Hehe. You said “toad.” :)

            (and I said “two.)

            But you’re right. I agree the key is to explore his humanity. If they make a “departure” with the character and go semi-super-powered, it’ll be more successful if they relate it to who he’s always been: one of the fans who gets to run around in the comic book world.

            • Yep exactly.

              Lol what “down the toad” isn’t a thing?

  12. Basically, all I got from that is “yep we shout ourselves in the foot with that one… We can’t think of a reason why he’s alive but we’ll tell you at the end of season one, hopefully you’ll have forgotten that we owe you an answer by then so we don’t have to make one up… Ah! It was all just a dream!”


  13. In the beginning of The Avengers, Tony says to Coulson over the phone, “You have reached the Life Model Decoy of Tony Stark,” so the door is already open to LMD’s and the fact that Coulson might have been a LMD back in that movie…

    • Ding, Ding, Ding! I think we have a winner, folks!

      • I just think thats a nod. Tho it could be used it wasnt what was planned cause clark gregg would know that. Its a nicr cover up

    • “Hes back. He THINKS he knows HOW he’s back”

      I maintain my idea that the human Coulton actually died in the carrier. He’s buried and gone. The Coulston that carries on in Shield is an LMD that THINKS it’s this the flesh and blood Coulston, because thats what shield told it when it “woke up”.

      • Learn to spell his name… its Coulson. No “T” in it anywhere.

    • ummmm….Stark was joking. It was a joke, he didn’t want to talk to Coulson. Thats it, thats all there is to that line.

  14. I think the best explanation one already mentioned in these comments….
    in the beginning of the avengers, tony stark says to Coulson over the phone ” You have reached the Life Model Decoy of Tony Stark” so Coulson could’ve been LMD in the avengers since they had already introduced it…….

  15. I’m watching this show BECAUSE of Coulson, and so are most fans which is probably the main reason they brought him back. Who cares if Fury lied, his LMD was terminated, Coulson died… whatever. All I care about is being entertained and how it affects the big picture of the Marvel universe.

    I also don’t think that’s going to be Luke Cage. I admit I could easily be wrong about that, but I don’t think they go that big in the first show.

    • I think Luke Cage is just big enough! He’s not that popular of a character to warrant a solo movie, J. August Richardson is perfect for the role, and a gradual introduction to one of die-hard Marvel fans’ favorite characters is a good idea to keep viewers invested in the characters because personally… and I read my share of recent Marvel comics story arcs… I’ve never heard of any of these SHIELD agents before.

      • Yeah, I’m all for it being Cage, I just doubt that it is.

        Everybody, including Coulson, was created by Marvel for the movies and this show and didn’t originate in the comics. The exceptions of course are Maria Hill and Fury.

  16. I’ve heard he didn’t actually die, and that the gun Sharon Carter had been hypnotized to use had actually caused Coulson to phase in and out of space and time, appearing at events in his lifetime and fighting battles. The Skull returns Coulson to the present, where he takes control of Coulsons mind and body. Coulson eventually regains control, and with help from his allies, defeats the Skull.

    Oh, that’s how they brought back Captain America. Comic books have set the bar pretty low for ways to bring people back. Im sure there will be a good reason, but this is a show based in a world of comic book superheroes, does it really need a compelling and realistic reason for it? Coulsons back, this is a good thing!

    • the hell are you talking about dude? Sharon Carter isn’t even in The Avengers, or even relevant to this story.

      This comment makes no sense, and I’m guessing you’re a troll.

      • He was illustrating how in the comics, they tend to use pretty insane plot decives to bring people “back from the dead”. In this case he juxaposed Coulston for what actually happened to Capt America in the comics. Moral of the story: if a character is popular… They will never stay dead… Ever. Because money.

      • Read much or is your information on Marvel storylines stop at the ticket booth?

    • is your avatar stabbing itself in the eye?

  17. Maybe he’s a robot but doesnt even know hes one. Like SHEILD just told him hes Coulson and he believes it but hes really vision in the end. Idk lol.

    • Yep, basically the same concept as the Life Model Decoy(s) (LMD) everyone keeps mentioning. But then the LMD is nearly killed (again) and it’s revamped into the Vision. *Shazam* fan service. lol

  18. When you’ve got a god on the team pretty much anything’s possible.

    I just hope they don’t devote too much time to this mystery as I’m bored of season long mystery arcs that don’t play out.

