Greetings and salutations!
With the release of “Avengers: Endgame”, we’re going to take a look at everything within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (henceforth known as “The MCU”) that has led up to the moment Thanos did “The Snap”. We’ll do a small synopsis of each film, we’ll give you some Easter Eggs and the significance of each film as it relates to the grand scheme of things and we’ll tell you whether or not you should watch or skip the content in question.
Do be aware: this is for the fans who have pretty much seen everything the MCU has to offer, but if you’re that kinda person who doesn’t want to watch 25 movies and 12 TV shows spanning about 36 seasons or so, this is for you, too. Beware, though: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS. You’ve had several years to prep for the new flick. Back out now. Or, join us if you want a bit of a capsule of each film.
If you missed the past recaps, you can catch up here:
So, without further ado, let’s get into it…
AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013 – Present)
WHAT’S THIS ABOUT?
You wanna know what S.H.I.E.L.D. does besides zoom around in badass flying aircraft carriers? This is the show for you. Starring Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson (yes, you read that right), the show examines the everyday lives of Coulson and his team as they travel around the world in order to investigate strange happenings and prevent the proliferation of objects and artifacts that don’t have any business in a civilian’s hands. The opening year sees a seemingly resurrected Agent Phil Coulson (Gregg) leading a team consisting of hotshot super spy Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), the stoic but dedicated Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) and the two science officers Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons (Iain Daestecker & Elizabeth Henstridge, respectively). Their first mission involves the tracking of a man with superhuman abilities named Mike Peterson (J. August Richards) who is down on his luck despite his heroic efforts. Slowly being driven mad by the Extremis-based “Centipede Serum” that powers him, he attracts the attention of his handlers who seek to kill him — but Coulson and his team are hip to this and make attempts to prevent this. Drawn into the entire mess is Skye(Chloe Bennet), a skilled computer hacker who runs with a group of conspiracy theorists called “The Rising Tide”. At first, Coulson and Ward arrest her to simply get her out of their hair — but Coulson sees something more in her and eventually recruits her as the final piece of his team. And away we go…
HOW DOES IT TIE INTO THE MCU?
- While the first season of the show starts out formulaic (going for a “villain/artifact of the week” type of thing) a conspiracy emerges that takes priority over everything else, one that’s bigger than Coulson and SHIELD and may serve to sink the organization. What starts as a simple series of incidents ends up being a calculated plot by a person known as “The Clairvoyant”, who always seems to be a step ahead of Coulson and his team. It seems that the Clairvoyant is obsessed with figuring out how Coulson survived and was brought back to life following his “death” at the hands of Loki (please see “Avengers – 2012” in the Phase One article). The problem is that Coulson doesn’t know much about his comeback beyond taking a rehab trip to Tahiti which he constantly describes as “a magical place” to anyone who asks. But the truth is far more dark and sinister. As the season progresses, it’s clear that Coulson never went to Tahiti and, instead, we learn that he was brought back to life using a top secret medical procedure dubbed “Project T.A.H.I.T.I.”. Using a serum extracted from a Kree alien, Coulson was put back together, literally kicking and screaming. What’s even more mysterious is that the attempt to bring Coulson back was approved by Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), himself, something Coulson cannot believe.
- Extremis is integrated into a new serum called “Centipede” but makes the people who use it mentally unstable. This also ties into the introduction of the “Deathlok” program when Mike Peterson (J. August Richards) becomes the first Deathlok.
- The opening of the 8th episode (entitled “The Well”) shows Coulson and his agents cleaning up the aftermath of Thor’s battle with the Dark Elves in Greenwich.
- Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) of Asgard joins Coulson and his agents to take down Lorilei (Elena Satine), an escaped female Asgardian prisoner who has the power to hypnotize men.
- The meat of the season deals with HYDRA’s resurgence (which coincides directly with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” – see Phase Two article for this) and SHIELD’s near-collapse. While it first appears that Agent May is part of HYDRA, it turns out to be Grant Ward who has infiltrated Coulson’s team — and he’s being helped by John Garrett (Bill Paxton), Ward’s former S.O.. Together, the two use the chaos to break into a top secret SHIELD holding facility to grab several supernatural artifacts SHIELD captured over the last few decades AND let a bunch of enhanced prisoners free. The season culminates in a battle against Garrett and Ward, which sees Fitz and Simmons stranded in a major ocean, underwater in a water-tight chamber. Eventually, Fury, still undercover, finds Coulson and helps him bring down Garrett for good.
- SHIELD Agents Jasper Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernandez), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and Felix Blake (Titus Welliver) also have appearances leading up to the collapse of SHIELD.
- Skye is made an official SHIELD Agent just before the collapse of the organization.
- Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is revealed as the lead SSR Agent who apprehended the evil Daniel Whitehall and secured the Obelisk.
- Lady Sif makes another appearance in Season 2, helping Coulson deal with one of the Inhumans.
- President Matthew Ellis appears in an address to the nation condemning Inhumans’ actions and comes up with a plan to deal with the threat.
