*FULL SPOILERS FOR ANY OF THE FILMS, TV SHOW AND COMICS MAY FOLLOW*
Well the end of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1 answered some questions as well as prompting several new ones, this article will serve to point out all the loose threads in the bigger MCU as of now, and where they could all be leading while we move towards the next installment in August, Guardians of the Galaxy. And with the film fast approaching, let’s examine where the universe stands.
We now know that HYDRA has been infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D. from the beginning, and the organization has been effectively dismantled following the world’s revelations of its corruption following the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. After AoS season 1, we know that Coulson was revived from his death at the end of The Avengers by Fury using the T.A.H.I.T.I. project that was meant as a failsafe to revive a fallen Avenger, because he is one (that’s cute). He was promoted to the Director of the now underground S.H.I.E.L.D., while Fury hides out off the grid, hoping Coulson can use his impeccable sense of justice to bring the Agency back to its former status. With Garrett and Ward revealed as HYDRA traitors, Fitz incapacitated after the events of the finale, and Skye’s parentage still a mystery it seems we have the setup for season 2.
Now on to some speculation about the upcoming mysteries in AoS season 2 and how they may tie into the bigger Marvel Cinematic Universe.. Regarding Skye and Raina’s connection, as well as the creepy slime covered guy in the AoS Season 1 Finale, the theory that makes the most sense to me is that they will be revealed to be Inhumans. In the comics, this race of enhanced humans were experimented on by the alien Kree race in prehistoric times, creating a subspecies of human with extraordinary potential. They seem perfectly normal, albeit with enhanced lifespans, until they are exposed to a mutagen called the Terrigen Mists, that causes all manner of abilities to manifest.
This theory makes sense, since Raina asks Garrett “what will she become” possibly after exposure to the Mists, and she says she shares something with Skye, and there is something special in her DNA, this could be Inhuman genes. The blue alien the GH 325 was derived from looks an awful lot like a comic book Kree, and makes me believe the GH 325 will be some component of the incomplete Terrigen Mists and after exposure, Skye and Raina will manifest powers to become some Inhuman characters familiar to comic readers. Which ones they could be, as well as which Skye’s “father” would be if this theory holds true is up for debate, as there are many that are equally likely. Humans have been exposed to the Terrigen Mists in the comics before, and any power boost they get has always been temporary, much like the C.E.N.T.I.P.E.D.E. soldiers experienced.
Another piece of evidence is rumors that Marvel Studios will use the Inhuman idea to explain the powers of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron. Marvel cannot use the idea of Mutants, as the film rights to every mutant character and even the idea of them are currently licensed to Fox Studios as a result of a deal in the early 2000s during Marvel’s bankruptcy days. Usually Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are the children of the On again/Off again master villain Magneto, making them mutants but have also been prominent Avengers since issue #16, allowing Marvel Studios to use them as well. According to the after-credits scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, their abilities will have something to do with Loki’s staff from The Avengers and Baron Von Strucker (HYDRA big-wig and Captain America villain) introduced them as a part of the “Age of Miracles”. The prevailing theory is that the brother-sister duo will be the children of Baron Von Strucker instead of Magneto, and they will be Inhumans, whose abilities are awakened by the Terrigen Mists, the “miracles” of their sudden manifestations of super-powers being a stand in for mutations. This may not be the case, and somehow the possible Mind Gem in Loki’s scepter might be giving them abilities in some other way but I think the Inhuman theory would sew everything up nicely.
The alien Coulson found in the base seems to be a Kree, the GH 325 extracted from this alien would make sense as an ingredient to the Terrigen Mists since the Kree would be the ones who enhanced the Inhumans in the first place. When Garrett is injected with the fully formed mixture of Centipede, Extremis, and GH 325 and he can suddenly “see the universe”, it makes sense that this cocktail might be an incomplete version of the Terrigen Mists and might be temporarily bestowing abilities on Garrett who is a normal human, but twisting his mind. Coulson warned Fury that using GH 325 in the T.A.H.I.T.I. project was causing this side-effect, and we see that it also affected Coulson in a similar way to Garrett in the last scene of the finale, when Coulson is compelled to start drawing the same alien-looking blueprints Garrett was. We know so far that Skye’s mind was unaffected by the GH 325 and only benefitted from its healing capabilities.
