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We’re just days away from the series premiere of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and a reunion with everyone’s favorite S.H.I.E.L.D. operative, Agent Coulson. Since we know that the question of Coulson’s survival will not be addressed in the pilot, we thought we’d share our five theories on how Agent Coulson survived.

Now, we’re ecstatic that Agent Coulson is still alive. We couldn’t believe it when we read that Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was going to not only feature Agent Coulson, but also take place after the attack on New York. But now we just have to know what happened to Coulson. Until that time comes, our minds are running wild with theories on how he could have possibly survived being stabbed by Loki. Here are the most plausible theories we could come up with.

Dead!Coulson was a Life Model Decoy.

Agent Coulson Sunglasses

When Agent Coulson visits Tony Stark at Stark Tower, Tony attempts to turn him away by answering Coulson’s video call as a Life Model Decoy. As funny as that moment was, we can’t help but think that the Life Model Decoy wasn’t included to just be a two-second gag. It’s too interesting of a concept. Essentially, a Life Model Decoy (or LMD for short) is a robot that’s designed in the exact likeness of a person. They’re designed to be identical body doubles. Therefore, it would be really hard for us to tell if it was Agent Coulson or his LMD that Loki stabbed with his scepter.

Loki killed Agent Coulson’s clone.

Agent Coulson Dying

If S.H.I.E.L.D. has already been able to replicate alien technology in terms of weapons and LMDs are a reality in this universe, who’s to say that they haven’t already mastered human cloning? While it’s a bit less Marvel-esque (and exciting) than him being a LMD, Agent Coulson having a clone may be more likely. LMDs technically are only supposed to replicate the outer appearance of their subject. If you remember, there’s quite a bit of blood that comes out of Coulson when Loki stabs him. The being that was stabbed could definitely have been a clone of Coulson, deployed to fight in place of Coulson because he’s too valuable to S.H.I.E.L.D.

Agent Coulson died, and then was somehow brought back to life.

Agent Coulson Alive

Yes, this is a pretty tame theory (especially for Joss Whedon and the Marvel universe in general), but it is still possible. After all, the Avengers are dealing with supernatural alien forces, and it’s the Marvel universe. Weirder things than resurrection have happened. Whether it’s through modern medicine and science or magic and witchcraft, S.H.I.E.L.D. somehow bringing Coulson back from the dead is definitely plausible. Boring and not very innovative, but possible.

Agent Coulson never died.

Agent Coulson Phone

While we certainly hope that this will not be the direction that Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be going in, it’s definitely a possibility. Joss Whedon has done interviews in which he discussed how he wants to keep the Marvel universe as grounded and as realistic as possible. Since we never saw the paramedics pronounce Agent Coulson to be dead and only heard about it from Nick Fury, Coulson could have never actually died. He may have been on the brink of death but, for all we know, the paramedics could have saved him just in time. We know, we know: it’s probably the most boring theory out there. But we had to throw it out there as a possibility (even though we expect way more from Joss Whedon and Co.).

Agent Coulson was the newest subject in the Super Soldier experiment.

Agent Coulson Shield

Now stay with us here. According to an article on MoviePilot, someone on Tumblr noticed that in Captain America: The First Avenger, the young boy running around with a Captain America replica shield is referred to as “Phil.” Marvel is not one to make mistakes or mention details like that without thought. If we assume that that child is in fact the Phil Coulson we know and love, he would technically much older in these movies than he actually. However, because he’s so devoted to his job and his country, it would make sense that he would be one of the first people to volunteer to test the government’s most recent attempt at the Super-Soldier Serum. How awesome would it be if Coulson was a Super Soldier too?!

What’s your theory on how Agent Coulson survived?

  • Merina

    Oh my gooosh! Love that last theory…sounds totally plausible, and what a brilliant throwback!

    • chrizmyller

      And it would be in line with the comics and how Nick Fury himself slowly ages.

      • Romelle Bradford

        These are the options;

        1. Scarlett Witch (who will be in avengers 2) used her probability powers to increase his chances of survival.

        2. Doctor strange brought him back.

        3. He was taken to Asgard. I say this because the word magical continues to be used (also goes with Scarlett witch and doctor strange).

        4. It’s a robot and his brain is functioning it not knowing he’s dead or critically injured beyond repair.

        5. Extremis was used. He was in critical condition the whole time but after Extremis was perfected it was used to heal him.

        6. Goes with the first 3 theories but Coulson’s essence was put in a robot.

        It has to be one of those 6. I like the Extremis and Scarlett Witch/Doctor Strange ideas. He just kept saying magical and white light.

