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October 17 2013

(SPOILER) TV Guide has a theory about the Coulson mystery. TV Guide analyzes clues and hints dropped in the first few AoS episodes and posits an answer to the question: How is Agent Coulson still alive?

This is the *exact* theory that I've been holding on to since the pilot. I've been thinking for a while that Coulson is much older than we have been led to believe. He doesn't necessarily have to be an LMD for that to be true, it just seems to be the most logical answer given the confines of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's very much a technologically advanced world, not one of magic (so far), therefore it stands to reason (given the information we currently have) that his resurrection is tech-based.

Of course, this is still a Whedon show, so basically anything anyone says is just a total guess lol
I love this idea. It's way more interesting than a standard LMD scenario.
And now that i think about it, those Captain America trading cards from the Avengers movie that Coulson had collected were pretty old. Which means he may have had those since Cap was first created.
One theory I've heard is that Phil Coulson is the Human Torch.

In the comics, the Human Torch (the original from the WWII era, not Johnny Storm from the Fantastic Four) was an android who fought alongside Captain America and the Sub-Mariner during World War II. It was later revealed that the Vision was made from the original Human Torch.

So that sort of ties in with the rumors that Coulson will become the Vision.
What about his girlfriend? (The musician, played what, cello? viola?) Wouldn't a near death experience oblige her to check in?

I'm doing what I can to avoid major spoilers for this show, but this topic is hard to resist.

The Marvel backstory is pretty much lost on me. The first I realized an LMD was a Marvel tradition was after the wisecrack Tony made in one of the movies, trying to avoid, who? Coulson?

For me, that's part of the reason all the tradition can be a nuisance. If it doesn't serve the story, why use it?

I'm not wild about the robot idea, it didn't work for me when Season 9 comic Buffy realized she's a robot. (It made the pregnancy storyline seem entirely glib and theoretical, devoid of real consequences, which pretty much undercut the conversation I think the writers were hoping to start.)
It was the cellist from Portland. The "he was always a LMD" theory is far more interesting than the one about replacing him with a LMD after The Avengers. The only problem I have is that I don't know whether SHIELD would ever create a LMD of Coulson without improving anything else (making him stronger, smarter, etc). That seems like an opportunity that you'd think the SHIELD council would want to have, considering how much money a LMD would be.

My other theory is that he was resurrected using hydra technology, something so dangerous that it was supposed to be locked away and maybe Fury unlocked it to resurrect Coulson. It would be against everything he would want and could turn him against Fury. And he would be angry knowing that an otherwise principled man would use dangerous technology to save one at the risk of others.

Of course, this presumes that Coulson's value to SHIELD is beyond the regular agent. Maybe that would be why the SHIELD council would oppose the suggestion, and why Fury would do it. Fury doesn't strike me as a sentimental guy but it could be that Coulson's humanity is so hard to replace that even using dangerous technology is worth it.
Just to be clear, I have NO inside information
and I am not basing the following on ANY facts.
Just a strong feeling of intuition.

I wouldn't put it out there at all,
except that I want to have Numfar do the dance of "I told you so."

Does anyone else think we are going to get a visit from Nick or Maria in the later part of Season 1,
We will see them casually stroll into a SHIELD Level 8 Facility. Inside the door will be a sign:

Transient Artificial Humanity Impersonation Technology Integration (T.A.H.I.T.I.) Project
LMD Division

(Below the sign, someone will have put up an ironical Post-It note: "It's a magical place.")

Questions? Comments?
Another question that needs to be asked is WHY Coulson was resurrected. It must have taken an enormous effort of some sort to pull off. Coulson is a good agent and a good guy, but lots of important people die without being resurrected. Why him?
I like this theory a lot, and it would make for some awesome material. The big reveal that he's an LMD would later turn out not to be the big reveal at all, as it will be eclipsed by the even bigger reveal that he was one all along. (BTW, I can't help fondly remembering the Austin Powers 2 intro, where it is revealed that the love interest from the first film was a femme-bot "all along.") And then there could be some awesome flashback material and stories going back decades -- like in Angel (which went back centuries) -- about Coulson in WWII, and other historical moments, and how they connect to the present narrative. It could generate the type of depth and mythology that Whedon fans (and Marvel fans) would find irresistible.

And I'm dying for Coulson to have some layers beyond what he's displayed in the show so far.
But surely Coulson would have noticed something, had he been alive since WW2...
So here's my issue with the "robot" idea.

