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Isn’t Bringing Agent Coulson Back A Bad Idea?

It’s hard to know how to react to the news that Clark Gregg will be reprising his role as the SHIELD pilot that Joss Whedon is putting together for ABC. Of course, the fan faithful who adored the character in his appearances through all of the Marvel movies to date are excited to see that his career didn’t end with Marvel’s The Avengers, but still… Isn’t this ultimately a bad decision on Marvel’s part?

Coulson’s death in Avengers wasn’t just a central emotional moment for the movie, it was the central emotional moment, and arguably the only genuine emotional moment during the entire thing (All of the other character beats were just that; beats that were easily lost amongst the sturm-und-drang of the rest of the movie, most of which was more hinted-at than actually stated outright or shown in the moment. Avengers, for all its good points, is a somewhat flat movie emotionally outside of the aim to excite). Retconning that into “Ha ha, it was a Life Model Decoy” or any other form of “He’s not really dead” cheapens it, and the entire movie by extension. More to the point, it turns the moviemakers into Nick Fury, who shamelessly manipulated Captain America with Coulson’s death by playing around with the facts, with the audience as the Star Spangled Super-Soldier.

Worse still, I think people expected this reversal. There was definitely some sense of “That can’t really be the end of Coulson, right?” that gave his death some level of surprise, novelty and – as blood thirsty as it sounds – importance when it happened, and the fact that it wasn’t undone by the end of the movie allowed Avengers to have some sense of depth and weight beyond the exciting, colorful romp that it otherwise was. As superhero fans, we’ve come to expect that deaths of popular characters are temporary at best, with everyone from Bucky to Jean Grey coming back despite the fact that their deaths had redefined the characters’ around them for years (decades!) afterwards , but to see that same lack of permanence shift to the same characters’ movie incarnations is somewhat depressing. Can’t death be just a little bit more final over there, please…?

And then there’s the fact that the resurrection will apparently be happening outside of the movies, oddly enough. For Coulson to be revived in a television series gives the pilot a particular reason to be watched by the millions who came out for the movie, but it also feels as if an important part of the story is happening in a hidden little corner, if that makes sense, when it could have more impact (and make more sense) in a second Avengers movie. The oddness of the venue, in fact, is enough to make me suspicious that Coulson’s return isn’t some kind of fake out, and ends up being a pre-death flashback, or a series of recordings made prior to his demise.

Don’t get me wrong; I get the “Because you demanded it!” aspect of the return, and I’m sure that Gregg is happy that he’s not been kicked to the curb in terms of this massively successful movie franchise, but still: There seem so many more reasons to have kept Coulson dead, once the decision had been made to kill him off in the first place. Bringing him back feels like the first major misstep that Marvel Studios has made in terms of fulfilling expectations since Iron Man was released. Here’s hoping it’s not a sign of things to come.


  • Sean B

    Coulson’s death was the flattest, most cynically manipulative scene in the film. He’s a fascinating character who deserves to continue — and weren’t his best scenes in the Marvel shorts, anyway? Those were DVD extras; TV is a step up from there.

  • 0bsessions

    No. No it is not.

  • Goldenprata

    Fury lied about the collectible cards being in coulson’s pockets when he died. It’s not a stretched to lie about the actual death. At which point Fury was desperate to bring the team together. I expect backlash in Avengers 2

  • Alex Evans

    No, it isn’t, and no, I wouldn’t call Coulson’s death “the central emotional moment” of the movie.  That’s pure hyperbole, but nowhere near as hyperbolic as saying that the entire movie is completely undercut because he’s brought back to life.  What a load.  By that logic, basically every comic involving the death of a character is worthless, giving comics’ revolving door of death.  If anything, Coulson’s resurrection moves the Marvel movies closer to comics, where death and resurrection is part of the genre.

  • EddardStark

    Graeme, you must be the only person on earth who would complain about having to watch more Agent Coulson on screen. 
    I, for one, am all for Clark Gregg having a long and prosperous TV career.

  • Leandro Prieto

    I gotta tell you, when Fury lied about the cards, something smelled funky about the whole “Coulson’s dead” scenario.
    But let’s write articles and discuss this thing after we see the “Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D.” pilot. Besides… what if Agent Coulson makes a surprising uncredited cameo in the post-credits scene of “Iron Man 3″? ;)

  • Mythos


    Ever consider that the series might be a prequel to The Avengers?