    After Lost, BSG and more recently Doctor Who, I just want some episodic fun building to a big show down at the end.

    • There’s definitely a big chance the whole episodic fun building and big show down will happen in this show. Joss Whedon did the exact same thing with both Buffy and Angel, every episode contributed to the overall plot of the season and character development all the while making the show really fun and intense to watch. So i’m pretty much expecting the same thing with SHIELD.

  19. Emily Van Camp who is set to play Sharon Carter joins the cast at some point, maybe after Winter Soldier. I’m betting and hoping because she’s just so sparkly. And talented.

  20. In the comics the Scarlet Witch goes crazy when she is reminded of her children with Vision. Apparently, since she can alter reality with just a thought, she created these children and convinced herself they were a normal family. (An A.I, a reality altering witch, and 2 conjured children could end up being a little dysfunctional.)Also, she created a world where mutants ruled and then she said “no more mutants” and, bam, there were only 200 mutants left out of the millions before.

    My point: I don’t see why having the Scarlet Witch hearing of Coulson’s death (her supposed boyfriend), and going a bit batty before willing him back to life would be such a big stretch. I know the deception angle is there, but to me, the more Scarlet Witch the better.

  21. Obvious answer? The Tesseract did it. Loki (if I remember correctly) said that humans know nothing about it in comparison to the Asgardians. Nick Fury mentions it having almost-unlimited power. It *is* a bit of a cop-out, but having a magic alien cube that can do anything is little more than a plot device to fall back on when writers get themselves in a literary corner.

    If Loki had succeeded in Avengers, *every* realm would have been threatened. Since Agent Coulson was the instigator for getting the heroes together to defeat Loki’s army, Thor could justifiably put Agent on Tesseract life support since he is one of Earth’s greatest defenders. Fury, having witnessed the Cube’s ability to reverse certain death, gives it back to Thor because he doesn’t think that human’s should have that power – at the end of The Avengers, he says that it, “belongs out of our reach.”

  22. It must not be Coulson. He was probably involved in some kind of cloning experiment.

  23. James Bond gets shot off a train, plummets into deep water, goes over a waterfall, and survives in the end. I can believe that because:

    1.) Bond tells Eve that her bullet didn’t pierce any vital organs.
    2.) He’s James Bond; there are far worse things he has experienced and survived all of them in the end.

    Phil Coulson gets stabbed by Loki and begins bleeding profusely, even staining the wall behind him.

    If they truely believed in the idea of “This is how an ordinary man deals with unordinary things”, then it would’ve been better to have him die so that The Avengers could finally have a reason to come together as a team. Coulson is a mortal who stood up to an immortal and proved even an ordinary man could die honorably against the one thing he believes is wrong.

  24. He’s back! Lets enjoy it.

  25. He’s a mutant. His power…..healing factor. Now lets move on.

  26. I don’t really care that he is back and hope he is killed off in episode 2. The character’s appearance in every Marvel film except The Avengers only served as a maguffin and filler to make the end credits scenes make sense… Kill him off and the series will have a means of building tension and will they won’t they find out who and why he was killed off. Otherwise the series will come across like a procedural drama going through the motions each week building to some sort of end of season tie in no doubt to the new Marvel film being released at that point…

  27. I care less how he comes back… DOES LOLA FLY?!?

  28. There needs to be an explanation. It was ridiculous that there was no explanation in iron man 3 why shield was taking a break. Feige of course said future explanations would explain. We don need another fake mandarin fiasco which was downright horrible.

  29. Why does everyone make this Agent Coulson guy a big deal? He is just another S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent, I see nothing special in his character besides the fact that he is a Captain America kiss-ass. Since I really disapprove of Whedon directing more Marvel production and leading Phase 2 due to his lack of work in the Avengers films, he does not know how to correctly portray each character (i.e. Captain America being the party pooper instead of the leader of Avengers, Tony Stark leading the Avengers team).

    Whedon alread botched Coulson being the representation of a super hero who isn’t super since he already killed him off in Avengers, it wouldn’t be logical if he appeared since we actually saw him die in the film, unless SHIELD has made a clone of Coulson and if that is so, why Coulson.