Because the MCU is a sprawling beast, there are important plot threads dangling all over the ever-expanding Marvel Media Empire. The movies that began telling the story of a few superpowered humans are now also telling the stories of the normal humans who have to keep up with them, the significant others who have to compete with a world constantly in need of rescue, and villains who aren’t so villainous anymore… or wait maybe they are? Plus, half the characters are dead or pretending to be dead. So in case you don’t have time to (re)watch a gazillion hours of media, we thought we’d do our best to catch you up on everyone’s latest adventure before you head into Age of Ultron this weekend.
There are spoilers for literally everything in the MCU waiting below the fold, so proceed with caution.
Tony Stark/Iron Man
After the events of Avengers, Tony went through a massive bout of PTSD, nearly broke up with Pepper, and faced off with Aldrich Killian and The Mandarin in Iron Man 3. He also made peace with the memory of his father, rebranded Stark Industries as a leader in green energy, dedicated himself to a relationship with Pepper, and even had the shrapnel taken out of his chest. In the ultimate act of
idiocy character growth, Tony blew up his giant fleet of Iron Man suits to show that he was Iron Man all along, and doesn’t need a metal-plated magic feather to prove it. Which seems a bit weird, since the whole Age of Ultron storyline is predicated on him letting machinery get out of hand…again. And seriously, those suits are super useful, and somebody who’s all about renewable energy now maybe should have recycled them?
Pepper Potts, CEO, Stark Industries
Dosed with Extremis, Pepper briefly became super-powerful and defeated the hell out of Aldrich Killian. Rather than run the risk of exploding, she opted to have Extremis removed, which we’re assuming is a slightly more hi-tech version of when Keith Richards gets all his blood replaced every few years. She and Tony seem to have reached a pretty good and stable point (for them), but he does still owe her a building with her name on it.
Colonel James Rupert Rhodes/War Machine/Iron Patriot/Rhodey
Wait, is Rhodey still the Iron Patriot, or did they change the name back? Whatever, he was last seen rescuing the president, overseeing the arrest of the vice president, and finally watching Tony’s de-shrapnelification process.
Man, everybody spent an inordinate amount of time in the hospital in Iron Man 3! You really don’t think about it until you start trying to figure out who lived through the movie, but Happy’s in a coma for almost the entire thing. He misses the attack on Tony’s house, he misses Pepper’s kidnapping, the rescue of the president…at least he wakes up in time for Downton Abbey. Hopefully Stark Industries has an incredibly comprehensive healthcare package.
Dr. Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk
Banner was last seen falling asleep when Tony Stark forced him to play therapist during Iron Man 3. Presumably he’s been working with Stark’s Research & Development team since the end of the first Avengers film, so it’ll be interesting to see how much of the Ultron program he’s responsible for.
Thor reunited with Jane Foster and reconciled with Loki during Thor 2: The Dark World. Thinking that both Loki and his mother were dead, and that Odin was safely back on the throne (he is incorrect about several of those things) he returned to Midgard for a ridiculously romantic makeout session. We’re sure he and Jane are doing great, Loki is a responsible and temperate ruler, and Odin is romping and playing at a farm in upstate Asgard…
Trickster god Loki is currently pretending to be Odin and ruling Asgard. We’re sure everything’s going just swell.
Odin, The Allfather
Come on, this guy needs to be in all the Marvel movies. He was last seen siding with Thor and helping Jane Foster escape with the Aether, or whatever happened in TDW, and thus earned a disappointed look from Odin. Perhaps he’ll see through Loki’s deception, as he has in the past? Or perhaps he’s as fed up with Odin as everyone else is, and is just allowing Loki to rule?
Dr. Jane Foster
Having been sent to an island to sit out the events of the first Avengers film, Jane was reunited with Thor during The Dark World and took a trip to his home in Asgard, where her refusal to stop doing science didn’t win her many friends. Can those two crazy kids gonna make it work this time? And is Jane even going to be in Age of Ultron, or will she be shipped off to an isthmus this time?
Dr. Erik Selvig
It may be too much to hope for minor players like Darcy or her intern/boytoy to make an appearance, but Dr. Erik Selvig may well be part of the battle against Ultron. He seemed to be fully recovered from Loki’s meddling by the end of The Dark World, so will Selvig be fully sane and sentient for this movie? Will he get to reunite with his long-lost colleague, Bruce Banner?