  • Guest

    think of all the Whedon series that have been cancelled WITHOUT being brought back. can you begrudge him one little SHIELD Agent? I have faith that they’ll write him into the show well.

  • Alex Holt

    I read it the first time round that he wasn’t really dead anyway – Fury is a manipulator anyway and given you never see his death or a body the only reason we have to assume he ever was is the word of a character who will tell any lie to get a job done, especially given that he setup the whole cards thing…  

  • Carricku

    Nope, Not a bad Idea at all. I would say bringing him back is a rather good idea. (and very in line with what comics have done all along – kill hero, bring hero back, kill hero again, bring back – etc.)

  • Xaos

     Amen; just a couple of days ago, I was watching a West Wing episode that guest starred Gregg in has very occasional recurring role as FBI liaison Mike Caspar, and even in his fairly small role there, he shone.

  • Wildstorm

    I think this show should deal with before the movie, the creation and implementation  of SHIELD.  Early missions before any superheroes.  Episodes like mini Bond films

  • Mccord Larsen

    OF COURSE Nick Fury manipulated the group with the falsification of Coulsons death. Have you never read a Nick Fury book before? The guy’s a dick. That’s his super power. That’s what makes him intriguing and mysterious. They totally build to that too. “Yeah, well there is a lot Fury doesn’t tell you.” – Iron Man the whole central part of the movie is them talking about how manipulative Nick Fury is, and besides the weapons deal they don’t show that. Plus it’s insinuated that he’s lying about Coulsons death when Maria Hill calls him out on the fact that Coulsons trading cards were in his locker and NOT in his pocket as he suggested. So this should not be news to anyone who A. Paid attention to the movie, and B. Knows anything about Nick Fury.

  • Supermoon10

    Who even says this pilot will actually take place in the same continuity as the movies? I doubt they’re going to be able to get any of the others to reprise their rolls for a television show. Spinoffs. That’s how they roll.
    Besides, he’s already active in the Spiderman series. Did that happen before or after the Avengers? Same goes for the SHIELD pilot.

  • Pat

    We all know the avengers are independent from shield, this is probably one of the many catalysts that make them go on their own and move into a mansion.

  • Brad R

    Or the TV series could take place before the movies… which would also help with the “why don’t they get Iron Man or Captain America to help out?” question. 

  • guest

    Graeme, would it kill you, would it physically kill you, to RESERVE JUDGMENT. Just once? ONCE in your life? Because every time you jump the gun, you make yourself look like a complete idiot. Example: “Steven Moffat fudging the truth about the new companion means WE CAN NEVER TRUST CREATORS AGAIN A SACRED PACT HAS BEEN BROKEN ZOMG!!!ONE.” I realize I’m exaggerating, but when you have no evidence to support what you say, it comes off as entitled whining. Please, for all our sakes, reserve judgment.

  • Lorrie

    No, it’s not a bad idea.  Only people who don’t know anything about Nick Fury didn’t assume there was something suspicious about Coulson’s death.  Being proved right would only make us happy, because people like to be right.  That’s assuming that the TV show doesn’t take place before the Avengers movie, of course.  Regardless, I fully expect Coulson to be back in the movies.

  • Sephy

    It doesn’t cheapen it a bit. 

  • coalminds

    He’s not fascinating. Christopher Walken is fascinating in The Deer Hunter. He’s a passable bit character, and bringing him back suggests the same “death means nothing” approach that ruined Marvel’s comics.

  • Black Cesar

    So Graeme, what you are telling us is that you saw the pilot. No? What you are telling us is that you (just like the rest of us) have no clue what is going to happen in the show. 

  • Artoftony

    Dude, you poo-poo on everything.

  • Anonymous

    My problem is that if they revive him as Agent Coulson, then they can’t use his brain engrams for the Vision in Avengers 2 (which would be the most awesome thing to ever happen in a movie)

  • FredII

    Well, we know so little about the story yet, it’s entirely possible the story takes place say in 1980, at the inception of SHIELD, or even just after the name is finalized at the end of Ironman, giving the guy a good couple of seasons before his eventual death.   So I think it’s best to not jump to conclusions on this.

  • Dekko

    It’s funny that some people are using the “Well, the comic books do it” as a reason for why bringing Coulson back would be okay since bringing characters back from the dead is something many fans dislike about comics.  Honestly, it would kinda take away from the movie for me.  I’m hoping the tv show takes place before “Avengers”.  it clears the deck for having to explain why none of them are around except for possibly Black Widow or Hawkeye, the two most easily transferable to a tv-friendly budget.

