2014 offered a wealth of treasures from Marvel Studios. Captain America: The Winter Soldier & Guardians of the Galaxy are two of the most critically successful blockbusters of the young century. Agents of SHIELD has revitalized itself, forging new ground in the longterm plans for the Cinematic Universe. And Marvel’s Phase 3 announcement, or as Kevin Feige termed it, “Random Tuesday,” was a press conference with the twists and excitement of a blockbuster film.

2014 was an incredible year for us nerds. Because of so many gamechangers this year, our cinematic universe will never be the same again.

For the last article of the year, our three main writers, Chris Nelson, Murdockmanila, & SCB, have sat down and discussed what we think are the most exciting, important, and dynamic events in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We present to you our picks for the Best of the MCU 2014.

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7. BEST BREAKTHROUGH CHARACTER

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Chris picks: DAISY JOHNSON/SKYE

Generally when people think breakout character, they think of somebody who went from relative obscurity to a pop culture mainstay, and while that is not precisely the path that Skye has taken I think her eventual importance will prove that she’s as essential as any of the other heavy hitters in the MCU, especially considering her relative insignificance during most of the first seasons plot.

It’s safe to say that as a character Skye was extremely flat in the first season, the writers had a real tough time finding ways for us to care about her in the episodes leading up to the reveal that she was an 0-8-4. To me it almost felt like they simply forced her character into “sticky situations” that any other member of the team could’ve handled, just as an attempt to keep her relevant. With a few key moments near the end of season one and almost the entirety of season two, Skye has become not only a character I care about but probably my favorite character on the show.

My hope in 2015 and beyond is that she becomes basically the official SHIELD liaison with the Avengers and assists them from time to time with her new abilities. Chloe Bennet has proven that when given quality material, she has the acting chops to pull it off, so I would not be surprised to see her in Civil War or other earth based MCU movies. With Civil War looming, she could be play a pivotal role in bridging the TV and Movie universes and giving the viewer a weekly look into the life of somebody with abilities dealing with the consequences of Civil War in the MCU.

RUNNER UP – PETER QUILL

I think essentially any of the main characters from Guardians of the Galaxy could be up for this seeing as most of them have never been shown on screen thus far. If this was labeled “Most surprisingly good performance”, I’d have to got with Drax, but seeing as this is more of an overall look at things, I’m going to have to go with Peter Quill. I think a lot of us had a feeling that Chris Pratt was going to do well in the role, but I don’t think anyone quite expected both the quality of his performance and how well GoTG did at the box office. So seeing as he’s the main star of the movie, I’m gonna have to stick with Star-Lord (finally!).

MurdockManila picks: DRAX THE DESTROYER

Save for one almost-famous wrestler named Dwayne Johnson, sports entertainers rarely deliver anything substantially decent when they make the transition to film. So many of these nonsensical movies continue to perpetuate the notion that maybe – just maybe – these actors and their performances are better off in the ring. So when Dave Batista was cast as Drax the Destroyer, an understandable amount of confusion and disappointment followed. Then just like when another green monster stole the spotlight in the Avengers, Drax did the same magnificently.

Bautista delivers a nuanced yet destinctive performance, able to shine when each moment calls for it. He displays the needed aggression and the genuine sincerity. With his brilliant timing and deadpan delivery, Bautista’s Drax left audiences quoting every witty line and laughing with each display of charming obliviousness and ignorance. He has arguably one of the best lines in all the MCU.

Certainly THE underdog amidst a group of underdogs, Batista unexpectedly managed to make Drax stand gracefully alongside the likes of Diesel’s Groot, Cooper’s Racoon, Zaldana’s Gamora and Pratt’s Star-Lord and that is no easy feat. Even with his limited screentime, Batista manages to tug our hearts with Drax’s heartfelt pain of losing his family and his humble redemption following his humiliating defeat with Ronan.

Thanks to Gunn’s take on the character and Dave Bautista’s excellent performance, Drax the Destroyer now has a place in our MCU hearts.

RUNNER UP: ANTOINE TRIPLETT

The man’s death was the most painful thing I saw happen on SHIELD. His sweet demeanor towards the people that surrounded him and his inspiring unblinking morals in the face of death was truly a sight to see on screen. Regardless of how small his role was in the big picture, he was a character we all cared for. Rest in Peace Antoine Triplett.

