SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Kingsman: The Golden Circle, in theaters now.
Matthew Vaughn's Kingsman: The Secret Service displayed a dazzling array of spy-movie goodness and blistering fight sequences, but the actioner's driving force was clearly its charming cast of characters. Charismatic performances from the likes of an emerging Taron Egerton as Eggsy and Mark Strong's take as Merlin were clear standouts, but no one shined brighter than the scene-stealing Colin Firth.
Playing Harry Hart, Eggsy's mentor and father figure, Firth's character brought his troubled twenty-something protégé into the world of espionage and gadgets, and while teaching him the ways of the trade (plus the importance of manners), gave Eggsy what he so desperately needed: purpose. Audiences fell in love Firth's suave secret agent along the way, which made his shocking death at the end of the second act all the more powerful. But, as the first teaser poster for Vaughn's follow-up put it best: reports of Harry's demise demise were "greatly exaggerated," so let's break down exactly how the hell Colin Firth is alive and kicking (ass) in Kingsman: The Golden Circle.
To do so, we'll have to to take a step back and look at exactly how -- or specifically where -- Harry was killed in the first film.
As those who have seen the first Kinsgman know, the narrative revolves around Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) and his scheme of depleting a large percentage of the human population in an attempt to save the Earth from its ungrateful occupants. Hart is tasked with figuring out the extent of his plot, and heads to the United States for a dinner with Valentine while disguised as a billionaire donor. During the course of the evening, Harry discovers a lead: Valentine has plans in place that somehow include an obscure hate group in Kentucky.
Harry follows up on the lead, transmitting live footage of the church group to Merlin and Eggsy, but instead of stopping Valentine's plot, he unknowingly becomes one of the antagonist's first test subjects. The now infamous church scene massacre ensues, with its inhabitants unable to control their murderous aggression due to the evil billionaire's universally available SIM cards. With the aid of his training, the last person standing is Harry who departs the church to find himself face-to-face with Valentine. Eschewing the typically convoluted death traps of villains in spy movies of old, Jackson's character shoots Harry point-blank in the face and leaves him for dead.
This is where the sequel comes into play, so once again -- SPOILERS inbound:
Harry was indeed shot in the face, but his saving grace comes in the form of the location in which his attempted murder occurred. Picking up on the wonky signals caused by Valentine's SIM cards, the dying agent is discovered by members of the Statesman, a secret and literally underground organization of American secret agents posing as a whiskey factory in -- you guessed it -- Kentucky. The close proximity of their distillery headquarters in relation to the church allows Statesman agents to make it to Harry quickly, and, to quote the immortal words of Mark Watney, save the Kingsman by "sciencing the shit" out of the situation.
The Statesman have even more resources at their disposal than the Kingsman organization, and this is never more readily apparent than with the reveal of their "Alpha Gel" technology. Via a wrap that goes around the general area of the otherwise fatal wound (Harry's head in this instance), the gel works by initially freezing Harry's brain functions before the bullet can finish him off. The wrap then dispenses a fleet of nanites that go about healing the damage already caused within his head. The Alpha Gel is able to save Harry's life, but not his eye, leading to the eye patch and blacked out lens that he is seen wearing in trailers and posters for the sequel.
Initially, however, Hart's eye is not the most precious thing taken from him at the hands of Valentine's bullet. A side effect of the injury and healing process is temporary amnesia, which Harry struggles with throughout the majority of The Golden Circle. When Eggsy and Merlin first discover that he's still alive, they find their friend struggling with the cognitive dissonance of not remembering his background as a Kingsman at all. Instead, Firth's character believes he chose the career path of a lepidopterist (butterfly and moth specialist), and it's not until Eggsy provides a poignant reminder of Harry's first days as a Kingsman that he remembers his identity. Thus, Harry rejoins his comrades as a Kingsman, albeit one with a bit of a temporary depth perception problem.
In theaters now, Kingsman: The Golden Circle was directed by Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass) and stars returning cast members Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Sophie Cookson, joined by Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Elton John, Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges.