Avengers: Age of Ultron is coming out in less than a month, and before then, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be doing its part to build up the shared universe brand by tying in with the movie. We don’t know exactly how it’s going to happen yet, but I think the latest Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode, “Afterlife” (2x16), may have given us a hint for what the tie-in will be. It’s all in the scene when Coulson, Hunter, and Deathlok lay out their plans.
Remember, the three of them are on the run from Gonzales’ team in a stolen quinjet. Coulson believes they need to find Skye if they’re going to have any hope of victory in a confrontation with Gonzales. As such they need to find Gordon, the teleporting Inhuman who has whisked away Raina, Cal, and Skye. However, they can’t just call for him the way Skye did; they don’t know where he goes or how to find him. Their best bet is to track down someone who might know about Gordon. Deathlok, who has been trailing the last remaining Hydra Head (Liszt) for the last six months, intercepted a message suggesting that Liszt was hunting down powered people and experimenting on them. If Liszt is hunting down people like Skye, then Coulson reasons that Liszt must at least be aware of Gordon’s existence. And any information Liszt has about Gordon could help Coulson find Skye. So now Coulson, Hunter, and Deathlok are off to track down Liszt and find out what he knows.
So how does this plot line tie in to Age of Ultron? Simply put, Liszt is the linchpin that connects the two properties.
We first met Liszt in “Aftershocks” (2x11), the midseason premier. He is one of the six “Heads of Hydra”—along with Whitehall, Bloom, the Sikh, the Banker, and the Baroness—who sit around the big table with the Hydra logo painted on it. The six of them and their Hydra groups seem to operate semi-independently, for the most part staying out of each other’s way. However, when something happens which impacts all of Hydra (such as the death of one of their number) the six come together to determine a unified response. When they are together, the spokesman for their group—the one who does most of the talking, and whose words carry the most weight—appears to be Liszt. Additionally, at the end of the episode when Bloom and Bakshi call him to inform him of the supposed conspiracy by the other Hydra Heads, he speaks for von Strucker in saying that neither of them knew about the conspiracy. From what we saw in “Aftershocks,” Liszt is the Hydra Head with the most direct contact with Baron von Strucker, the ultimate Head of Hydra.
Baron von Strucker, introduced in the mid-credits scene of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, is one of the main Hydra leaders in the comics. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, von Strucker is the secretive leader of Hydra who only becomes known to the audience after the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. In his one scene, we see von Strucker in his hidden underground lab with Loki’s Scepter and the Twins. He simultaneously acknowledges the other Hydra cells around the world and states his intention to sell them out to the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. remnants to keep the heat off himself and his experiments.
So what is the means by which von Strucker can carry out his plan to use the rest of Hydra as a distraction? I think it is possible that von Strucker has been using his lieutenant Liszt to exercise his authority over the other Hydra Heads. Liszt can set the other Hydra Heads on a path leading them into conflict with the Avengers. At the same time, he can take their greatest breakthroughs back to von Strucker for his own use. This is exactly what we see in “Aftershocks”: When the Hydra Heads are trying to determine how to replace Whitehall (now that Bakshi has disappeared), Liszt proposes that whoever wipes out S.H.I.E.L.D. will take Whitehall’s seat. It is highly unlikely that anyone would be able to take out S.H.I.E.L.D. without substantial support—support only available to someone who was already a Head of Hydra—so he is essentially sentencing the next batch of prospective Hydra Heads to their death (while simultaneously weakening S.H.I.E.L.D.). At the same time, Liszt decides to look into Whitehall’s research and see whether anything he found proved useful. In this way, Whitehall’s researched on powered people (namely the Inhumans) made its way into Liszt’s possession. Where that research is going to go now is up for debate, but I think it will go to von Strucker.
We know from Captain America: The Winter Soldier that Baron von Strucker has been experimenting in an effort to unlock powers in seemingly-ordinary people. Using the Mind Gem within Loki’s Scepter, von Strucker was able to unlock genetic coding within Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, a pair of Sokovian twins, giving them superpowers. From the Age of Ultron tie-in comic, it is clear that he did NOT use the Scepter to give them powers; he in fact unlocked powers that were already dormant within them. However, all of the other test subjects in the experiment were killed for some reason. We are not given any information as to why they were killed, but Whitehall’s research might hold the key. Perhaps the reason the other subjects died was because there was nothing more to them that the Scepter could unlock. Perhaps the reason the Twins survived and received these powers was because they were somehow different from the ordinary; there was something there to unlock.
So far as we know Whitehall did not have a Diviner before Cal brought one to him, but von Strucker’s resources might be able to find one of the three missing ones. The possibility of creating an entire super-powered army using the Diviners would be hugely exciting to someone like von Strucker. In fact, that could explain how the Avengers come into conflict with him in Avengers: Age of Ultron. But we’re still not up to there yet.
In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson, Hunter, and Deathlok are going to find Liszt to grill him for information on Gordon. However, if I am correct and Liszt is really just von Strucker’s intermediary with the Hydra Heads, then our S.H.I.E.L.D. team is probably about to walk into something far bigger than they expect; they could even find themselves at the very castle where von Strucker is doing his research. Imagine if the next time we see them they are standing outside the very castle from the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailers! They have Deathlok on their side, but I don’t think that even he would be enough for them to take on von Strucker’s full might. Coulson will probably need a lot of help if he’s going to get to Liszt through von Strucker! This might be just the reason he needs to call up Maria Hill and ask her to send in Iron Man and the Avengers to eliminate von Strucker. And this phone call could be the catalyst that starts Age of Ultron’s initial battle between the Avengers and Hydra.
That may be far more “on the nose” than Marvel is planning, of course; they’ve already said that the Age of Ultron tie-in with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be less “game changing” than the tie-in with Captain America: The Winter Soldier was last year. However, even if it is not as big as Coulson and company going to von Strucker’s castle, I still think it is likely that Coulson’s pursuit of Liszt will in some way lead to the Avengers’ attack on von Strucker and Hydra.
So what do you think? Do you think that Liszt is working as closely for von Strucker as I suggest? What is your theory for how Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will tie-in with Avengers: Age of Ultron? Do you want to see Skye, Lincoln, and the Inhumans end up fighting off Ultron bots over Afterlife on AoS? Let me know in the comments!
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