SCB picks: FALCON

Maybe my favorite element of IRON MAN is how liberating it feels when Tony Stark flies. The scene where Stark jets around the Los Angeles airspace is probably the highlight of the film. Sadly, future Iron Man films spend more time on world-building, spies, superheroes, and alternate Iron Man suits. It’s a bummer that the subsequent Marvel films lost interest in the question Tony posed in the first film: “Why not a pilot without a plane?”

Until Falcon. In a film loaded to the brim with tight action scenes, Falcon jetting around the HYDRA Helicarriers are some of the most memorable. Falcon’s not an Avenger: he can’t go toe-to-toe with an army, punching or shooting them out of the sky. Falcon has to zip & weave, dodging bullets and praying to god that he makes it through.

But Falcon’s not just a guy with a pair of wings and a tight t-shirt. Unlike the other heroes in this universe, Sam Wilson isn’t a scientist, spy, soldier, alien, or god: he’s a therapist. He helps veterans who’ve returned to a world that they don’t understand. Marvel Comics have always been deeply humanistic, and Sam is a hero in the best Marvel tradition: empathetic, thoughtful, charismatic, smart, and reliable.

Though the next Captain America film is CIVIL WAR, I hope the Russos take some time to explore the relationship between Sam & Steve. I imagine that as Steve acclimates to a strange and foreign world he doesn’t understand, he can find no better friend than Sam Wilson.

RUNNER UP: ROCKET RACCOON

I think we all expected Rocket to be the comedic hook to GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, but I never expected him to be the emotional core. “I didn’t ask to be made!” is devastating & nuanced writing from James Gunn.

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6. BEST QUOTE

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Murdockmanila picks: ALEXANDER PIERCE

“Your work has been a gift to mankind. You shaped the century. And I need you to do it one more time.”

So much of the weight and strength of this quote lies on how it was sold to us. We hear it one of the trailers as a monologue by Alexander Pierce to someone who is presumably Cap. Intercut with shots of Captain America acting awesome, the monologue is profoundly inspiring.

The profundity of the quote suddenly takes on a new meaning when we find out that Alexander Pierce is full of shit and that the quote in fact pertains to a brainwashed Bucky. The weight of the actual scene – where we see Alexander Pierce’s remorseless and cruel manipulation of a helpless soldier – is all the more sweet and powerful because an evil Robert Redford delivers it so maliciously. It is a testament to the fruitfulness that is the casting of Robert Redford by the geniuses Feige and the Russo brothers, an MCU high point on its own.

RUNNER UP: “If I had a blacklight, this place would look like a Jackson Pollock painting.”

Disney’s acquisition of Marvel meant that some story elements have to be inevitably avoided. We’ve only had one scene resembling a sex scene in the MCU which was in Iron Man and aside from a few scenes where we see Scarlett in her underwear and the deleted (?) sort-of-topless scene of Gamora, that’s pretty much it. Sexualization in the MCU has been progressively played down over the years. The same thing goes with cursing and vulgar sayings.

So when we hear this hilarious line from Peter Quill, boy it is quite a surprise. Along with the actual use of the word shit and dick, to hear something so crude and toilet humor-y is a treat we don’t always get to encounter now in the MCU. But its these kinds of subtle jokes or lines that strongly define a character’s personality and the lines in the movie work so well. Kudos to Feige for letting those things pass and Gunn for making them so hilarious.

SCB picks: SKYE

“He saved you from killing more people!”

As Joss Whedon said, superheroes are a power fantasy employing fascist imagery. But the heart of why Marvel Studios works is that their heroes consistently relinquish power. 2014 featured this in spades; Captain America refuses to hit Bucky back. Black Widow gives up her privacy to stop HYDRA. Star-Lord is only able to survive the Power Stone and defeat Ronan by reaching out to his friends.

Yet the best quote to epitomize this comes from Agents of SHIELD. When Coulson kills the HYDRA agent who murdered his wife, Skye’s father flies into a rage, attacking Coulson for robbing his long-awaited vengeance. Moments from death, Skye runs into the room and pulls her father away, saying, “He saved you from killing more people!”

