*** This article contains spoilers for Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. ***
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is probably the movie that has done more to expand the boundaries and change the rules of the Marvel Cinematic Universe than any other. Yes, that includes The Avengers. It’s also the most closely tied with Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD TV series, the most recent episodes of which function as bookends to the SHIELD-centric elements of Captain America 2. With all of this in mind, for a “solo” film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier manages to introduce more new characters (some of whom will likely have incredible consequences both for this franchise and others), seed more new potential plotlines, and provide more life and purpose to established characters than ANY other film in Marvel’s cinematic canon. Here’s what we mean:
Kevin Feige has been making noises about a possible Black Widow solo film for quite some time, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier is handily the best case yet made for this to happen. There’s no denying Scarlett Johansson’s star power, and that should ease any studio jitters about the lack of successful female superhero movies as a precedent. A film that delves into Natasha’s mysterious origins and the consequences of her past now being a matter of public record as a result of the events of The Winter Soldier would satisfy the obligatory origin story requirements, while continuing to advance the overall Marvel universe’s cause. With Black Widow getting a starring role in this one, don’t be surprised if we see more of her after Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson/Falcon may not even appear in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but nevertheless, his introduction here is a key piece of the evolution of the Captain America franchise and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. If Captain America 3 draws as heavily on the Ed Brubaker/Steve Epting comics as The Winter Soldier did, then Sam Wilson will play an integral part in the next chapter. They certainly didn’t shy away from this in the conclusion to the film. While the Falcon is a character who, traditionally, has operated as Captain America’s partner, Anthony Mackie’s winning performance in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and that potentially expanded role in Captain America 3 could help pave the way for a solo film. If nothing else, it looks like the fans are on his side.
While Emily VanCamp’s Sharon “Agent 13” Carter might not be terribly likely to anchor her own film at any point in the near future, expect her to play a major role in Captain America 3, potentially as a breakout character the way Black Widow is in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Sharon Carter is the final piece in Cap’s inner circle (along with the Falcon), a major player in future installments of the comic book version of the Winter Soldier storyline, and a character who could easily find screentime in any number of Marvel’s other film or TV projects. Since it looks like Agents of SHIELD might be looking for some new team members soon, and since Ms. VanCamp is no stranger to TV, Sharon Carter might just be able to give the show a boost. And then there’s the character’s impressive lineage to consider…
As expected, the Scientific Strategic Reserve (the SSR) from Captain America: The First Avenger is the organization that evolved into SHIELD, with Howard Stark and Peggy Carter as founding members. With Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter getting spotlighted as part of a Marvel One-Shot, and now her integral role in SHIELD’s early days now made clear, Marvel is making sure to establish that their cinematic universe didn’t go into stasis with Captain America at the end of World War II, only to return with Tony Stark’s emergence as Iron Man. With an Agent Carter TV series in development, we may get to see the early days of SHIELD at some point, and we might have Captain America: The Winter Soldier to thank.
AGENTS OF SHIELD
While Agents of SHIELD has had an uneven season, its most recent episodes, which have dealt directly with the events surrounding Captain America: The Winter Soldier, have finally felt like the SHIELD show fans thought we were getting when it was first announced. With the revelation that HYDRA has infilitrated SHIELD at the highest levels, the stakes are higher, and Agent Coulson’s squeaky-clean team have finally had to make some tough decisions. Agents of SHIELD‘s problem has been that it felt awfully small in what we knew to be an awfully big world. And SHIELD agent Jasper Sitwell now may hold the distinction of being the first character introduced in a feature film, spotlighted in a short film (gotta love these Marvel One-Shots!), used as a supporting character in a TV series, and then killed off in another feature film.
Now, the near dissolution (and certain public distrust) of SHIELD, and the destruction of a chunk of their infrastructure will allow the show to operate as a dirtier, “strike force” type show, without necessarily leaving fans feeling shortchanged. While Agents of SHIELD hasn’t been renewed for a second season yet, one thing is for sure: after the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it will be a VERY different show than it was in Season 1. Why is this? Glad you asked…
We’ve been waiting for HYDRA to actually rear their many heads since Agents of SHIELD was first announced. Captain America: The Winter Soldier explained why that wasn’t possible. But more importantly: HYDRA are back. No longer the Nazi stand-ins from Captain America: The First Avenger (although those sympathies should always be remembered if you’re wondering whether or not they’re a legitimate threat), HYDRA has proven that they can be anyone, and anywhere, a point that was driven home by the events of the Agents of SHIELD episode, “Turn, Turn, Turn.” Waiting for a credible threat for the team to fight every week? Now you have it!
