Captain America: The Winter Soldier has arrived on DVD and Blu Ray and the world is a better place for it. Marvel Studios continues to give the fans great product while whetting appetites for more! In comics there is a longstanding tradition of building interest in upcoming plots and laying foundation for future events. Usually demonstrated with one word..meanwhile. It has been updated in the MCU as post credit scenes and One Shots.
With a few words Samuel Jackson's Nick Fury stepped out of the darkness and told the world that with Paramount's "Iron Man" (2008) they had stepped into something unprecedented. This scene left fans in a state of excitement at what was to come next. What did come next was "The Incredible Hulk" (2008) while that film was made over at Universal the post credit scene linked it to "Iron Man" by having Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark approach William Hurt's Thunderbolt Ross and pique his interest by mentioning The Avenger Initiative. It was later revealed in a Marvel One Shot titled "The Consultant" that Stark was sent there as a "patsy" to take the fall for sabotaging the World Security Councils desire to have Emile Blonsky/The Abomination utilized in the initiative. Stark being Stark we find out that the conversation went as planned by Agent's Sitwell and Coulson..not good.
"Iron Man 2" (2010) which takes place pretty much the same time as "The Incredible Hulk" and "Thor" (2011) had as its post credit scene Agent Coulson reporting in to Fury that he had found it...it being Mjolnir the hammer of Thor.
There was another Marvel One Shot titled "A funny thing happened on the way to Thor's hammer" which really helped establish how cool and badass Agent Coulson and by extension all the high level Agents of SHIELD really were. A great easter egg in this short is the inclusion of the Roxxon logo on the fuel pump. The Roxxon company has long been a source of trouble for both Captain America and Iron Man. Speaking of the good Captain his first solo film "Captain America: The First Avenger" was released without a traditional post credit scene. We did get one but in reality it was a preview of "The Avengers" (2012). The post credit scene in "Thor" which was released two months earlier showed Dr. Eric Selvig led through a secret SHIELD facility where he is shown The Tesseract by one Nick Fury.
What was great about this scene was how it a) introduced the Tesseract formally to the MCU b) revealed that Loki was still alive c) showed Loki's mind influence power (even without the Chitauri sceptre) and d) foreshadowed events to come. With all that thrown into that one scene I guess Marvel felt that CA:TFA would best serve as a preview setting for "The Avengers" which was still eight or nine months away.
After the events of "The Avengers" things really took off as far as One Shots and post credit scenes. Being informed of Loki's failure to secure The Tesseract and of how earthlings had been underestimated we were treated to perhaps the greatest post credit reveal of all, Thanos. With a slight turn of the head and an evil smirk at the mention of "courting Death" long time comic book fans who stayed beyond the closing moments were again blown away to realize that when Nick Fury said "larger universe" he meant it.
The next One Shot titled "Item 47" spun directly out of the events of "The Avengers" and linked us right into the ABC television show "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD". This time it was Agent Jasper Sitwell taking center stage as he tracked down a missing now functional piece of Chitauri weaponry fallen into the hands of two outlaw lovers on a bank robbing spree from Allentown Pa to Miami Fl. The end saw Jesse Bradford's Benny Pollack and Lizzy Caplan's Claire Wise inducted into SHIELD training rather than incarcerated which was pivotal in setting precedent for Skye's similar transition during season one of the show.
"Agent Carter" another One Shot also opened up the MCU. This time by taking us back to it's early days as Hayley Atwell reprises her role from CA:TFA. Her solo mission against the forces of Zodiac and struggles with misogyny in the workplace of the SSR as it transitioned to becoming SHIELD have set up the premise for the mid season miniseries of the same name to air on ABC this winter.
"Iron Man 3" (2013) though a polarizing film provided fans with a subdued post credits scene and a great One Shot. The post credit scene revealed that the narration which started out the movie was really Tony unburdening himself on poor Bruce Banner, who is not that type of Doctor. While rather comical it really, I believe, served a purpose of setting the stage for the rumored Hulk/Iron Man conflict teased in [The Avengers: Age Of Ultron](movie:293035) scheduled for release May of 2015. We saw the two drive off after the events in New York in the first film, and now we see that Tony at least tried to bond with Bruce over the ensuing time. A clash between them could play off their "relationship".
The One Shot "All Hail The King" is probably the most thought out one so far. While fans complained about the reveal that Sir Ben Kingsley's Trevor Slattery was not really a terrorist villain known as The Mandarin but in truth an actor hired to play a role, Marvel took a page right out of the comics by having it revealed that there was a real Mandarin and he was not happy with Slattery sullying his name. Two of my favorite easter eggs in this little short are a) Priscilla Everhart's name appearing in the credits for Slattery's ill fated CBS pilot. (Christine Everhart was the reporter who played a part in Tony Stark realizing Stark Industries was not what he thought in "Iron Man") and b) Seagate Prison, comic fans know that this is the prison that conducted experiments on a prisoner named Carl Lucas who becomes Luke Cage. Cage is set to debut in a Netflix series tied to the MCU shortly.
"Thor: The Dark World" (2013) gave us our introduction to The Collector as played by Benicio DelToro in it's post credit scene and foreshadowed the growing universal threat of the collection of the Infinity Stones. "One down.. five to go" let us know that seemingly Thanos is not the only being in pursuit of the stones.
The additional post credits scene showed an alien creature left behind on earth after the convergence. "Agents of Shield" continued this pattern of cross referencing the MCU as it told its separate story, one big meanwhile if you will. The payoff was in "Captain America:The Winter Soldier" in which it's entire storyline greatly impacted the characters of that show. CA:TWS is itself a big meanwhile to AoS or vice versa! The post credits scene for that film once again elevated expectations in just the span of a few minutes.
We already knew that Aaron Taylor Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as The Scarlet Witch were coming to AoU but we had no idea how. This scene showed them as prisoners of Thomas Kretschmann's Baron Strucker who is also in possession of the Chitauri sceptre wielded by Loki in "Avengers", no doubt as a result of HYDRA's deep infiltration of SHIELD.
[Guardians of the Galaxy](movie:424073) Marvel's latest film, itself expanded on the growing threat of the infinity stones and as such chose to really give something to the fans in it's post credits scene.
Howard the Duck was revealed to exist in the MCU but there is no word on whether he will ever appear again. Perhaps with the "Guardians" home video release we will see a new One Shot as CA:TWS did not include one.
So in summary while Marvel's feature films get all the attention and scrutiny, it seems like the One Shots, easter eggs and post credit scenes are the real glue holding this whole universe together!
Note: For clarity I referred to all scenes after the end of a film as post credit even though some were technically mid credit scenes.