Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Marvel's Mastery of Continuity

I think I've put off writing this long enough. It's been about, oh, three weeks since Captain America: The Winter Soldier hit the theaters and even if you haven't seen the movie, if you're a fan of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., or have been on the internet at any point these past few weeks, then you kind of know how the movie ends. With that in mind, there will be SPOILERS here. If you've managed to avoid them for this long, then I don't want to be the guy that breaks your streak.

And really, I don't even want to review The Winter Soldier. Yeah, it was a kickass movie. Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie were totally on point as Winter Soldier and Falcon. Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow got a lot more depth. The political intrigue angle mirrored the real-world threats of NSA spying and drone strikes. It was a damn near perfect film. There's my review.

In actuality, I really just want to focus on Marvel's knack for continuity.

This is no surprise to anyone who reads comics books. Marvel has a rich history with characters, spanning in excess of fifty years. For the most part, those decades of story-telling still affect the characters today. Spider-Man's biggest influence in fighting crime is his perceived penance for his Uncle's death...in 1962. Marvel has always done a great job of laying the groundwork for characterization and making it matter, with a few exceptions of ret-conning here and there. And they're bringing that skill to their Cinematic Universe.

Back in November, Marvel's Thor: The Dark World opened and with it came a tie-in to their small-screen narrative Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Basically it was a way to say "Hey, your favorite show is going to cross-over with this big-time movie so make sure you buy your ticket before Tuesday 8 PM, 7 Central". All it was, though, was the team cleaning up Thor's mess and Peter MacNicol as an ancient, angry deity. It was...substandard at best. So when they announced the same thing happening around the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the eye-rolling could be heard 'round the world.

Thankfully, Marvel took a gamble, one that I feel paid off. At the end of The Winter Soldier, we find Captain America and Black Widow learning that Hydra has been infiltrating the ranks of S.H.I.E.L.D. since the 1980s. They release the information to the internet, as well as all of the organizations other dirty little secrets, crippling the agency.

Well, something like that and bound to affect a show called Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. And it did. Far more than I expected.

By tying the show so closely to the movies, Marvel has invariably made the Cinematic Universe a parallel to their comics universe (or 616 for your comic geeks). It's basically what comic folks, like me, have been clamoring for since the show premiered. Sure, it and the movies have been linked since their inception, with Coulson leading the team and Fury and Hill both making appearances. But short of that, they've both seemed to exist on their own accord. But now that the ripples made by the films have actually been shown to affect the show and (hopefully at some point) vice versa, Marvel has a deep, imaginative playground that fans can get lost in.

Even this guy became more interesting.
The Marvel films have become the highest-grossing series of all time, raking in $2.5 billion and rising. Supposedly Marvel has their movies planned out through 2028, according to hints by studio president Kevin Feige. Yet viewership for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to drop even with the Winter Soldier tie-in. Eventually AoS needs to prop itself up and become a necessary cog in the Cinematic wheel. It can't live off of the scraps the film tosses it every now and then. And so far, that's all it's been doing. Yes, the show took a drastic change in direction because of it, but if it wants to actually matter in the long run, it needs to lead an offensive. I've given it a lot of shit since it debuted in September because of how it meandered without much of a focus. At this point, the focus needs to be on building it's own audience.

And the guy that talks to birds? Strangely, bad ass.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. really needs to find a way to kick things up. Like, I don't know, introducing a few characters that will make a movie appearance; I keep mentioning Carol Danvers, of Captain Marvel fame, because she's a perfect example. A military woman in a military drama. It works and fans would love it. If the actress that plays Carol (once the part is cast) got a three-episode deal for AoS before appearing on the big screen, I feel that it would draw viewers. It doesn't always need to be the other way around; not everyone is going to see Captain Marvel in the movies and start planning their Tuesday nights accordingly. Yet you can whet viewer's appetites with how Carol became Captain Marvel in AoS and not have to waste the big-screen time on the origin story.

By the end of it, though, all that matters is that Marvel continue to leverage the synergy they created between their movies and television shows. They've taken some big risks, and I haven't even mentioned the series soon to premiere on Netflix. They are scoring touchdowns all over the place and I really hope they keep it up.

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