ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this Tuesday night finally shed some light — a surgical light, specifically — on what exactly happened to Agent Coulson after he died prior to The Battle of New York.
Held captive by the Centipede gang, Coulson learned from a grunt named Po that he was valuable to their organization because while The Clairvoyant had been able to see his death, he could not see what happened thereafter, that resulted in his improbable resurrection.
Raina herself later explained that while Centipede is poised for great things, outfitted as it is with an army of super-soldiers whom they can control ,the one nut that haven’t been able to crack is reviving them after death. That’s where Coulson’s secretive history comes into play.
Though Coulson resists, Raina emotionally manipulates him into subjecting himself further to a contraption they have to “open a window” into his mind and memories, noting that S.H.I.E.L.D. has already robbed him of so much, including great love — why let them have this secret, too?
Inside the gizmo, Coulson flashes back to the usual, idyllic “Tahiti” imagery… until it starts to crack apart, revealing the true nature of what he was being subject to. There was no pretty island masseuse, no genteel bus boy toting umbrella drinks, but a middle-aged nurse aside Dr. Streiten, while a spider-like robot poked and prodded at Coulson’s exposed noodle.
At episode’s end, after S.H.I.E.L.D. tracked down Centipede’s bomb-test town hideout and apprehended Raina — and after Coulson waved off Skye’s questions about his ordeal by saying, “They were just messing with my head” (ha!) — he slipped away to confront Dr. Streiten, saying: “I know about Tahiti.” Having obviously grappled with his begrudging role in it all for all this time, the good doc starts singing like a canary.
“You were dead for days,” Streiten reveals, dismissing the company line about it being mere hours. “But Director Fury moved Heaven and Earth, bringing in a team of scientists working around the clock using procedures that no good doctor would ever allow,” in the name of reviving him.
OK, but then what of the non-elective “brain surgery”? “We wanted to restore the man you’d once been,” Streiten explained, “So we gave you pleasant memories….. You lost your will to live, and we tried to give it back.” And with that additional intel imparted, Coulson vanished from the car, hopefully some, if not all, the wiser.
But does he still not have the full story? If not, what else might be being kept from him?