Some set photos of the recently wrapped Avengers 4 have revealed that S.H.I.E.L.D is going to play some sort of part in the blockbuster. In the shots, Tony Stark can be seen in a body-suit very visibly repping a patch from the organization that first brought the Avengers together. With Avengers: Infinity War just on the horizon for May of this year, Marvel have been tight-lipped on what to expect from the MCU's Phase 3 finale, but this reveal does lend itself to some very interesting ideas for what the story will contain.
The last we saw of S.H.I.E.L.D in the movies, the institution was left splintered and discredited after it was found to be swarming with Hydra agents in Captain America: Winter Soldier. Except for Nick Fury bringing a Helicarrier out of mothballs to come to the Avengers' rescue in Age of Ultron, the spy network has only really carried on in the show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D under Director Coulson. Association with the events of the films has been tertiary at best, and the series more or less became an island within the grander Marvel Studios canon. It being four years and 10 main franchise installments since that emblem has been seen on the big screen, it certainly seemed like this status quo wouldn't be altered until Phase 4.
Seeing Tony of all characters wearing the patch, it's safe to assume that S.H.I.E.L.D's return isn't going to be a simple resurrection, and suggested they're coming back in a big way to lend a hand to Earth's Mightiest as they battle Thanos. Let's consider what a legitimate return of S.H.I.E.L.D might look like.
Will Nick Fury Rebuild S.H.I.E.L.D. In Avengers 4? (This Page)
Will Nick Fury Rebuild S.H.I.E.L.D in Avengers 4?
Quite where Nick Fury is presently in the MCU is unclear. He was shown as part of the new Avengers Initiative in Avengers: Age of Ultron's epilogue, but has been absent since - crucially in the team-changing Captain America: Civil War - leaving big questions over his continued involvement. Regardless of where he is post-Sokovia Accords, it's unlikely to be retirement. Fury always has a trump card so, if he's away from the Avengers, he's likely working on another form of world security, something like the bones of a new incarnation of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The logical end for Avengers: Infinity War is Thanos in control wielding a completed Infinity Gauntlet. It's a conclusion that makes the Mad Titan look like a world-ender and feeds directly into him still being the main villain Avengers 4. The Earth will seem practically defenseless against any more invaders if the Avengers are defeated. This would generate a prime opportunity for Fury to return to the MCU in a similar capacity to his presence in the first Iron Man's post-credit scene, revealing that he's got a way for the team to re-group.
Nick bringing back S.H.I.E.L.D is the ideal arc for him. Fury's “superpower” has always been his cunning resourcefulness; his ability to manipulate the playing field to his advantage and keep himself and his interests alive. He's never caught without an ace up his sleeve, even in times of crisis like a war for control of all time and space landing on our planet's doorstep. Given their track record, the Avengers are a time-bomb in themselves for collapse or defeat and there's only so many excuses one can make before deciding an alternative is needed, even if temporarily. Fury knows this, he's recognized it from the start and odds favor that he's been preparing for it all this time. And really, whether by top-secret appearance in Infinity War (he's still among the unconfirmed) or with a role in Avengers 4, what better way to come back into the MCU? And by what better vehicle than by definitively reaffirming his control over his beloved secret agency?
Even if Infinity War takes another turn and Avengers 4 becomes about more than Thanos (one popular theory is that the film is actually Secret Wars), there's still going to be a gulf for S.H.I.E.L.D. to try and fill. There'll be something poetic about the Avengers first home returning, seeing the story of the first three phases of the MCU come full circle.
However, the possibilities here stretch well beyond a re-invigorated Fury putting his merry band back together.
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