Warning: Captain Marvel spoilers are ahead. The past year has been excruciating for Marvel fans as we’ve mourned losing half of our favorite superheroes after Thanos' universe-shaking snap in Avengers: Infinity War. But with a little over a month to go before we find out the sure-to-be devastating and hopefully satisfying conclusion to the two-part Avengers epic story as well as Marvel’s decade-long first phase of films in Avengers: Endgame, we finally have our first clues as to how Captain Marvel connects to Avengers: Endgame, a.k.a. how she will (hopefully) help save the day/world/universe. The half-human half-Kree superhero Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) debuts in Captain Marvel, the ‘90s set origin story film now in theaters, and it’s clear that she’s strong enough to make Thanos shake in his boots (and gauntlet). But aside from being the strongest Avenger and the universe’s last hope, how does Captain Marvel fit into Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame?
There are way more clues and details about Captain Marvel’s place within the MCU than you may think. Sure, Captain Marvel was (mostly) set in the ‘90s (aside from that gasp-inducing mid-credits scene), but the seeds for her arrival were planted in so many other Marvel movies that have come before. Whether you’re a Marvel super fan or casual movie-goer, it can be tough to remember all the small details from a decade of blockbuster films, so we’ve compiled them all here in this handy timeline, in chronological order no less!
So brush up on your Marvel history below in preparation for next month’s Avengers: Endgame when Captain Marvel continues to be the hero we need and deserve.
The Beginning: The Universe & The Six Infinity Stones (The Ones Thanos Collected In Avengers: Infinity War) Are Created
When the Big Bang happens, six powerful, elemental crystals containing an essential aspect of existence are sent out into the universe. These six stones, the Power Stone, Space Stone, Mind Stone, Time Stone, Reality Stone and Soul Stone, will go on to shape all the events of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, whether out in the open or from the shadows. For the purposes of looking at how Captain Marvel connects to Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, make sure to keep your eye on the blue Space Stone, the most prominent of the Infinity Stones in the MCU.
In The Very Distant Past: The Tesseract (The Cube That The Flerken Throws Up In Captain Marvel & The One Tom Hiddleston Is Holding Above) Is Created
The Tesseract, the glowing blue box seen in many MCU films, is the containment vessel meant to hold the power of the Space Stone. At some point, it finds its way into Odin’s treasure vault in Asgard. Odin then brings it to Earth where it is kept safe in a church in the village of Tønsberg.
March 1942: The Tesseract Is Found in Captain America: The First Avenger, Which Starts This Whole MCU Journey (And Also Carol Danvers' Journey)
As shown during Captain America: The First Avenger, during WWII Johann Schmidt aka the Red Skull leads HYDRA forces to collect the Tesseract from the church. It is then experimented on by Arnim Zola, who is able to harness the Tesseract’s power to create unstoppable weapons for the Nazi army, motivating Schmidt to turn on Adolf Hitler, inspired to rule the world himself with HYDRA and the Tesseract behind him. The exploration and experimentation on the Tesseract to create energy-powered batteries, weapons and vehicles will end up influencing all the MCU films moving forward with the alien-inspired technology and power, especially Mar-Vell’s Light Speed Engine, the unique energy core that transforms Carol Danvers into Captain Marvel when she shoots it and absorbs its power.
March 1945: Red Skull Abandons The Tesseract, Which Leads To It Inspiring The Arc Reactor In Iron Man
During his fight with Captain America, Red Skull physically touches the Tesseract, and it become a portal sending him to a location that was unknown… until Red Skull resurfaces in Avengers: Infinity War as the keeper of the Soul Stone on Vormir. After Red Skull is first sent to Vormir, the Tesseract falls through the floor of the plane and is lost at sea until Howard Stark finds it while searching for Captain America (who had gone down with the plane after his fight with Red Skull). Howard continues to experiment on it, as evidenced by his sketches his son Tony finds in Iron Man 2. Howard uses the Tesseract to develop the prototype arc reactor for Stark Industries that Tony finishes in the present to power the Iron Man armor.