        • Lauren Chapin

          Yep, I’ve been thinking this Coulson is a robot too! That somehow has been given traits of the real Coulson.

      • stuff

        Nick Fury didnt use super solider serum, he used the Infinity Formula.

  • Chinmay Chawade

    Apart from the first two theories any of the remaining three theories might be possible.

  • http://ravenclaw1991.tumblr.com/ ravenclaw1991

    The first two are slightly plausible, but are a little harder to believe. I think one of the that three are spot on. Its just a matter of finding out which one it is.

  • Ultron

    Plot twist: Coulson is secretly wolverine and therefore doesn’t die. Just kidding. I’d probably stop watching. But yeah I like these theories. The last one is interesting but it doesn’t seem all that likely to me. You’d think he’d be a superhero is he was a super soldier. And how would he be older looking than captain america if captain america was older than him when he was younger? That doesn’t add up. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see

    • Amir Khan

      Maybe he’s wolverine’s like cousin so he doesn’t age and it could bring fox and marvel crossover. (Lol that’d probably never happen tho)

  • erindizmo

    I can’t buy the last one, because the scene at the end of Cap with the young boy running around is completely dialogue-free. The kid is never once called Phil, it’s just an instrumental. Someone on tumblr was basically theorizing — what if it *was* Phil and he ended up in a super soldier program? And so they added the “dialogue” as speculation. It’s not in the actual movie, which is a fun thought, but makes number five by FAR the least likely. (Seriously, go check the movie if you don’t believe me.)

    • Amir Khan

      Well Doctor who pulls little things and clues that turn out crucle. So maybe they’ll show the scene again and reveal it was Coulson. You never know..

    • Ed Hopkins

      I could not find the kid being called Phil either. Has anyone challenged the OP to provide more detail? Could it have been a deleted scene from the DVD?

  • Madha

    I thought I read somewhere that he didn’t actually die, that Nick Fury used his “death” to unite the Avengers? Maybe he was on the brink but saved, and then Fury told everyone he had died so they believed in team work and stuff.
    Or did I dream this?

    • erindizmo

      That’s just one of the by far most prevalent theories. We’ve received no confirmation one way or another.

      • Madha

        Ohhhhh right. It seems plausible for sure though!

    • Matthew Gordon

      That’s the cover story for why Agent Coulson is back. If Agent Coulson 2.0 knew he was a robot, it would cause a break down.

      • Bionic

        I like the eay you think.

    • Shlo

      It’s okay, I dream things and think they’re real too.

    • js29

      ^THIS! It’s like when they never show you a villain actually die in a movie, you know that villain is coming back at some point in the future.

      This would just be turning the concept on its head, and applying it to a hero, instead.

      • Ladyluck523

        Very true! And Joss Whedon likes to take tropes and turn them on their heads!

  • ohrockon

    it would make sense why Coulson was so obsess with Captain America if he was a child during the hype of Cap.

  • Adam Heatherly

    rewatching avengers b4 tuesday is there really a question as to how Coulson is alive? it looks like loki runs the staff through his shoulder im no doctor but since when do you die from a sliced shoulder

    • Lexie

      Since there are a lot of major arteries there. Media plays down how dangerous a shoulder wound actually is.

  • http://drukeeble.tumblr.com/ Sasha

    The “He must never know.” in the trailer kind of rules out the first two for me. I mean, who cares if Coulson’s LMD was killed (destroyed?). I think he was almost certainly brought back to life and the question is how that happened.

    • Suzie

      I think that line makes more sense if Coulson is dead and what we see now is the LMD.

  • Ande Anderson

    My favorite theory is the last one. The fangirl in me would just explode!

  • http://sourmeow.tumblr.com/ Cat Lemonade

    I’m all for that last theory, but honestly? Based on what’s seen in the movies, I think Coulson was just very injured and Fury seized on a very convincing lie to get the super-egos to work together. I’m not terribly familiar with mainstream comics Fury, but in the first few Ultimate X-Men comics and from his attitude in the film, he seems like the kind of a guy that will manipulate a situation and people to get what he wants.

  • Matthew mccoy

    Nick Fury gave him the infinity formula. In iron Man 2 Fury talks about founding shield with Howard Stark and when he mentions him he makes it very clear that they were contemporaries. The only way that could have happened is that in the movie universe Fury has been exposed to the Infinity Formula which greatly retards his ageing. In the comic timelines he’s given it to Bucky and Sharon Carter typo save their lives..

  • Matthew mccoy

    Sorry about the spelling! Cursed sausage fingers!

