Agent Carter might have been scheduled between the first and second half of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D's second season, but Tuesday's season finale put it right between the two Captain America films.
A note: spoilers ahead for those who haven't been watching Agent Carter and specificially Tueday night's episode.
The MacGuffin of Agent Carter has been the Super Soldier Serum inside the blood of Captain America, with Carter, Howard Stark, and members of Hydra and Leviathan in frantic pursuit of the chance to make more like Steve Rogers. In the season finale, Carter averted a mind-controlled Stark from dropping a mind-controlling gas over New York City and SSR caught the man behind it all, Johann Fennhoff.
Fennhoff, played by Ralph Brown, was revealed to be the menacing classic Cap villain Dr. Faustus, and when he's imprisoned by the SSR he finds a brother of sorts in Dr. Arnim Zola, played by Toby Jones -- last seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The surprise cameo puts some puzzle pieces into play that Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Agent Carter screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely put together in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
"People having seen [Captain America:] Winter Soldier know what happens to S.H.I.E.L.D., so we didn’t want to deal with that as a plot point because it’s a given, but just to give them a delicious little taste of the story that they know happen," says Markus. "Also, it has become clear weirdly that there are four characters who span the entire marvel Cinematic Universe: Steve, Bucky (Sebastian Stan), Peggy and Zola. We wanted to see Toby’s body again."
When asked if the two of them being put together like this is a hint about their involvement in the Winter Soldier program, McFeely and Markus confirm it.
"It’s a bit of a convoluted timeline in that in the first Captain America, Zola was captured in the same mission where Bucky fell off the train. Theoretically, a division of Hydra—possibly a Russian division of Hydra—went and got the body while Zola was in custody," Markus explains. "Zola had already done something to Bucky, and experimented on him that made him beyond human, which allowed him to survive the fall and make him worth doing the research on. They kept him in stasis until Zola was able to have a little bit of freedom from the American government, at which point he maybe brought his new friend Johann Fennhoff to handle the mind control part of the Winter Soldier project."
Although Marvel Studios and ABC have yet to announce if a somewhat ratings-challenged Agent Carter will return for a second season, Markus and McFeely say that jumping forward in Carter's life is "very appealing."
"We know Peggy lived well into Winter Soldier, so we have that much time to deal with. I don’t think we’d jump to 1980 when she’s 70 years old," Markus said, re-itterating something Hayley Atwell brought up herself early on in interviews promoting Agent Carter. "But we can move in time, so it’s hard to say who comes back and who doesn’t."