You know the drill by now: every Marvel movie has at least one post-credits scene. And as of "The Avengers," there are usually two. "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is no different, with fans having to wait until the end of the credits to get the full story.
Here's a breakdown of the two scenes and what they mean for the Marvel Universe going forward:
SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT.
Scene #1: The Twins
This is the big one, with a ton of information to unpack and huge ramifications for the Marvel movie-verse. After S.H.I.E.L.D. is shut down in order to cut HYDRA's infiltration off at the head, it's revealed that Alexander Pierce's group only represented a small segment of the terrorist organization.
One of the other leaders of HYDRA is classic comics baddie Baron Von Strucker, played by Thomas Kretschmann. He laments the loss of the Washington based unit, but admits that if you cut off one head of HYDRA, another grows in its place.
Strucker has been using Loki's staff — left over from the end of "The Avengers" — to try and create super-humans. The staff is powered by the Tesseract, the semi-magic macguffin that was lost by HYDRA in "Captain America: The First Avenger," so it only makes sense they'd want what's left.
Unfortunately, as Strucker explains, most of the subjects that they've experimented on have died; with the exception of "The Twins." They're revealed to be Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen, who are trapped in cells and dressed in rags. Taylor-Johnson flits around the cell at super-speed, while Olsen uses some sort of power to float some cubes, before destroying one of them.
All of this will pay off next year in "Avengers: Age of Ultron," as Taylor-Johnson is playing super-speedster Quicksilver, while Olsen is the reality-bending Scarlet Witch.
Both started in the comics as bad guys before joining the Avengers, and it looks like they'll follow the same basic path in the movies. Rumor has it that the opening scene of "Age of Ultron" has Captain America and Nick Fury battling Strucker and his super-powered henchman; and given this scene was directed by "Avengers" director Joss Whedon, we wouldn't say that's too far off.
Also of interest: what other superhumans have they created — or will they create — using the power of Loki's staff?
The Winter Soldier Returns
At the end of the credits, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is standing in Washington's Captain America wing of the Smithsonian, looking at the part of the exhibit about himself. Intense, foreboding music plays as we focus on Bucky's face and then cut to black.
This one is up to a bit of interpretation, as clearly Bucky has started to get some of his memories back from before his time as the murderous, brainwashed Winter Soldier. But the music underscores that he's not totally happy about the prospect; or at least, his next move won't be one of forgiveness.
Comic readers know that after his introduction, Barnes went after the people who created him, coming back into conflict with Black Widow, Captain America and Falcon in the process. Though the movies have tweaked the character's origin enough that this may not be possible to follow exactly, it's an arc that leads directly to the second most celebrated story in recent Captain America history: the death of Captain America.
We don't expect that we'll pick up Bucky's story in "Age of Ultron," but chances are this will all play heavily in to the 2016 debuting "Captain America 3." With Chris Evans' contract ending on that film, it would make sense to play out the death storyline, ending with Stan picking up the shield for three more films.
Comics fans loved the idea, and were happy to follow a conflicted Barnes make his way as the new symbol of America. If Marvel decides to go the same route with the movies, it'll be interesting to see if movie audiences feel the same.
What did you think of the post-credits sequences?