With Marvel, everything is connected, with a plethora of tie-ins, references, and Easter eggs. Of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, no film to date is as interconnected as “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” It’s one of the finest movies in the Marvel canon, and with our survey of what’s hidden throughout, you’ll see why.
To properly dissect “The Winter Soldier,” we’ll have to rewind to “Captain America: The First Avenger.” As a re-cap, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) embarks on a mission to save his buddy Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). Cap succeeds, finding Bucky strapped to a table in a Hydra facility. Later, we see a few quick, but ultimately significant moments. First, Arnim Zola (Toby Jones), scientist and Hyrda member grabs a stack of papers in “The First Avenger,” and a closer look reveals blueprints for what seems like an android. Second, in fight on a train, Bucky picks up Cap’s shield briefly, before being flung to his apparent death. RIP Bucky.
Scratch that last statement. Spoiler alert (hey, chances are if you’re reading this article you’ve seen the movie already): Bucky Barnes is the Winter Soldier, a fierce adversary working for Hydra. A scene in “The Winter Soldier” even finds Bucky holding Captain America’s shield again, a neat throwback to “The First Avenger.” Everything makes sense: Hydra experimented on Barnes, Zola’s blueprints were then used to transform Bucky into the Winter Soldier. Well done Marvel.
Spoiler alert again: Hydra didn’t die with Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), but actually infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. quietly and resurges during “The Winter Soldier.” It brings the entire MCU full circle, tying together pre-S.H.I.E.L.D. lore with present day. Zola was brought to the United States during the events of “The First Avenger,” and helped Hydra leech into S.H.I.E.L.D. Along with this massive twist, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” has a momentous tie-in which completely uproots the MCU, and alters the future direction. Additionally, we see the theme of surveillance, as witnessed in “The Avengers,” much more prominently. It’s an element which Rogers opposes, and this isn’t just significant for the present circumstances: Marvel has thus set up “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” and accordingly the impending Marvel Civil War.
Stan Lee has his usual cameo, this time assuming the identity of a Smithsonian security guard. A few shots reveal photos of S.H.I.E.L.D. founders Col Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Carter’s legacy remains as we also meet her great-neice, Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp). “Pulp Fiction” lovers will recognize the quote on Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) tombstone as the Bible quote Jules (Jackson) recites in “Pulp Fiction.” Seriously, this is one of the greatest Easter eggs in the entire MCU. We love it Marvel. There’s also a nice touch where Secretary of Defense Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) has a jar of Newman’s Own salad dressing in his fridge. It’s a nod at Paul Newman, Redford’s friend and fellow co-star in a few classics.
Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Crossbones (Frank Grillo) are introduced, and we once again see Senator Stern (Garry Shandling). Arguably the most important cameo however is the first appearance of the twins, Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). If you’ve seen the “Age of Ultron” trailer, you’ll realize we see them a bit more in the forthcoming film.
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” completely upheaved the Marvel universe, and set up the first substantial shift within Phase Two. In fact, the plotline of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” changed dramatically, and it became clear, if it wasn’t already that Marvel was building toward the Civil War. A Helicarrier load of previous material resurfaced, uniting the MCU and setting up the finale of Phase Two, and beginning of Phase Three.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” skyrocketed into theaters after “The Winter Soldier,” and although it didn’t feature any Avengers, we’ll breakdown the important aspects which further link with the overarching MCU, and of course “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” We’ll be right back after these messages…