SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for "The End," the Season 5 finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Philip J. Coulson lived a life surrounded by superheroes. Though he was introduced in 2008's Iron Man, the former S.H.I.E.L.D. director had plenty of adventures prior to his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut -- and after his death in 2012's The Avengers. Following his retirement party in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 5 finale, though, it seems his journey has come to an end. Here's everything we know so far about the man, the myth and the legend Phil Coulson has become.
According to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Coulson was born in Manitowoc, Wisconsin and raised in a Catholic family. His father, a history teacher and football coach at the local high school, died when he was just nine-years-old; his S.H.I.E.L.D. psych evaluation labeled this "a defining moment" in his life. Per the Season 1 episode "The Magical Place," Coulson's mother has also passed away, although likely at a later date. Coulson was an only child, but he "always wanted" a brother.
Before he passed, Coulson's father instilled a love of cars in his young son: "The thing I remember most about my dad is he was a car guy, always working on this junker he insisted I help him fix. All my friends were outside playing ball, having fun. There I was, stuck at home with him, fixing that damn car. Wasn't till we finished that it hit me: that car was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. And all the time we'd spent together working on it gave me an appreciation I never would have had otherwise." That junker, of course, went on to become Coulson's beloved flying red 1962 Corvette, which he nicknamed Lola.
Growing up, Coulson became a fan of Agent Peggy Carter and Captain America. "Cap. Agent Carter. They were my heroes growing up. Both of them were at the beginning of S.H.I.E.L.D.," he told Melinda May in Season 3. This naturally led him to build up his vintage Captain America card collection, which he asked Cap to sign during The Avengers. Apparently, he was also on a little league team during his childhood: "You know, I batted over .400 in little league," he said in the Season 2 finale, only to mention it again in an early Season 3 episode.
Coulson collects more than cards. In his office, he stores old S.H.I.E.L.D. tech like, 1963 platinum tie clip cameras, as souvenirs. "I have a real soft spot for that Golden Age," he confessed to Rosalind Price in Season 3.
Though his father taught at Manitowoc High School, Coulson didn't go there. He was recruited to S.H.I.E.L.D. right out of college, where he majored in history. "I started to inadvertently uncover how much of that history S.H.I.E.L.D. had helped to shape, so they snatched me up," he explained. He went on to study at S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Communications Academy. After he left the S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy, he rose through the ranks to become a field agent. Together with Season 1 villain and Hydra sleeper agent John Garrett, Coulson operated under the guidance of his supervising officer Nick Fury. Garrett and Coulson would work together for years, becoming close friends.
One of Coulson's first missions was with none other than Melinda May. "You weren't exactly thrilled when we got assigned that retrieval op in Sausalito. That coffee shop? Our first mission?" he recalled once, to which she replied, "That's because the commander sent us in with no exit plan. I was in the bay for five hours." Coulson had to fish her out -- "eventually," anyway. Regarding their early missions, he and May agree they "used to have fun like this in our youth." Coulson and May became so close that he even let her drive Lola, an honor bestowed on very few others: "He gave me the keys and told me not to let anyone else know." (Fun fact: "Coulson had a mustache" for this particular mission.)
Another early mission saw Coulson and May tracking down an 0-8-4 -- or "an object of unknown origin" -- in Russia, when he was a Level 4 agent and she was a Level 3. The timing of this mission was unspecified, but seems to have taken place when he was still new to field work, since he fumbled the execution of it (and his Russian language skills). Over the years, he developed other key alliances with characters like Camilla Reyes and Akela Amador, both of whom made guest appearances in Season 1.
Perhaps one of his most important missions took black in Manama, Bahrain in 2008, where he led a team tasked with finding and assessing an enhanced individual thought to have super strength. When they approached, the gifted individual became hostile and took a number of hostages, including a young girl. Coulson had May pursue the individual alone. May soon discovered the young girl was also gifted -- and she was the one in control. Outnumbered and outgunned, she was forced to shoot the girl, which traumatized her and led her to retire from field work. She would stay out of the field until he recruited her in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot episode.