Tonight’s episode of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD finally revealed what exactly Phil Coulson was up to in the post-credits season to the season four finale.
Spoilers for Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD Season Five, Episode Four, “A Life Spent” follow.
The post-credits scene to the Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD’s Season Four finale episode “World’s End” revealed that Coulson had somehow made it to outer space. He woke up, looked out a window onto some sort of asteroid field and told himself that was enough sightseeing and that it was time to go to work.
That scene led to lots of off-season speculation about what was going on. We now know that, yes, Coulson is in space. We also know from the Agents of SHIELD Season Five premiere that he wasn’t just transported in space but in time and that the asteroid field that Coulson was looking out onto was actually much of what’s left of Earth following a cataclysmic event supposedly caused by Daisy Johnson.
However, we still didn’t have a clear understanding of what Coulson was doing or what he meant by “work” until the third episode of season five, “A Life Spent.” Thanks to that episode, we now know that Coulson was on the trawler ship having just woken up from a brief sleep. After he leaves the room, he rejoins the rest of the ship’s crew, which is comprised mostly of his SHIELD team members along with Tess, a human from this era of time who was friends with Virgil, a human devoted to SHIELD who first found Coulson’s team when they arrived.
Using Virgil’s journal as a guide, Coulson realized that Virgil had been doing recon into the ruins of Earth. One section, in particular, section 616, seemed to be visited more frequently than any of the others. On their first trip out to that section, Coulson’s team discovered that there was a transmission bouncing off of the large Earth debris labeled 616.
Immediately following the scene from the season four finale, Coulson rejoins the rest of the team during a return mission just before they pick up a stronger signal. This time they’re able to trace it back to what remains of the Earth’s surface, which is supposedly now unlivable for humans.
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.