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At the end of Episode 10 of Season 5, Daisy is

attempting to stay behind.

She argues that Coulson taught her to fight, to which the latter responds,

May taught you to fight. I need you to lead.

In light of those words and the following facts, it seems clear that Coulson intends Daisy to take over as head of S.H.I.E.L.D.:

  1. Coulson is dying, he knows it, and future Elena said that they have to let him.

  2. Daisy is the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the comics.

However, why does he want this?

Simmons, Fitz, and particularly May are all more senior. Not sure about Mack. May also has a decade or so of experience in an administrative position. Daisy has been with them for roughly five years. It's hard to see why she'd be promoted over May, say, without some talents that May lacked.

But May seems to have more authority and leadership skills, and Mack seems better with people. Daisy is undoubtedly the most lethal team member by far, she's extremely courageous, and she has very useful computer skills, but those qualities don't seem to be ideally suited for head.

That said, Coulson certainly has a reason.

Why would Coulson prefer Daisy to take his place over more senior and possibly better-qualified team members?

  • 2
    You spoiler-hide the fact that Coulson wants Daisy to lead, but not that Coulson is dying? – phantom42 Feb 4 '18 at 14:54
  • @phantom42 - It's to prevent it from coming up in the excerpt on the main page. That's the main thing I'm concerned about. – Adamant Feb 4 '18 at 19:20
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Simmons and Fitz are science nerds, and would be the first to admit they aren't cut out for the leadership roles. Mack has experience, but his I'm quitting-no I'm not history would make him a questionable pick, as the first time he came up against some hard choices might be too much for him. May would be the logical choice, but the question is whether May would want to. Her favorite role seems to be the woman-behind-the-man (or woman), and she's shown to be extremely short-tempered when it comes to the politics.

  • With respect to Mack…he might have had a conflict with regard to quitting. But Daisy has a history of quitting S.H.I.E.L.D. too, and joining up with flame-headed vigilantes while she’s at it. Which isn’t to say that she would be unqualified because of that (though it is striking compared to May’s unremitting dedication to the organization). But I agree, if Coulson knows that May would never take the leadership position, Daisy could easily be the next-best choice. It’s not as if there are many S.H.I.E.L.D leaders with decades of experience left. – Adamant Feb 4 '18 at 5:21
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Coulson has both professional and personal reasons for wanting Daisy to lead

Whilst Daisy doesn't believe she can or is ready to lead, Coulson has always seen the potential in her to do far more than she thinks.

Coulson has been preparing Daisy for greater things since Season 1

Early on, Coulson makes it clear he's setting her up to do his (then) job:

Season 1, Episode 9

Skye: "You know what makes people tick"

Coulson: "So do you. You see the good in them, you were a friend to Hannah, you can't wait to get inside May's head, and you figured out Tobias without even trying"

Skye: "Guess I'm full of surprises"

Coulson: "But this isn't one of them. I wanted you paying close attention to the Index Asset Evaluation and Intake process because some day, you'll be really good at it - even the best"

Daisy has already held a leadership position

At the end of Season 2, Coulson assigned Daisy to put together and lead a team of her own - the Secret Warriors. Over the course of Season 3, she managed to find a group of suitable Inhumans, get them to join S.H.I.E.L.D., get them trained (where necessary), and then was able to plan and successfully execute a rescue of the main team when they had been captured by Giyera & Hive. Whilst that team was then disbanded, it wasn't due to a failure of the team or her being a bad leader, rather that Hive's sway/influence over Inhumans made it too dangerous.

Coulson had wanted Daisy to lead S.H.I.E.L.D. when he last stood down

When S.H.I.E.L.D. was preparing to go legit again in Season 4, Coulson had stood down as Director, and Jeffrey Mace had taken over. However when Daisy rejoins S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson indicates that had she not left she would have been his intended choice:

Season 4, Episode 8

Daisy: "Plus, it doesn't hurt that the new face of S.H.I.E.L.D. is an Inhuman. Your idea?"

Coulson: "I thought the new face of S.H.I.E.L.D. should be an Inhuman. Didn't mean him though."

Daisy: Gestures at herself, surprised. "Yeah, right - maybe the comic book version"

Coulson: Smiles

Coulson thinks of Daisy as a daughter

We see repeatedly that Coulson is willing to go to extremes to protect and/or rescue Daisy, and that he thinks of her as the daughter he never had:

Season 3, Episode 18

Coulson: "…Daisy's always longed for a family, for a connection - I thought I could give it to her with S.H.I.E.L.D."

May: "Phil, you're not her father"

Coulson: "No, but she's the closest thing I have to a daughter"

There aren't many other choices

As stated in the other answer, he doesn't have a large number of people to choose from - Fitz & Simmons aren't remotely qualified, neither is Elena, or any of the 'lower-ranked' agents like Piper or Davis.

It's highly doubtful that May would want the job - she's repeatedly shown as being happiest Coulson's right-hand, hating anything that causes her not to take action directly, and is almost as protective of Daisy as Coulson.

Mack is a plausible choice, having been left in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D. before (Season 3, Episode 9), but his recent black & white good vs. evil viewpoint isn't really conductive to leading S.H.I.E.L.D., as the Director frequently has to work in shades of grey.

That leaves Daisy.

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