“I don’t mean to be a jerk. I mean… sometimes I do. Because I think it’s funny.”
So, yes, one hundredth episode, all four series logos in the beginning, the return of several favorites. Excellent ep all the way around. But let’s talk about the Phil in the room. If this show kills Coulson, I will be so pissed.
I mean, if you’re reading this, you’ve probably seen the love letter to the Marvel films Entertainment Weekly produced this week. They did an extensive recap of all the films so far, with the story, key moments, and the effect each film has on the MCU. Coulson is given a shout-out in all his appearances: introducing the audience to S.H.I.E.L.D. in Iron Man, his vital turns in Iron Man 2 and Thor, his importance narratively in two of the five Marvel One-Shots as a major
thread weaving Phase One together, and, of course, his death in The Avengers. He gets a bright yellow sidebar all his own, where national treasure Clark Gregg demurs on whether the Avengers will ever find out if Coulson is dead or not or dead again, with a crazily noncommittal “When they feels like it’s time to start connecting any of these worlds, they will. I feel like I’ll hear from them then, but in the meantime I have my hands full trying to do a good job on S.H.I.E.L.D.“
This drives me friggin’ bananacakes. I can see how in the early days… the first six movies in four short years… maybe
Marvel didn’t realize how deeply the audience connected with the Everyman mid-level functionary who still had his fingers in everybody’s superhero pie. Whether intentional, a happy accident, or a bit of both, multiplied by Gregg’s
simultaneously stiff-but-warm world-class performance, Agent Coulson was the audience-in for everyone sitting in the seats. Hard to image yourself as the living legend of WWII, a Norse god, or a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist, but dang if you couldn’t see yourself in a suit and tie as a half-exasperated project coordinator for your boss who heads the secret superspy agency you believe in but are also sort of perennially half-over it. This kind of character is valuable.
It took a loud social media campaign of #CoulsonLives to get Marvel to listen. And, of course, they got the message.
Hard to go wrong giving the kids what they want. But they kind of half-assed it by Jeph Loeb marketing it as “it’s all connected” while not really connecting anything at all. Sure, Nick Fury has shown up a couple times, and Maria Hill, and we saw Sif in that one ep… so that means Phil is going to die. It’s the only thing that explains not telling the Avengers but also that Fury, Hill, and Sif interacting with him.
Either that or Rift Deathlok is right and it’s An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge which, strangely, I’d be OK with so I don’t have to start #CoulsonLives2. But that seems like such a misfire, either way. Resurrect Phil for five seasons of side adventures, but he’s dead again at the end? I mean, dead in such a lame way? If he goes out in the last episode sacrificing himself for RDJ or Evans guest-starring, great. That’s got an emotional punch with the added bonus of giving fans what they want (it’s all connected!) with the storytelling evil of you-can-get-what-you-want-but-not-like-it. Or the ol’ Dallas it-was-Bobby-Ewing-in-the-shower the whole time thing. Hmmm. I’m not sure they can convincingly pull off a “You’re on the table, Coulson. Code Blue.” ending without making the movies enter the Westphall Universe since Jasper Sitwell and some technicians were on the Lemurian Star in both S1E16 “The End of theBeginning” and Winter Soldier.
I dunno. Phil dying at the end of the season and Daisy becoming Director of S.H.I. E.L.D. will turn this column into a version of my Discovery rants. They pretty much even have the two characters debate it, this episode:
COULSON: There’s a symbol. An idea, that must continue. A shield.
DAISY: You are the symbol. You are S.H.I.E.L.D. There’s nothing without you.
…and Daisy’s right. As much as the audience loves all these characters, no one signed up to watch this show for anyone other than Phil Coulson. Kill the character and you kill the show. All you’d end up with is some kind of action/sci-fi After M*A*S*H. and nobody wants that.