The connection between all of these players, the Terrigen Mists, the Kree and the Infinity Stones seems to make sense. My theory is that the GH 325, C.E.N.T.I.P.E.D.E. serum, and Extremis cocktail is an incomplete version of the Terrigen Mists, affecting the humans exposed to it with Superhuman abilities but warping their minds. The final ingredient needed to stabilize the concoction and fully realize its potential could be the gem in Loki’s staff, widely thought to be the Mind Infinity Stone. Its influence on those affected by the concoction could mitigate its mind-altering effects and while allowing the Inhumans who are have the capacity to develop unique abilities to do so safely. Raina’s insistence that she has no allegiance to HYDRA or anyone else, only the evolution of the Human Race seems to speak to her knowledge of her parentage. The slime covered person she speaks to in the finale (who is supposedly Skye’s father) could be an Inhuman looking to bring out his brethren or maybe a Kree who wants to bring out the abilities of the Inhumans to use them in the fight against Thanos’ rampage across the universe.
Right, that brings about Thanos in this whole saga and what his motivations are. We know from the end of The Avengers that his purple-chinned mug was behind the Invasion of New York, the Chitauri soldiers lent to Loki were his minions. Generally in the comics, Thanos is usually after only one thing, absolute power over the entire universe, often this leads him to one thing as his tool of destruction, the Infinity Gauntlet. This glove holds 6 gems (or stones in the MCU) that each control a different aspect of existence, allowing the person who assembles them all to do anything they wish. We know the Gauntlet itself exists in Odin’s trophy room in Asgard (glimpsed in the first Thor film) and at the end of Thor: The Dark World we learn that Odin decided to give the Aether (the mysterious power that the villain of that film Malekith was using to warp reality) to Taneleer Tivan, The Collector (one of the universe’s immortal elders, granted freedom from mortality from the manifestation of Death itself, whom Thanos is often seeing trying to court, but that’s another story) as it is thought it would not be smart to store two Infinity Stones in one place on Asgard. This tells us the Tesseract from The Avengers is one Infinity Stone (most likely the Space Gem, since it can open portals between planets) and the Aether is another (its unknown which it may be, possibly the Power Gem), but there are other complications. We know from the end of Thor: The Dark World that the “Odin” giving these orders is actually Loki in disguise, so what would his motivations be for giving The Collector an Infinity Stone? The Collector himself is notorious for doing anything he needs to obtain everything in the universe, so is he working with someone or just greedy in his proclamation of “one down, five to go” referring to his receipt of the Aether. And we know in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film, the team is trying to protect a powerful artifact (glimpsed in the trailers) that many believe will be another Infinity Stone. That leaves Thanos’ role in GotG as well as the future Avengers films, where he is believed to be the main villain of the third film.
My theory is that Thanos manipulated Loki into starting the Battle of New York in The Avengers as a way to get the Tesseract. This was in exchange for promising Loki the Throne of Asgard and Earth, giving him the Mind Stone in the scepter to serve his ego and give him a means to recruit those he needed to accomplish his plans. When the invasion was foiled and Thanos didn’t come to his aid, Loki became resentful of him and decided to take the Throne of Asgard for himself, and try to undermine Thanos’ quest by giving the Aether to the Collector and making it harder for Thanos to find it. In GotG, Peter Quill, Star Lord, will find “The Orb” (which will be another Infinity Stone) and come into contact with Gamora because she was hired by The Collector to find it. Gamora was once a “daughter” to Thanos along with Nebula (Karen Gillan’s blue-skinned bald bounty hunter), and she left the “family” after a major “disagreement”, vowing to stop Thanos’ schemes in any way she can. This gives Gamora a reason to find the “Orb” for The Collector, to keep it out of Thanos’ hands, and why she would be in conflict with Nebula, while Ronan the Accuser will be working for Thanos to get it for his master. It remains to be seen where it will end up, but it seems like the possible Mind Gem in Loki’s scepter will remain with HYDRA, possibly being the catalyst for Thanos’ journey to Earth to complete his quest, and Loki-as-Odin’s possession of the Tesseract being an impetus for him to be involved in The Avengers 3.
