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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"Actually, if anyone asks, don't say I got beat up by a one-armed girl."
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September 26 2013

(SPOILER) The biggest unanswered questions from the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot. Via io9.

i love agent coulous, but the injury he surfaced was fatal, so i'm thinking more like what joss does, ghosts with power. i.e. Wesley in Angel
I was literally seconds away from asking about this particular point;

"What did Skye hide in her bra when she went back to her van?

We're obviously supposed to think Skye still has secrets — see above about Rising Tide maybe not being just one person — and when she's grabbing stuff at her van, she sticks something that looks like a microchip into her bra. She's hiding something. Something devious and hacktastic."

I had taken it to be the GPS/SIM card or such she later used to signal SHIELD as to where her and Mike were - presumably taken in case she needed someone to be able to find where she was being `held` at some future time. Hmm. Anyone..?

[ edited by apollo11 on 2013-09-26 12:48 ]
Maria Hill said something like "He can never know" right after Coulson referred to his fabricated death as only having to do with holding his breath for a few minutes. Clark Gregg also said that the explanation would be true to the comics. Nothing is as true to the comics as the Life Model Decoy thing. It provides such an internal turmoil. Why wouldn't Joss take advantage of that?
I don't know much about that stuff... does a LMD imply that Coulson is still alive somewhere, controlling it?

Regarding Skye, I'm a bit surprised they thought it would be easier to find who Mike was by taking a clear picture and running it through a hacked facial recognition database, than swiping an ID. I'm thankful AoS is not relying on "magic through technology" for everything, and I thought that scene was nice, with the final bye-bye/they're-coming-for-you handwave.
The LMD stuff would mean that the real Coulson is dead.

[ edited by Out. For. A. Walk. Bitch. on 2013-09-26 14:46 ]
If we're dealing with an LMD, it does raise the question: why? Why bring back Coulson and risk the Avengers finding out about him? What's valuable about Coulson himself, rather than another person (or a 'bot with his knowledge, but not his appearance/personality)? Very curious.
The majority believes firmly into the LMD theory but I dont. It would be too obvious and cheap for a Whedon show if we can see things coming from a mile away. I am sure the reveal of how Coulson survived will be something else entirely that nobody expected. I think they just try to mislead us for now, making us more and more convinced of the LMD thing only to then take the rug from under us.

Skye seems to be the character that polarizes and interests people the most (besides Coulson of course), she´s probably my favorite female character too. She has obviously some big secrets and you dont know if you can trust her. She is not a clean cut character and I like that.

However I feel that the characters dont really have the usual charisma of Joss Whedon main characters. For instance, I thought JAR and Cobie Smulders were far more charismatic.

And as cool and fun as Coulson is, I dont think he can carry a whole show as a lead. I am also still a bit confused how he suddenly became such a big character to everybody. Before Avengers, he only was in 3 films in fairly small roles. In IRON MAN 1 he was just the "I want to debrief Tony" guy. In IRON MAN 2 he was basically only there to annoy Tony.

In THOR he had more of a role but he still wasnt a character that I invested myself in emotionally. He had a few funny scenes with Thor and that was it.

So in AVENGERS he was a familiar face but why did people suddenly become so emotionally attached to him? When Loki "killed" him, it was shocking because it was unexpected but it wasnt as emotional to me as for instance the death of Wash, which was done in a similar way as something very unexpected and sudden. So when Zoe went all vengeance on the Reavers afterwards I could understand that.

But it felt very odd to me that the Avengers were so affected by Coulsons death. Particularly Tony. Tony didnt like Coulson in the IM films, he mostly was an annoyance to him. But he didnt have an attachement to him. Banner didnt know Coulson at all, Cap had only met him as a giddy fan and Thor respected him but I dont think he was attached to him either.

And probably a lot more agents died in the attack on the Helicarrier, yet the Avengers seemed to be affected only by Coulsons death. I found that very odd and I couldnt really feel that as much as felt some of the deaths in other Whedon works.