  • Milk

    The last one is geek theorizing at its worst and most convoluted. I’d much sooner accept a clone.. Most likely though brought back to life or never died. People are brought back to life ALL the time in marvel universe.These are the least stupid of wishful theories. Therefore,the likeliest. Anyway if they are not gonna say in the series, then i think it’s because they just wanted coulson and actually have not spent time figuring out how it might be he survived

  • Obelia

    Did he survive at all? Couldn’t this version of Coulson be an LMD or a clone?

    Not that I want that to be the answer, but….

    • Matthew Gordon

      I vote LMD

  • Zacteria

    Explain to me why cloning isn’t very “Marvel-esque”. Coulson is only interesting because there’s no previous incarnation to compare him to. You might prefer Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man to Tobey Macguire’s, or the Drake Bell voiced on, or Ultimate, or whatever, but there’s just one version of Coulson.

  • Dan

    What f yes he volunteered but they did not the serum right and he got a healing ability but nothing else. Or maybe that the ability he got was he can not die. And he becomes like captain jack from doctor who. Just an idea.

  • RockyAug

    I’m thinking he has his own secret power, ala Wolverine.

  • Bo Pettermann Laugesen

    He just never died… they just used the occasion to bring the avengers together as a team… end of it… thank you.

  • Rochelle Galletly

    One other Marvel movie explains it… Iron Man 3. Coulson is HOT. :D

  • Mrs_Badcrumble

    I am not a fan of the 3 first theories because then it could always be an easy solution to bring agents back. I mean, the adventures would lose a bit of its peril (inside the show) and for us viewers there would always be the sense that some characters would never die, and no matter the danger they could always come back. I don’t know if I’m explaining this right… I just don’t want some lame explanation that would turn Agent Coulson in some kind of immortal dude that could always be resurrected. If he had a clone what would stop them to have a box full of clones? Or what would stop them to always bring people back to life?

    • Suzie

      Um, have you watched a Whedon show before? People die and come back all the time and it doesn’t affect the show’s sense of peril or drama.

      • Mrs_Badcrumble

        I haven’t, to be honest, and I’m sure it can work. I just feel that this kind of solution must be walked carefully as not to become an annoying gimmick. But I have full faith in Mr. Whedon!

  • Bobby74

    He did die, now his clone takes his place but doesnt know he is a clone.

  • Militate am

    Personally, I’d say, he DID die, and the Agent Coulsen leading S.H.I.E.L.D. Is the clone. They’d want to keep it hidden from him (the clone), but revive the role he played.

  • Colleen Carroll

    This Coulson is a clone. The real Coulson died and the only reason that it took so long for him to show again is because they were growing the clone. SHIELD must have found a way to download his memories and put them into the new clone. To explain the time lapse in between growing the clone and now, they implanted memories of a vacation.

    It’s a working theory.

    • Angelo

      If they grow a clone after Coulson’s death, it’s not a clone, but a ghola (Duncan Idaho, get out of here now!).

      • Irabbit75

        10 points for the Dune reference.

    • Anthony Runyon

      I agree with this. It makes sense, because the doctor and other agent side conversation, about him in never needing to know the true.

    • Shlo

      Download memories after death? I think that’s the only real prob with that but, it’s a good idea

      Keep up the ‘work’!

    • Shlo

      And another thing they would want to keep it from him cuz of the whole “I don’t want to be a copy!” thing.

    • Bionic

      I like that theory and think the same

  • Milo Riley

    They gave him some of Captian America’s blood. After he was stabbed by Loki, or he was a volunteer for a super solider SHEILD program right after they found Captian America. If you saw a short film extra on one of the Marvel movies. It features Phil, he stopped an armed robbery on his way to New Mexico. It seemed he has super human abilities.

    • Matthew Gordon

      No, I think he is just really well trained and good at what he does. Until they turn him into an LMD after Loki killed him.

  • Kyle Wisniewski

    I mean during the first episode of Agents of Shield, when the door is blown off the van by Mike, Phil matrixed the door, and was completely calm… pretty super to me.

    • Suzie

      Yeah, but this is also the man who took out two robbers with a bag of flour. He has always been calm and collected.

  • jay

    For those who just watched the first episode the new coulson is a clone, not the orginal.

  • Thomas Sholan

    Alright based on what I saw tonight I STILL think Coulson is the film version of Vision. After being stabbed by Loki he was killed and did DIE, but S.H.I.E.L.D was able to find a way to preserve his consciousness and transfer it into the robotic form of Vision, which is why Maria Hill says he can never know what happened to him. As the series progresses we will find out that Tony Stark built the robot that is now Coulson for S.H.I.E.L.D which will segue into him building Ultron to replace himself as Iron Man in Avengers 2. Ultimately Coulson will not be corrupted like Ultron because of the fact that he has all of Coulson’s memories and moral code.

