Why Agent Coulson's Injury Is Very Common In The Marvel Universe

Warning: spoilers for the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 Finale "S.O.S." are ahead!

The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 multi-part finale earlier this week had its fair share of shocking moments, but one of the main ones was Phil Coulson’s devastating injury. During S.H.I.E.L.D.’s climactic battle with the Inhumans, Coulson’s hand was chopped off so that he wouldn’t suffer a Terrigen crystal’s destructive effects. So while the organization’s leader is still alive after the intense conflict, he certainly didn’t leave unscathed. What fans of the series may not realize is that Coulson losing his hand doubles as another entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s years-long homage to the Star Wars movies.

As every Star Wars enthusiast knows, there are quite a few violent acts towards hands and arms throughout the movies, including the time Darth Vader cut Luke Skywalker’s hand off in The Empire Strikes Back. Being a huge fan of the franchise from a galaxy far, far away, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige revealed to us that while it didn’t start out as intentional, Marvel’s Phase Two slate includes a nod to Star Wars by having a character from each film get his or her hand or arm cut off. Now we can add a TV show to the list of dismemberments, as well.


After a drawn-out fight with the Inhuman Gordon in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finale, Coulson, Fitz and Mack were able to stop the teleporter from spreading the Terrigen Mist throughout the S.H.I.E.L.D. transport ship, which would have killed anybody who isn’t an Inhuman. Before Gordon himself died (having been impaled by an iron bar), he dropped the Terrigen crystal in his hand, but Coulson was able to catch it before it shattered. Unfortunately, like breathing the mist, any human that touches the crystal will be petrified. To prevent Coulson from turning to stone, Mack took an axe to Coulson’s hand before the effects could spread any further.

Marvel’s Phase Two arm-cutting began In Iron Man 3, when Pepper Potts sliced off Aldrich Killian’s hand before he could kill Tony Stark, though it soon grew back thanks to his Extremis powers. This was followed by Loki cutting off Thor’s hand in Thor: The Dark World in from on the Dark Elves (which was proved to just be an illusion), a flashback of Bucky losing his arm in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Gamora hacking off both of Groot’s arms in Guardians of the Galaxy (his also grew back) and Ultron angrily chopping off Ulysses Klaue’s arm in Avengers: Age of Ultron after the arms dealer compared him to Tony Stark.

In case you’ve forgotten any of these, here’s a supercut of all the instances up until Guardians of the Galaxy.

Phase Two will conclude this July with Ant-Man, so there will be one more instance of someone getting their limb hacked off. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Phase Three, whether it’s a movie or TV show, won’t have anybody losing a hand or an arm at some point. After all, this is an especially dangerous world these characters live in. As for Coulson, he’s currently resting his arm in a sling, but he’ll soon need to choose what will replace his lost hand. If he wants to old-school, a hook would look cool, but with S.H.I.E.L.D. science and technology at his disposal, he’ll probably just choose a fancy prosthesis with moving fingers and the works.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.