That line, credited to Angel showrunner Jeffrey Bell, cuts to the heart of Marvel’s worldview. Though Marvel’s stories are full of action, twists, and intrigue, their best stories never equate power to danger, and the pursuit of it to someone’s undoing. Yet even lost souls like Skye’s father can be redeemed; the blackness is never so deep as to be without light.

RUNNER UP: “We are Groot.”

There are times when I lack the words to express how much I love someone, how much their love defines who I am, and how I think they’re so vital to the world around them. When I can’t find the way to articulate that, it sure seems that “We are Groot” does the trick.

Chris picks: THANOS

“The only matter I do not take seriously, boy, is you.”

It’s easy to forget how much of a bad ass Ronan The Accuser is. Whether he’s bathing in blood during his first scene, wiping the floor with Drax on Knowhere or killing a prison population just to avoid witnesses, Ronan was (RIP) incredibly crazy and powerful even before he used the infinity stone. So when he strolls into the Sanctuary full of hubris, kills The Other (a servant of Thanos) and demands his needs are taken seriously, the general audience is probably expecting some sort of civil dialog between 2 bad guys. Not even close.

The Mad Titan’s whole response could more or less be considered my favorite quote, but the specific sentence where he calls Ronan “boy” is chilling, and Josh Brolin’s delivery was excellent. Ronan is put in his place and Thanos is established as the hardest fool in the universe as The Accuser is forced to to turn tail and run to continue his search for the orb.

RUNNER UP: “Before we get started, does anyone want to get out?”

Even though a good portion of this scene was already shown/spoiled before release via trailers or special 4 minute previews, it still puts a smile on my face every time Cap calmly asks if anyone wants to get out.

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5. BEST EASTER EGG

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SCB picks: HOWARD THE DUCK

If there was any character assigned to cinematic purgatory, it would be Howard the Duck. He’s the titular character of perhaps the most reviled comic book movie of all time, and definitely Lucasfilm’s worst movie. The film was an enormous, expensive, and embarrassing bomb. In Hollywood, Howard is a joke, a punchline to studio excess, poor ideas, and the absolute nadir of the comic book film movement.

It’s easy to call Howard the Duck’s appearance in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY a funny but meaningless cameo. And hell, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY might be Howard’s second and final film appearance. But it suggests something very interesting to me: nothing is irredeemable for Marvel. There’s no character too tainted, too odd, too far gone for Marvel to place in their universe.

So what does Howard the Duck mean? A new Ghost Rider film is probably closer than we think. Power Pack might be the next big TV series. And by god, Marvel had better be working on a NextWave film, to bring this panel to live action.

RUNNER UP: DOCTOR STRANGE.

In THE WINTER SOLDIER, a panicky Jasper Sitwell rattles off a bunch of HYDRA threats, including the first in-canon utterance of Stephen Strange, Sorcerer Supreme of Earth. It’s Marvel doing what Marvel does best: fun little easter eggs that build the world, but don’t detract from the story.

Chris picks: SEAGATE PRISON

My favorite easter eggs are the ones that eventually pan out into something. So for those who aren’t aware, Seagate Prison, the setting the one-shot called “All Hail The King” is where a certain upcoming Netflix character is locked up and eventually gets his powers; Luke Cage.

I suspect we’ll see it again during the Luke Cage and/or aka Jessica Jones show, but also throughout future phases as it’s been used a few times in the comics and even has housed a superhero wing.

RUNNER UP: COSMO

The closest thing we’ll get to having a telepathic dog with an adorable lisp on screen. Despite it likely never playing out, this was such a cool nod to the comics. Plus I love dogs. Easy enough.

Murdockmanila picks: THE INFINITY GEMS

Guardians of the Galaxy had a buttload of references which could very well be Best Easter Egg. Next to Avengers, its the MCU film with the most moments and elements catering to wonderful fan service. You had to be a comic book literate fan to appreciate all those small moments. Case in point the floating Celestial Head. It’s a perfect example on how exactly deep we’ve come in terms of mythology. It gives us perspective in terms of how scaled the MCU has become.The vastness of the cosmos just tells us how small our mighty heroes are in the massive universe.

But among the many rewarding things Guardians of the Galaxy gave us, the Infinity Gems has to be the most significant one. These gems need not explaining. This is what the all the films have been slowly introducing. A bittersweet foreshadowing of what is to come for our heroes. Five stones which would one day be the catalyst that would cause the incomprehensible chaos our heroes would one day face.