If Coulson was human and died in the Avengers, why would they replace him with a robot? Did his face have exceptional value to them? Because that's all they're really getting if he's a robot now -- he doesn't have the muscle memory, his personality is subtly changed, etc. And there's always the danger that one of the Avengers will run into him and realize they've been played, which I have zero doubt will eventually happen. It's too good to pass up. But if I can think of it, Nick Fury has definitely thought of it several times.

If he was a robot from the get-go, again, why keep his face? That quite-possibly-going-to-irritate-a-god-and/or-a-Hulk face? Either way, dust off the robot's brain, stick it in a different skin, press play, avoid any potential trouble.

Also, if he truly was a LMD all along, then why did he lose his muscle memory and have his programming change after the Battle of New York? Heck, if he's an LMD now, then why did they send him out with such inferior combat training? If he's a robot they could just program all kinds of muscle memory in.

No, Robot Coulson is needlessly complicated. If Coulson does indeed prove to be a robot, and they come up with some song and dance about why SHIELD did that, they're basically going to be screaming, "It's because we wanted Clark Gregg to be the lead, okay?" And my respect will go down slightly. Especially my respect for Nick Fury.

No, I think SHIELD wanted Coulson back for some part of his humanity. It's the only reason (aside from the meta reasons for casting Clark Gregg) that makes sense.

Something's definitely up with him, though. He dodged that flying door in the Pilot like he was Agent Smith, and yet his muscle memory is gone. Plus Amador's "What did they do to him?" tells us she saw something strange about him in backscatter (otherwise she would have asked, "What happened to him?") -- hinted at by how she spotted the Belorussian woman's tumor.

So... maybe he's a robot after all? I could still be won round on that. But I think a cyborg is more probable. Or something truly weird and off the charts. But his humanity seems to be what they salvaged, so his humanity still seems to be key...
He's a vampire :)
Seeing as he bled in the second episode, it's a very convincing LMD.
On the personality side, I don't think "that's not me anymore" reflects a change since Avengers, but rather a change since he knew Akela. He's clearly not aware that he changed since he died.
Sooo, how about the latest MAoS episode and Akela's bionic eye? Wouldn't she have been able to 'see' that Coulson was a robot/LMD?

That actually threw me off that whole theory!
Joss Whedon said the show followed the same premise as "The Zeppo".
Coulson is and his team is in an essential way like Xander, they are powerless and surrounded by power. For me that does not gel with the idea that Coulson is going to become the Vision.

There is something going on with him, but I doubt that he will become more super as the show progresses. However, I suspect he will become a darker character.
In a show about being human in a world with superhumans, the lead discovering he's not human after all could be a powerful moment.
But if he is super, then why is not S.H.I.E.L.D. using him yet? Is he being tested?

EDIT: Is what S.H.I.E.L.D. has done to him so ethically wrong that he can never know?

This rabbit hole is getting mighty dark.

[ edited by alber on 2013-10-18 11:55 ]
Maybe they're not sure they can rely on machines, so they gave him a small team to see how he handles that. And if he messes up, he'll be downgraded to a Winnebago :)
Him being an LMD is simply too obvious. And I really think it makes no sense, given we just had a bionic eye in the last ep that should have been able to tell in a second that parts of him or all of him were robotic. This is all mislead. Typical to play the long con, with Joss, doncha think?
Akela definitely noticed something with her bionic eye, even though it's doubtful that he looks all terminator-like inside, or she'd have freaked out.
I agree with Ragondux. If she had seen a lot of robot parts with her bionic eye she wouldn't have said "what did they do to him?" She would have said "what did they DO with him?" because she would have seen that they they had replaced him with a robot.

But there's also no indication that she would have seen robot parts. When she went into x-ray mode, Melinda just looked like a person shape. She didn't see her organs.

[ edited by the ninja report on 2013-10-18 13:15 ]
Nah, he's LMD all along doesn't work - why would he lose 'muscle memory' if he's just a LMD? Besides Amador would've said immediately that isn't Coulson if he was all bot.

I'm thinking tech from AIM/HYDRA that was put in the volt but brought out 'cause Fury likes his good eye.

The real question is why hide it from Coulson? With all we saw of him, he takes things in stride in his cool BAMF way. If we figure out that then the rest will become clearer.
I seldom read posts with spoiler tags, but couldn't resist this one.