- Roxxon continues to have a presence throughout the MCU, with one of their gas stations appearing in “Repairs”. The company is also mentioned in “The Writing on the Wall”.
- “The Absorbing Man” seen in Season 2 is none other than Carl “The Crusher” Creel — the very same one Jack Murdock (the father of Matt Murdock in Marvel’s Daredevil) beat in the ring before he was murdered by the gangsters who attempted to fix his fight.
- Ever wonder how the Avengers knew about the location of Loki’s scepter in “Age of Ultron”? That’s because Coulson and his agents found it and notified Maria Hill of its location.
- Ghost Rider makes his MCU debut in the 4th season. Not only that but, like Doctor Strange, he has mastered the ability to open up how to open up inter-dimensional portals.
- The Kree have a major presence in the 5th season, taking over what’s left of Earth and eventually attempt to deal with Graviton when he uses his Gravitonium-fueled powers for evil.
- We get to see young Agent Sitwell in a HYDRA training facility.
- A young Baron Von Strucker (who was seen in “Age of Ultron”) makes an appearance in Agents of SHIELD in the same episode.
Yes. This is Marvel’s most consistently good show. When you start the series, it seems a little gratuitous with all the references and name-dropping of things the show obviously can’t afford on its budget. But once the Clairvoyant angle kicks in, the show begins to hold your attention. The first season is an exhausting adventure, helped, in large part, by the HYDRA angle. The second season is a mixed bag which makes you want to scream what with all the Inhuman crap that goes on forever but it more than makes up for it with a strong 3rd, 4th and 5th year. The third concerns a giant monolith that transports people to other dimensions, albeit forcefully. Jemma becomes its victim and she has to be rescued and that’s compelling as hell. The 4th year is a touch uneven with Ghost Rider for one half and the HYDRA Framework on the other half but the two tie together nicely. The 5th and current year features the Agents going forward in time to an alternate future where Earth has been destroyed thanks to Skye’s developed powers and the finale is solid with Coulson’s swan song. Overall, Agents of SHIELD is the best Marvel TV property to date.
AGENT CARTER (2015 – 2016)
WHAT’S THIS ABOUT?
You know all about Peggy Carter, the Agent from the SSR who helped Captain America during World War II? Here’s her series, which details her adventures and life, post-Cap.
HOW DOES IT TIE INTO THE MCU?
- Howard Stark is in deep trouble. He’s suspected of selling weapons to America’s enemies. He shows up in the series to help Peggy clear his name.
- Stark assigns his butler, Edwin Jarvis, to assist Peggy when needed. Obviously, this is where Howard’s son, Tony got the inspiration for his A.I., “J.A.R.V.I.S.”. Jarvis is like you might picture him: a proper English butler.
- Anton Vanko appears in the series. Anton is the father of Ivan Vanko who torments Tony Stark in “Iron Man 2”. Thanks to the Stark family, Anton was disgraced and kicked out of America for selling secrets. This is part of the reason Ivan hates Tony so much.
- We get to see the early version of the Russian training facility that Natasha Romanoff eventually ends up in.
- Dum Dum Dugan (Neal McDonough) appears in an episode to help Peggy infiltrate one of the Russian sleeper training centers.
- Red Skull assistant Arnim Zola (Tobey Jones) makes an appearance at the end of Season 1, sharing a prison cell with the hypnotic Johann Fennhoff (Ralph Brown).
- Once again, Roxxon makes an appearance in the film and…well, disappears after Jarvis and Peggy blow up one of their refineries.
- Peggy finds a box labeled “PROPERTY OF A. ERSKINE”. Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci) was the man who helped Steve Rogers become Captain America.
Most definitely. The first season is far better than an off-the-wall, hokey, uneven second season, though, mainly because it’s more grounded than the second. Everyone in the series is well cast and Atwell shines, portraying Carter as a tough, independent female who has a soft spot rarely seen. Unfortunately, the series was cancelled by ABC due to low ratings.
INHUMANS (2017 – 2018)
WHAT’S THIS ABOUT?
It’s about 8 hours or so of your life that you’ll never get back. It’s about “The Royal Family of Inhumans” who basically get kicked out of their post-modern digs and exiled to, of all places, Earth. To be more specific, Hawaii. If I were them, I wouldn’t return by choice. But they need to because the guy taking over on their world is a jerk, so…
HOW DOES IT TIE INTO THE MCU?
- The Kree, if we’re really reaching. That’s about it.
Look at the picture above. Just look at it. Then ask that question again. This is one of the most obscure Marvel factions ever to be featured. Marvel took a risk with “Guardians of the Galaxy” but this isn’t that. If I’m being generous, the first episode is a lot of fun. The remainder of the series isn’t and I couldn’t wait for it to end. Thankfully, ABC gave the show a mercy killing after just one short season. And it didn’t feel short at all.
We will be back with Part II of this series which will take a look at Marvel Netflix properties…