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You Totally Missed The Big Endgame Cameo From This Villain

Avengers: Endgame isn't done giving up its secrets.

In the wake of the smash Marvel flick's home release, fans are beginning to scour every frame for Easter eggs they may have missed in the theater — and a big one has recently come to light, involving a villain who just seems to keep popping up.

The sneaky surprise was pointed out by our friends at We Got This Covered, who noticed it while perusing the special features included with Endgame's Blu-Ray release. One of these features focuses on the work of visual effects company Cinesite, who contributed many of the absolute gaggle of VFX shots featured in the film, which numbered nearly 3,000 (a number near and dear to Marvel fans' hearts). 

You'll remember that in Endgame's second act, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark are forced to use their last Pym Particle to travel back in time to the 1970's in an attempt to secure the Space Stone, after their attempt to do so during their sojourn to the Battle of New York goes decidedly pear-shaped. The pair infiltrate the S.H.I.E.L.D. facility where the Infinity Stone is being housed, and in the course of the mission, Stark is thrown for a loop when he runs into his father Howard. 

During their conversation, dear old Dad mentions Arnim Zola, the HYDRA scientist who was captured by the agency that would become S.H.I.E.L.D. during the events of Captain America: The First Avenger. Zola was pressed into the service of S.H.I.E.L.D., but of course, the nefarious scientist had a hidden agenda: to assist in spreading HYDRA's influence within the organization.

We subsequently learned (in Captain America: The Winter Soldier) that this effort was a smashing success, and that S.H.I.E.L.D. had indeed been permeated with HYDRA scum to its very highest levels. We also learned — in one of Winter Soldier's most jaw-droppingly surprising sequences — that Zola, who had long since died, had had the foresight to digitize his consciousness, uploading it into a massive bank of old-school computers as a way of making sure that he would continue to have influence over S.H.I.E.L.D.'s inner workings. Look, he may have been a HYDRA slimeball, but we think everyone can relate; who hasn't wanted to upload themselves to the digital realm in a bid to achieve a twisted kind of immortality? We certainly have. 

At any rate, Zola's Winter Soldier appearance concluded with him destroying the bunker that held his digital self in a bid to blow up Rogers and Natasha Romanoff, but in the '70s, he still existed as a fleshy S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist. However, there's evidence that his plans to digitize his code within S.H.I.E.L.D.'s mainframe was already in effect by the time Tony has his impromptu family reunion. On a desk in Dad's lab sits an old school computer terminal, and if we're looking very, very closely, we can see that Zola's green, low-res visage graces its monitor, watching... and waiting.

It's highly doubtful that this little nugget was included in the script for Endgame, meaning that the brilliant minds at Cinesite were the ones who had the idea to include it for sharp-eyed fans. Not only is it a brilliant callback to the meat of the Infinity Saga (and the Captain America series in particular), it serves as a distinct nod to Marvel comics, in which Zola has a long, distinguished, and weird history.

In the comics, Zola has inhabited a robotic body since the waning days of World War II, and he keeps on hand multiple spares into which his consciousness can be downloaded in the event that his primary body is damaged or destroyed. It's for this reason that he's able to just keep turning up like bad penny, and we'd even go so far as to opine that the good folks at Cinesite, by keeping the character (at least somewhat) visible, have helped to leave the door open for his potential return to the MCU at some point. After all, Zola obviously has a strong sense of self-preservation; who is to say that, although he essentially self-destructed during the events of Winter Soldier, he didn't maintain a secondary site housing a backup copy of himself? This is a man with a seriously inflated sense of his own importance, and there's nobody more loyal to HYDRA and its cause; we find the existence of a backup Zola to be not only possible, but likely.

Perhaps this will come into play when Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the first of the Disney+ limited series set within the MCU, drops late next year. Part of the series' focus will be Sam Wilson's struggle with taking on the mantle of Captain America, bequeathed to him by Rogers himself at Endgame's conclusion; if there's one thing we know about Zola outside of his unwavering loyalty to HYDRA, it's that he really, really hates Captain America, and we doubt it would matter whether there's a different guy wielding the shield.

We have no doubt that this Easter egg is one of, oh, a hundred or so that will become known now that Endgame has received its home release. In fact, we're pretty sure that we could spot another dozen or so if we just sit down and take in the flick another 5 or 6 times. We're going to go ahead and do that right now, and we'll be sure to report our findings.