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Why Some Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Fans Have A Problem With Coulson

On Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which finished its seventh and final season in August 2020, Clark Gregg plays main character Phil Coulson. Agent Coulson works for S.H.I.E.L.D. and was first introduced to Marvel fans in the MCU films, starting with 2008's Iron Man. Working alongside S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Coulson helps recruit the Avengers in the battle against Loki (Tom Hiddleston). After also appearing in Iron Man 2, Thor, and The Avengers, Coulson met his end at the hands of Loki and his scepter — or so you thought.

Coulson is a fan-favorite character whom many hoped would come back; fans even ran a #CoulsonLives campaign protesting his death. Listening to fans, Marvel decided to use Coulson as the jumping-off point to dive into television with the spin-off series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which revolves around a team of talented agents led by a resurrected Coulson. 

Over the course of seven seasons, the S.H.I.E.L.D. team goes through quite a lot. At the end of season 5, they face a particularly brutal loss: Coulson sacrifices himself to save his team, the timeline, and ultimately, the world. The story continues on with Gregg playing a doppelgänger of Coulson named Sarge, before viewers are thrown for a loop with the introduction of LMD (Life Model Decoy) Coulson. This is where some fans have a problem with the character, and just what his re-creation as an LMD means for Coulson's legacy.

Fans are let down by Coulson's return as an LMD

In a Reddit thread, user u/RadicalNotEdward lamented the loss of Coulson, and how an LMD, despite how real they may seem, is just a copy of a person without the soul part that makes them who they are. 

"When season 6 ended with an LMD Coulson, I was really let down. The whole season with Sarge, I just kept waiting for the moment the real Coulson would come back. The show just didn't feel right without him," they wrote. "Regardless of whether or not an LMD has a soul, it's too painful to think that Coulson, the real Coulson, doesn't get to carry on in this world while a copy of him that he would have never been at ease with carries on. It would feel strange for his friends and family to accept a copy as a replacement for him if it's not really him."

That said, Coulson's LMD has a few differences that separate him from the rest, and u/RadicalNotEdward highlighted this as the one hope that LMD Coulson might hold the essence of the real Coulson. He has "an LMD body, Chronicom tech to fill in his missing memories, and a consciousness that came from the Framework." The series shows exactly how the Framework and its connection to the Darkhold can create a true human consciousness, as Aida experiences the full range of emotions once she has a real body.

Now, remember, the Framework isn't just technology, as Aida uses the supernatural Darkhold to create it. This means, as u/RadicalNotEdward noted, "the question is really whether or not the soul can jump through time AND space from his original organic vessel to the new body." With all the supernatural things the team encounters — like Ghost Rider, Hive, and Lady Sif — it's not a huge stretch to believe this is possible. But for some people, this still doesn't prove that the true soul of the original Coulson is brought along to his new body, and it's something the show doesn't answer, leaving fans to theorize what they think really happens. 

So, the question still remains: Is the LMD Coulson in the last season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actually Coulson?