Agent Phil Coulson has an important role on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D
., but he's different than we remember. As a SHIELD agent in the movies, he plays a vital role in holding the heroes together as a group. His death in The Avengers
is the catalyst that sparks the heroes to defeat Loki and his band. When Coulson returns to SHIELD in the pilot of the television program, he finds the world a different place and he has a new job to do. His status as a level seven means he will solve problems that should be kept secret and out of the press.
A Changed Man for the Better
The clues of a change in Coulson can be seen in his interaction with his superior. Director Fury acknowledges that Coulson has no clue what happened to him after the battle of New York. Fury is willing to overlook changes in Coulson's character because he needs Coulson's skills as a special ops leader. This outweighs the question of whether Coulson is ready to return to the field. While I know Fury hopes that Coulson will blend into the background, this believe is laughable. Coulson now runs the unit as he sees fit, seeing the need for new techniques which is refreshing, but how long policy will allow it?
Coulson understands the need for discretion, a trait which Fury likes. A former by-the books guy, Fury expects that trend to continue. However, Coulson is now a much better agent because he takes situations into consideration first. Shooting first and asking question later is problematic and I for one am not a fan. Fury expects the professional agent that Coulson has always been. Now he has a professional field agent that considers options. While Coulson still follows rules, he rewrites these rules as situations require.
Creating a Nice Balance With Colleagues
The change is noticeable to those who have known Coulson before the New York battle. When Coulson recruits Melinda May as his driver, she is reluctant to return to the field. I agree with May's lack of enthusiasm at the role considering that she has a reputation of being an enforcer. The Coulson of old would have avoided confrontation and just ordered her transfer to his department. By using the personal approach, Coulson not only listens to her concerns but treats her as a person, not a subordinate. This honesty is a means of establishing trust. May realizes that Coulson has changed and we, the viewers, begin to realize it as well. He's more approachable and understanding of his team's fears. The concern, however, is that he is too obvious with using methods he has not used in the past.
Agent Ward is recruited as a member of Coulson's special ops unit. Coulson again goes against protocol by announcing his presence to Ward before the final decision is made. Protocol calls for a period of observation. Coulson appears suddenly and surprises Ward. It is surprising that it was allowed--there has to be an ulterior motive. What's funny is how surprised Ward is at this new Coulson's technique.
As second in command, Ward is surprised even more by Coulson's new tactic for the field. Refusing to commit to shooting a suspect is not SHIELD's protocol. The team leader acting as a go-between is also against the book. I like that Coulson refuses to fire and tries reason. It's also impressive that Ward respects Coulson's authority enough to follow his directive. Trust is born in moments like this! It shows that Coulson won't put a member of his team in danger by performing a task he wouldn't do himself. While Ward questions some of Coulson's decisions, he follows Coulson's style when it comes to not leaving a team member behind. I'm watching with interest to see if Ward adapts this style as his own or is too much by the book.
A Father Figure
I must admit that I love Coulson's "tender" side. With Skye, Coulson has taken a fatherly role. When she is caught in a compromising position with an old "Rising Tide" comrade, Coulson doesn't kick her off the team. Instead he takes responsibility with his superiors. Like a father, Coulson administers punishment.
When Skye reveals that she wants information on her parents and their connection to SHIELD, Coulson seems to break every rule in the book to get the information. It has yet to be seen if Coulson has done the right thing in telling her of her past as all facts are not yet known. What is known could hurt Skye but Coulson has promised to be there for her regardless. By giving her the truth, he also gives her his trust.
An Agent Less Vengeful
Finally, the most telling change in Coulson's personality can best be seen in his interaction with the surgeon who performed Coulson's brain surgery. Hiding in the doctor's car, Coulson reveals himself to a worried doctor who expects death. When Coulson leaves after learning the truth, you see the doctor's surprise at being left alive. While it's an admirable move on Coulson's part, I wanted more answers from the doctor.
The new Coulson is an improvement from the bland man of the Iron Man
movies. No longer following the rule book, the fact that Coulson takes responsibility for both his team and those he helps is refreshing. By standing by his team, Coulson shows that it is people who matter, not protocol. While seeming more human, one worry is that his honestly may go against him in the future.
What do you think? Do you like the new Coulson or think the show should shift back to the by-the-books movie character? How do you think the heroes would react to this new Coulson?
Marvel's Agents of SHIELD
airs Tuesdays at 8pm on ABC.
(Image courtesy of ABC)