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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Captain America: The Winter Soldier can be found here.
The Falcon is a Marvel Comics character who premiered in Sept 1969 in Strange Tales #117 and created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan. He and Captain America eventually became close partners, especially in the 1970s when the comic was retitled Captain America and the Falcon from 1971 to 1977. His abilities include an uncanny ability to communicate with birds (An ability given by the Red Skull when he used the Cosmic Cube to reform Sam's personality for his own ends) and being in excellent physical condition. In addition, he wears a special harness supplied by King T'Challa, also known as Black Panther of Wakanda, that enables him to fly.
In the movie, the Falcon has no biological super powers. Instead, he is a U.S. military veteran who is well-trained in hand-to-hand-combat and the use of a special winged flight suit giving him the ability to fly. Not much is revealed about his past in the movie, but his military background is considerably different from his comic origin in the mainstream comics as a conflicted urban youth who turns to crime for a while before turning to good after meeting Captain America. In the film, his flight suit is implied to have come from Stark Industries instead of from the Black Panther in the mainstream comics. His name in the movie comes from the government code-name for the flight suit he uses, instead of being his self-given superhero name as in the comics. His military background, lack of super powers, and the appearance of his flight suit are actually based around the version of the Falcon from the Ultimate comics, where he wore military clothes with his flight suit instead of his traditional red- and white-colored Falcon-themed costume.
The World Security Council are an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace. They run S.H.I.E.L.D.'s operations. They appear in the film with Jenny Agutter reprising her role as a World Security Council member from The Avengers, along with Robert Redford's Alexander Pierce serving as a World Security Council member and senior leader within S.H.I.E.L.D., Chin Han as World Security Councilman Yen, with Bernard White, and Alan Dale confirmed as World Security Council members.
Sharon Carter, alias Agent 13, is a secret agent in the Marvel Comics universe. She is an ex-field agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. under Nick Fury and occasionally the girlfriend of Captain America. In original continuity, Sharon was said to be the younger sister of Peggy Carter, the wartime love interest of Captain America, but she was later reconnected as Peggy's niece because of the unaging nature of comic book characters. At first she is known as "Kate", but Black Widow identifies her simply as "Sharon". While the film makes no definite connection between the two, Sharon does mention an aunt after Steve visits the elderly Peggy.
Brock Rumlow a.k.a. "Crossbones" is a super villain in the Marvel Comics universe. He is a world-class hand-to-hand fighter with extensive experience in street-fighting and various martial arts and military combat techniques. Crossbones usually appears as a henchman of the Red Skull, and has a super villain costume of black combat gear and a black and white skull mask. In the film, he is a S.H.I.E.L.D operative, without a costume, who is revealed to be a double agent working for the villain. Near the end of the film, he can be seen in a bed with two straps crossing over his chest, resembling his logo.
Batroc the Leaper, real name Georges Batroc, is Marvel villain who lacks superpowers and is a highly trained French martial artist whose most powerful attribute are his legs (hence the nickname). In the comics he has battled many different heroes but is primarily an adversary of Captain America. In the film he is still a powerful martial artist and battles Steve Rogers aboard a pirated ship. While he demonstrates that his legs are powerful, the "Leaper" part of the name has been removed from the movie.
Stan Lee appears as a guard at the Smithsonian, saying "I'm so fired" after Steve Rogers steals his original Captain America uniform.
In the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season 1 finale it was revealed that Coulson would take over as director of S.H.I.E.L.D and rebuild it from the beginning.
There are two end credit sequences, one mid-credits and one at the very end. The mid-credit scene introduces Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, one of villains planned for Avengers: Age of Ultron, who is overseeing a secret HYDRA research facility which is experimenting on Loki's staff. He then looks into a cell at "The Twins," who are Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, also set to appear as new Avengers in Avengers: Age of Ultron. In the comics, Baron von Strucker is a HYDRA villain from World War II who often fought internally with Red Skull over control of the evil organization. How he differs in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is not yet completely known. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are the children of Magneto from the X-Men comics. They start as villains like their father, but later look to become heroes and are taken in as Avengers. This will be different in the Marvel Cinematic Universe because Marvel Studios does not have the rights to Magneto and therefore cannot reference them as mutants or even offspring of Magneto, but von Strucker still implies in the movie that they were born with their powers, hence him saying "the age of miracles". The second end credit sequence shows Bucky/The Winter Soldier visiting the Captain America exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum, in order to discover his own identity. Also, the United States flag can be seen behind him. This may allude to the fact that Winter Soldier learns to become a hero in the comics and even becomes Captain America when Steve Rogers is believed dead.