I´d wager that if Coulson hadnt died, he wouldnt be nearly as popular right now. Once he died he suddenly became this super-beloved character to the Avengers and the fans and all. Sometimes I have the feeling that this rise in Coulsons popularity only happened because A) Joss killed him and you are supposed to feel sad for characters killed by Joss and B)Joss basically tells us in Avengers (through the mourning of Coulson) that everyone was greatly attached to this man and so we should be to.

I dont think his rise in popularity happened organically, I feel its something that the Avengers movie told us to feel.

I like Coulson, he is a cool, fun and quirky guy but is he someone me or any of the Avengers attached themselves to emotionally before he died? I dont think so.

Thats why I am not sure if Coulson can really carry a whole show for (hopefully) several years or if he is actually more fun if he interacts with superheroes instead. I think secretely everyone missed Iron Man, Cap or Thor in the Pilot (and found it to be quite highlight anytime they were referenced). Coulsons best moments are when he plays off these guys. He cant do this here and it could hurt his character. But we´ll see.

I loved Maria Hill btw, Cobie owns that role and I hope now that HIMYM is over (It has ended right?) she can guest-star more often and maybe one day even be a regular. Some Sam Jackson in it would also be awesome, I know that he wants to.

What I am wondering is why wouldnt they put Hawkeye in the show? He would be a great connection between the bigger heroes and the ordinary agents. I understand that you cant put Scarlett Johansson in a TV show (plus she is going to have a big role in the next Cap film) but Jeremy Renner certainly was on TV before and Hawkeye wont be featured in any new film prior to Age of Ultron. he also doesnt have superhuman powers which fits greatly into the shows tone so I think he would be a perfect fit for the show.

I would also love it if they would bring in Bruce Banner from time to time (Not as Hulk of course, that cant be pulled off on TV) since he isnt going to be in a movie for the next 2 years either.
Ultron: HIMYM is currently in it's last season, so she is still pretty busy for now. I sincerely hope that Cobie will at least make intermittent appearances on AoS this year, as her schedule allows. I think that getting her on full-time (or, at the very least, frequently recurring) for Season 2 would be a no-brainer for pretty much everyone involved.
thanks for the info :) She is going to be in the next Cap film as well right? Having her as regular on AoS would be an enormous benefit for the show and could give her character development and arcs that she cant have in the films (because of her limited screen time in them)

Ha one day they´ll probably floor us all by having all of the Avengers make an unannounced cameo in the show^^ Just imagine Fitzsimmons meeting Tony haha. they would geek out so hard lol
My hope is that SO MANY people are saying "Coulson is an LMD" that the writers will feel obligated to change it, just to avoid the embarrassment of the anti-climactic "big reveal."

...Assuming it actually is their intent that he's an LMD, which I still don't believe. Joss has been around the block enough times that he knows better than to give us a majorly hyped mystery with such an obvious answer.
Someone brought up the very valid point on io9 that it would be a bit of a leap to have the `lower level` Jarvis or Ultron AIs around and just being created, while SHIELD is able to have an indistinguishable from human `conscious` AI walking around as an LMD. Nor do I personally think it could be something similar only with the `living brain` inside. Whatever it is, it *has* to be something that would be unbearably traumatic for Coulson himself, and Maria and Ron's character know it and must understand why he can't be told.
Yeah the whole LMD thing just wouldnt make any sense right now, if you really think about it. Plus its a cheap solution that everyone is already expecting more or less. I expect more ingenuity than that from Joss, Jed, Jeff and Mo.
I want to know if we're going to meet that cellist from Portland.
From an interview with Jeffrey Bell:

Will we ever meet Coulson's cellist?

We talk about her a lot. I'll just say that.

Yay! Glad to hear it. :-)
I expect more ingenuity than that from Joss, Jed, Jeff and Mo.

Back in 2001 when Buffy Season 6 was on the air, there was massive fan interest in why Buffy came back "wrong" and why Spike could hit her without feeling pain. When it was revealed it that it was a result of her molecules getting altered, you could hear balloons deflating across the fandom.

