SPOILERS ahead for the Agents of SHIELD season 6 finale.
In the Marvel's Agents of SHIELD season 6 finale, Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) finally returns as a member of the team for season 7 - sort of. Ever since the series premiered in 2013, Agent Coulson has been a key character, first putting together the team of SHIELD agents that would become the core group, then taking over as director of SHIELD. However, at the end of season 5, Coulson died from the wound inflicted on him in The Avengers, after his pact with Ghost Rider undid the Kree healing tech that saved his life the first time.
In season 6, Agents of SHIELD introduced Sarge, a different character played by Gregg who looked exactly like Coulson. The mystery of who Sarge was and why he looked like Coulson was a big part of season 6, and it was eventually revealed that Sarge is Coulson, created by the monoliths and possessed by an otherworldly demon. But while May (Ming-Na Wen) and even Daisy (Chloe Bennet) held out hope that if they could defeat the thing possessing him, they'd get Coulson back, Sarge dies in the season 6 finale. Fans don't have to worry, though, since the real Coulson returns before the episode ends - in a manner of speaking.
In the final scene of the Agents of SHIELD season 6 finale, after Sarge and Izel are defeated and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) appears to dump a whole host of new problems on Mack (Henry Simmons), Daisy and Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley), it's revealed that they've created a new Coulson using "Cronicom hardware." As Simmons explains, they need an expert in SHIELD history to help battle the Chronicom Hunters who want to settle Earth, and this Chronicom Coulson "has all of his own memories and has been upgraded with complete knowledge of everything he’s missed." Simmons leaves it up to Mack and Daisy to decide if they should activate this new Coulson, and Daisy doesn't hesitate, officially bringing him online and back into the fold.
The episode ends with Coulson in one of his classic suits - from the earlier days of the show - looking around at Daisy, Mack and Simmons and saying, "Hey Guys." It's an official return to form for Coulson, especially after a season that saw Gregg playing a very different character in Sarge. Fans may have theorized Agents of SHIELD would keep Gregg around by having Sarge stick around, without the demon possessing him so he could be more like Coulson. But this show likes to keep viewers on their toes and they went a different route in keeping Coulson around for Agents of SHIELD season 7.
Bringing Coulson back with Chronicom technology is a smart move on the team's part, since it's clear the Chronicoms will be the main antagonists of Agents of SHIELD season 7. Having two members of their team who are Chronicoms - Enoch and now Coulson - should give SHIELD a little bit of extra help in battling the Hunters. It also allows Agents of SHIELD to keep Gregg around for another season, and based on the suit he's wearing, this will be more classic Coulson than the hardened SHIELD director of the later seasons.
So fans should expect a slightly new take on Coulson in season 7, since this is a Chronicom version of the character. But fans are no doubt relieved to see Agents of SHIELD has found a way to keep the founding member of this team around, even if he's more LMD than human at this point.
Agents of SHIELD returns for season 7 in 2020 on ABC.