RUNNER UP: MICROCHIP

It’s these kinds of things that make Agents of SHIELD so exciting to the MCU geek. Even the most random reference to a comic book character iregardless if they mean something or not make any geek giddy of excitement. Case in point: When Skye brings up her hacking confidant named Micro.

Like I said, nothing massive and important to this egg. But the fact that it loosely acknowledges the existence of known Punisher confidant Microchip gives hope that Punisher may indeed exist in the MCU. Fingers crossed that it means something. We need Frank Castle in our lives. And no, the whole truck driver thing from Winter Soldier doesn’t count.

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4. BEST TWIST

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Chris picks: TERRIGENESIS

I think we’ve covered in-depth both how great the second season of Agents of SHIELD is and what it meansto debut Inhumans on AoS, so I’ll keep this one fairly short. Looking at both of my colleagues choices, I’m not surprised, those were huge bombs dropped and the MCU will never be the same, but I feel they may be a tad short sighted as they really only effect one phase. Kickstarting Inhumans on Agents of SHIELD has far greater reaching consequences in my opinion and will shape the MCU indefinitely.

With that said, the lead up to the Hydra reveal was done masterfully, and overall it was a bigger surprise since AoS has kind of been hinting towards an Inhuman storyline all season. Still, and I remember it fairly vividly as SCB and I were chatting online during the episode, I was SHOCKED that they actually went through with showing not only a Terrigen Crystal, but then the mist and the eventual Terrigenesis. See above for the awesomeness.

RUNNER UP: WINTER SOLDIER REVEAL

I feel like since it’s pretty common knowledge to most comic book fans, this twist is often overlooked. But to somebody who has only seen the movies, finding out that The Winter Soldier is Bucky Barnes, Cap’s childhood friend, would be a pretty big deal. Most of the people who go see movies that take place in the MCU don’t sit on sites like this and research spoilers, nor do they read the books. So yes, while spoiling this twist would be super easy for anyone, I’d still venture to guess that the majority of movie goers were genuinely surprised during the reveal.

Murdockmanila picks: THE AMOUNT OF GREAT DAREDEVIL NEWS

Sorry Random Tuesday. Even if you are the bigger deal to the entireity of the MCU, I still gotta hand it to the guys behind the Daredevil show. Call it biased or whatever. My love for Matthew Michael Murdock is no secret. I think he is hands down the greatest comic book character ever created.

No shitty movie or adaptation can take away my love and deep appreciation for the character. Sure the film was weak and undeniably disappointing to the fan but despite the lackluster big picture, I saw a lot of great things with that film. Deep down, I still believed that a Daredevil adaptation had the potential to be genuinely (pun intended) fearless and marvelous.

That is why everything that’s been announced about the show – the cast, creative team handling it, the creative approach – has very much fulfilled me as a diehard fan. The fact that they’re even using the Man Without Fear makeshift costume is so mindblowing to me. Every tidbit about the show just keeps getting better and better and there doesn’t seem to be an end to it. It’s ridiculously surprising and satisfying at the same time.

That is why this is the best twist of 2014 to me. That I never expected my dreams of seeing an incredible Daredevil adaptation which he so rightly deserves to finally come true so soon.

RUNNER UP: RANDOM TUESDAY

‘Twas a quiet Tuesday on October when our Lord Feige summoned his fanboy nation to the El Capitan for a very special festivity by Marvel Studios. Fans flocked immediately, anxious on what was to happen, ready to receive whatever small blessing Lord Feige would bestow upon them. Little did they know that they’re lives would be never be the same after that day. Because they fucking announced the ENTIRE Phase 3 slate. None of our lives were ever the same after.

The announcement shook the entire geek spectrum and spawned thousands of new fan theories as Feige just redid the nitpicky fan boy version of the Big Bang with his gameplan. So many great things announced. Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, The Inhumans and Infinity War. As if things weren’t already overwhelming, Feige gives us the coup de grace: Captain America: Civil War with Downey and Evans appearing with a goof off and an official announcement of the Black Panther casting. That is how you treat the fans, with love and appreciation.