Color me impressed with the comments on the TV Guide story...a crash course on the Marvel universe (and no trolls). Very fun read.
I am loving this discussion and learning so much, because I have never read the comic books and am only familiar with the Marvel universe through the movies.

When I first posted this link, I debated over whether or not to add the spoiler tag, since it is just speculation, but I decided "better safe than sorry". But Hera got me thinking . . . I am wondering, mods, is the spoiler tag necessary for these types of speculative articles? Should I have left the tag off of this posting?
Back before it was announced that James Spader was going to play Ultron, I had a wack-a-doo theory that SHIELD revived Coulson using cybernetics/robotics and something like Extremis (or a new version of Extremis) and over the course of SHIELD, we would see him start to lose it completely and he would end up becoming Ultron.
@dharmalirti: I had the same theory. But the more we see Coulson, the less I think it's likely. It just doesn't feel like him.

My crazy theory of the day is that Fury made a deal with Mephisto, and that Coulson will not enjoy the other part of the deal. But... why would Fury need him that much?
I agree with those who disagree with the LMD theory. :-)

If he was a LMD all along, then why would he be different now (Akela's observation)?

If he was replaced with a LMD, for what reason? While respected, he was not irreplaceable. It would make more sense to make a "new" agent with a somewhat similar personality, rather than make a duplicate that could be exposed as a fraud.

Another reason against the LMD theory is purely narrative. He is the heart of the show. Despite the potential story lines of a robot exploring its humanity, a lot of viewers will feel betrayed on an emotional level, which I don't think will be good for the series. (Think about Angel season 4. Although the viewers find out it wasn't Cordelia doing those things, there are still people bitter about how "her character was ruined", even though it wasn't her.)

I'm still hoping that my pet theory turns out right: he was resuscitated normally, but what happened after that (capture/torture by Hydra, alien abduction/probing, etc.) is the mystery. (Loki's scepter corrupted people by touching the chest above the heart. What happens when it actually goes through the heart?)

But I do expect an episode later in the season where someone tries to mess with Coulson by trying to convince him that he is a LMD.

[ edited by OneTeV on 2013-10-18 16:01 ]
I am wondering, mods, is the spoiler tag necessary for these types of speculative articles?

It is if it contains details about an episode that has just aired. But because more international posters get a chance to watch the episode that airs in the US on a Tuesday (than say in the days of Buffy), it only has to remain till around Sunday or Monday.
To follow up on Simon's comment, I have a friend who just moved to Sweden, who says they are a week and a half behind the US.
Him being an LMD is simply too obvious. And I really think it makes no sense, given we just had a bionic eye in the last ep that should have been able to tell in a second that parts of him or all of him were robotic. This is all mislead. Typical to play the long con, with Joss, doncha think?

Careful... As much as I respect Joss Whedon's creative talents, his previous shows have hardly been free of the occasional (big) faux pas, and considering it is still so early in this particular show's genesis (everything's still in set up mode - no real payoffs as of yet, which would allow us to get an idea of whether the show's creative staff actually have their act together) I would hesitate to discount anything.

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2013-10-18 17:32 ]
You lost me there, brinderwalt. I am certain that Coulson is not an LMD. That being the case, we are looking at a long con- for want of a better term. That is, a mislead. Not sure how that relates to fanwank.
You lost me there, brinderwalt. I am certain that Coulson is not an LMD. That being the case, we are looking at a long con- for want of a better term. That is, a mislead. Not sure how that relates to fanwank.

Just that sometimes what seems like a poorly constructed plotline is actually just a poorly constructed plotline. Now I'm not necessarily predicting that that is going to be the case here. It's just that - based on my own subjective viewing of the show up to this point - the jury's still out about whether this show's particular mix of writers are going to have what it takes to supply us with satisfying pay-offs for the things that they still seem to be setting up.
What plausible alternative explanation is there other than that he is an LMD (or robot or cyborg or whatever)? Assuming we rule out the possibility that Coulson's own understanding is incorrect (i.e., he was revived shortly after being dead for less than a minute), then I don't see any other explanation apart from LMD or some variant thereof. And given that LMDs are already an established part of the SHIELD mythology, and given that the twist could lead to some awesome storytelling, I don't understand why there is so much resistance to the idea.
OK, Simon, thanks for the clarification.
Squishy, I can only speak for myself, but my resistance to the idea is that they've built up this mystery around "Why is Coulson back?" and yet the LMD theory surfaced within 20 seconds of Clark Gregg being cast.

