Iron Man 3 ended with Tony Stark destroying his armor and retiring from the superhero game andThor: The Dark World’s conclusion had the God of Thunder refusing the throne of Asgard, but when it comes to Marvel Studio’s Phase Two movies changing the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America: The Winter Soldier has easily the biggest impact. By the end of the film nothing in the fictional world is the same, and its impact will be felt on both the big and small screens for years to come. But at the end of it all, where do things actually stand in the comic book movie world?

It’s for that reason that I am here to help out. I have put together a fun little guide to navigate you through all of the important consequences that Captain America: The Winter Soldier sets up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What can we expect from the movie’s major players in the future? Read on to find out!

It goes without saying, but this feature contains MULTIPLE spoilers, so proceed with caution!

Captain America
Captain America is a hero without a "home."
Captain America is a super-soldier without a real home at the beginning of his solo movie sequel, the character still trying to find his way through the modern world after being frozen in ice for decades, but sadly enough the film actually leaves him in an even worse position than he was in before. While he does have people in his life that he knows he can trust, like Black Widow and Falcon, everything he thought he was fighting for turned out to be wrong and the organization that he dedicated his life to has now been totally obliterated. Oh, and did I mention that his childhood best friend is a brainwashed assassin who tried to kill him many times before completely disappearing? The Winter Soldier definitely ends with the character in an incredibly interesting place, and it should be fascinating to see how things move from here in both theThe Avengers sequel and the untitled Captain America 3.
Black Widow
Black Widow's vicious past isn't so secret anymore.
As we learned during a special moment with Loki in The Avengers, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) has a very, very dark and bloody past. She was recruited as a Russian spy at a very young age and it didn’t take too long before she was taking wetwork missions, flying around the globe and putting bullets in people’s brains. The end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier has a major impact on the character because all of this bloody history has become fully available to the public. How are the citizens of the world going to feel about someone as dangerous and violent as Black Widow working as a hero alongside the rest of The Avengers? We’ll just have to wait and find out!
Nick Fury
Nick Fury's on the lam, and way off of the grid.
Most of the world in the Marvel Cinematic Universe believes that Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., is dead and buried under a tombstone with a Pulp Fiction quote on it, but the truth is that the guy is just as alive as he has ever been… just forced to stay on the down-low for a little bit. After faking his death in Captain America: The Winter Soldier in order to avoid future assassination attempts, Fury has entered into an even more shadowy world than he was in before and must make all of his moves very quietly. You can expect that this will have an important impact on just how involved he is reassembling The Avengers in the upcoming Age of Ultron, but he will still be a key player.
Falcon
Falcon looks to be Cap's right-hand man now.
Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) was living the quiet life of a veteran before meeting Captain America while out for a jog, but that turned out to be an event that would change his life forever. Armed with a specialized flight suit that he war while working as a Pararescueman, Sam is a full-fledged superhero by the time the credits start to role on Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and it’s a gig that he seems to enjoy. He is ready to fight alongside Cap through thick and thin, and will continue helping him in his quest to track down The Winter Soldier and teach him about his real past. Whether this partnership will be featured in The Avengers: Age of Ultron or not is still a mystery, but we’re crossing our fingers that it will be.
Maria Hill
Maria Hill now works for Tony Stark.
In the comics, Maria Hill’s biggest moment came during the famous "Civil War" arc when the character was made the new director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and managed to piss off just about every superhero around with a registration act. We can’t say if anything like that is being planned for the big screen just yet, but we do know that Hill is doing a bit of moving around. After many, many years with S.H.I.E.L.D. and being side-by-side with Nick Fury during the faking of his death, Hill is now moving into the private sector and taking a position somewhere in Stark Industries.
 S.H.I.E.L.D.
S.H.I.E.L.D. is no more, so who will The Avengers report to?
What’s the best way to describe S.H.I.E.L.D. after the events featured in Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Is it "destroyed"? Maybe "decimated"? "Dismantled"? "Demolished"? No matter what adjective you choose, the point is that the world’s most powerful clandestine organization in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is no more. It turns out that some of the most powerful figures in the agency – the most notable being World Security Council Member Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) – were actually agents of HYDRA looking for a way to take S.H.I.E.L.D. down from the inside and eliminate any and all future forces from attacking them. Captain America, Black Widow, Falcon, Maria Hill and Nick Fury did their part to stop the latter from happening, but they couldn’t stop the former. Not only will this have a major impact on all future Marvel Studios films, it should have a huge impact on the television adventures as well.
HYDRA
HYDRA is the new "Big Bad" now.
Captain America was one of the first superheroes to battle the forces of HYDRA, combatting the organization’s forces back when it was simply the Nazi’s deep science division during World War II, but he definitely won’t be the last. As shown in The Winter Soldier, HYDRA forces may be underground, but they are definitely still active and dangerous ("cut off one head, two more shall take its place."). The group’s plan to take out all of its existing and potential threats on Earth with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Project Insight failed, but they still have many weapons in place – including the leadership of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) and the "miracles" Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver.
The Winter Soldier
The Winter Soldier is being groomed to be the new Cap.
Maybe. First, he was captured by HYDRA and experimented on. Then he got knocked off of a train riding along a cliff-side. Then he got recaptured, brainwashed, turned into an assassin with zero memory of his prior life and sent on a mission to kill his childhood best friend. To put it kindly, life has not been kind to Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). That said, things are definitely starting to turn around for him. By the end of the Captain America sequel he has not only managed to rebel against his programming – saving the life of the man he was told to murder – but has also started to put together the pieces of his past life. He will probably still be lurking in the shadows during The Avengers: Age of Ultron, but expect him to once again be a key figure in the upcoming Captain America 3.
Crossbones
Crossbones will have his time in the spotlight.
Crossbones, also known as Brock Rumlow, has an incredibly important role to play in the saga and history of Captain America, and that ball really started rolling with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Played by Frank Grillo, Crossbones is introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as an undercover field agent for S.H.I.E.L.D. who is actually allied with HYDRA and simply waiting for a moment to show his true colors. He is an important antagonistic force in the movie, with key battle scenes against both Captain America and Falcon, and his final scene leaves the character in a fascinating place. After HYDRA’s plan has fallen apart, Crossbones is left as a charred, barely-alive mess of a man – plenty of motive to look for revenge.

And speaking of "revenge," with the introduction of HYDRA, we can only assume this last, bonus plot speculation.
Red Skull
Bonus: Red Skull has to be a major factor eventually ... right?
At the end of Captain America: The First Avenger, Red Skull (played by Hugo Weaving) made direct contact with the Tesseract and was teleported off to… somewhere. We’ve now seen five full features since the villain’s last appearance, but hopefully Marvel is planning something down the line to bring him back in epic fashion and explain just exactly where he has been this whole time.

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