Also the ins and outs of how Spike came back from the dead was somewhat convoluted to put it mildly. So having been bitten twice, I'm not going to be bitten again. I'll predict that Coulson's resurrection will be explained in very simple terms and this will satisfy few fans.
I always thought it was rather clear how Spike came back. his soul was stored in the amulet and once back at W&H was then released. A spell then returned him to corporeal form. That never seemed convoluted to me in a magical world like the Buffyverse. Well at least thats how I always experienced his return. I am sure there are countless other crazy theories floating around somewhere about that.

But seriously I really doubt its going to be the LMD thing. If there is one thing Whedon stories stand for than that they are not doing the obvious that everyone is expecting.
I think 99.9% of the audience isn't expecting it to be LMD, as they have no idea what that is.
You´re claiming that 99.9 % of AoS´s audience are not Marvel comics fans? I beg to differ.
To give it some perspective, The New Avengers v2 #29 sold 59,441 copies. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premiered to 12,100,100 viewers. When you think comic fans have to read particular issues to be aware of LMD when they're used in stories... Most of the audience aren't sat thinking about Luke Cage or LMDs.
yes but I still doubt that only 0.01 percent of the audience are Marvel fans who know the characters and the meaning of LMD. You dont necessarily need to be a die hard comic reader to know the Marvel Universe. Even though I am kind of biased because I actually am reading Marvel and DC Comics for 2 decades by now ;)
I think a lot of people are huge fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but that hasn't crossed over into the comic books that well. That's one of reasons why Joss' Astonishing X-Men has done so well. You didn't need to know much of the X-Men back-story to enjoy what was on the page.
I read the Fantastic Four and I don't remember any LMDs (though I figure it's Androids based on real people).

Coulson's a zombie. A cute zombie.
you´re close redeem147. A Life Model Decoy is indeed a robot or android which is almost indistinguishable from the living person its based on, posessing the real persons voice, mannerisms, memories, skills and not even biological scans can show the difference. Its a lot like the Buffybot concept (which I have a feeling is based on LMDs) though the Marvel LMDs mimic the living person perfectly down to every detail (unlike the Buffybot)

Another major difference is that LMDs are being controlled by the real persons they are supposed to mimic.

SHIELD often employs them, especially Nick Fury had a lot of them simply for protecting him. You dont find LMDs that much in Fantastic Four, Spider-Man or X-Men comics.

Deadpool made fun of it once when a bunch of Deadpool LMDs attacked the real Deadpool but since he is so crazy and unpredictable the LMDs really struggled to mimic him.


Yeah the same goes for Ultimate Universe which was specifically designed by Marvel for two reasons: A) so they can make the characters like Spider-Man and the X-Men teenagers again and B) so you could enjoy a Marvel universe without needing any prior knowledge of the 616 Universe (the main universe in Marvel comics).

I especially loved Ultimate X-Men. the first 100 issues of Ultimate X-Men is one of my most beloved comic series of all time and hands down my favorite version of the X-Men. Unfortunately they utterly ruined the Ultimate Universe by killing off nearly all of the fan favorites (Wolverine, Cyclops, Beast, Nightcrawler etc.) and replacing Peter Parker with Miles Morales as the new Ultimate Spider-Man. UGH, I so hate what Jeph Loeb (yep one of the Agents of SHIELD producers!) did to the Ultimate Universe in the Ultimatum event.

Several elements in the MCU are based on the Ultimate version. Hawkeyes design for example is taken from Ultimate, as well as the Chitauri. And actually they based Nick Fury in IRON MAN 1 on the Ultimate Universe Nick Fury (who is actually white in the 616 verse but recently they added his son who happens to look an awful lot like the Sam Jackson version^^), who in turn had been based on Sam Jackson (years before Sam was even cast as Fury. Go figure^^)

Btw in the Ultimate Universe the Avengers are actually named the Ultimates.
Coulson's survival of "getting shanked by the Asgardian Mussolini" is definitely the top mystery for Agents of SHIELD and it may not be answered completely this season for all we know. Certainly, Coulson being a LMD would explain a good chunk of how Coulson's walking around after a fatal stabbing but it seems Marvel lore has LMDs as robotic avatars for the person being duplicated and aware of their situation. So unless real!Coulson is a brain in a jar running LMD!Coulson without being aware he's an LMD now? Some lore modification needed ;P

