SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for “The End,” the Season 5 finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 5 just ended where it all began. In “The End,” the season finale, Phil Coulson’s team dropped him off in Tahiti to live out the rest of his days on a beach with Melinda May.
Of course, Coulson has never actually been to Tahiti before this — but he was a subject of Nick Fury’s Project T.A.H.I.T.I., which brought him back to life after he died in 2012’s The Avengers. Following his procedure, Coulson was programmed with new memories, so he believed he spent time recovering on a beach in Tahiti rather than undergoing a horrific medical procedure.
S.H.I.E.L.D.’s T.A.H.I.T.I. stands for Terrestrialized Alien Host Integrative Tissue I and used Kree biology to cure life-ending injuries. The procedure was originally developed as a way to resuscitate a fallen Avenger, though it was never been employed on one. Coulson helped run the program with Fury at first, but ultimately resigned when he found the side effects outweighed the cure.
Nevertheless, Fury ordered Coulson to undergo Project T.A.H.I.T.I. after he died in The Avengers. In order to stave off the negative side effects, Fury had his memories rewritten. Coulson was also programmed with a number of conditioned responses to questions. So, when he was asked about his time in Tahiti, he would always reply, “It’s a magical place.” This became one of his trademark phrases over the course of Season 1, up until he learned the truth and began exhibiting the side effects: insanity and a compulsive need to draw alien symbols over every surface he encountered. Needless to say, Coulson eventually recovered from both these side effects and his reprogramming.
So, following the defeat of Graviton, he decided to check something off his bucket list: a trip to Tahiti. After his “retirement part,” he walked off the Zephyr and right onto a sandy beach. As he looked out over the ocean, he had to admit, “Gotta say, it’s pretty magical” — repeating the line which he said so often in Season 1.
Per the events of Season 5, Coulson is dying from the injury he received in The Avengers. “Whatever alien voodoo was holding me together, Ghost Rider burned through it,” he told his team in an earlier episode. As a result, necrotic tissue — or tissue “that appears to have been dead for several years” — has spread throughout his body, starting from the place Loki stabbed him. According to Simmons’ diagnosis, he has only days — or weeks, if he’s lucky — left to live. By ending his story in Tahiti, Coulson’s journey has come full circle.
Airing Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 5 stars Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet, Henry Simmons, Ian De Caestecker, Natalia Cordova-Buckley and Elizabeth Henstridge.
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