In Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Coulson makes repeated references to his having been brought back from the dead after having been stabbed by Loki. Wasn't he confirmed dead in Avengers? Or was he just near dead?

And what is with the story of spending time in Tahiti? Is this a metaphor for something? Heaven? Valhalla?

  • 4
    Related on SciFi.SE: Did Agent Coulson die in The Avengers?
    – Izkata
    Oct 24 '13 at 15:12
  • In episode 7 Skye says that Coulson is acting like a robot version of himself....is that foreshadowing? I think so!
    – user6944
    Nov 28 '13 at 20:13

To quote Clark Gregg (who plays Agent Coulson):

What’s the deal with Tahiti. Tahiti’s a magical place. I keep saying that… it’s where I went to recover after being impaled and as I say in the pilot, it was a spectacular experience, I had a beautiful physical therapist and I read Travis McGee novels all day.

But every time someone mentions it lately I seem to go into post traumatic stress so I think there’s a little more to Tahiti than meets the eye.


There’s a much darker, more interesting story there. Something much more magical has gone on to bring this guy back to life.

Because of the word "magical" one theory is that Scarlet Witch had something to do with his resurrection. (Scarlet Witch will appear in 'The Avengers 2'). But at the moment it's pure speculation.

In an interview (Nov 18, 2013) producer Jed Whedon had this to say about Coulson's resurrection:

We know that there's going to be a lot of theories and there's no chance that whatever we reveal won't, at some point, be written on the internet. We're just trying to come up with ways to make it surprising or make it not how they expected it to unravel.

We know what it is, but we know that no one else does yet.

The last sentence is interesting, because it implies that the most popular theories, which Jed Whedon must be aware of, are probably wrong.

  • 1
    Good point, Oliver. Perhaps they are thinking of tying the show into Age of Ultron...
    – Nobby
    Oct 24 '13 at 16:35
  • 3
    I'm hoping for a Dr. Strange connection, personally.
    – Random832
    Oct 24 '13 at 16:48
  • I think that including the line before Whedon's quote about Coulson possibly not being an LMD might be useful. Thanks. Nov 21 '13 at 15:19

I was under the impression that Coulsen was a LMD (Life Model Decoy).

This is a plot device that has been used before in the comics (Nick Fury often turns out to be a LMD whenever he is defeated) and is even mentioned in Iron Man III:

"You have reached the life model decoy of Tony Stark, please leave a message..."

This would explain his ongoing memory lapses, the alluded-to 'loss of muscle memory', and the number of times an old companion or colleague has mentioned that he 'doesn't seem the same'.

Of course, this is merely speculation on my part (and many others), but the signs all seem to be pointing that way.

As for Tahiti - implanted memories?

  • 1
    Nice speculation. At the current moment we can only speculate, so +1. Oct 24 '13 at 13:28
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    Indeed, I was theorizing some sort of android myself without even knowing about Marvel's LMDs...
    – Izkata
    Oct 24 '13 at 15:12
  • 1
    Further evidence is that in the fourth episode, Eye Spy, a character who had X-Ray (backscatter) vision asks "What did they do to him?" as she's leaving. This fits best with him being an LMD/android, (rather than magical ressurection), since it's apparently something that can be spotted with an xray Oct 24 '13 at 19:15
  • Another good point!
    – Nobby
    Oct 24 '13 at 19:56
  • 1
    @DavidRobinson - But if she had "seen" that he was a LMD, why did she trust him? Why did she never question wether this robot was actually Coulson? - And Leo's comment about the tech of Akela's eye: "... this small and internal... is at least a decade ahead of everything I have seen" made me wonder if SHIELD can currently make LMDs that are as advanced as Coulson would have to be. - And it brings up the question: Is this LMD the real Coulson or an AI who thinks it's Coulson?
    – Oliver_C
    Oct 25 '13 at 10:22

From what I gather from watching the first four episodes, so far, it seems that Coulson's death and return will be a part of the story arc for the show. It appears that Coulson did indeed die and was somehow brought back, possbly using alien (Asgardian, Chitauri, other) technology.

Coulson himself believes he was near death and was sent to Tahiti to recuperate. From dialog between Melinda May and Grant Ward in one of the first episodes, it appears that it's accepted knowledge that that did not happen.

I'm guessing whatever happened to him is behind Nick Fury's decision to give him this team, and will be revealed, slowly, throughout the season.

  • In the first episode Coulson actually states he was dead for 40-some (I think? ... don't remember the exact number) seconds, then was brought back to life. Welcome to Level 7. Oct 24 '13 at 12:43

At a certain point in the first season of the show, it was revealed that Coulson died for a lot longer than the number of seconds he was led to believe he died for.

He actually underwent an experimental procedure named Project T.A.H.I.T.I, which was designed to resurrect a member of the Avengers in the event of their death using the blood of an alien from the Kree species. Nick Fury decided that Coulson was so important to the creation of the Avengers that his death warranted the use of the procedure too.

The reason that Coulson can't remember any of this is that the process of bringing people back to life also had the side-effect of implanting the Kree's "genetic memory" into them, sending the test subjects mostly insane and compelling them to carve strange alien symbols and diagrams into whatever they could get their hands on.

As such, a memory wipe became part of the procedure in order to attempt to remove the implanted "genetic memory" - however, unbeknownst to SHIELD, that only ever worked temporarily. After seeing how traumatic the overall process was, the person running the tests shut the project down - in an ironic twist, that would be Agent Phil Coulson himself. Whose memories of the project were deliberately wiped when he was bought back to life using the very project he had tried to stop. His memories of this period were replaced with - you guessed it - a relaxing holiday in Tahiti. It's such a magical place.

In short, Coulson was bought back to life by an experimental procedure that he personally disagreed with, which is why its use was kept secret from him.

  • 1
    IIRC some of the reconstructive surgeries required the patient to be conscious - further adding to the psychological trauma and the need for memory alteration.
    – OrangeDog
    Sep 1 '16 at 17:58

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