Between 1945 & 1989: Captain Marvel's Mar-Vell (Annette Bening) Gets The Tesseract, Which Starts Carol Danvers' Whole Thing
Carol’s former mentor and secret Kree scientist Mar-Vell figures out that the Kree-Skrull War is more shameful than anyone knows, so she escapes the Kree and hides out on Earth, pretending to be human, as Dr. Wendy Lawson, head scientist at Pegasus. At some point, the Tesseract changes hands from Howard Stark to Mar-Vell at Pegasus as they studied the glowing cube in a top-secret, underground facility.
It’s not explained in Captain Marvel when or how or even if Mar-Vell meets Howard Stark during this research, but at some point, she’s able to use the Tesseract’s power to create the Light Speed Engine. The movie doesn’t dive deeper into Stark and Mar-Vell’s connection, so we’re left to wonder: Were he and “Wendy Lawson” scientist buddies and during their shared work with the Tesseract, with him never suspecting she was an alien? This is another buddy comedy MCU film we need to see!
1989: Captain Marvel Encounters The Tesseract For The First Time
While Carol doesn’t initially remember her past as a human on Earth, she begins to regain her memories throughout Captain Marvel. One memory in particular is extremely important: She comes into contact with the Tesseract aka the Space Stone and gets her Captain Marvel powers by absorbing its energy when she shoots the Light Speed Engine so that the Kree Starforce wouldn’t get their hands on it. (See explosion above.)
1995: Captain Marvel Meets Baby S.H.I.E.L.D. (A.k.a. Young Coulson And Fury)
Six years after Yon Rogg steals Carol Danvers from her home planet and brainwashes her into believing she’s a member of the Kree Starforce on Hala, she finally returns to Earth after battling Talos on the Skrull ship. After crash landing in a Blockbusters, a young Agent Nick Fury (with both of his eyes!) and Agent Phil Coulson arrive on the scene and quickly learn that they’re not alone in the universe. Captain Marvel’s photon blasts and shape-shifting Skrulls are just the tip of the iceberg, and S.H.I.E.L.D. adapts fast. After bonding with Fury, Captain Marvel finds the Tesseract on Mar-Vell’s cloaked Kree Imperial Cruiser in orbit around Earth and Goose the Flerken swallows it whole.
1995: Ronan (Lee Pace's Bad Guy From Guardians Of The Galaxy, Also An Ally Of Thanos) Meets Captain Marvel
Ronan the Accuser, the blue guy with the huge sledgehammer and penchant for black face paint, gets his own small origin story in Captain Marvel. The Kree warlord and leader of the Accusers has yet to meet Thanos at this point and is simply trying to win the Kree-Skrull war for his fellow Kree people. But when he sees the full extent of Captain Marvel’s powers when he tries to bomb Earth and she completely decimates his weapons and his fleet, he runs scared… all the way to Thanos.
He will later team up with Thanos in 2014 to try and find the Infinity Stones in exchange for Xandar’s destruction. Ronan will die before either is accomplished, but Thanos will go on to destroy Xandar and get the Power Stone all on his own. However, it’s interesting to note that before Ronan retreats from Captain Marvel, he makes a comment that he’ll return for the weapon: “the woman.” Sounds like the perfect story for a sequel!
Carol had taken Fury's pager from him after he called for backup at when they were fighting their way out of Pegasus earlier in Captain Marvel – she had said he "couldn't be trusted" because it turned out the Skrulls had invaded SHIELD.
She "upgraded" the pager at some point during the course of the movie and gives it back to him at the end when they’re doing the dishes in Maria's kitchen – it now has the range of "a couple galaxies at least" and is "for emergencies only." That pager will end up being the most important piece of technology in the war against Thanos.
1995: Nick Fury Loses His Eye (And Get His Idea About Forming The Avengers From Carol Danvers)
The mystery is finally solved! After a fake out earlier in Captain Marvel, the cat/Flerken Goose scratches his eye but the cuts never heal, and thus, the origin of Fury’s eyepatch is finally explained. But THEN.
Back at SHIELD after all the dust clears, Fury is haunted by the idea that there’s a whole universe of potential enemies out there and Earth has no way of protecting itself now that Captain Marvel is off planet helping the Skrulls find a new home. He decides to enlist Coulson in helping him find more heroes like Captain Marvel to defend the planet (Coulson's next stop: Iron Man and Thor!). And while drafting up his “Protector Initiative,” Fury gets a little inspiration from a photo of Carol Danvers. He sees her call sign is “Avenger,” and so he decides to change the word “Protector” to “Avenger” in his file. Thus, The Avenger Initiative is born, and it’s all thanks to Captain Marvel!
