(Warning - the following contains large, hulking SPOILERS for a handful of previously released movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Proceed with caution, and all that...)
One of the particular peculiarities of the (widely and rightly beloved) Marvel Cinematic Universe is that one of its greatest strengths -- its interconnected nature -- seems to be completely absent when it comes to one of its most often-identified flaws: the lack of compelling and memorable villains who aren't Loki.
Y'see, while our heroes have, for seven or so years now, been crossing over, interacting and generally seeming to be operating in a gloriously shared universe, the villains have -- bar Loki -- largely been doing their own thing. Sure, Thanos may have popped up at the end of a handful of Avengers movies to glare menacingly, and Ultron totally killed that one dude we'd all barely realized was important, but other than that, Marvel's villains have pretty much been lone gunmen.
Or, at least, that's what we thought. Y'see, it's looking more and more as though:
Pretty Much Every Marvel Villain Is Working for Hydra
That's right: it's not just The Red Skull, Robert Redford and Agent Sitwell anymore -- it seems as though every single Marvel movie now has at least one major antagonist who's working (in some capacity at least) for Hydra. Ant-Man's Yellowjacket was selling too them, Avengers: Age of Ultron opened with an attack on them (and the ill-fated Baron von Strucker), and Captain America: The Winter Soldier was of course all about the multi-headed menace. With Captain America: Civil War seemingly set to see them rise again, it increasingly seems as though the whole MCU has been infiltrated.
That, though, only goes back as far as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, though, right? After all, we might have seen them back in the first Captain America movie, but we didn't really start to see their involvement in the MCU really get going until Cap uncovered their antics alongside Black Widow...
Or did we? Y'see:
This New Fan Theory Argues That Hydra Has Been Involved Since the Very Beginning of the MCU
And, by the very beginning, we're talking less in terms of the MCU's internal time-line (in which Captain America: The First Avenger starts everything off) and more in terms of the actual, real-life beginning of the universe: 2008's Iron Man.
Specifically, as intrepid Redditor Wagner4221 has argued:
Obadiah Stane Was Working With Hydra All Along
Yup. That Obadiah Stane. The one who looks an awful lot like Jeff Bridges would were he to fall through a sheep-shearer head first, and who spent the whole of Iron Man betraying Tony for -- it seemed -- no better reason than greed and jealousy.
Or, at least, so it seemed. As Wagner4221 argues, though, that may well have had less to do with Stane being a jerk, and more to do with him having become seriously involved with Hydra. After all, back in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, digital Arnim Zola revealed that not only did Hydra orchestrate the death of Howard Stark, but that the group had been systematically infiltrating all sorts of organizations in order to further its dastardly schemes.
With Stark being killed off, it would only make sense that they would have recruited his power-hungry second-in-command...Obadiah Stane.
Which Might Just Explain Stane's True Motivation Back in Iron Man
Y'see, if Stane had indeed joined Hydra -- which would make sense, both from their perspective (he could provide them with all the military equipment they needed) and from his (he's clearly a man obsessed with both loyalty and power, both of which Hydra specializes in perverting to its own ends) -- it might just offer a reason for why he was so quick to try to force Tony out of the company in Iron Man, despite a slower, more subtle approach seemingly being less risky.
That reason? His Hydra overlords were presumably telling him he had to. After all, if Stark Industries was one of the group's main sources of weaponry, Tony's announcement that he wouldn't be making any more weapons (for public consumption, at least) would be seen as a serious threat to their operation. Odds are, then, a senior Hydra figure (I'm looking at you, Redford) will have quickly been on the phone to Stane, telling him to deal with it...or they'd deal with it themselves.
When you think about it, then...
That Might Actually Make Stane Even More of a Jerk
After all, not only was he working for Hydra (rarely a sign of good character), he was also more than willing to arrange the murder of a man who saw him as a father-figure...even before he needed to. His initial plans to have Tony killed, after all, would have predated Hydra's need for the younger Stark's death -- meaning that his whole arrangement with the Ten Rings was probably a betrayal within a betrayal. After all, Hydra would likely have only have wanted to get rid of Tony after he decided to stop designing super-powerful weapons they could use.
Which means Stane was the kind of guy who would not only betray a man who saw him as family by joining a terrorist organization, but would then happily betray that same organization for...a mild increase in personal power?
Way to be an even bigger tool than we thought, Iron-Monger...
Stane Could Just Have Been a Terrible, Non-Hydra-Affiliated Guy
After all, there's nothing that says that all greedy, ruthless business folks in the MCU have to have been involved with Hydra, and it's not as though Tony Stark's snarkery wouldn't have driven most senior executives to consider killing him.
That being said, though, the theory sure does make a whole lot of sense -- and might just suggest we'll see future revelations about Stark Industries' inadvertent involvement with Hydra. Something to do with the bomb that killed Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver's parents, perhaps? Could Tony's actions -- or those of the heroes opposed to him -- in next year's Captain America: Civil War end up being influenced by his company's past? Will it turn out that Guardians of the Galaxy's Ronan the Accuser was secretly a Hydra mole all along? The possibilities are endless...
Or, in other words? Nicely played, Wagner4221... Nicely played...
What do you reckon, though?