Agents of SHIELD Theory: New Coulson Is From An Alternate Dimension

Agent Coulson from Agents of SHIELD in an alternate dimension

Phil Coulson is back from the dead in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 6, but how? The first trailer for the abbreviated return of ABC’s Marvel show has finally dropped, confirming that Mack has taken over as director, and the weight of it all weighs heavily on his shoulders. His first mission is to lead the S.H.I.E.L.D. team back into space in order to recover their missing colleague, Fitz.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 6 may only be 13 episodes in length, but the trailer promises a whole lot of action as S.H.I.E.L.D. go up against ferocious new foes – and a deadly organization with unknown motives. The series looks set to maintain its cosmic edge, with a number of scenes set in the depths of space and even a glimpse of an alien spaceship, but it’s also clear S.H.I.E.L.D. will return to Earth in order to take on these new threats.

Related: Agents of SHIELD Season 6 Is (Still) Ignoring Avengers: Infinity War

In amidst all the drama, though, the end of the trailer teases a massive twist. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5 saw Phil Coulson accept his imminent death, with the Kree science that had brought him back to life failing. And yet, it seems Clark Gregg isn’t done with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. just yet.

Agents of SHIELD Is Introducing A New Phil Coulson… But How?

Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson in Agents of Shield

Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson has always been at the heart of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as much a father-figure as a reluctant Director. But the first trailer for season 6 revealed that there’s a new version of Coulson running around – a man who appears to be working with the bad guys, and knows absolutely nothing about S.H.I.E.L.D. Needless to say, that brief glimpse has left fans reeling. Is he a clone, created by S.H.I.E.L.D.’s enemies to undermine them? That seems unlikely, because surely he’d be given basic information about S.H.I.E.L.D. in order to be able to twist the knife. Is he a Skrull impostor? Again, that doesn’t appear probable, simply because Skrulls shapeshift in order to infiltrate – so, again, you’d expect the Skrull to have some background knowledge of S.H.I.E.L.D.

That leaves just one other prime possibility: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is exploring the classic idea of alternate universes, akin to the “Mirror Universe” in the Star Trek franchise. This new Coulson could well originate from a dimension that’s very different to our own, one where S.H.I.E.L.D. was never founded. It’s possible alt-Coulson doesn’t even know he jumped from one dimension to the next; he and his forces could have been brought over by some sort of cosmic fluke, leaving them struggling to acclimatize to an Earth that’s very different. Alternatively, this could be intentional, with a dark Coulson leading the spearhead of an invasion. One scene in the season 6 trailer showed an energy pulse tearing through a building, before appearing to open a portal in the sky; this could conceivably be a gateway between the dimensions, with alt-Coulson either attempting to get home, or trying to bring in reinforcements.

Page 2 of 2: Is New Coulson From An Alternate Dimension?

Agents of SHIELD Season 5

SHIELD May Have Broken The Time-Space Continuum In Season 5

But why would two different dimensions interact with one another like this, and why hasn’t it happened before? The answer could be that S.H.I.E.L.D. broke the time-space continuum back in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5. It’s important to remember that, although links to the films have become a little more tenuous over time, the Marvel TV shows are all set in the MCU and the basic rules still apply. According to Doctor Strange, the time-space continuum is very fragile indeed. In one scene, Doctor Strange experimented with the Time Stone on an apple, to the horror of Wong and Mordo. “Temporal manipulations can create branches in time,” Mordo warned furiously, “Unstable dimensional openings. Spatial paradoxes, time loops!” Wong agreed; “You weren’t manipulating the space-time continuum, ” he fumed. “You were breaking it.

Related: Spider-Man: Far From Home Theory – Thanos Unleashed The Elementals

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5 was all about time travel. S.H.I.E.L.D. found themselves caught in a time loop, one that involved the destruction of the entire planet, and everything they did appeared to be predestined. However hard they tried to break the loop, the future seemed impossible to change, and Fitz even began to lose hope and believe the future was set in stone. In the end, of course, he was wrong; one single decision by Phil Coulson changed everything, when he chose to slip the Centipede Serum into Quake’s gauntlet rather than use it himself. Her powers enhanced by the serum, Quake was able to beat Graviton and save the Earth, albeit dooming Coulson to die at last. The loop had been broken.

But what effect did this have on the time-space continuum? S.H.I.E.L.D. had essentially done just what Wong and Mordo cautioned Doctor Strange against; they had created a new branch in time, potentially damaging the time-space continuum. Over in the comics, this kind of action has been known to have devastating effects. The most dramatic example was in 2013’s “Age of Ultron” event, when time shattered and fragmented. Realities merged, portals opened between alternate timelines, and living beings like Angela – Thor’s long-lost sister – found themselves stranded in the normal Marvel dimension. It’s possible S.H.I.E.L.D.’s act had a similar effect, although on a less dramatic scale. What’s more, given it was Coulson who caused the damage, it’d be less surprising that an alternate version would got caught up in it all.

Is Agents of SHIELD Season 6 Exploring Alternate Dimensions?

Agents of SHIELD Framework Phil Coulson

Marvel comics have frequently used the idea of alternate dimensions to create “What If?” realities in which events played out very differently. What if Daredevil had killed the Kingpin? What if the Punisher’s family had not been killed? What if Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben had lived, and Aunt May was murdered instead? Oddly enough, many of these alt-universe adventures inspired ideas that were ultimately done in the main comics; Spider-Man really did join the Fantastic Four, Jane Foster became Thor for a while, and Reed and Sue Richards did have a second child, Valeria. The concept was faithfully reproduced on the big screen just last year, when a number of alt-universe Spider-Men worked together in Sony’s animated Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse blockbuster.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4 already experimented with the idea a little, with Coulson and his team trapped in a virtual reality known as the Framework. In this world, Hydra had successfully conquered America; Coulson was a schoolteacher, Agent May was one of Hydra’s top operatives, and Fitz was in a romantic relationship with Madame Hydra herself. But season 6 could go a lot further, with an alt-Coulson crossing paths with S.H.I.E.L.D. at a time when the pain of Coulson’s loss is still fresh to May and her colleagues.

Of course, if there’s an alt-Coulson, it stands to reason there may be doppelgangers of the other S.H.I.E.L.D. team members as well, which means almost every scene in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 6 trailer should be viewed with real care; some scenes may well show duplicates in action rather than Mack’s S.H.I.E.L.D. band.

More: The Most Popular Superhero Shows Of 2018

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