One of the ongoing plot points of season 1 of Agents of SHIELD is that everyone still thinks Coulson is dead.

For example, in the episode where Sif comes to Earth, the agent asks her to not reveal to Thor that she knows he is still alive. However that hasn't really been brought up this season and with each passing episode it seems that more and more people know the agent is alive and that Fury left him in charge of rebuilding SHIELD.

It seems impossible that at the very least Stark would know about this agent. With the long reach that JARVIS clearly has and Maria Hill always knowing the agent was alive, it seems likely. Since there was no mention of him at all during Age of Ultron

(even with the arrival of the Theta Protocol helicarrier Fury only mentions "friends"),

And season 2 of Agents of SHIELD hasn't addressed this, is there anything that lets us know where this situation stands?

  • I thought it was mentioned in one of the last couple episodes (set before Age of Ultron) that at that point they still didn't know
    – Izkata
    Commented May 10, 2015 at 3:22
  • 1
    Coulson isn't mentioned during AoU because Whedon considers him dead as far as the movies are concerned.
    – phantom42
    Commented May 10, 2015 at 3:55
  • Yeah, Agents of SHIELD is no longer part of the MCU. It's in its own little one way glass universe where it can take what it wants from the movies but the movies don't know it exists.
    – Joshua
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 2:16
  • It is still technically part of the MCU. But just as with the various series on Netflix, there is little to no overlap or interaction between the two. And there really doesn't need to be...yet. But we'll see where they go with the Inhumans plot line. And since Whedon has finished his part of the MCU, we still have really to see where future directors and the MCU overlords at Disney will take any potential future interactions. I would bet with the Inhumans movie coming in a couple of years and Inhumans being the whole plot of AofS now, there will be more overlap in the future.
    – BBlake
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 15:11
  • Since Joss Whedon is no longer involved with the MCU, it's only a matter of time when Thaddeus Ross and Tony Stark learn about SHIELD and Phil Coulson.
    – Dee Rush
    Commented Jul 2, 2016 at 3:20

8 Answers 8


No, none of the Avengers know that Coulson is still alive. Joss Whedon did some interviews around the time Age of Ultron was released, and he mentioned that this would undermine the importance of Coulson's death in Avengers. So instead, the status quo is maintained where Coulson's resurrection is kept secret.

A couple of quotes from Joss Whedon:

Talking with mental_floss:

A lot of people come back in The Winter Soldier. It’s a grand Marvel tradition. Bucky was supposed to die. And the Coulson thing was, I think, a little anomalous just because that really came from the television division, which is sort of considered to be its own subsection of the Marvel universe. As far as the fiction of the movies, Coulson is dead.

But I have to say, watching the first one with my kids—I had not watched the first one since it came out—and then watching it with my kids and watching Coulson die but [thinking], “Yeah, but I know that he kind of isn’t,” it did take some of the punch out of it for me. Of course, I spent a lot of time making sure he didn’t. And at the time it seemed inoffensive, as long as it wasn’t referenced in the second movie, which it isn’t.

Talking with Buzzfeed:

Whedon called the decision to bring Coulson back a “no-brainer,” but despite Marvel’s exacting commitment to creative uniformity, do not expect to see Coulson show up in Age of Ultron, either. “As far as I’m concerned, in this movie, Coulson’s dead,” he said. “If you come back in the sequel and say Coulson’s alive, it’s like putting fucking John Gielgud in the sequel to Arthur. It mattered that he’s gone. It’s a different world now. And you have to run with that.”

  • 1
    Although, honestly, I would be surprised if Natasha and/or Hawkeye didn't know... or at least suspect.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 23:31
  • 1
    I'm pretty sure in the same interviews he says that Agents aren't in the movie universe anymore.
    – Joshua
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 2:17
  • What @Joshua said, "Agents Of Shield" isn't canon inverse.com/entertainment/… Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 8:26

At least one Avenger knows, but its probably not who you think. When Coulson finally got to confront Fury, after venting over being put through the hell of T.A.H.I.T.I. against his will Coulson reminded Fury it was only to be used to revive a fallen Avenger, and Fury responded "It was". So yes, one Avengers knows Coulson is alive and running Shield, Coulson himself.

  • Is there a quote or source for that?
    – Stevoisiak
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 22:01
  • 1
    @StevenVascellaro imdb.com/title/tt3609170/quotes/qt2169609
    – Gaurav
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 4:17
  • 2
    @Gaurav I think he means "It was" as in "you were an Avenger". Alternatively "It was" with "was" being in the past tense, aka no longer applicable.
    – TylerH
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 15:24

No. In the main MCU universe (aka “616” or the “Sacred Timeline”), Agent Coulson never came back from the dead.

