As excited as I am over the announcement of a "S.H.I.E.L.D." television series developed by Joss Whedon and friends, I find my enthusiasm curbed somewhat for one key reason: the man who should be starring on the show is dead.
The death of Agent Coulson was an integral moment in "Marvel's The Avengers," sure, but that doesn't mean we don't miss the straight-laced S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, easily one of the most fan-favorite characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact, the late great Phil is so beloved that he's inspired countless "Coulson Lives" memes, theories and other forms of creative renderings. Simply put, it's hard to imagine Marvel without Coulson, and even harder to imagine a full-fledged "S.H.I.E.L.D." television show without his regular presence.
With all that in mind, I present to you seven ways the Whedon team could bring Agent Coulson back for the "S.H.I.E.L.D." show. Warning: some suggestions are more ridiculous than others.
» He never died! Just because you see a man go down doesn't mean he's necessarily gone. Just ask Tony Almeida, who died during the fifth season of "24" only to return as a villain in season seven. (Uh, related: don't turn Coulson into a bad guy. That would suck.) Coulson's resurrection is highly unlikely in that regard, and borderline implausible, but this is comics, people. Stranger things have happened.
» He had a twin! Introducing Agent Bill Coulson, identical to his brother in every single way — except he's not yet an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. The pilot would pull him into the world recently vacated by good old Phil, bringing us a POV that's both brand new and comfortingly familiar at once. (Not to mention completely jumping the shark, but hey, we can dream.)
» Life Model Decoys! Those exist! Bring Coulson back from time to time by way of the eerily-lifelike robots when the S.H.I.E.L.D. gang needs to call upon one of his old contacts.
» Holograms! Those too exist! Coulson could be to the "S.H.I.E.L.D." show what the Doctor was to "Star Trek Voyager," a virtual AI program that activates to guide our agents through a situation when the need arises.
» Annual flashback episodes! Every season, make an episode that's all about an old adventure of Coulson's before his death, one that's relevant to the overarching plot of the show or something totally independent and totally badass. The annual Coulson hour would be must-watch TV every year.
» The Vision! Seriously, we don't need to tell you more about this theory — you've heard our ramblings and seen the sculpture enough times by now. The "S.H.I.E.L.D." show presents the best possible opportunity to introduce one of Marvel's most beloved superheroes by way of Marvel's most beloved fallen hero. It would pave the way perfectly for Vision to pop up in "Avengers 2" with very little need for a long, drawn-out introduction in the sequel. Marvel, make it happen.
» Let him direct! If we can't find a natural way to bring him back as a character (really? Bill Coulson? C'mon!), then at least give Mr. Gregg a recurring role behind the scenes. Gregg is already an accomplished director in his own right, and a good friend of Whedon's to boot. (See the graphic evidence here.) In fact, calling this now: not only is Gregg directing an episode of "S.H.I.E.L.D." the likeliest way to bring Coulson back into the fold, it's straight up going to happen. Wait and see.
Do you think we'll see Coulson on the SHIELD TV series? Let us know your theories in the comments section below or hit us up on Twitter!