Ending Explained is a recurring series in which we explore the finales, secrets, and themes of interesting movies and shows, both new and old. In this entry, we explain the ending of Captain Marvel.
Captain Marvel is the first female-led solo entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That is likely to bring even more fans to the MCU as it signals a true leading female with Brie Larson. Apologies to Scarlett Johansson and Evangeline Lily. That doesn’t mean that Captain Marvel is a good place to start. Unfamiliar alien races, returning villains, and a glowing orb might confuse a portion of the Captain Marvel audience. Even if you are caught up with all the movies in the MCU, Captain Marvel takes a big step backward in time taking place in 1995. Music from the time period makes up most of the soundtrack, there is a Blockbuster sighting, and faces that will be familiar to those who’ve been following along on the Marvel journey. Some of these events just have to be explained.
Two of those familiar faces come from Agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). Captain Marvel is undoubtedly an origin story for Larson’s leading superhero, but it also works as an origin story for Fury. We learn about Fury’s past, how he got to his position in S.H.I.E.L.D., how he got involved with beings with superhuman abilities, and how he likes his toast. If you’ve only been watching the movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you might remember that Agent Coulson died by the hands of Loki in The Avengers. Coulson came back for the television show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but this will be the first time movie audiences see the character in almost seven years. This is only possible because the story takes place before he died. Coulson doesn’t have the biggest role to play in Captain Marvel, but we can see why Agent Fury trusts him.
Most of the story focuses in on Agent Fury and Captain Marvel. They are joined by the feline companion known as Goose. Goose and Fury quickly form a bond together (who knew Fury was a cat guy?), but Goose isn’t a normal cat. She is actually an alien species known as the Flerken, who are extremely dangerous. In fact, we discover that Goose is the reason Agent Fury lost his eye, not some kind of explosion like the original Marvel comics story in Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos Vol 1 #27. After the events in Captain Marvel, Fury becomes determined to find more allies with superhuman abilities. The Initiative is on his computer, but it is in a photo of Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel, that he gets the name of the initiative. Apparently, Carol Danvers’ pilot nickname was the “Avenger.”
Another familiar face in Captain Marvel is The Guardians of the Galaxy villain, Ronan (Lee Pace). Even if you watched Guardians of the Galaxy, you might not remember who he is. Thanos hired Ronan to retrieve the Power Infinity Stone. That works for him because he seeks power at whatever cost. That’s why he will work for Thanos and why he wages wars. In Guardians of the Galaxy, the conflict was against the Nova Empire and their planet, Xandar. It was mostly because Ronan didn’t want to sign a peace treaty with the Nova Empire. If that still doesn’t ring a bell, Ronan is best remembered as the big blue guy that gets blown to bits by the power of the Infinity Stone at the end of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Ronan is part of an alien race known as the Kree. The Kree are a militaristic, arrogant race that hail from the planet Hala. They all answer to a being known as the Supreme Intelligence. In Captain Marvel, the Supreme Intelligence takes the form of someone close to you. In Carol Danvers’ case, the Supreme Intelligence takes the form of Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening). More on Wendy Lawson later.
At the center of Captain Marvel is the war between the Kree Empire and the Skrull Empire. In addition to Ronan, Captain Marvel is also Kree, as is Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan), and Korath (Djimon Hounsou). Korath can also be seen in Guardians of the Galaxy chasing after Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) to get the Power Infinity Stone.
Our first introduction to the Skrull Empire happens during Captain Marvel. The Skrulls are an alien race of shapeshifters that can take any form. This makes them particularly difficult to locate and challenge in combat. One of the most important Skrulls we encounter in Captain Marvel is Talos (Ben Mendelsohn). Talos doesn’t mean harm, he wants to find a place for his people to live. This conflict between the Kree and Skrull Empires comes from the pages of The Avengers comics #89–97 from 1971 to 1972. The difference between the two races is that the Kree wants to rule over the galaxy, while the Skrull are clinging on to survival.
At the center of this conflict is, you guessed it, an Infinity Stone. Yon-Rogg has gotten instructions from the Supreme Intelligence to locate and get the Tesseract, which holds the Space Infinity Stone. The Tesseract goes way back in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Originally brought to Earth from Asgard (Asgard where Thor lives) by Odin, Earth kept it secret. That is until HYDRA found it and used its power during Captain America: The First Avenger. After Captain America defeated Red Skull, the Tesseract was lost until Howard Stark recovered it. It is during this period that the stone was being used by Dr. Wendy Lawson.
Dr. Lawson was not only a mentor to Carol Danvers while Danvers was in the Air Force, but she is also known to the Kree as Mar-Vell. Mar-Vell was a Kree living on Earth to develop a new engine powered by the Tesseract. She wants to use the device to end the war between the Kree and the Skrulls. Mar-Vell’s fellow Kree locate her whereabouts and want the results of her research for the war effort. While trying to escape, Carol Danvers and Mar-Vell crash land their plane that was equipped with the prototype engine. Mar-Vell is shot and killed by Yon-Rogg, but Carol Danvers shoots the prototype engine which completely alters her genetics. Not wanting to leave empty-handed, Yon-Rogg takes Danvers back to Hola. He transfers his blood into her, making her of the Kree race. She also has side effects from the engine explosion. This makes her one of the most powerful Kree.
The Infinity Stone was missing for some time, but it is discovered by Danvers. It was hidden on Mar-Vell’s spaceship that has been orbiting Earth. Along with the stone, there are survivors of the Skrull race who have remained hidden from the Kree. Unfortunately, they Danvers and her friends have been followed by Yon-Rogg and he plans to take the stone back to the Kree and kill the Skrull survivors. Under restraints, Carol Danvers remembers her past and breaks free of Kree control. The Tesseract is returned to the care of S.H.I.E.L.D. thanks to the efforts of Danvers, Fury, and Goose. This particular Infinity Stone, The Space Stone, gives the user power over space. Anyone in control of the stone can use it to travel throughout the Universe. S.H.I.E.L.D. ends up studying the Tesseract until it is stolen by Loki in The Avengers and then Thanos gets it from Loki in Avengers: Infinity War.
Carol Danvers decides at the end of Captain Marvel that she will accompany the Skrull to find a new home. She was once simply a human who joined the Air Force to help her country. After the dramatic events with the Space Stone and the Kree, she now has incredible powers that allow her to travel through space and emit massive amounts of energy. She will use her newfound abilities to help the Skrull survive. She leaves Agent Fury with a modified pager to contact her if the need arises.
That same pager is what we see Fury trying to activate at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. The end credits of Captain Marvel show the remaining Avengers trying to activate the pager, not knowing what Fury was trying to do with it. Suddenly, Captain Marvel appears and wants to know where Fury is. She will be joining the fight against Thanos in Avengers: End Game.