Now as to where Ultron, the GotG, the upcoming Doctor Strange and Ant-Man will factor into this post Avengers: Age of Ultron, the sky is the limit. Ultron will probably not be directly involved in the Infinity Stones saga, as it seems like they are going for a more personal tale suiting of the Ultron character. The prevailing theory *(and now confirmed)* being that he will be a manifestation of a smart AI Tony designs to assess and deal with threats for the Avengers, so he and the other heavy hitters don’t have to get into battle as often. Other theories have all the contingency plans Tony Stark has created to deal with the Avengers, along with some sinister copy of Jarvis’ AI being thrown into the pot as well. The idea there being that Ultron will use all the personal information about their pasts, abilities and S.H.I.E.L.D. secrets Stark had to destroy the Avengers, causing the team to become its own worst enemy. The challenge will probably serve to introduce Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch to the team, get them experience, and further cement the team as the ultimate protectors of Earth. Maybe Stephen Strange and Scott Lang will be searching for artifacts that turn out to be Infinity Stones and be dragged into the conflict themselves, becoming part of the Avengers team by the third installment and furthering the Infinity Stones saga. As I said before, the Kree Coulson found might have been a scout meaning to activate the Inhumans that they know have developed on Earth from Prehistoric times (Skye and Raina being among them) as a way to protect themselves against Thanos’ reign, since maybe they have another of the Infinity Stones, and the blueprints Coulson and Garrett saw after exposure to the GH 325 were from Kree technology and their human brains couldn’t comprehend it.
Then comes the Netflix-exclusive series that Marvel Studios is producing for Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones, and how they may fit into the larger story. President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige confirmed that these stories, as well as their crossover limited series The Defenders will be firmly set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so how big their role will be in the overall saga is to be determined. What would make sense is if The Defenders centers around the team protecting another Infinity Stone, maybe in the possession of Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin, and turning it over to S.H.I.E.L.D., to raise their profile again and crossover their television projects.
Another branch of the tree begins with the green lighting of Agent Carter as a series starring Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter from Captain America: The First Avenger. This series will be a limited run (8 episodes) and be a period piece, set before the Agent Carter Marvel One-Shot short film on the Iron Man 3 Blu-Ray (if you haven’t seen it, go do it now, it’s fantastic). The show is meant to be an exploration of the origins of S.H.I.E.L.D. and exploring her and Howard Stark’s role in forming the organization. It seems that it will serve more as an exposition series, highlighting some plot points only alluded to about the history of S.H.I.E.L.D. and maybe a clue to its future. It seems likely that we will get some more details about how HYDRA remained undetected in the organization’s underbelly so long, and possibly some more information on the Winter Soldier since he was operating as an assassin for the USSR at the time. How it may figure into the overall MCU story remains to be seen, but I can bet there will be some blockbuster reveal at the conclusion of its first season that will play out in a big way.
Overall, the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems to be exploding with possibilities, and has convinced the average viewer to do something fans have been trying to do for years, love the huge, interconnected, persistent universe of wonderful characters the comics have been providing for over 70 years. It’s an experiment that reached astounding success, and changed the landscape of not only film but entertainment for the foreseeable future. Exploring all the hints and tidbits about the various comic based and original characters unveiled so far has been loads of fun, and we are constantly hunting for more. The possibility of characters like Black Widow receiving her own film, Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers), The Wasp, The Vision, and countless other characters showing up at some point always keeps us hungry for more. I can personally say I can’t wait for August, when the studio’s most ambitious and risky film, Guardians of the Galaxy arrives, so the speculation train can start all over again,… bring it on.