WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Captain Marvel, in theatres now.
Set in the early ‘90s, Captain Marvel acts as a prelude to almost the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, giving us a glimpse at the early days of S.H.I.E.L.D, the genesis of Nick Fury’s mission to seek out avenging “heroes,” and aggravatingly slow computers.
Other than a passing reference to UFO sightings, the first hint we had of Captain Marvel’s existence in the MCU came during the post-credit scene of Avengers: Infinity War, when her logo pops up on the pager Nick Fury uses to send out an intergalactic distress signal as Thanos' Decimation begins.
The stinger points strongly to Carol Danvers being a key component in the film's sequel, Avengers: Endgame, and her solo movie, Captain Marvel, suitably bridges the gap between these two climactic chapters in Avengers movie history, hinting at what could be about to go down.
CAROL ANSWERS FURY'S CALL
During the mid-credits scene -- the first of two post-film extras -- we jump right into Endgame. Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanoff, James Rhodes and Bruce Banner are gathered around the pager we presumed Fury used to call in the ace up his sleeve.
Captain Marvel proves this presumption was correct. The remaining Avengers must have come across the pager while hunting for survivors, and just as they continue to ponder what Fury had used it for, the Captain appears right behind them with just one question: "Where's Fury?"
TO INFINITY AND BEYOND
In the build-up to Infinity War, much of the MCU's first decade has been quietly dominated by the Infinity Stones that Thanos uses to erase 50% of life in the universe. Captain Marvel is no different. The cosmically significant Stones are the McGuffins that villains from the Red Skull to Ronan the Accuser have desperately tried to wield, and heroes like Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Vision relied on for power.
So too, it turns out, does Captain Marvel. The film reveals that the source of her photon-charged abilities is the Tesseract, aka the Space Stone. Carol absorbs the Stone's energy when the experimental plane engine that houses it -- built by Kree scientist Mar-Vell in the hopes of achieving lightspeed capabilities -- explodes in front of her.
AVENGERS VS THANOS: ROUND TWO
Captain Marvel's logo on that pager screen was the only ray of hope we were offered at the bleak end of Infinity War. Captain Marvel had the job of providing both an origin story and a hero capable of fulfilling the promise of a defeated Thanos. Luckily, from what her solo movie showed us, Carol could really deliver on that promise.
During the finale, finally free of that pesky inhibitor chip on her neck, she single-handedly destroys a volley of missiles headed for Earth, an entire Kree fleet of warships, and makes big, blue baddie Ronan retreat with his hammer between his legs. Knowing that Captain Marvel is also running on Space Stone juice could also give her an edge on Thanos' Stone-studded Gauntlet in the same way Scarlet Witch was able to hold her own against it in Infinity War.
THE FIRST AVENGER
Captain Marvel is not only an origin story for Carol Danvers (and Nick Fury's injured eye) it also unexpectedly gives us an origin for the Avengers' team name. In Iron Man, Fury approached Tony Stark with a plan to safeguard Earth from extraordinary threats that he'd dubbed his "Avengers Initiative."
Back then, however, there wasn't anything to avenge, making the word choice a misnomer -- until now. At the end of Captain Marvel, we see Fury drafting up the "Protector Initiative." Unsatisfied with the name, he glances at a photo of Carol in her Air Force days and catches sight of the name emblazoned on her plane: "Carol 'Avenger' Danvers." This means Carol will finally be joining the team that, unbeknownst to her, carries her name in Endgame.
Goose the "cat" was essentially Carol and Fury's furry third wheel for much of Captain Marvel. After the Skrull Talos claims the creature isn't as normal as it seems, Goose's role quickly upgrades to furry defender/Tesseract "oven mitt" as his true, tentacled nature is revealed. Goose is a Flerken, an endangered alien species that houses an entire pocket dimension in its mouth.
Goose is also the sole star of Captain Marvel's post-credits scene: coughing up the Tesseract it swallowed to be smuggled past the Kree onto Fury's desk. We know what happens to the Tesseract after this but what about Goose? Is the alien still loose on Earth? It would be pretty wild if, rather than a photon beating from Captain Marvel, Thanos meets his end inside the stomach of a cat-shaped Kirby replica.