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Why Captain Marvel's cat is way more important than we realized

Marvel Studios has done it again, taking a relatively obscure comic book character and catapulting them to the top of the box office, all while beating back a campaign of cynical review-bombing. This time, the heroine in question is Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel, the amnesiac, Tesseract-fueled fighter pilot who went from agent of the U.S. Air Force to the marquee warrior of the spacefaring Kree Starforce

But despite how powerful Carol proves to be when she takes the limiters off, so to speak, she's far from the most fearsome character in her debut movie appearance. No, for most people, that honor would likely go to the frightening alien flerken, also known as the cat (or at least the cat-looking creature) named Goose. Despite appearing to all the world to sport the innocent look of a cute little kitty, this merciless creature is one of the most powerful entities in the movie, and potentially the entire MCU. Don't believe us? Ask Nick Fury. Here's everything you need to know about the "cat" in Captain Marvel.

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Intergalactic notoriety

In the comics, the idea of Carol having a loyal pet kitty predates the occasion of her officially taking the mantle of Captain Marvel, with the cat making its first appearance in 2006's Giant-Size Ms. Marvel #1. But much like in the movie, in which it takes up until the third act for the other, alien shoe to drop, the cat spent years in the comics being seen as… just a cat. It only reached its full, fearsome potential during the space-set 2014 run of Captain Marvel, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick.

In the comics, Carol first meets her cat in an imagined alternate dimension conjured up by Scarlet Witch during the "House of M" storyline, but is fortunate enough to see the creature cross back over into her reality with her when that illusion comes to an end. In the movies, though, the cat is introduced as a companion of Annette Bening's Mar-Vell, another alien in disguise hiding out on Earth.

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A first Avenger

Though Captain Marvel's cat has only appeared in one movie so far, it's already responsible for one of the most consequential actions in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe — scratching out Nick Fury's eye. 

Ever since he was introduced in the surprise post-credits coda to 2008's Iron ManSamuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury has sported a patch over his left eye, implying a fairly badass backstory. For years, the nature of Fury's eye injury has been teased out, with the former S.H.I.E.L.D. director saying in Captain America: The Winter Soldier that he lost the eye the last time he trusted someone. What could have happened? What sort of sickening betrayal could he have been referring to all this time?

Now, over 10 years after being introduced in the movies, we finally know the origins of Nick Fury's signature injury — the flerken did it. While "I lost my eye to an alien" is a pretty cool story to tell over drinks, it loses a little bit of that cool factor when the alien in question looks like a typical housecat, so Fury has been letting rumors take hold and embracing the mythmaking around his lost eye ever since.

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A fearsome reputation

In the Captain Marvel movie, Captain Marvel's cat is pegged as a flerken by Talos the Skrull, who reacts to the creature's presence with what turns out to be well-justified fear. But in the comics, the cat's true identity was first noticed by another deceptively cute character — Rocket Raccoon, of Guardians of the Galaxy fame. 

When Rocket first meets Carol's cat, he immediately sets out trying to engage it in combat, hoping to kill it before it gets the chance to kill him. Despite Carol's protests — she still thinks he's just an ordinary cat — Rocket raves about the monster's fearsome powers, including a carnivorous mouth full of hellish tentacles. (Though it's not shown in the movie, flerkens are also capable of interdimensional travel and teleportation, giving them a leg up, in some regards, to the skillsets of the mighty Avengers.) 

Carol spends some time defending the honor (and the life) of her cat from Rocket and his arsenal of weapons, despite his protests. Though he at first sounds paranoid about the creature's true nature, he's eventually proven right when the flerken quietly lays dozens of eggs, cluing Carol in to her fuzzy friend's curiously alien nature.

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Protector of the tesseract

21 movies into this crazy roller coaster ride called the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we still can't get away from the mysterious, glowy, explode-y Infinity Stones. Captain Marvel uses its '90s setting and nature as a prequel as an excuse for an in-universe throwback, centering the action (and Carol's skillset, surprisingly) to the MCU Phase One's Tesseract, a.k.a. the magical blue cube that houses the blue Space Stone.

In the movies, this consequential cube spent time apparently being protected by the belly of the flerken, sitting undigested in its terrifying stomach until the choice was made to vomit it up on a desk at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters at some undisclosed later time, as shown during Captain Marvel's second end credits scene.

As the comics make clear, the belly of the flerken isn't just unusually stretchy — it's actually its own pocket dimension, capable of containing unknown multitudes of matter, organic or otherwise. It's no wonder people are so scared of the thing — it doesn't just swallow people whole. It completely removes them from their own reality, sending them off to worlds unknown.

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Character references

Despite being in a universe where it's been firmly established that animals (and plants!) can talk, the flerken in Captain Marvel generally keeps its lips sealed, only opening its mouth to hilariously devour entire hallways' worth of Kree soldiers, among other untold atrocities. As a result, there's not a lot of character to this character, at least not that we get to see. What does the flerken want? What could soothe this savage soul?

In both the comics and the movies, the flerken is generally used as a joke unto itself, created for what seems like the sole purpose of setting up the punny line "No one steals my flerken cat." It also serves as a vehicle for cute pop culture references. In the comic book run in which its backstory as a fearsome alien is introduced, the cat is known as Chewie, after the well-known Star Wars character. This makes sense, considering that story takes place while Carol is in space. The movie augments this, connecting the cat to the Air Force base on which Carol and Mar-Vell both work, and giving it the name of Goose in reference to the '80s classic aerial combat movie Top Gun — most definitely a favorite film for movie Carol, who's an ace pilot.