Some People Are Still Disappointed Coulson Didn’t Come Back in ‘Endgame’

One common complaint about the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been that there are no real stakes. Even paying the ultimate price by giving your life in the line of duty can seem meaningless when death is but a temporary inconvenience. 

The problem is, this doesn’t just happen to the actual superheroes. It happens to mere mortals like Phil Coulson, the devoted SHIELD agent who died in the original Avengers movie. He got resurrected on TV. 

What happened to Agent Coulson?

Clark Gregg on the red carpet
Clark Gregg | Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images

Coulson, played by Clark Gregg, was the director of SHIELD. He didn’t have the flash and fire of Nick Fury, but he made up for that with steadfast, unflinching loyalty. He endured everything from aliens to Tony Stark’s withering quips, and nothing seemed to faze him. He always came back for more.. 

That is, until the attack on the helicarrier when Loki killed him. Before that, the Avengers had been bickering amongst themselves. Loki used this to his advantage, probably knowing if they ever got their act together, they would be well-nigh impossible to beat. In killing Coulson, however, Loki sealed his fate by galvanizing the team, who determined to work together. 

For the Agents of SHIELD ABC TV series, Coulson was brought back to life on Fury’s orders and to make the retcon complete, his memory was stripped. We didn’t see Coulson again in the movies until a younger version of him appeared in Captain Marvel, which takes place before most of the other MCU events.

What do fans say about Coulson? 

Fans felt Coulson’s absence, particularly in Endgame, which rounded up every living character at the end for the final farewell. Since Coulson was technically alive, he ought to have been a part of that movie somehow. 

A topic starter on Reddit said:

“I really wish Coulson was in endgame- at least in one of the time travel scenes. He was an important factor in the avengers getting together in the first place. And Natasha and Tony died without knowing that he was alive and still working behind the scenes the best he can. They seemed to tie up all loose threads in endgame but the fact that nobody knew Coulson was alive didn’t come up. He was such an important part of most of Phase 1. And according to Nick Fury. He was an avenger.”

Another fan tried to play time travel semantics, arguing, “According to the MCU, Coulson is still dead. Agents of Shield is its own tangent. Though it refers to the movies, it is not truly connected. It’s a very one-sided relationship.Yes, I know. I’m going to get downvoted. Fire away.”

Do Marvel movies really have no stakes?

The fan’s time travel point actually speaks to the “no stakes” argument. If you can just use time travel to solve every problem or reverse every action, what’s the point of all the heroics? If characters can come back from the dead with portals and weird treatments, should we feel bereft when anybody dies? Tony Stark is dead, but people have already theorized that Robert Downey will return to the MCU after his first post-Marvel movie Dolittle bombed. 

Legendary director Martin Scorsese spoke about this in his editorial elaborating on his controversial “Marvel is not cinema” remarks. He wrote: “Many of the elements that define cinema as I know it are there in Marvel pictures. What’s not there is revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger. Nothing is at risk. The pictures are made to satisfy a specific set of demands, and they are designed as variations on a finite number of themes.”

Marvel fans wildly disagreed, and they can always point to the massive box office figures and say there’s no arguing with success. But when fans themselves notice that it’s not fair that Coulson is not there, perhaps Marvel and other big franchise filmmakers would do well to remember what real danger means.