SCB picks: HAIL HYDRA

It’s hard to emphasize enough just how unprecedented the HYDRA twist in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER is. On paper, it’s actually quite obvious: the bad guys are back, and they’ve compromised the good guys. It’s vintage spy stuff, not particularly innovative or groundbreaking. What makes the HYDRA twist so special is how much it changes going forward, and how much it changes going backward.

The boldest choice for THE WINTER SOLDIER was not suggesting that SHIELD had been compromised by HYDRA, but that it was always HYDRA; it just happened to also have a few good guys in it too. Suddenly, every SHIELD appearance in Phase One is suspect. It makes the Marvel short films, two of which feature Jasper Sitwell, appear in a whole new light. By revealing Garry Shandling’s Senator Stern as a member of HYDRA, it retroactively makes IRON MAN 2 a better film. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Destroyer gun Coulson used to shoot Loki was developed as a HYDRA weapon.

To understand how far back this travels, let’s look at IRON MAN: when Obadiah Stane paralyzes Tony, he monologues about how Tony’s arc reactor would “help us steer the world back on course, put the balance of power in our hands, the right hands.” In hindsight, he’s absolutely talking about HYDRA. It’s a twist that doesn’t just change how you view THE WINTER SOLDIER, but how you view almost every film going back six years.

Even ignoring the unprecedented crossover with AGENTS OF SHIELD (I don’t think a film has never driven the course of events on an active season of television like that before), the fallout from the twist means something huge going forward: no more SHIELD. SHIELD was the connective tissue for nine Marvel films, what united IRON MAN & THOR & CAPTAIN AMERICA. Hell, SHIELD assembled The Avengers! By removing SHIELD from the MCU, Marvel is cutting off the life support between their various properties, centering it squarely on The Avengers.

(Though obviously SHIELD still exists as a very good TV show. I just doubt we’ll see it appear in the films anytime soon.)

RUNNER UP: AGENT CARTER & THE RETOOLING OF SHIELD

After Marvel announced five Netflix series last year, a lot of people, myself included, just assumed that AGENTS OF SHIELD would be quietly cancelled. Instead, ABC doubled-down, ordering another “Agent” series, and Marvel retooled SHIELD’s second season to be an exciting, vital voice in the MCU. It’s encouraging to see that Marvel Television isn’t limiting itself to one specific approach with their TV series. Maybe eventually, we’ll get a Squirrel Girl show on Comedy Central, Dazzler on MTV, & NFL SuperPro on ESPN.

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3. BEST WORST MOMENT

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MurdockManila picks: PHOENIX PASSES ON STRANGE ROLE

Disclaimer: I absolutely do not mind Benedict Cumberbatch at all. The guy has a lot of box office draw and is a great actor. Regardless whether he is a safe choice or not, bottomline is he’s a damn good actor with a great on screen presence.

But my disappointment is inevitable simply because I am a big Joaquin Phoenix fan. Loved him in Gladiator and Walk the Line. His recent string of work has all been incredible and cemented him as an art house staple. Joaquin Phoenix appearing in a blockbuster is something that we’ve never heard of in years and it almost being an MCU film was the most exciting casting bit for me. Someone as picky and artistically exclusive as Phoenix signing on to the role could also have been the bridge to the gap between the blockbuster nuts and the art house critics.

Sadly with the high demands of a tentpole franchise such as the MCU films, this kind of thing seems to be unlikely among Phoenix’s kind. Having said that, I am glad Marvel has found someone like Cumberbatch to take on that huge committment.

RUNNER UP: TRIPLETT’S “NOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Tripp’s death scene was as painful and powerful as this moment was cringeworthy. Everytime I see this scene, I cringe. I don’t know if its the whole arms-reaching thing or just the how the line was delivered or just the cheesiness of those two things put together but man I can’t stand this moment. A stumble in an otherwise very emotional and powerful scene. But that’s just me.

SCB picks: EDGAR WRIGHT LEAVES ANT-MAN

Even though he was a founding Avenger, Ant-Man has never had the biggest following or cultural cache. The only reason people were invested in this film was because of Edgar Wright. That’s how Marvel sold the film for years: “Wait until you see what Edgar’s cooking up!”