    • Suzie

      Ohhh! I like this! And they did show Extermis from Iron Man 3. This would be a great way to go, since they want to tie in the movies and the TV show together. It will be interesting to see if/how the stuff from Thor 2 makes it into the show.

    • Ivan Filipe Stefani

      We shouldn’t forget that the movies made pretty clear that they have their own story line, and don’t have to tie up with the comics, what I really enjoy. Why Vision is not based on Tony Stark or Steve Rogers? Because Coulson is what brings the Avengers together. He’s no leader. He’s no hotshot. But he can keep an awesome team together, despite egos, differences, powers, for a great good. That’s why we need Coulson.

  • Nicholas Chee

    I think the real Coulson died in Avengers. The Coulson in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. could be a Life Model Decoy.

    • DCarthage

      I have a slight twist on that theory. Coulson didn’t die, but was severely injured when Loki stabbed him, and is currently in a hospital remote controlling his LMD, but unaware that his real body is lying in a hospital bed or life support unit. According to Wikipedia… “A Life Model Decoy (or LMD for short) is a S.H.I.E.L.D.-designed
      robot that takes the form of a living person thus making a recreation
      of that person. The owner can see through, speak through, and control
      everything the Life Model Decoy does”

      • Nicholas Chee

        I’m quite aware of that too… but I truly hope that’s not the case because if it is… it’ll be too heart wrenching! =(

      • Sara

        This is my favorite of all the theories/comments! And to me seems the most Whedon-esque solution to complicated plot problem: A complicated, heart-wrenching solution.

  • ken1977

    i believe he was taken to the healing room on asgard. he says he saw the white light, which is similar to the light shown in the transport on thor, avengers, and captain america from asgard to earth and back. he said he was in tahiti which, lets face it – asgard looks like tahiti. odin could have had him transported there because he knew coulsons future need with shield.

  • Matthew Gordon

    he wasn’t an LMD, but he is now. Did you see him dodge that van door when it came flying? Plus what was said at the beginning of the show.
    “Tahiti? He really doesn’t know does he?”
    “He can never know.”

    • Irabbit75

      I thought the same thing. The mention of LMD’s in the Avengers (just prior to Coulson entering I might add) plus he was also playing the character slightly more stiffly than in any of the Marvel movies, makes me think that’s the direction they are going and that the rumors of him playing the Vision might be more than rumors.

  • A fan

    How about a prototype lmd with his memories imprinted on it I.e. instead of hank pym you have paulson as the vision! Maybe?

  • Wolfgirl

    I know this may be crazy but… what if the Coulson in this show is a robot and it has been programmed to think it’s the real Coulson.

  • psabt1008

    The super soldier experiment is a thought. He did pull that matrix maneuver by dodging that van door in the first show.

  • Anya

    The Coulson in Agents of SHIELD is a Life Model Decoy but doesn’t know it. This would make sense, since LMD’s have all of the memories and personality of the real person and are nearly indistinguishable from a real person. It would also explain why The Avengers don’t know he’s alive, because the people he was closest to (Black Widow and Hawkeye) would have ways of finding out he’s an LMD.

  • Jeffrey Lee

    I love to see folks rationalizing fiction. He’s really a clone of an LMD with captain’s blood and that caterpillar juice.

  • Franni Vee

    After watching the pilot, I believe that this Phil Coulson is a highly developed clone. That’s where the Tahiti rehab comes in. “It’s a magical place, you should go!” The Tahiti memory is something the clone experiences while it is being brought up to speed, so to speak. So once the clone is living the real person’s life, it doesn’t realize it is a clone. It has all the past memories, including the death. But it believes that it was resisatated, rehabbed in the islands and is now back on the job. Agent Hill has an exchange with the doctor where the doc says “Tahiti? He really doesn’t know, does he?” And Hill replies “And he never can.” Anyway that’s my theory. Regardless, I am LOVING Joss Whedons hand on this show! I am full of gid just thinking about a whole season of S.H.I.E.L.D!!!

  • SebasTián Andrés

    i think Coulson is a Titan and he will attack Maria’s wall anytime soon

  • sbbbugsy .

    Hopefully, they explain the truth in the second episode and not dangle it as a hook to keep us watching.

    If that is all this series has going for it, then it is worthless.

    • http://throughhazeleyes.tumblr.com/ Danielle Zimmerman

      While I do think that this will be a season long (if not more than that) mystery, I disagree with your opinion that this is all that the show has going for it. I thought the pilot showed a ton of potential in terms of characters, dialogue, and plot. I think that the show as a whole will entice us to watch, not just the mystery surrounding Coulson.

