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Marvel Cinematic Universe Recap — Phase 2

You came back?  Great! Pre-releases of Avengers: Infinity War debut tonight, Thursday, April 26, and I’m here to fill the gaps in case you missed anything from the MCU Phase Two!  This article covers the following films: Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Ant-Man. And for our after-credits scene today (it’s Marvel, there’s always an after-credits scene) I give you the locations of all known Infinity Stones!  Click here for Phase One recaps and here for Phase Three recaps!

Obviously, spoilers abound.

Iron Man 3

Several years in the past, Tony Stark blows off a meeting with shy, ineloquent, yet promising tech developer Aldrich Killian, head of Advanced Idea Mechanics.  In the present, Stark suffers from PTSD after the events of The Avengers, haunted nightly by visions of launching the nuke into the wormhole.  Stark’s life starts to suck worse when the Ten Rings terrorist cell blows up his home and AIM agents attempt to assassinate Stark when he goes on the run.  Tony and Rhodey take on Killian, the real leader of the Ten Rings cell, and blow up all the Iron Man suits (because reasons).

Major plot points

    • Tony Stark suffers from PTSD, which will follow him through the events of Infinity War
    • The first appearance of The Mandarin, originally teased in Iron Man
    • Stark perfects his remote accessible suit, first seen in The Avengers and will see again in Age of Ultron
      • First appearance of the Iron Legion, which becomes a pivotal plot point in Age of Ultron
    • Stark moves into Avengers Tower as his full-time residence

Thor: The Dark World

This movie is just bad.  Jane Foster finds and bonds with the Aether, a red liquidy essence that causes shockwaves to happen or something and also it makes gravity weird.  Thor spirits her away to Asgard to separate her from the Aether, but she’s ultimately captured by Malekith (a supremely pissed off dark elf) and he forcibly rips the Aether from her body. Thor and Loki team up to defeat Malekith after he launches a doomsday plan with the alignment of the Nine Realms or some garbage.  Loki fakes his death and clandestinely takes Odin’s place on the throne of Asgard. The Aether is taken to Knowhere for safekeeping. Listen, skip this movie, it’s really bad.

Major plot points

    • Second known Infinity Stone revealed (Reality Stone).  Currently owned by The Collector.
    • Loki fakes his own death, maintains the charade for 2 years until Thor: Ragnarok.
    • Loki secretly takes Odin’s throne; Odin’s fate remains a secret until Thor: Ragnarok.
      • First appearance of Tanneleer Tivan, the Collector. Intends to collect all the Infinity Stones.
    • First appearance of the space trading outpost Knowhere, unnamed until Guardians of the Galaxy.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Fury shows Cap discovers a SHIELD secret program called Project Insight; its mission is to use the Helicarriers to monitor and surveil the general populace.  Cap sees it as a massive invasion of privacy.  When Fury tries to delay Insight’s launch he grow suspicious of SHIELD’s motives and fakes his own death in order to stave off an assassination attempt.  Meanwhile, SHIELD sends the Winter Soldier to assassinate Captain America and Black Widow. Cap and Widow discover that SHIELD is wholly compromised by highly-ranked double agents working for Hydra and that the Winter Soldier is Cap’s childhood friend Bucky.  Cap, Widow, Nick Fury, and new hero Falcon work together to expose the Hydra infiltration and save Bucky from their clutches.

Major plot points

    • Return of James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes/first appearance of The Winter Soldier, presumed dead during the events of The First Avenger
    • First appearances of Sam Wilson/The Falcon, Brock Rumlow/Crossbones, Baron von Strucker, Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver, and Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch
    • The first use of arc reactors in machines not owned by Tony Stark (the Helicarriers)
    • Cap, Widow, and Falcon interrogate Hydra agent Jasper Sitwell.  Interrogation yields the first mention of Stephen Strange (sets up Doctor Strange), and unconfirmed allusions to Thunderbolt Ross (“the Undersecretary of Defense”), Amadeus Cho (“a valedictorian in Iowa City”), & Moon Knight (“a TV anchor in Cairo”).
    • Reveal of Senator Stern as a Hydra agent. This implies that his attempted seize of the Iron Man technology in Iron Man 2 would have been for Hydra’s coup of SHIELD.
    • The attack on Washington: second major Avengers battle with civilian casualties. Sets up the Sokovia Accords in Civil War.
    • Dissolution of SHIELD after the Hydra infiltration reveal
    • Death of Emile Zola, whose consciousness was preserved in a computer at a secret SHIELD base in New Jersey
    • Loki’s scepter from Marvel’s The Avengers resurfaces in the hands of Hydra agent Baron von Strucker

Guardians of the Galaxy

Space thief Peter Quill (calling himself Star-Lord) raids an old temple and finds an orb that he tries to sell on the black market.  Multiple interested parties pursue him to seize the orb before he’s captured by the Nova Corps and sent to prison. He reluctantly partners with his former pursuers Gamora, Rocket, & Groot as well as bloodthirsty prisoner Drax to escape from prison, sell the orb to the highest bidder, and split the profits.  Upon discovering that the orb actually contains an Infinity Stone, Quill brings it back to the Nova Corps for safekeeping and fends off Kree religious zealot Ronan the Accuser from using the Stone in his holy war.

