The studio’s latest Disney+ series features an extended sequence in which Owen Wilson’s Mobius M. Mobius takes Tom Hiddleston’s Loki on a trip down memory lane. Naturally, one of the focus points of the scene ends up being Loki’s killing of S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) in 2012’s The Avengers — and the latter’s death is used as a way to interrogate Loki’s attitude towards death and violence.
It also totally ignores (or contradicts, depending on your interpretation) a fundamental part of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s story.
What Happened — Coulson’s Avengers death makes a brief reappearance during Mobius’ informal interrogation of Loki. When Mobius mentions that it was the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent’s murder that brought the Avengers together in the first place, Loki dryly responds, “Little solace to a dead man.” Mobius, notably, doesn’t contradict him.
That’s noteworthy, since Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. revealed that Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) actually brought Coulson back to life after he was first killed by Loki. While the circumstances surrounding Coulson’s resurrection were kept secret from most of the world, there’s no reason to believe Mobius wouldn’t be aware of them.
Either Mobius willingly chose to let Loki believe he’d permanently killed Coulson, or Marvel is offering further evidence it doesn’t consider Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. part of the MCU canon.
Cold Shoulder — Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has always occupied an interesting, ambiguous place in the MCU. When it was on the air, the ABC series often went out of its way (especially in earlier seasons) to address events from the MCU films and build out its own episodic stories from the plot points they introduced. The MCU’s movies, however, constantly ignored the series.
It’s one of the only instances wherein Marvel Studios, which has always taken great pride in the MCU’s narrative cohesion, has actively separated one of its titles from the others. S.H.I.E.L.D. still took place in the MCU, but it had no bearing on what happened in the studio’s films.
Now that Marvel is fully investing in television through its Disney+ series, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s status as part of the greater MCU canon is being called into question more each day. The WandaVision finale used a different version of The Darkhold than what was featured in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and rumors have since circulated that Marvel plans to recast S.H.I.E.L.D. characters (like Quake and Ghost Rider) before they appear in its future films and Disney+ shows.
Given this, the manner in which Coulson’s resurrection is omitted from the Loki premiere just feels like yet another step towards the storyline’s inevitable erasure.
The Inverse Analysis — Prior to WandaVision, Marvel had developed a reputation for ignoring all of its supposedly MCU-canon TV series, including Netflix’s Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage, and The Defenders as well as Hulu’s Runaways.
But whereas the characters from some of those shows are rumored to return to the MCU in the near future, the same cannot be said for nearly all of the characters, actors, and plot points from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Indeed, when it comes to the relationship between Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Marvel’s Disney+ shows, it does feel like the studio is using the new to entirely erase the old.
Loki is streaming now on Disney+.