Warning: Spoilers for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” are contained in this article.
If viewers of “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” have been confused at the direction the ABC series has been building in, nothing makes it clearer than the release of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” This movie, more so than the explanation of why Agent Coulson is still alive or the reveal of TAHITI, is the most important thing to happen on “Agents of SHIELD.”
In “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” it is revealed that HYDRA — the same Nazi organization Captain America was fighting in “The First Avenger” — infiltrated SHIELD basically from its inception. Because of that, key members of SHIELD, including head honcho Alexander Pearce, have been manipulating the organization to do HYDRA’s bidding for years.
By the end of “The Winter Soldier,” Captain America and Nick Fury decide that SHIELD needs to be destroyed to make sure HYDRA is shut down as well. They do just that, with Maria Hill going to work at Stark Industries, Agent 13 (aka Sharon Carter) heading to the FBI and Black Widow heading out on a solo journey. SHIELD as we know it is no more.
So what about “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD”?
The events of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” are by far the most significant thing to happen to the Marvel Cinematic Universe since “The Avengers,” and the first that will have huge repercussions on the ABC series that holds SHIELD in its title. The implication is that HYDRA has infiltrated that show as well, and that no one who was previously viewed as an ally can be trusted.
The end of “Captain America 2” also raises the question of how Coulson, May, Sky, Ward and FitzSimmons can continue being “Agents of SHIELD” if there is no SHIELD for them to be agents of. Showrunners Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen sort of address this in a new USA Today article when Tancharoen teases, “Survival is a huge part of it. There is no more tapping into big SHIELD through the holo-comm. The guns you have on the plane are the guns you have. They’re basically left with the bare minimum.”
Whedon adds, “Now they really are a ragtag bunch scraping things together.”
If “Agents of SHIELD” lost your interest during its first 16 episodes, now it’s time to get interested. This HYDRA twist is something Tancharoen and Whedon have known about from the get-go, and now they can start really getting their hands dirty in the TV series. They’ve expressed repeatedly they’re pretty excited about the prospect. The extent of the crossover between the Marvel movies and TV show is unprecedented, and hopefully sets a standard for the franchise going forward.
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is currently in theaters. “Agents of SHIELD” airs Tuesdays on ABC at 8 p.m.