Why Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Needs To Stop Killing Off Coulson

agents of shield season 7 lmd coulson

Spoilers ahead for Episode 7 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 7, called "The Totally Excellent Adventures of Mack and The D."

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has developed a habit of killing off versions of Phil Coulson over the years, even if his first death technically happened in The Avengers. Original Coulson died and then was T.A.H.I.T.I.-ed back to life, then he died again from his illness, then he kinda sorta came back as Sarge, then he came back as an LMD, and now, in the 1980s-tastic "The Totally Excellent Adventures of Mack and The D," Coulson came back again despite his body being blown up in the previous episode. And this needs to be the last death-and-resurrection for Coulson for the rest of the series.

Admittedly, this version of Coulson coming back takes the least drastic leap of logic of his many returns. According to Deke, Coulson's LMD body disintegrated when he blew up the ship full of Chronicom hunters, but his mind life data stayed "safe and sound on the hard drive." Deke recovered the hard drive and then improvised to give Coulson a new form. Since Deke and Mack were left in 1982, Deke's improvisation left Coulson as a face on a TV screen with a VCR, but it was something!

This time around, the reveal that Coulson survived was played more as a joke than as any kind of impactful twist. Honestly, I liked the joke. Coulson's deadpan comment about "soul-searching" after the realization that his whole personality is a bunch of ones and zeroes "trapped in a digital hell" was worth a laugh, and his offense at his monitor being left out of Mack and the Deke Squad's planning circle was pretty great. But Coulson coming back was so unsurprising that it almost felt like his "death" happened last week just so he could be part of Deke and Mack's shenanigans in this episode.

Assuming that Simmons really is building him a new body, S.H.I.E.L.D. needs to not destroy him again unless he's going to stay gone. While part of what has made LMD Coulson so valuable is precisely the fact that his body is disposable and he can sacrifice himself without actually dying for good, the emotional stakes surrounding his existence might feel all but nonexistent if he keeps being temporarily killed off.

S.H.I.E.L.D. felt to me like I was supposed to side with Coulson over May when he was trying to provoke her into showing an emotional reaction to his existence in the previous episode, but I'm honestly going to side with May if S.H.I.E.L.D. keeps proving her right about Coulson's deaths never sticking. I felt the impact of Coulson dying at the end of Season 5 and appreciated S.H.I.E.L.D. taking a full season to show the agents mourning and to let viewers experience a comic book show really and truly killing somebody off. His return in Season 7 has been fine by me, but S.H.I.E.L.D. has enough to take care of without any more deaths.

One return is enough, and his quick recovery from week to week is making me feel like he's going to be gone for good at the end of the season. Coulson never wanted to be an LMD, and I could see him deactivating himself once the Chronicom threat is defeated. Then again, I could also see him running away with a May who recovered her ability to feel emotions.

At this point, I just hope S.H.I.E.L.D. starts answering some questions about Fitz, the Chronicoms, and Daisy's status. "The Totally Awesome Adventures of Mack and The D" ended with Robot Sibyl reuniting with Nathaniel Malick, who seemingly hasn't aged since the 1970s, so the Chronicom threat clearly isn't over. Can S.H.I.E.L.D. deliver some big twists in the few remaining episodes not dealing with Coulson "dying" and coming back?

Find out with new episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E..L.D. Season 7, airing Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC. For more of what you can watch and when you can watch, check out our 2020 summer TV premiere schedule.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).