SPOILER ALERT! THIS STORY CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER AND AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.
After the events of Captain America: The Winter Solider, it appears that no one will be strategically intervening, enforcing or performing logistics on behalf of the homeland anytime soon. While this is certainly going to be a problem for the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. the monumental changes and revelations brought to light during the course of the new film look to have lasting ramifications for not only Steve Rogers and his close allies but the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Crossbones and The Falcon
As the Triskelion crumbled around them, Sam Wilson fought Brock Rumlow to stop the latter from interfering with Black Widow and Nick Fury's careful plan to defeat HYDRA via the covert intelligence equivalent of scorched earth tactics. The treacherous S.H.I.E.L.D. strike-team officer and the veteran of the elite United States Air Force Pararescue Force appeared fairly evenly matched, it taking the crash of an airborne death machine to end the battle.
While Sam “The Falcon” Wilson escaped in dramatic fashion by leaping from the forty-first floor into a swooping helicopter piloted by a man with only one eye, Rumlow was not so lucky; his crushed, burned but still breathing body was pulled from the rubble. His cover blown and his body disfigured to an appropriate level for villainy, Rumlow is well on his way to becoming his comic-book villainous alter-ego Crossbones. With his propensity to wear two bandoleers in an 'X' shape across his chest means he already has the rudimentary aspects of his Crossbones costume down.
Rare is the film, especially one designed to part of a franchise, that wastes time to let the viewer know that a minor villain is still around, and with the fight between Rumlow and Wilson unresolved look for round two between Crossbones and The Falcon in Captain America 3.
Sharon Carter, Agent of...the CIA?
After the climax of Captain America: The Winter Solider and S.H.I.E.L.D. apparently gone, Agent 13, aka Sharon Carter (though, of course, the movie never actually acknowledged her last name or relation to Peggy Carter from “First Avenger”) had joined the CIA, the United States' more conventional contemporary international espionage organization. Is she just looking to continue her service to her county? Or is she being placed to use her new position to aid either Nick Fury's search for HYDRA or Cap's hunt for more information about the history of The Winter Solider?
Regardless, Sharon Carter has a destiny with Steve Rogers, even if the MCU version doesn't know it yet. Just as it was in the comics, if the MCU Sharon Carter is related to Steve Rodger's 40's era ally and love interest Peggy Carter, it wasn't revealed to Captain America right away; the reveal was left for a suitably dramatic moment. One that still might be to come, maybe at what is sure to be an emotional scene, like Peggy's funeral.
Where's Your Shield Cap?
Not only is S.H.I.E.L.D. gone, but the shield is gone. Resolved to not fight his brainwashed childhood friend to the death, Steve Rogers kicks his irreplaceable shield out of the crashing helicarrier and into the water below. The gambit ultimately pays off; while The Winter Solider still beats Captain America into unconsciousness with his bionic arm and throws him in to the Potomac River to drown, ultimately it's Bucky who pulls his friend Steve from the water to save his life before disappearing. In the end, Rogers resolves to seek out his lost friend turned brainwashed cyborg assassin along with his new friend and ally Sam Wilson, but apparently not with his trademark shield.
Cap's shield dropping into a body of water and being lost is, like a lot of things in the MCU, not an original occurrence. In a memorable run of the Captain America comics, Cap sacrifices his shield to save his life and the life of a naval officer when a HYDRA-hijacked submarine is about to sink. Cap is forced to fall back on a number of replacement shields from the shape-shifting zero-point energy shield to a replica of his original steel triangular shield he found in the Smithsonian (sound familiar)?
Now while the MCU Captain America's shield in the Potomac River, a relatively smaller body of water to search for something than the Atlantic Ocean, he still didn't have it after the climactic battle. That triangular shield replica is still there in the museum... Stan the guard won't mind too much, right?
A Strange Fate Foretold
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. viewers would recall the organization’s list of known ‘’gifted” people worldwide, a list known as The Index. The Index is an invaluable resource, granting those who have access to it the names and locations of people who can do extraordinary (but, legally, not Amazing or Uncanny) things. People that, with the right kind of manipulation, could be convinced to do those things for you.
Imagining what could happen if it fell into the wrong hands is easy – since it’s already happened. Not only was it likely used to locate the pyrokinetic codenamed Scorch for the Centipede Organization (who, we now know, was just an offshoot of Hydra) early in the run of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it was no doubt a critical component in the formulation of Zola’s special-person-finding algorithm that served as the McGuffin in Captain America: The Winter Solider. Turncoat Jasper Stilwell’s admission of one name that the algorithm will target makes this circumstance all but certain; Steven Strange. If Dr. Steven Strange is a name spit out by Zola’s algorithm, then it’s likely that there is a Dr. Strange is on The Index, and that this MCU Dr. Strange isn’t an office park dermatologist from Peoria, but the one that comic book fans know and love.
Doctor Steven Strange, neurosurgeon turned drunk driver turned master of the mystic arts, has now officially entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe - albeit just by name, and that further solidifies his presence in at least one Phase 3 film.
Loki's Staff and The Twins
What would you do with a vanquished villain’s ‘magic’ staff that could manipulate the people it touched, shoot bolts of energy and control the power of the Cosmic Cube/the Tesseract/an Infinity Stone? Leave it with an organization you trusted, like S.H.I.E.L.D., of course. Sure, it seems like a better idea would have been for Thor to take it back to Asgard with his half-brother Loki and the Cube itself, but hindsight is 20/20.
So, Baron von Strucker’s got it now and he’s using its power as a part of his yet-to-be-revealed mad scheme, one that in some part involves human experimentation. Two successes in the latter work including a young woman with telekinetic/reality warping powers and her twin brother, who’s struggling to control his super-speed in the confines of his cell.
Disney/Marvel Studios has now deployed their long rumored side-step to the “who controls mutants in the movies” question by apparently empowering people via comic energy rather than genetic evolution. The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, like their comic book counter-parts, look to make their debut as villains, at least until the eponymous threat in Age of Ultron reveals itself. It will be there that the post-Winter Solider Captain America re-emerges and whatever, if anything, replaces S.H.I.E.L.D.