Major plot points

    • First appearance of Star-Lord/Peter Quill, Gamora, Rocket, Groot, Drax the Destroyer, the Nova Corps, the Ravagers, Gamora’s estranged sister Nebula, and Star-Lord’s adopted father Yondu Udonta
    • The first time that Knowhere and Thanos are named
    • Third known Infinity Stone revealed (Power Stone), first to be identified in the movies as such.  Currently under watch by the Nova Corps.
    • Return of The Collector, and the destruction of his collection through activation of the Power Stone
    • Origins of the Infinity Stones explained.  The Tesseract/Space Stone and The Aether/Reality Stone were retroactively revealed to be Infinity Stones
    • Peter survives touching the Power Stone, alluding to his Celestial origins. Sets up Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2.
    • Yondu pledges the assistance of the Ravagers to help defend Xandar in exchange for the Power Stone.  Quill cheats him on the deal at the end of the movie, and Yondu lets it slide.  Sets up the Ravager mutiny storyline in Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2.
    • Establishment of the extent of Groot’s regeneration powers, can basically regrow himself back from devastating injury as a sapling
    • The first mention of The Celestials.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

After retrieving Loki’s scepter from a secret Hydra base, Stark and Banner leverage the scepter’s power to create an artificial intelligence for the Iron Legion called Ultron. Ultron gains sentience and decides that the best way to save humanity is to exterminate it.  With help from Hydra experiments Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, Ultron steals a trove of vibranium and builds arc reactors underneath the entirety of the small, Slavic nation of Sokovia. The Avengers prevent Ultron from uploading himself into flesh-and-blood body by uploading Stark’s butler software AI Jarvis into the body first.  Ultron uses the arc reactors to launch Sokovia into the upper atmosphere, and the Avengers prevent it from falling back to Earth and avoid recreating a doomsday meteor strike.

Major plot points

    • The culmination of the Iron Man drone storyline first started in Iron Man 2
    • The establishment that Stark is bankrolling The Avengers after SHIELD’s collapse
    • First appearance of Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Ulysses Klaue, The Vision, and Friday, the new Stark butler AI.
    • The first appearance of the Hulkbuster Iron Man armor, will be seen again in Infinity War
    • Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Vision, War Machine, & Falcon officially join The Avengers
    • Death of Quicksilver.  What? You didn’t see that coming?
      • Battle of Sokovia: third major Avengers battle with civilian casualties. Sets up for the Sokovia Accords in Civil War.
      • Continued exploration of Iron Man and Captain America opposing ideologies. Sets up Civil War.
    • First references to the Asgardian prophecy of Ragnarok. Sets up Thor: Ragnarok
    • Reveal of the Mind Stone inside Loki’s scepter, the fourth confirmed Infinity Stone out of six in existence.  Currently integrated into The Vision’s mainframe.
    • The disappearance of Hulk.  Will not resurface until Thor: Ragnarok two years later.
      • The first mention of Wakanda. Sets up Black Panther.
    • First appearance of the Infinity Gauntlet


Paroled thief Scott Lang cannot find steady legitimate work and takes one last heist to get some money.  Lang steals Hank Pym’s Ant-Man suit during said heist.  However, Pym subsequently recruits Lang to sabotage the efforts of Pym’s former protege Darren Cross to recreate and weaponize the Ant-Man technology.

Major plot points

    • First appearances of modern Ant-Man/Scott Lang, Hope van Dyne, original Ant-Man Hank Pym, and original Wasp Janet van Dyne.
    • Modern Wasp suit revealed in after-credits scene. Sets up Ant-Man & The Wasp.
      • Reveal that Hank Pym was one of the original SHIELD agents, along with Peggy Carter and Howard Stark.
      • Lang reveals his existence to The Avengers. Sets up his involvement in Civil War.
    • First appearance of Cassie Lang, Scott Lang’s 6-year old daughter.  In Marvel’s original Young Avengers comic series, Cassie grows up to become a hero known as Stature.

After Credits Scene

And since Infinity War comes out tomorrow, here’s a brief recap of the locations of all 5 known Infinity Stones, and speculation on where the final one is.

      1. Space Stone/Tesseract Cube: In Loki’s possession aboard the Asgardian spaceship, following the events of Thor: Ragnarok
      1. Reality Stone/Aether: With Tanneleer Tivan, the Collector, on the planet Knowhere, following the events of Thor: The Dark World.
      1. Power Stone: Guarded by the Nova Corps on the planet Xandar, following the events of Guardians of the Galaxy
      1. Mind Stone: Embedded in Vision’s head, following the events of Age of Ultron.
      1. Time Stone: Locked in the Eye of Agamotto and wielded by Doctor Strange, following the events of Doctor Strange.
    1. Soul Stone: Location unknown.  The current popular theory is that it was in the vibranium meteorite that struck Wakanda and influenced the growth of the heart-shaped herb that bestows the Black Panther powers.

Click here for Phase One recaps and here for Phase Three recaps!

All images belong to Marvel Studios and are here under the auspices of fair use.  Please don’t sue us.

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