High-ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. officials Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) will both appear in Captain America: The Winter Soldier - the first of this year's dual Phase 2 sequels from Marvel Studios - before they show up in Joss Whedon's sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron, which begins production very soon. However, with the remaining open boxes on Jackson's nine-picture checklist with Marvel rapidly dwindling and Smulders about to be all done with How I Met Your Mother (once the series finale airs), it begs the question - what's next for the pair?
In the Winter Soldier trailer, Robert Redford's mysterious character tells Steve Rogers that "To build a better world... sometimes means tearing the old one down," and the implication is that S.H.I.E.L.D.'s mode of operation might get shaken-up something fierce by the film's conclusion. Similarly, ABC's president has promised that season 1 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (which wraps up around the time that Winter Soldier hits theaters) will finish with a dramatic nine-episode arc; take all that into consideration and it appears to point to the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization undergoing a significant transformation to its internal structure in the near future.
What does that mean for S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury, once he re-gathers all of Earth's Mightiest Heroes to battle a dangerous robot in the Avengers sequel? Well, it Jackson knows, then he isn't telling, as evidenced by the following excerpt from an interview he conducted with Fandango:
Jackson insists he has no idea about the road ahead for Nick Fury beyond the Captain America and Avengers sequels. “Nope, none whatsoever,” he says proudly. “I just know that the Marvel Universe is there, that there are things going on, and that I have three pictures left on my nine-picture deal. That's all I know. I've done six of them, and I'm about to do seven, so I'm running out of Marvel pictures – unless they extend my contract.”
Jackson also clarified that he's certainly game to extend his Marvel contract (“Hell, yeah! Why wouldn't I?”), though it's possible that the Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity might take its cues from some contemporary Avengers comic book story lines and have Hill assume the responsibility of S.H.I.E.L.D. Director (while Fury steps aside for reasons to be determined - in the movies, that is).
While there's not much in Whedon's Avengers theatrical cut that lays the foundation for a future change of power between Fury and Hill, the deleted opening sequence (with Hill assessing Fury's handling of the Manhattan "incident" to a group of shadowy superiors) indicates that such a development in the MCU has at least been considered and/or planned at some point (if not still remaining a part of the studios' playbook...).
In related news: Smulders played Agent Hill in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot episode (while SLJ cameoed as Nick Fury in the second episode), but there's been no word since as to whether or not the character will make a followup appearance on the show before season one draws to a close. During an interview with IGN, Smulders playfully refused to divulge any secrets about Avengers: Age of Ultron, but was slightly more forthcoming about the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show (and by that, I mean she admitted to not having much to offer):
"No, I don't know anything about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. I've been watching, and I think it's such a great show. They're doing such a wonderful job, but I don't know about my personal involvement."
As mentioned before, with How I Met Your Mother coming to an end this year (something Smulders addressed during her discussion with IGN), that should free up Smulder's work schedule so that it's actually feasible for her as Maria Hill to play a larger role in future Marvel film installments; the character becoming a mainstay on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. makes far less sense. Furthermore, the primary Avengers roster is almost certainly going to incorporate new members like Ant-Man and Doctor Strange (while retiring other players) during Marvel Studios' Phase 3 and Phase 4, so it might be appropriate for some related personnel changes at the top of S.H.I.E.L.D. to take place around the same time.
Marvel Studios will release Captain America: The Winter Soldier in theaters on April 4th, 2014, followed by Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1st, 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1st, 2015, Ant-Man on July 31st 2015, and unannounced films on May 6th, 2016, July 8th, 2016 and May 5th, 2017.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns February 4th @ 8pm on ABC with episode 13, “Tracks”.