  • noylj

    After the pilot, I would include that Coulson was NOT at Tahiti either–the whole thing was a fictional memory and Coulson must NEVER know what REALLY happened or where he was.

  • Waka

    Agent Coulson is an LMD… It’s strongly hinted in the pilot episode.. :( So I guess the real one is dead

  • Joel

    Loki deceived everyone into believing he was dead.

  • Riccaban

    The clues are all there. Agent Coulson was a kid, maybe 6-10 years old when Captain America first showed up. Thus his infatuation and possibly the collectible cards themselves. He died in June of 1981: look at the lisence plate of of his car, Lola. He’s been dead and replaced by an LMD for the last 30 plus years. Tahiti is just a memory implant. There are more clues but don’t have time right now.

  • Riccaban

    Stark makes a reference to LMDs while speaking with Coulson. The way he dodged the van door. I believe he was killed by or in a confrontation involving the Winter Soldier aka Bucky, during the Cold War era ( 1981 might be his resurrection date instead of his death). 681 PCE : June 1981 Project Coulson Eternal? Con Us can be found in Coulson’s name. also Soul Con.

  • Riccaban

    If I’m not right, the only other possible answer is the Titan Theory.

  • Riccaban

    381 PCE

  • Niels Michiels

    i think they just used extremis to resurect him.
    the human brain still has a small electrical charge even months after death and some cell production still exists in the body (hair and fingernails still grow after death).
    if shield put coulsons body on ice (cool but not freezing) extremis could “jumpstart” the body’s cell production thereby resurrecting him.
    it’s a long shot but that could explain it.

  • Idol Threat

    If you read the comics you’d know that LMDs are not a ‘new’ concept and have been connected with the SHIELD mythos since the 60s. Nick Fury has fooled others and avoided death using dozens of LMDs and it was basically protocol for important members of SHIELD to have at least a couple of LMDs of themselves. It wasn’t a 2 second gag, it was a 2 second intro to an integral part of SHIELD.
    The Coulson in the Agents of SHIELD TV show is most definitely a LMD. The agency most likely programmed him to believe he is the original Agent Coulson, and I predict he will be revealed as an android in a plot twist following what would normally be a life-threatening wound.

  • LibraryOfAlexandira .

    Maybe Phil Coulson went to Valhalla. Hall of the dead warriors in Norse myth, it would tie in with Thor’s world. Maybe his mention of his holiday was actually the time he spent in Valhalla just distorted. Phil could of easily left Valhalla and returned to Midgard/earth, Thor is boss in Asgard which is where Valhalla is, Thor could of saw Phil there and let him go back to earth but just got someone to distort his memories because of some rule about people not supposed to know about the place. It would also explain his mention in the tv show about his death seeming longer than 8 secs and the side conversation about him not finding out the truth.

  • Shlo

    Alternate reality? Uh. Other then that I think you covered it.(and that isn’t very likely at all. But… I had to say something.) It also could be someone in disguise and they’re brainwashed. And if he were super then he should have given more of a fight. That’s all that I can think of.

  • Bionic

    My theory is Loki killed Phill .Now Im thinking he is asn LMD after all its Nick Furys bestfriend

  • Riccaban

    Only a robot/machine wouldn’t need to change his clothes.

  • David Petty

    Coulson in the TV show’s muscle memory loss, agents referring to him as already dead – I think it’s crystal clear: the original Coulson died in the Avengers and the Coulson in the TV show is a clone. This explains why he was assigned to a team far away from Fury – Fury not wanting to associate with the clone of his dead buddy.

  • mark

    Coulson is the vision.
    An android created by ultimo who joins the avengers. I beleive he falls in love with one of them. Oh yes and who is the baddy in the next avengers? Ultimo!

  • GatewaySeeker

    he might have been a robot or something because when akela asked agent may about what happened to coulson, she was clueless… and the fact that akela had some x-ray vision of sort… she might have seen what lies inside agent coulson….

  • 00000

    Or he was dead for a bit and came back. It can and has happened in real life. I really hope it’s just that.

  • bandospook

    They cloned him and used technology from the dollhouse (which I bet exists in the SHIELD universe, since it’s Joss) to reprogram the clone.

  • Lron

    Phil Coulson did die due to raptured heart from a stab wound. He survived after undergoing through extensive heart surgery in installing an artificial ‘metallic’ heart. The clues are he did mentioned he had more ‘iron’ after a medical check up to mean he has ticking techie heart (ala Tony Stark’s arc reactor style).

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