The Late ‘90s: The Tesseract Resurfaces (Again, Because Goose Throws It Up) In Captain Marvel
In the hilarious Captain Marvel post credits scene, Goose the Flerken reappears in Fury’s office to cough up the Tesseract onto his desk. The scene ends there, but we can assume that the Tesseract is then entered into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody by Fury when he comes back to his office to find the glowing blue cube sitting there (covered in a Flerken hairball, no less). Captain Marvel had previously told Fury to keep the Tesseract hidden on Earth before she left with the Skrulls and spoiler alert: he doesn’t do such a great job of that.
2011: Nick Fury Introduces Loki To The Tesseract In Thor
The Tesseract is shown to still be in Fury’s custody 20 years later in the post credits scene in Thor, so we can assume it doesn’t change hands in between the late ‘90s and early 2010’s. This is the next point in the timeline when the Tesseract appears, when Fury shows a Loki-controlled Erik Selvig the item in order to have him further research the alien technology. Loki becomes very interested.
May 4, 2012: Loki Teams Up With Thanos To Get The Tesseract In The Avengers
In the first Avengers film, Thanos makes his debut in the MCU as Loki’s benefactor — Thanos gives Thor’s brother the Chitauri army to take over Earth in exchange for getting him the Tesseract. Loki fails, and Thor takes him and the Tesseract back to Asgard in the wake of the all the destruction from the Battle of New York. Fury’s superiors at the World Security Council are furious with him for letting Loki and the Tesseract leave Earth, but having seen what the Tesseract is capable of (not only in Loki’s hands, but also the way it created Captain Marvel back in the beginning of his S.H.I.E.L.D. career), he stands by his decision that humanity is not ready for the Tesseract’s power.
2016: The Tesseract Becomes A Thing Again In Thor: Ragnarok
Back on Asgard, the Tesseract is used to repair the Bifrost and then it is placed under lock and key in Odin’s vault. It remains there until Loki steals it once more as Asgard and Hela are both destroyed in Thor: Ragnarok. He either believes he is keeping it safe, knowing that Thanos wants it for nefarious purposes, or he is simply tempted by its power once more. Either way, he just helps it get into Thanos’ hands even faster.
2018: Thanos Gets The Space Stone From The Tesseract In Avengers: Infinity War (Harrowing Moment Above)
Six years after his initial mission to get the Tesseract in the first Avengers film, Thanos finally gets it in the very beginning scene of Avengers: Infinity War. After attacking the Asgardian refugee ship on its way to Earth, Thanos and the Children of Thanos kill half the people onboard before Thanos tortures Thor with the Power Stone to make Loki give him the Tesseract. Thanos then destroys the Tesseract in his bare hand and adds the Space Stone inside it to his Infinity Gauntlet, giving him the power to thwart Loki’s betrayal and murder attempt. Thanos then kills Loki and destroys the rest of the ship, setting the rest of the events of Infinity War into motion.
2018: Nick Fury Pages Captain Marvel
In the Infinity War post credits scene, SHIELD agent Maria Hill dissolves into ash before Fury’s eyes as cars and helicopters crash down around him. Fury, unsure of what the reason is for people suddenly disappearing and the world turning into chaos, knows the only person strong enough to face whatever caused it is Carol Danvers. He sends her a page on his special Captain Marvel pager before turning to ash himself.
Some Time In Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel Meets The Remaining Avengers
In Captain Marvel’s mid credits scene, fans were treated to a sneak peek at Avengers: Endgame with more new footage than all of the Endgame trailers combined (seriously!). The new scene reveals Captain America, Black Widow, James Rhodes, and Bruce Banner at the Avengers compound studying the mysterious pager that had been found where Fury disappeared. Cap had previously given the order to keep the pager plugged in and turned on so they could keep studying it and trying to figure out who Fury was paging. But the pager’s signal suddenly dies, and that's when Captain Marvel appears behind Black Widow. She demands to know where Fury is. Avengers, meet your new leader!
And that's it. That's all we'll know until Avengers: Endgame premieres April 26.