WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Captain Marvel, in theaters now.
While he may not be one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes in terms of superpowers, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) has certainly been an important cog in the machine that got Avengers Initiative rolling in 2008's Iron Man.
Coulson helped assemble the team starting in the first Iron Man film. When he sacrificed himself to Loki in 2012's The Avengers, his death motivated the heroes to re-team and stop the God of Mischief, during which time they also realized the planet needed them on a more permanent basis. However, it wasn't until Captain Marvel that we found out Agent Coulson was more important to the formative years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe than initially thought.
When director Joss Whedon had Loki stab Coulson and "kill" him (he would later be resurrected for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Nick Fury used Coulson's death to rally the Avengers. They saw Coulson as a loyal hero, and they put aside personal differences to save the world from the Chitauri. That was the catalyst that led to their adventures in Avengers: Age of Ultron and so on. But as it turns out, Coulson wasn't just Fury's right-hand man, a soldier with a gun and badge or a Captain America fanboy. He was actually the person who inspired the MCU's first modern Avenger: Brie Larson's Carol Danvers.
This comes to light in a very crucial scene where Fury and Carol infiltrate Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. to try and track down the Kree scientist Mar-Vell (Annette Bening), who disguised herself as the program's Dr. Wendy Lawson and acted as Carol's mentor. Fury, still suspicious of Carol's intentions, breaks her trust and calls his S.H.I.E.L.D. teammates in, but they've been infiltrated as well by Skrull leader Talos (Ben Mendelsohn). Worse, the Skrull general had transformed himself into Fury's boss and instructed the team to not only abduct Carol, but to kill Fury for going rogue.
As the duo navigate the compound and are on the verge of escaping, they end up held at gunpoint by Coulson, who decides to trust his instincts and let them go. Later on, Fury would wax poetic about Coulson, who had only been on the job for a few months at the time of the incident. Fury talked up the rookie as someone who trusts his gut and breaks the rules when he believes it's the right thing, even when the rest of the world says the opposite (clearly, he and Cap have the same mindset).
NEXT PAGE: The Ramifications of Coulson's Choice