  • Almeida

    Not necessarily he is being resuscitated. Maybe the TV show is set before the movie.

  • Alan Alexander

    As I’ve said since the night I saw Avengers, they should bring back Coulson in Thor 2 as the viewpoint character. Picture it: a straight-laced, somewhat bookish super-spy who discovers to his complete astonishment that he’s in Valhalla, surrounded by a bunch of rowdy Norse deities, merely because of the fact that he happened to die in glorious combat with a Norse god and is thus entitled to join the Einherjar.

  • Fury

    if it’s set before the movies, fine. flashbacks, also fine. resurrecting him? please Thor, no. I am SO sick of characters getting killed off for the sake of a bit of cheap publicity and then getting brought back a year or two later, usually for the sake of more cheap publicity.

    dead should mean dead.

  • Tim

    I got the impression that SHIELD was pre-Avengers.

  • Tmerritt

    Does the character coming back in some form impact what you felt the first time you saw that moment? No way. You had that moment, you can’t change what you felt when you saw it. It might cheapen any future deaths in marvel films, but these are comic book adaptions… Most of the avengers in the film have been killed off in the comics at least once…
    Frankly I’d be more shocked if he stayed dead… And the is not to say he will be brought back to life, this new Coulson could be the LMD…

  • jrau18

    Vision being in Avengers 2 makes no sense, seeing as Pym won’t be around until Ant Man.

  • Richard Casey

    Your argument is flawed due to the fact that A: It was Coulson’s idea to use his death to rally the heroes, and B: Fury (and was Hill there?) were the only people to be there for his “death” and later on we learn Fury took Coulson’s cards and stained them with blood “for affect”. So Fury’s claim that Coulson dead could be just that, A CLAIM. 
    And that’s assuming they are bringing THE Coulson back and not a LMD or a version of Vision, which would be just fine and work well within the confines of a Joss Whedon TV Show. 
    Furthermore, look at what Marvel’s done so far. If this wasn’t already planned when the flick came out, i’d be fucking flabberghasted. 

    So no, it isn’t a bad idea. Because unless they totally fuck up how they bring him “back”, then Coulson will be in a weekly TV series with Whedon’s fingerprints all over it. And that can be NOTHING but a good thing.

  • FredII

    That is the best idea so far!

  • FredII

    You may notice in classic Fury style, he never actually says “Dead” with regard to Coulson.  Only that the medics “called it”.  So when confronted…one could see him say “I don’t recall telling you Coulson died?”  Plausable deniability.

  • Tbirch42

    Who says the SHIELD show has to be after Avengers? Couldn’t it be from before? I mean, they were in action before Iron Man 1 to begin with.

    And he was active agent then. This way they would not “cheat” with his death in Avengers, but still got to keep him in the show.

  • Chuckamock

    I was thinking that maybe the character would appear in flashbacks in the first few episodes just to establish some continuity between the show and the films.   It doesn’t state anywhere that he will be a regular ongoing character.   Only that he will appear.  Maybe showing him interacting with the tv show’s agents prior to his being killed.  

    Just a though. 

  • Pj Fournier

    Why is it that as soon as I saw the title of this post, I knew it was Graeme McMillan.  All his articles are negatively worded or about how something done is wrong.

  • Lyle

    For me, it depends on how it is done.
    The thing with Joss Whedon is that he is known for killing off well liked characters and just going on without them. When he killed off Buffy in her own show, there was a part of me that wondered if this was it, that he would not want to cheapen her sacrifice by bringing her back. Heck, I would have watched a show called Slayers, which dealt with how the Scooby gang continued to fight the forces of evil without her. It is true, he did bring her back, but there was huge consequences for doing that. Joss Whedon is one of those few writers whom I trust enough to let him do as he wants, and trust that what he does will feel true to the story.
    I could go on with repeating the ways that others suggested you could bring back Coulson, but I just find it annoying that Graeme has outed himself as being a typical nerd. It’s not enough that something we like is well regarded by the mainstream, a typical nerd has to find ways that ‘well, it wasn’t that good, and here are ways that us nerds are much higher thinkers that the mainstream audience.’ Your whole ‘most of the movie was flat’ statement comes off as how most nerds hate Avatar only because it was popular among the mainstream.   

  • Tophman

    I wouldn’t mind Marvel using Coulson as the prototype of SHIELD’s LMD program. It wouldn’t lessen the impact of his death in the Avengers movie and would play into future movies quite well (for instance one of these Coulson LMDs gets into a Johnny 5 ‘accident’ and develops a personality beyond his programming –naturally I’m one of those who think he’d make a great Vision).