There are several references to Tony Stark/Iron Man, Stark Industries, and Bruce Banner in dialog throughout the film. Natasha Romanov can be seen using an arrow necklace, referencing her SHIELD partner, Clint Barton.
At one point, Stephen Strange (aka Doctor Strange), whose own film is in development, is mentioned as a potential future threat to HYDRA. In that same scene, a man in Cairo, Egypt is also mentioned. While this is not too specific, mentioning that among other names has lead to fan speculation that it is a reference to the mercenary and combat strategist, Moon Knight. One of the buildings targeted by the helicarrier is the Baxter Building, home of the Fantastic Four. When it was revealed that Nick Fury was alive, he stated that he used Tetrodotoxin-B, a neurotoxin developed by Bruce Banner (Hulk) originally to control his rage, in order to make his pulse undetectable, although it is revealed later that the surgeon operating on Fury knew of the plan. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, set to appear in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), are shown in a mid-credits scene.
When we first see Senator Stern in this movie he and S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Jasper Sitwell are having a conversation where Stern whispers "Hail HYDRA" to Sitwell. It is implied that HYDRA's reach has expanded beyond S.H.I.E.L.D. to members of the government including Senator Stern. During the events of Iron Man 2, Senator Stern asks Tony to surrender "the Iron Man weapon" to the U.S. Army; but, following this revelation in Winter Soldier, it is implied that his real concern was never for the U.S. Government, but rather him removing Tony Stark as a heroic threat and delivering the armor to HYDRA. He is arrested at the end of the film.It is revealed in the TV show [I]The Agents of Shield[I] that they use brainwashing technology to forcibly recruit Hydra members.
How could he have? S.H.I.E.L.D. existed for almost 70 years without anyone successfully discovering the secret HYDRA conspiracy. Even Nick Fury himself, with one of the highest clearances in the organization, didn't figure it out until it was almost too late. Arnim Zola explains that Howard Stark, Tony's father, may have begun to suspect or even found proof, but he was killed for this knowledge. By the modern age HYDRA clearly understood the importance of leaving no paper or digital trail of their conspiracy on S.H.I.E.L.D. computers where anyone could hack it. Besides, Tony Stark's immediate goal when hacking S.H.I.E.L.D. was only to find their true intent with the Tesseract, which was known as Phase Two, and the immediate threat of Loki didn't leave him time to study the rest of the data and find such a deeply rooted secret.
He hardly had a choice. It was S.H.I.E.L.D./HYDRA that sent the missile to kill Captain America and Black Widow as they stood inside Zola's computer brain. S.H.I.E.L.D./HYDRA didn't see any value in the computer brain of Arnim Zola any longer, evident by the fact that he had been ignored and not updated for decades, so destroying him was of little concern to them. As for Zola himself not caring about his own "death," his last moments seem filled with joy and certainty that he has beaten Captain America, so he appears happy to go out in a blaze of dramatic glory.
Also, not to forget, whenever his body is damaged, or utterly destroyed, Arnim is able to send his personality to another one stored elsewhere, thus giving himself a form of immortality. So, there could be a possibility that in the future movies, we can encounter Zola in another form. Also, we see that there was a modern USB hub hooked up to Zola's interface. Natasha plugs in the USB stick to it and activates Zola. It's likely that another HYDRA agent, such as Baron Von Strucker had gone there previously and backed up Zola onto another drive.
After Cap became a fugitive, Agent Sitwell establishes a Level 1 priority on him. The latter specifies that he wants every form of communication to be monitored in the hunt for Cap ("If someone tweets about this guy, I wanna know about it"). It's only common sense that they would also monitor and filter any contact with the rest of The Avengers, which is why Cap and Widow sought the help of a non-active Airman like Falcon instead. Another reason for this, as given by the directors is that the entire movie takes place in a span of over 3 days which is far too small a time-span for Cap to try to contact and assemble the avengers. After the movie is over, however. he does contact the Avengers for help because< at the beginning of Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, the Avengers are finishing up a long campaign to defeat Hydra.
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