The book Marvel Studios’ The Marvel Cinematic Universe: An Official Timeline confirms this by providing an official, chronological account of the events in the main MCU universe (also known as “616” or the “Sacred Timeline”). The book only mentions Coulson's death and does not mention anything about Coulson’s resurrection or the events and characters from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., suggesting that the TV show is not part of the Sacred Timeline. Therefore, none of the Avengers know that Coulson was resurrected because it never happened in their timeline.

Image of the section of The Marvel Cinematic Universe: An Official Timeline quoted below

Spring 2012 | The Death of Phil Coulson

Loki escapes from his holding chamber when his minions board the Helicarrier. Natasha Romanoff battles the mind-controlled Clint Barton, hoping to snap her old friend out of his spell, and Agent Coulson confronts Loki with one of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s prototype weapons. Loki distracts him with an illusion and spears him through the chest with his scepter. "You're going to lose," a dying Coulson says. "It's in your nature … You lack conviction." After Loki's escape, Nick Fury uses Coulson's death (and the hero trading cards he doctored with blood) to inspire that sense of conviction in his perpetually clashing Avengers.

Phil Coulson's sacrifice is a defining moment for the Avengers.

Notice that the book's section about Coulson's death has the symbol for "Major Character Dies", suggesting that Coulson died for real.

"Major Character Dies" symbol


Surely Barton and Romanoff would know once Coulson becomes Director. I mean, they're superspies, but they can't figure out that senior agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Phillip J. Coulson who was their friend and died is the same senior agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Phillip J. Coulson that is now director of their organisation. And due to the frequency with which Stark hacks into S.H.I.E.L.D.s databases, I'm sure he would figure it out too. It just seems a little odd that people who are praised for working things out can't figure out something like this. And is Stark still supplying funding and weapons for S.H.I.E.L.D.? Because I'd love to see how the paperwork for that works out without letting him know that Coulson is alive. It just has a tenacious grip on feasibility is what I'm getting at.

Sorry, I don't have Marvel-interested friends that I can talk about this stuff to. Sorry.

  • Coulson doesn't become the director until after the events of Winter Soldier. Up until that point, it's still Fury. At this point, as far as Romanoff and Barton are concerned, Shield has been disbanded. They're basically just working as Avengers, and also doing some work for their old friend and former director Fury.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 14:29
  • Welcome to the site! Visit the tour and help center for helpful tips on providing good answers. I recommend you add sources to support your points when answering. It's recommended to do a little research before posting. :)
    – RedCaio
    Commented Oct 15, 2016 at 19:53
  • SHIELD remains into the shadows until Agents of SHIELD season 4, when it re-emerges as a governmental agency lead by Jeffrey Mace. Barton and Romanoff were both working for the Avengers Initiative at that time, which is funded by Tony Stark. I'd agree that it's moderately surprising that Romanoff didn't notice either Coulson's SHIELD or the Real SHIELD, especially so once SHIELD started showing up to rescue Inhumans in Season 3. But I agree with you that there is NO way Romanoff or Stark doesn't investigate Mace's SHIELD in Season 4.
    – Gaurav
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 4:23

Like phantom42 said, the Captain might have the clearance, but it does not mean he knows Coulson is alive, doubt the Captain browses every file he has access to, the Captain had level 8 clearance in Hydra/SHIELD, but that does not mean all the information that he should have had access to was available to him. Also level 10 clearance Colonel Fury could also have locked up everything on Coulson being alive.

  • Captain America had a Level 8 clearance? Could you provide a reference to support that?
    – Shreedhar
    Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 19:17

In season five "the real deal" when dream Mike Peterson is telling Coulson everything was a lie (it wasn't) the people operating on Coulson in his [dream/memory?] said something along the lines of "stark said to use anything we need" which led me to assume that Stark now knows he's alive, however I may have interpreted it wrong and the operation may have been a dream instead of a memory so I might be wrong?

  • You might want to do some more research on this. Answers should answer the question and whilst this does it reads as if it is continuing the discussion and this is not a discussion forum but a question and answer site. You might want to take the tour.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 12:40

Steve, Natasha and Clint have level 7 clearance and above so it would be weird if they didn't know considering people are told that Phil is actually alive when they reach that level and I think they are more then capable of figuring that out on their own considering all the information they have the ability to get.

  • 1
    Coulson tells Ward in the pilot that the Avengers don't have level seven clearance.
    – ibid
    Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 23:08

In The Winter Soldier, when Captain gets in the elevator with Fury, it shows he has a level 8 clearance. It would be very weird if he didn't know, also including the super-spies that worked for that organization. Don't you think after it went public people would be asking questions? Or maybe Clint and Natasha would want to go back to shield? They most likely either know and don't care or they they're suspicious but don't want to/have the time to look into it.

  • Can you provide any evidence for your answer? It seems overly speculative.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 15:51
  • I think there was a clear indication in one of the earliest Agents episodes that none of the Avengers know about Coulson. If they didn't know then, there's no reason for them to learn after TWS. Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 15:54
  • Having clearance to know does not mean they do know.
    – phantom42
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 17:53

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