Captain Marvel's upcoming solo film is winding the clock back a few decades, and with that time period setting comes some more than familiar faces.
This week marked the beginning of production for Marvel Studios' upcoming Captain Marvel film, and with that announcement came new news regarding the period piece's primary cast. While we've known the film would have a link to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe via Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury, it turns out that he's not the only one whose past the movie will explore. Clark Gregg's Phil Coulson will have a role in the film as well, along with Guardians of the Galaxy alums Lee Pace's Ronan and Djimon Honsou's Korath the Pursuer.
Given that Captain Marvel is set in the 1990s, including Coulson makes sense. Despite the limited interactions on screen that we've seen between him and Fury, it's clear that their relationship spans years, if not decades, and you would have to assume that the '90s would be right around the time the two men would have first met. After all, if they weren't so close, would Fury have gone to so much trouble to bring Coulson back from the grave or refer to him as an Avenger? Captain Marvel, in addition to showing how meeting Carol Danvers came to form the building blocks for S.H.I.E.L.D.'s more alien-oriented goals, will likely us the early days of how they came to be such good friends.
Coulson as a character has been in a constant state of flux since he first showed up in Iron Man nearly a decade ago. The man went from S.H.I.E.L.D. field agent to pariah to commander of the spy agency in a handful of years.He's also experienced multiple world saving events of his own in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. But despite everything that he's dealt with over the last five years, most of his earliest friends in the Marvel Cinematic Universe remain unaware that his death in Avengers at the hands of Loki didn't stick. In fact, Fury and Maria Hill are only the characters from the movies that know he's alive and kicking, and it's a secret they've yet to divulge to any of the Avengers.
Since his revival, it's been one of the biggest elephants in the room of the whole MCU. Considering that Avengers: Infinity War is set to pay off a lot of dangling threads from the previous decade's worth of films, Coulson's story deserves to be counted among them. One could argue that in some ways, Gregg is owed some form of closure more than just about anyone. After all, not only was he one of the original cast members of the whole enterprise, who appeared in nearly all of the Phase One movies, he's the one character that has consistently and quite literally touched every genre that the MCU has had to offer. Through both the films and five season of S.H.I.E.L.D., he's been a Spirit of Vengeance, a secret agent, a high school teacher, a robot, fought Norse gods, and an alien killer.
Setting Carol's solo movie in the '90s allows for Coulson to show what made him special enough to eventually become Fury's right hand. And though the film will certainly treat him as a secondary, possibly even tertiary character, his appearance will have an undercurrent of a send off, or at least the start of one, that Infinity War and its sequel next year may not provide. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s current season deals in part with the threat of Coulson dying after permitting Ghost Rider to borrow his body, thereby burning out the alien components that have kept him alive. Since part of the Agents' current dilemma means that they may have to actually let Coulson die in order to save the world, Captain Marvel may very well be the last time that we get to Coulson pop up in the movies. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is sure to give him closure should he die, yes, but there's something to be said for his final appearance happening on film as opposed to a TV show.
Marvel Studios' Jeph Loeb has said in the past that Coulson's secrecy from the larger MCU players would be resolved in some capacity, and the possibilities for that are certainly endless. For now, watching Coulson be awestruck by Carol Danvers and deliver dry wit to Skrulls before shooting them in the face will have to sustain fans until (or if) he meets the Avengers again.