Agents of SHIELD’s Hydra Twist Retcons Captain America: Winter Soldier
Warning: SPOILERS for Agents of SHIELD season 7 premiere.
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD season 7 introduced a new Hydra twist that retcons what was revealed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Agents of SHIELD season 7 is the boldest yet, with Mack and his SHIELD team using time travel to explore the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, after first playing with the notion of time travel in previous seasons.
Now, they’re caught in something of a Time War with an alien race known as the Chronicoms, who seek to rewrite history in order to ensure Earth is defenseless in the present day. To that end, they’ve targeted Wilfred Malick, whose son, Gideon, would become one of Hydra’s most important leaders. The Chronicoms believe that destroying Hydra will prevent SHIELD from ever being founded, which subtly rewrites the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
In that film, Arnim Zola claimed Hydra had infiltrated SHIELD as a result of Operation: Paperclip, a controversial, real-life US Government project that imported top German scientists into the country. “After the war, SHIELD was founded and I was recruited,” Zola explained. “The new Hydra grew. A beautiful parasite inside SHIELD.” According to Agents of SHIELD season 7, though, Zola was understating the case; in fact, SHIELD’s very foundation was part of a covert Hydra strategy. While this is a retcon, it’s hardly a continuity problem; even in the comics, Hydra compartmentalized their leadership, meaning no one leader had all the information. There’s no reason to assume the MCU version of Hydra was any different.
This fits with Agent Carter season 2, which saw Peggy Carter uncover a conspiracy called the Council of Nine. This group of businessmen and politicians sought world domination, and they pursued political power through assassination schemes and advanced technology. Although Marvel has never officially tied the Council of Nine to Hydra, there have been strong hints, given their insignia was similar to historic Hydra logos discovered in Agents of SHIELD season 3. The Council of Nine – or a similar Hydra faction – could well have orchestrated the foundation of SHIELD. Wilfred Malick may have been a nobody in 1931 during the Great Depression, but presumably his fortunes changed by the 1940s, making him a key figure at this time.
Zola may not have been correct when he recounted the history of SHIELD and Hydra, but he was probably right when he described the reason they used SHIELD. “Hydra was founded on the belief that humanity could not be trusted with its own freedom,” he explained. “What we did not realize, was that if you try to take that freedom, they resist. The war taught us much. Humanity needed to surrender its freedom, willingly.” To that end, Hydra secretly fed every crisis, every war, and every act of genocide, guiding humanity to the point where it would surrender that precious freedom to SHIELD. Fortunately for the world, they hadn’t reckoned on Captain America.
There is comic book precedent for the idea that Hydra created SHIELD. In 2009, Jonathan Hickman launched his Secret Warriors series, which has served as a major inspiration for Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. This saw Nick Fury realize SHIELD had been compromised from the start, founded by Hydra, and had unwittingly served as their most important intelligence asset all these years. “I’ve been workin’ for the bad guys the whole **** time,” Fury told Quake, leaving both of them shaken to the core. In the comics, this revelation saw Fury discover Hydra was bigger than he had ever believed, and in Agents of SHIELD and the MCU, it could well serve to make Hydra a present-day threat once again.