First, let’s take a minute to appreciate the fact that they have found a way to introduce Arnim Zola into this version of the Marvel Universe in a way that makes sense, and is only marginally less disturbing than Jack Kirby’s original vision for the character. More importantly, though, Toby Jones’ Arnim Zola is now a character who can (and should) turn up in the most unexpected places, whether it’s in future Captain America sequels (Zola played a key role in the next chapters of the Winter Soldier’s story) or on Agents of SHIELD. And there are some more traditional villains who can show up in other places, as well…
Frank Grillo plays SHIELD agent/HYDRA sleeper, Brock Rumlow in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. While he never puts on the familiar skull mask, he definitely survives the film…and something tells us he won’t be happy with how things turned out. Expect Rumlow to return in Captain America 3 with a different look, potentially as the right-hand jerk of a returned Red Skull. In the meantime, he’d be a fine character to throw at the Agents of SHIELD should that show reach a second season.
This one is a bit of a longshot, especially since this marked Georges St-Pierre’s most high-profile acting role. And really, we got everything we needed out of Batroc, including his overwhelming desire to best Cap in a fair fight, in those few minutes of Captain America 2. On the other hand, he’s still twice the villain of anyone we’ve seen in Agents of SHIELD so far, and would definitely up the menace factor. It’s less likely that we’ll see him again than we will Crossbones, but there’s always a place in our hearts for…the Leaper! Read more about Batroc and Crossbones right here!
If ever there was a time for Samuel L. Jackson to get a solo spotlight as Nick Fury in a movie, the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier are what make it possible. Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury deserves as much credit for making the Marvel Cinematic Universe a viable entity as Robert Downey Jr.’s manic, flawed Tony Stark. In the comics of the last decade, Nick Fury has gone underground in order to rebuild SHIELD from the ground up. Sound familiar? Whether it’s in a solo film, or if Marvel decides to just back up a truck full of money to Mr. Jackson’s door in order to get him to inject a healthy and necessary dose of charisma into Agents of SHIELD, now that Nick Fury is free of his bureaucratic shackles, we can see some high-tech spy stories that would do Jim Steranko proud. But a hero like Nick Fury needs a proper villain to bump heads with. Who could fit the bill? We’re glad you asked…
Baron Strucker is, really, Nick Fury’s most traditional enemy. His appearance in the stinger for Captain America 2 is there, mostly, to tease Avengers: Age of Ultron and the introduction of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. But the head of HYDRA likely isn’t going to last beyond the first fifteen minutes of that film, and it would be foolish to waste one of Marvel’s more enduring villains. Thomas Kretschmann has shown he isn’t allergic to TV work with his turn on NBC’s Dracula, and the one thing Agents of SHIELD needs, more than anything else, is a serious, recurring villain. Barring that, there would be no better antagonist for a Nick Fury and his Secret Warriors movie. I go into more detail about the Baron Strucker post-credits scene here.
THE WINTER SOLDIER
Obviously the most important, but not just because he’s the title villain of the film! Sebastian Stan’s presence as Bucky and the implications of his post-credits sequence are both important to the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on practical, as well as story, levels. For one thing, it’s clear that the journey of the Winter Soldier isn’t over yet. But following the story that this movie borrows liberally from to its logical (and terrific) conclusion involves not just Bucky’s redemption, but his acceptance of the mantle of Captain America himself! With Chris Evans not necessarily planning on returning for future turns as Captain America, this would allow Marvel to kick the recasting can down the road several additional years, and allow a smooth, story-ready transtion from one Captain America to the next, without putting fans through the teeth-gnashing that recasting occasionally brings. By the time they’re ready to bring back Steve Rogers, the effect becomes far less jarring.
While all it really amounts to is a single line of dialogue, Jasper Sitwell’s shout-out to Stephen Strange definitely jives with Kevin Feige’s stated intention to make a Dr. Strange movie in the next few years. Although, considering that Dr. Strange was a card-carrying member of The Defenders, and a superhero team with that name is going to be the culimination of Marvel’s Netflix plans, perhaps the Sorcerer Supreme may find himself on the small screen, instead.