Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. bid farewell to the team's beloved leader Phil Coulson in the season 5 finale, "The End". Will the Son of Coul return for season 6?
"The End" concluded with Coulson happy to spend his final few days of life on the magical beaches of Tahiti with Melinda May, content that his team has all the tools they need to carry on without him after saving the world yet again. Because showrunners Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen didn't know if the series would be renewed for season 6, this bittersweet but poignant finale was originally designed as a potential ending for the series and a fitting final bow for Coulson, the heart and soul of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Of course, Coulson has been dying for quite some time. The esteemed Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. has actually been living on borrowed time ever since Loki killed him with his scepter in the first Avengers movie. Resurrected by Kree science, Coulson assembled his own loyal band of Agents and led them through five years of adventures on television. Unfortunately, in season 5, fans learned Coulson is once again dying from the injury Loki inflicted on him; his brief time as the avatar of Ghost Rider in season 4 apparently undid whatever healing powers Kree technology gifted him.
The final fate of the Director was a focal point of season 5 and the subject of his team's moral quandry: should they use the last of the Centipede serum recovered from season 1 to save Coulson's life or do they mix the serum with a Kree substance called Odium to kill their main adversary, General Glenn Talbot, aka Graviton? At stake was the timeline itself and whether or not the Earth would be destroyed. Ultimately, May made the call to save Coulson's life, but Phil then overturned that decision and gave the Centipede serum to Daisy Johnson so she could defeat Talbot and save the world.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Coulson's 'retirement': Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. got its season 6 re-up. The next 13 episodes of ABC's flagship Marvel series won't air until summer 2019, after Avengers 4. S.H.I.E.L.D. has more or less occurred in real time since it premiered in 2013, so that means over a year will have passed until fans are reunited with their favorite Agents. Since Coulson's clock was rapidly counting down, he would be long dead by next summer. Could Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. return without its main character?
It's hard to imagine the series without Coulson as its center. True, he ceded team leadership to Daisy Johnson, who then nominated Alphonso "Mack" Mackenzie as the new Director. Still, Phil Coulson and Clark Gregg, the charming actor who has portrayed him since the Marvel Cinematic Universe launched with Iron Man in 2008, have been synonymous with S.H.I.E.L.D. Luckily, the show's talented writers have ample time to conjure up a way to bring the Son of Coul back yet again.
Since the season 5 finale has just aired and the show's producers only found out about the renewal a few days prior, it's unlikely any concrete plans are in place at this time. But there are a number of options to give Phil more life. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has dabbled in multiple genres, from sci-fi to the supernatural, so anything from more alien super-science to another deal with Ghost Rider to even Coulson's brain inhabiting a Life Model Decoy could be in play. S.H.I.E.L.D.'s creative team could also do something totally unexpected, in accordance to whatever direction the series goes in season 6.
No matter what, it just wouldn't be Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. without Phillip J. Coulson at its center, and everyone from the actors to the producers to the fans would agree. Therefore, the smart bet is that in season 6 and beyond, Couson Lives... again. In the meantime, fans can look forward to seeing the origin of the young Coulson who has yet to be killed in Captain Marvel.
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 6 premieres summer 2019 on ABC.