Earlier this week it was confirmed that none other than fan-favorite non-Avenger, SHIELD agent Phil Coulson, would be returning to the big screen after the better half of a decade away from it.Â Captain Marvel, the upcoming MCU film and the first in the franchise headlined by a female character, will pair Coulson with former SHIELD director Nick Fury as they support Carol Danvers (the titular Captain Marvel) in her debut adventure.
Coulson’s character was introduced in the very first MCU movie, Iron Man, as the polite and ineffective government agent looking to debrief Tony Stark about the peculiar circumstances surrounding his escape from terrorist captivity in the first act of the film.Â And, at the end of Stark’s origin story, he provides Tony with an alabi, covers up Obadiah Stane’s death and invents the cover story of Iron Man being Stark’s bodyguard (all three of which Stark promptly throws away by impulsively declaring “I am Iron Man”).
In the half-decade since, Coulson appeared in three other films, more than any other character in the franchise at that time.Â He returned as Stark’s SHIELD-mandated nanny when he was “encouraged” to work on a solution to his terminal palladium poisoning.Â His men were the ones that stole Jane Foster’s research after she witnessed the Bifrost opening and who were subsequently beaten to a bloody pulp by Thor when he tried to get it back.Â And then, of course, in The Avengers, Coulson shamelessly gushed upon meeting his childhood hero (Captain America) and died defending the SHIELD Hellicarrier against Loki and his brainwashed minions.
Since then, he was resurrected using Alien gene-splicing in the ABC series Agents of SHIELD.Â He first appeared as the head of a handpicked team of agents that traveled the world collecting and neutralizing unexplained phenomena (like a light-hearted X-Files unit) and then later was promoted to the director of a now-outlawed and considerably smaller SHIELD (following the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier).
It has been the hope of fans since then that Coulson would return to where he rightly belonged — the big screen — where he could interact with full-fledged Avengers once more: the context in which he always made the most sense and was the most fun to watch.Â Unfortunately, this never materialized for a number of reasons.Â As the film and TV sides of the media-spanning mega-franchise are technically run by different departments within Marvel, they each have fundamentally different goals and creative teams behind them.Â Especially since the head of the TV department wanted nothing to do with the movies, substantive crossovers between the two never materialized, dashing the hopes of fans the world over for mingling the Avengers with the Defenders and bringing Coulson back to the big time.
There was a second complication: one that was both the driving force behind both Coulson’s big screen absence and why fans so desperately wanted to see it happen.Â Coulson died.Â Like literally died.Â Lying cold on the operating table died.Â Dead enough to bring the Avengers together in their hour of greatest need.Â Dead enough to cause a major, Civil War-scale rift in the team if he suddenly showed up alive and well again in the middle of one of their iconic crossovers.
And while Captain Marvel promises to bring back Coulson, they also assure fans that they will not be addressing the time that he spent on Agents of SHIELD at all.Â Now, you would naturally imagine that if he suddenly showed up alive and well on the big screen again after all of these years, he’d have some explaining to do: not just because he was absent for so long, but because he is the new Nick Fury of the MCU.
He’s the new director of SHIELD.Â He’s kind of a big deal.
The solution, however, is deceptively simple.Â You see, Captain Marvel is actually an MCU prequel.Â Whereas the movies have been most lycontemporaneous at this point, being assumed to take place in the same year that they are released in, some of them have broken the mold.Â Captain America: The First Avenger, for instance, is set during World War II.Â The Guardians of the Galaxy Movies take place only a few months apart from one another, rather than a few years.Â And Captain Marvel takes place in the 1990s.
So of course they won’t be bringing up the events of Agents of SHIELD.Â Coulson’s appearance here will predate them by no less than two decades!Â Throw him in a modern-set movie, though, and there would doubtless be some stories to tell!