As pathetic as it sounds, Wright’s departure hit me rather personally. The MCU is unquestionably my favorite movie series, and SHAUN OF THE DEAD is probably my favorite film of all time. It was a nasty divorce, and as someone who spends entirely too much time thinking about Marvel & Edgar Wright, I was left reeling.

But a little bit of time helped a lot. I was reassured when Peyton Reed & Adam McKay joined the film; DOWN WITH LOVE is seriously underrated, and McKay is one of the best comedic voices in Hollywood. THOR: THE DARK WORLD had a disastrous production, and I wound up loving the film. And GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY was prophesied a flop, only to become the highest grossing film of 2014, with better reviews than THE AVENGERS. Marvel’s track record alone says that ANT-MAN will probably be a huge hit.

Yet no matter how much I may like the final film, there will always be an air of “What if…?” My earnest hope for ANT-MAN is that it’s an enormous success, big enough that Marvel finds a way to include a sequel in their Phase 3 slate. I’d love to see what Peyton Reed & Adam McKay could do with this character as their own project.

And the sooner Edgar gets BABY DRIVER off the ground, the better we’ll all be.

RUNNER UP: RANDOM TUESDAY

It’s one thing to know Tony Stark survives THE AVENGERS to star in IRON MAN 3. It’s another to know that Tony & Steve Rogers will end AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON ready to go to war with each other. Random Tuesday was an amazing announcement of Marvel’s incredible ambitions, but it was also kind of like getting every Christmas present for the next four years in one day. Even as a Marvel fan, it makes me feel at least a little weird knowing exactly where I’ll be on May 3rd, 2019.

Chris picks: NOTHING

I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of something that really stood out as a bad moment to me and haven’t been able to come up with anything. I see where the other 2 guys are coming from, and agree to a certain extent, but neither one of those moments really bothered me in the long run. The initial shock of Edgar Wright leaving Ant-Man was pretty disappointing to me, but the more we learn about the project and where he was taking it, the more I think Marvel made the right move to bring in somebody to have it fit into their cinematic universe a bit more. And in terms of Doctor Strange casting, I agree with MurdockManilla in terms of wanting somebody other than Benedict Cumberbatch (although he is a great choice), but my pick would’ve been Jared Leto. So all in all I wasn’t unhappy with anything that went down in the MCU this year, sorry guys!

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2. BEST SHIELD EPISODE

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SCB picks: THE WRITING ON THE WALL

I think the biggest problem with AGENTS OF SHIELD is that they felt the need to address why Coulson was revived. It’s not like he was obliterated by an Infinity Stone (Red Skull, Ronan), or crushed by a falling aircraft (Malekith, Pierce). He was stabbed in the chest. “It’s a good thing that spear wasn’t half an inch to the left!” is all the explanation the audience needs. Instead, the writers introduced a strange and dense storyline, full of “off the books” medical facilities, invasive & horrifying experiments, an ancient alien corpse, and Coulson compulsively carving strange symbols into walls.

I’ve never been a fan of the big Coulson alien revival mystery, but THE WRITING ON THE WALL almost justifies the entire storyline. It’s revealed that the symbols Coulson draws aren’t an alien language, or hieroglyphs, or even just arbitrary circles & lines: they are schematics. When modeled in 3D, they reveal an ancient alien city (or temple, it’s a little fuzzy).

That’s why THE WRITING ON THE WALL is my favorite episode of SHIELD: it doesn’t just close the book on the Coulson revival storyline, it makes the whole thing hugely important to the entire MCU. His revival is the first step that that introduces the Inhumans four years before their film. Though at times the storyline was circuitous & meandering, there was no moment on the show that felt as exhilarating as when Coulson first catches sight of the model of the alien city.

Chris picks: WHAT THEY BECOME

I probably could’ve picked almost any episode from “Writing on the Wall” on because I enjoyed the build up to the midseason finale that much. Really, anything after “Turn, Turn, Turn” is quality television, but something about the last few episodes really pushed it into the category of great television. So choosing an episode out of the final few episodes was tough, it really just came down to the amount of drama that was packed into the midseason finale.

Let’s take a quick account of all the craziness that went down in this episode, Tripp dies, Skye/Rania go through Terrigenesis, Mack is NOT dead, Whitehall dies (maybe?), Ward and Agent 33 team up and run off, Coulson/Calvin fight AND we learn Skye’s real name. I’d say about 75% of most peoples top moments of season 2 are all contained within this one episode.