Now, since "Coulson as LMD" is a persistent theory and now seemingly too obvious a choice for Joss and Co. to take, there are several other ideas for how Coulson's seemingly not dead:

1) Coulson's a Skrull - Skrulls are a big Marvel enemy, they have the ability to mimic and assume a person's ID to a level that fools everybody. SHIELD could have captured a scout and kept "him" (since I don't recall any cross-gender Skrull dupes) on ice or something and used memory alteration to make a perfect duplicate of Coulson. However, why would SHIELD go to the trouble is the question;

2) Nick Fury made a deal with Mephisto - a longshot explanation since Coulson, as awesome as some of us think he is, has never been presented as someone who is so valuable to SHIELD or apocalypse prevention that Fury would deal with the Marvel Universe's version of the Devil to keep him around;

3) Coulson is the Six Billion Dollar Man - also known as the "Coulson is a cyborg" train of thought, since several technologies shown in the MCU films could allow for advanced limb and organ replacements. Coulson could be mostly tech and every one's preventing Coulson from knowing because of presumed concerns over a psychotic break of no longer being just a man;

4) Coulson was resurrected by the Asgardians as a show of faith or apology for the crap Loki pulled - not completely impossible but even if Asgardian tech was able to resurrect the recently dead - which for a warrior culture would be handy - Odin and Thor technically are on the hook for all the people killed during the Destroyer's rampage in New Mexico and the Battle of New York.

Plus, I'm sure there are other ideas that could be mined from the decades of Marvel comics that I'm not familiar with ;P
The answer is obvious.

Coulson was dead, but SHIELD arranged for a blood transfusion from a genetically-engineered Indian warlord, which brought him back to life. (Evidently, part of the modifying made Khan him look like a pale Englishman, instead of a muscled Mexican.)

On a more serious note, I suspect that the mystery is not how he was brought back to life. I think the mystery is what happened after. Maybe Tahiti was an implanted memory to cover the truth. Was he abducted by an Igor-type, and subjected to experiments (ala Colossus in Astonishing X-Men)?

[ edited by OneTeV on 2013-09-27 02:26 ]
I have no problem with the LMD twist as being too "obvious" and I'm not sure why anyone else would either. There really aren't a whole lot of other options that would work well, given what we know so far. It's not the explanation that matters but how well it is executed and whether it can enhance the narrative. With Joss & Co. at the wheel I have every confidence that the LMD thing could be done well and be a source of some terrific conflicts/stories. E.g., Someone could mess with his programming and turn Coulson evil or use him for evil purposes, or Coulson's new body could have special powers; SHIELD itself could be using him as part of some nefarious (or at least ethically questionable) scheme. Maybe he's being developed as a weapon to be used against super-powered folks who don't toe the party line. The possibilities are endless. And as we know, Joss loves to torture characters we love, and that often ends up being his best stuff. All this makes me really want him to be an LMD, surprising or not.

[ edited by Squishy on 2013-09-27 04:11 ]
What Squishy said, but especially this:

It's not the explanation that matters but how well it is executed and whether it can enhance the narrative.
Ultron, I was a huge fan of the Ultimate range. Millar, Bendis and Ellis knocked stories way out of the park.
He's actually Coulson's evil twin, who was mindwiped by the Dollhouse tech and reimprinted by the Tophertwins (Fitz handling the tech, Simmons the biology - such as removing the givewaway `evil twin goatee`).

The real Coulson is in the Attic, which he can never know because the processing power of the Attic will lead to the creation via Jarvis of the more advanced Ultron AI. Ultron will end up taking on aspects of the real Coulson in a confrontation with Tony Stark resulting in CONFLICT AND PAIN for both until...
Okay, I'm done.
#welcometotheattic #sogladtohaveyou
LMD might seem obvious to comic book readers and it might seem like a bit of a cop out to the casual fan, but I still think it is the most likely answer.