So to my mind, "Coulson is a LMD" would not be a twist that could lead to some awesome storytelling: it wouldn't be a twist at all. It would be impressively bad storytelling to begin telegraphing your "big twist" before the show even premiered! And the "big mystery" wouldn't be that big at all.

As brinderwalt says, that doesn't mean the LMD theory is wrong. I just hope for more than that from the Whedons.
As I've said before, I don't think the answer to the mystery (LMD or some other theory) is itself what matters. What matters is how well it is executed, and the extent to which it enhances the narrative. It may surprise very few people that he is an LMD or some variant thereof, but there could be lots of great surprises in how that narrative plays out. And again, I'm not sure that there is an alternative explanation (I've certainly seen none suggested on this site) that would both make sense and not be totally ridiculous.

For this reason, I'm actually hoping he is an LMD and that they milk that development for all it's narrative worth. I will judge the storytelling on how well they accomplish the latter, and not whether the LMD possibility was sufficiently "surprising," or whether it was too "obvious."
It may surprise very few people that he is an LMD or some variant thereof, but there could be lots of great surprises in how that narrative plays out.

Also, for what it's worth, if you are one of the oodles of... "normal" film/television viewers (like myself) whose knowledge of the Marvel Universe is almost entirely based on exposure to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (where the whole LMD thing has yet to be touched upon [to my knowledge] beyond a single offhand reference - let alone be explained) it really doesn't matter that much. To the Marvel Superfan? Maybe. But I'm pretty sure that this show's intended demographic is a little bit broader than that.

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2013-10-18 19:48 ]
My own resistance to the LMD theory is that he would be too perfect. If Fitz-Simmons says they don't have the technology to build an eye implant of the quality of Akela's, surely SHIELD can't build a LMD that looks so very much like the real Coulson.

I can't find another believable theory, that would work withing that show, though. It's probably just that Fitz-Simmons is not level 8.

[ edited by Ragondux on 2013-10-18 20:13 ]
I like the idea that he's been around since early SHIELD days and I especially like the idea that Loki stabbed some kinda robot. Who maybe didn't even know he was a robot, and still doesn't. It'd be especially fun if he's something they periodically tinker with, so he's all new and improved. He said he doesn't like that, but he also adores an old car that flies. I think in the long run I'd rather he be human, though.
Well, one crazy theory I had is that Coulson is really a Dollhouse like imprint and the person that was imprinted with his personality was physically altered to look like Coulson. That could let Joss revisit his Dollhouse themes in this show. If Coulson's not in his own body, he wouldn't have muscle memory. His personality could also be slightly different if influenced by the personality of the body's original owner. It's like the Illyria/Fred thing, or like what happens on Supernatural when an Angel possesses a human and that human's mind and personality become locked away in some part of their mind as the Angel assumes full control of their body.
@RobynH: loving the T.A.H.I.T.I. acronym :D

Totally sounds like a valid pitch that would tie in with the "sounds like someone really wanted our initials to spell out SHIELD"-line from the pilot.

Another thing I rarely see mention is that we get A LOT of references to Coulson collecting OLD STUFF. Not just the trading cards. Everything. It gets pointed out quite a bit (Lola in Ep 1, stuff his desk in Ep 2, stuff in the glass vitrine in Ep 4). I bet it's gonna be a lot of these seemingly throwaway lines that'll come around once we "know" and make a whole lot more sense on a rewatch. I bet they know how the Boyd-thing in Dollhouse felt a bit weird at the end with there being absolutely no seeds planted in the first season since the hadn't thought of that part yet.

This is why I'm so intrigued by this show despite its growing pains. I just know there's gonna be something coming up that'll change the way we look at things that came before in a way.
I always hated the LMD and I don't want Coulson one but I love the idea that he's unknowingly old. Maybe he's an actual human clone imprinted with Coulson's memories (kind of like in the movie The 6th Day which I just watched with my son). Muscle memory issue could go along with that.

Coulson being a robot could have story potential with Tony Stark I guess and that could be cool but I always hate "He is(was all along)a Robot" stuff so I have my fingers crossed that they find something else.
I have some antiques. I was not born in the 1800s.

If he's a LMD, why the Tahiti imprint? What if he was magically brought back to life (at Doctor Strange's mansion, or as one commenter suggests, in Valhalla) and they needed to implant a memory over that because they didn't want him to remember?

Though I'd love to see someone be The Vision. He was always one of my favourite Avengers (Even an Android Can Cry.) Avengers, not SHIELD agenst.

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