    To a lesser effect (which I hope they won’t do), since I’ve read that the TV series would be set in parallel with the Marvel movie universe… they could also do a regular flashback thing (to the time when Coulson was still alive) like they did in Lost (or more recently, Revolution).

    Nevertheless, I’ll hold my judgement of regarding this ‘news’ until the pilot airs. I for one am looking forward to the series.

  • Tophman

     oh, I forgot to mention… this is the Marvel Universe we’re talking about anyway… so no one really dies for good. :p

  • Dekko

    More ambivalent thoughts on this topic:
    — One of the reasons this move makes me apprehensive is that, taking away the fan-love for the character, is Coulson’s story that interesting?  Does he seem like he needs to come back?  He seemed to fulfill his function in the movie.  Bringing him back now strikes me as pandering. Will Hill wake up and simply find Coulson in the shower as though nothing had happened? (although with Joss, nothing would surprise me)
    — With Marvel’s long-term planning in mind, could Coulson or Coulson LMD develop as a character in the tv series as a way to lead into the next Avengers movie?  Keeping in mind the formula thus far, Coulson/Vision would seem to come out of nowhere if he were to suddenly appear in A2, or would take too much time to develop him – but not if they developed his character in the TV show first…

    But ultimately, it boils down to:
    — In Joss I trust.  If this is his idea, I’m sure it’ll be an OMFG moment…

  • That Guy

    Henry Pym could easily be introduced before the Ant-Man film.  That’s like saying you can’t have Hawkeye in “The Avengers” without having a “Hawkeye” film first.

  • jrau18

    Except Ant-Man is an origin movie.

  • Casey Thomasson

    I had the same reaction. All comics fans do is complain that nothing matters in their books, because it’ll all be retconned in another year. Do we want the movies to operate the same way? Sometimes a character, regardless of how beloved, should die when it serves the story. Period.

    My only hope is that his return on the show will involve flashbacks, the Vision, or some hologram-entity or something with his brainscans. Hey, weirder shit has happened, and that way we don’t have to fuck up the emotional center of the movie.

  • RocknRollPewPew

    I actually think that this could be a great thing for the TV series.  If anyone read the Electra series from the 90’s that Bendis wrote, life-model-decoys (LMDs) suddenly became very prominently used by SHIELD.  The great thing about that story was that the main SHIELD agent character didn’t even know that he himself was an LMD until close to the end of the story arc, which was a great twist.  I can see this series going that route with Agent Coulson’s character and it playing out very well as an independent plot line from the movie series.

  • RocknRollPewPew

    Okay, I need to make a correction.  He wrote the Elektra series from 2001 to 2002.  My bad, I should have looked that up before posting…

  • soupowensfowler

    You sir are absolutely alone in the thinking that this is a bad idea. I will graciously say that you are also in a very sparse minority in believing that essentially Coulson coming back to life ruins the entire movie. I respect your opinion but I, and probably millions of other fans, totally and completely disagree with you on this.

  • Kazekun

    Apparently a new rumor spreading around is the for S.H.I.E.L.D. they’re going to build the Vision out of the original Human Torch’s body that cameoed in Captain America: The First Avenger, and base Vision’s brain patterns off of Coulson.

    That, I find acceptable if that is what they end up doing.

  • That Guy

    Origin movie for Ant-Man.  You can still introduce Pym earlier.

  • Christian Hardy

    My preferences for the new series would be: 
    1) Coulson in S.H.E.I.L.D. is a robot, or even better, The Vision. 

    2)S.H.E.I.L.D. is not a prequel. This would be step backwards for the Marvel movie-verse. If the TV series were occurring in the same continuity as the films, it could mean that things we might see in show could possibly have ramifications for the films, or vice versa. That would be multimedia storytelling the likes of which we’ve never seen.

  • randomfan

    Bringing Coulson back is an excellent idea, not just for the TV show, but for the Avengers 2. Nick Fury being a manipulative dick is a great way to build tension between the team and SHIELD, and I’m also inclined to think that it was all part of Fury’s bigger plan, anyway. We saw evidence in the movie that the World Security Council had too much pull within SHIELD (nuclear strike on Manhattan anyone?) and what better way to keep the Avengers out of their reach than by alienating them from SHIELD?

  • Robert Wilson

    It’s not. It takes place AFTER The Avengers.