In the TV Guide interview, Maurissa responded to the question about Coulson by saying, "We feel that everyone out there is going to guess something that might be accurate. What we're more going to explore is the journey of him getting to the answer." So it isn't going to be the big reveal that gets everybody, but how it comes about and the implications it has.

My main objection to the LMD theory is that LMD's are controlled by the real life person so it doesn't make sense that Coulson "can never know" what happened. Maybe there is a twist on that somehow?

yeah Ultimate was awesome. Too bad Marvel ruined it big time with Ultimatum. Now its just a shadow of its former self with all that crap about Wolverines son, Tian, Jean being en evil bitch, no real X-Men anymore etc. And dont even get me started how they raped Bagleys Spider-Man. Hell they even killed off Iron Man too.

I gave up completely on Spider-Man after reading his books for over 10 years when they erased his marriage with Mary Jane from history in the 616 verse. Totally unacceptable. And I am glad I did. I loved Spidey in the years before that (especially the 80s and 90s stuff with Venom and Carnage) but look at what he is now: Dr. Octopus in Spider-Mans body. At first I thought that was a bad joke but thats actually what they turned this character into.

At least Bendis is doing great stuff with the X-Men right now. It will take a LOT for me to give up the X-books. they were the first comics I ever loved (I started in 1993 with the Claremont/Lobdell/Jim Lee run of X-Men) and have not stopped reading them ever since. I stayed with the X-books even in the worst years. Though when Morrison killed off Jean AGAIN I came close to burning that comic lol. Though I might drop the books if they kill off Wolverine (like thats ever gonna happen lol) since he is my most fav Marvel character of all time. In fact there is only one superhero I love more than him and thats Superman (hence my love for the Tv show Smallville, which is my favorite non-Whedon network show)

About the LMD thing again:

One of the reasons why I dont see this working is that it would be too weird to have that kind of technology in the MCU already. Compared to that JARVIS or even Ultron wouldnt be so special really if SHIELD already has androids running around that can perfectly mimic any person down to the last detail. And like it was stated before, LMDs are controlled by the real person which would mean that the Coulson LMD is controlled by the real Coulson who would be hidden somwehere. It just doesnt feel right to me.

And I would feel cheated if the lead character on the show would be revealed to be a robot or clone and not be the real deal. That just would really rub me the wrong way.
Ultron, haven't LMD's already been established in the Iron Man movies? I thought I remembered Stark pretending to be one as a joke while taking a phone call.
yes Tony said that line in Avengers because he didnt want to talk to Coulson. However that was just a joke which was obviously meant by Joss as a shout out to the comic fans who know full well what a Life Model Decoy is. But That was just an in-joke, not a confirmation about the existence of actual Life Model Decoys.

Smallville did something similar a lot of times when they would jokingly mention something from the DC Comics universe, that however was not meant as an actual confirmation of that existing.

An example that comes to mind would be when Chloe told Clark that she had met a "billionaire with lots of toys" and "a wondrous woman which could give even you a run for your money" These were obvious shout outs to Batman and Wonder Woman (which could not appear on the show). While later in the comic Season 11 (much like Buffy, SV has been canonically continued as comic book by DC) when Clark and the others actually met Batman in "Detective" and Wonder Woman in the current arc "Olympus" it was very evident that this was the very first time any one of them has ever met those characters.

Joss as a comic geek likes to put some little shout outs to the comics out there is all. Thats all that line in Avengers was. A nod to the comics and an injoke for the fans. If there would be actual LMDs in the movie universe, why would Tony need to build Iron Man suits which he can control remotely to protect himself? He could just man them with an army of LMDs, which would be far more effective.

Thats also the problem with LMDs. Once you introduce them, the possibilities of what you can do with them become too endless. You can retcon every possible thing with a "It was just a LMD" excuse. Which would be disastrous storytelling.
Yes, too many LMDs would be the equivalent of "it was just a dream".

Was Stark the inventor of LMDs? Maybe Fury has access to LMD tech that Tony does not.

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