Steve Rogers/Captain America
Aw, Steve. Poor, poor Steve. After Alexander Pierce helpfully caught him up on the last 40 years of U.S. history, general disillusionment, and the death of the American Dream, Captain America decides to put his heroism on hold long enough to search for Bucky, his supersoldier brother from a Soviet-mind-control mother. Armed with a dossier from Natasha, and the loyalty of Sam Wilson, he’s planning to go to the ends of the earth to find his friend—little does he know, he’s just across town.
Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier
Aw, Bucky. Poor, poor Bucky. Kept alive and lied to by Pierce, he’s been assassinating people for decades, always believing that he was the good guy. A long fight with Cap has probably disabused him of this idea. He gets just enough of his memory back to realize that he probably shouldn’t pummel his BFF to death, and even rescues him from the Helicarrier crash before he stomps off into the woods like a pissed off sasquatch. We last see him during The Winter Soldier’s end-credits sequence visiting the Captain America exhibit at the Smithsonian, and coming face-to-face with his WWII-era self.
Falcon was last seen rolling his eyes at Cap’s plan to go off on his own to find Bucky. Of course Sam’s coming with. Especially since helping Cap and Widow (and, um, stealing his top-secret battle wings) probably destroyed any shot he had at continuing his military career. But is he going to pop into the battle with Ultron before he embarks on the Hunt for No-Longer-Red Bucky?
Nick Fury, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Nick Fury is on the lam and pretending to be dead following an assasination attempt by HYDRA. You can tell because his hoodie/sunglasses combo = I AM ON THE LAM AND YOU CANNOT RECOGNIZE ME. I AM BEST SPY. I AM ESPIONAGE INCARNATE UPON THIS EARTH. Presumably “on the lam” will also equal “working with the Avengers to thwart Ultron” in what we can only hope will be a dazzling array of Gene Parmesan-esque disguises.
Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff
After helping Cap defeat Alexander Pierce and bring down HYDRA (and by extension S.H.I.E.L.D.) Natasha appeared before Congress, laughed in their faces, and invited them to release all of her super-secret espionage work if they felt like it. So…we’re assuming she hasn’t slept much since then?
Hawkeye was last seen dropping Loki off for transport back to Asgard at the end of The Avengers. Wait, seriously? There was the theory that Natasha is wearing an arrow during The Winter Soldier as a memento of her feelings for Clint, but other than that we haven’t seen him. Weird. Well, whatever the reason for his absence, we’re hoping he brings Pizza Dog with him into Phase Two.
With S.H.I.E.L.D. gone, Maria Hill updated her resumé and applied for a job with Stark Industries at the end of The Winter Soldier. She’s also had a clandestine meeting with Melinda May on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but that probably won’t factor in…
Peggy’s in a nursing home, and she can’t remember things so well, but Steve still comes and visits her ’cause of course he’s not going to forget his best girl, and oh god we’re crying forever.
Agent 13/Sharon Carter
Sharon Carter was last seen shooting the crap out of a target in a CIA gun range, having just lost her gig at SHIELD. Perhaps she’ll stop by Stark Tower with her laundry, and take Cap up on his offer?
The Avengers all still think he’s dead, right? Is this going to be an issue? Or is Joss just leaving him dead? Wait, is he actually dead in this part of the MCU? Can Joss do that? Is this some horrifying Schrodinger-like paradox, wher poor Phil is both in Tahiti and not in Tahiti… simultaneously? Or was his true status revealed when Natasha went full Snowden?
Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch
Listening to Pink Fl— oh, sorry, wrong one. These two are seen in matching cells, seemingly under Baron von Strucker’s control, during The Winter Soldier’s mid-credits sequence.
Baron Wolfgang von Strucker
Ogling his two captives in a desperately icky way. Ick. Ick forever.
The Guardians of the Galaxy
After preventing Ronan from using the Infinity Gem to enact mass genocide, Starlord, Gamora, and the rest of the gang are hopefully taking some much needed R&R. We imagine Drax is embellishing his tattoos, Rocket is dismantling and polishing his array of weaponry, and Groot is growing, growing, growing. In any event, they won’t be traveling across the galaxy to help fight Ultron. What a bunch of A-holes.
Still sittin’ in that chair, biding his time and plotting death for everyone.
So, did we miss anybody? Hands up, who think Spidey’s going to show up somewhere?