“There was never gonna be a SHIELD show without Agent Coulson."
So said Joss Whedon in a video message played at New York Comic Con this afternoon. It came with the announcement that Clark Gregg would be playing the character on SHIELD, Marvel Studios' first big foray into television. The pilot is being written and directed by Joss Whedon.
That's really big news, since Agent Coulson was killed off in The Avengers (spoilers). How will he appear on the show, considering his definitive fate in the movie? “Ever heard of a Life Model Decoy?" Gregg, who was in attendance, told the crowd. "Coulson Lives.”
The Life Model Decoy is an often-ridiculed comic plot device introduced in Strange Tales way back in 1965. The LMDs are androids, who are indistinguishable from who they're mimicking, including brain waves and maybe even DNA. They were originally intended to be used as doubles for high profile public figures who might be targetted for assassination; eventually HYDRA used a Nick Fury LMD to infiltrate SHIELD. There have been a whole host of Nicky Fury LMDs over the years, and LMDs have been used to explain away Fury's death on a couple of occasions. If I remember correctly much of SHIELD was taken over by LMDs during the Nick Fury vs SHIELD miniseries, in fact.
Anyway, the LMDs made an appearance in The Avengers as a joke, when Tony Stark claims to be his own LMD when Agent Coulson tries to call him. So I suppose the dead Coulson could be an LMD. Or maybe the LIVING Coulson is an LMD, one that will turn into the Vision - the popular android Avenger.
Or maybe SHIELD takes place before The Avengers. This is interesting, because it allows the show to sidestep the major players in the Marvel Movieverse and the presence of aliens and stuff. If the show follows a semi-X-Files pattern - agents investigating weird phenomena that introduces elements of the larger Marvel mythos - this makes sense. Of course the show could be more Men in Black, but I sort of wonder if an X-Files approach doesn't make more TV sense.
Alternately, Coulson can show up in a bunch of flashback stuff. That would be the shittiest way to do it, I think, but I trust Whedon to make anything work at this point.
If the show is not a prequel to the Marvel Movieverse, Coulson's survival has a big impact on Marvel Phase Two. Such a big impact that the show probably isn't even a pilot at this point, but essentially a guaranteed broadcast of some sort. Whether or not it goes to series, the inclusion of Coulson tells us that we will see SHIELD airing on ABC at some point, come hell or high water.