And then that ending! Showing another Inhuman with another Obelisk/Terrigen Crystal speaking to what we can only assume is yet ANOTHER Inhuman. It was the perfect way to end what was an incredible series of events already. And just a side note, I am not sold on the Inhuman shown above being The Reader, he is more of a post-terrigen bomb character. My guess is somebody from the Genetic Council like Videmus.

MurdockManila picks: TURN, TURN, TURN

It was until this episode that Agents of SHIELD fell under fire from critics and over hyped fans alike. With the promise that this show would fill in the blanks of the MCU in the likes we’ve never seen before, people were inevitably deluded by the idea that Chris Evans or Thor Hemsworth would be appearing in this show. And pissed they were when none of those things came close to happening. But amidst that crippling criticism they still desperately but strongly pushed through until Turn, Turn, Turn.

With Captain America: The Winter Soldier hitting our lives the show finally had the films to an advantage. They took this advantage and took us for one intense roller coaster ride which gave us the best episodes of any comic book TV show ever. It was one relentless twist after another and it all kept us on the edge of our seats. Grant Ward reveals his allegiance darkside and another valuable ally named John Garrett turns out to be the biggest piece of shit on the show.

I gotta hand it to the people behind Agents of SHIELD. The pressure surrounding these people once the shitty reviews started coming in has got to be something. To turn it all around so gracefully is an astonishing task and all the great things with the show began with this episode. This was the start of something truly beautiful for the show.

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1. BEST FILM

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MurdockManila & Chris picks: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

When the franchise first began, it – at the most – received a very lukewarm response. Chris Evans at this point wasn’t that much of a big sell and people still saw him as the Human Torch. When put side to side with the likes of the first Thor and Iron movies, he was outshined with spectacle. And outshined he was again the Avengers. Granted, it’s hard to be the belle of the ball if you have Mark Ruffalo and Tom Hiddleston stealing the show but still, there was something lacking about Cap.

Then the Winter Soldier hit our screens and it forever changed our perception of the character. The film propelled the character to the forefront of the MCU and cemented Chris Evans as a superstar. His portrayal of Steve Rogers has never been more mesmerizing and a sight to watch.

So many scenes here on their own could give other comic book movies a run for their money. The opening infiltration of the Lemurian Star, Fury’s death sequence, the escape of Rogers, the Cap vs. Bucky fight, all these remind us how amazing things can get just with a little push and that artistic essence isn’t lost in blockbusters. In the thick of all that intensity, the film never fails to give us a good dose of emotion and heart.

The grounded realism and stylisic approach to the Captain America mythology represented a breed of MCU films to come. With its amazing writing, socially relevant political thriller tonalities and action never seen in a Marvel movie before, Captain America: The Winter Soldier gave the franchise and character what it needed.

SCB picks: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

Decades from now, when we look back at the Kevin Feige’s reign at Marvel Studios, there will probably be no film that defines this era more than GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. It is the most Marvel-y film that Marvel Studios has made so far. It has the best features of a Marvel Studios film: high production values, nuanced characters, hilarious jokes, and the distinct voice of its writer/director James Gunn. It also has Marvel’s signature weaknesses: somewhat clunky exposition, a milquetoast villain, a colorful glowing MacGuffin, and it spends a good chunk of the runtime advertising for the next one.

Yet no Marvel Studios film has a scene half as good as the climax of the film. Peter Quill, dying and disintegrating at the hands of the Power Stone, reaches for his mother and finds his friends. The Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t have a plan when they reached out to touch Quill. They only wanted to try to ease the suffering of their friend, even if it meant their lives.

That moment encapsulates everything that makes Marvel Studios special. Historically, superhero stories idolize the individual, propping him up as the lone savior. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY suggests that we are at our strongest, when we give to each other. It perfectly articulates Marvel Studios storytelling philosophy, and helps make GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY the best Marvel film of 2014 or any other year.


And those are our picks! 2014 was indeed a blast for us and it’s definitely going to get better and better in the next few years. Thank you to all those who supported this site! You guys were really kind enough to drop by the site and give us your time. We have a lot of great articles to come next year! From all of us at MCUExchange, happy non-denominational holidays and have a great new year!

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