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Small details you missed in The Old Guard

This content was paid for by Netflix and created by Looper.

At first, The Old Guard's story looks pretty standard. A group of girls goes missing. Charlize Theron's Andy and her band of mercenaries are hired by a former CIA contact to get them back. Simple, right? Not so fast. Not only is the kidnapping that kicks off The Old Guard not exactly what it seems, but even though they look like they're in their 30s and 40s, Andy's team is made up of immortals who are thousands of years old.

The Old Guard itself is like that, too. While the movie seems like a straight-forward action movie, it's full of small details that make The Old Guard more than just another fantasy-adventure flick. The movie is full of references to mythology and classic literature. It's steeped in real-world history. For comic book fans, there are a number of references to the graphic novel that inspired the film, and at least one big Easter egg honoring the people behind the scenes.

Didn't notice? Don't blame yourself. The Old Guard is a surprisingly subtle action flick, and while all of these details add texture to The Old Guard's fantastic world, they're not necessary for understanding the plot. Check out The Old Guard's trailer, then watch the movie, and see how much you notice on your own. Then, once you're immune to spoilers (we have a few coming up), come back and see what you missed. Trust us, it's probably more than you expect.

Going straight to the source

The Old Guard begins with an ominous voice over from Charlize Theron's character, Andy. "I've been here before," she says, as the camera lingers on her and her teammates' dead bodies. "Over and over and over again, and each time, the question is the same: Is this it? Will this time be the one? And each time, the same answer. And I'm just so tired of it."

If that sounds familiar to you, then that's because you've read The Old Guard before. The Old Guard is based on a comic book miniseries written by Greg Rucka and drawn by Leandro Fernández, and as far as adaptations go, it's remarkably faithful. That opening monologue is lifted almost verbatim from the comics' opening panels, and much of the film's dialogue comes directly from the source material. The plot hews extremely closely to the comic's, too, although The Old Guard movie does throw in a couple of plot twists that'll surprise existing fans.

Of course, none of this should be a surprise. That's because, in addition to co-creating the comic, Greg Rucka also penned the screenplay for The Old Guard and was heavily involved in the production process. The movie is all the better for it. Rucka is having a bit of a moment in showbiz: the Cobie Smulders crime procedural Stumptown is based on another one of Rucka's books, and he's also the brains behind Kate Kane, better known as the Arrowverse's Batwoman. His influence clearly ensured that The Old Guard made its way to the screen as accurately as possible.

Tilting at windmills

When we first meet Andy, she gives her long-time — and we mean long, long-time — partner Booker a gift: a first edition copy of Miguel de Cervantes' classic novel, The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. At first, this seems like a cute moment between friends: "That couldn't have been cheap," Booker observes. But it's more than just a throwaway moment. As viewers soon learn, Don Quixote has a number of thematic parallels with The Old Guard, particularly as it relates to Andy's emotional journey through the movie.

Don Quixote, which was first published in 1605, tells the story of a delusional noble who thinks that he's a wandering knight, and who thinks that regular situations are actually part of an epic, heroic quest. With his "squire" Sancho Panza at his side, Quixote mistakes local serving girls for beautiful princesses, accuses traveling friars of being evil wizards, and, in his most famous adventure, confuses some windmills with ferocious giants.

It all adds up to the tale of a man who fights to try and make the world a better place, but whose efforts end up being nothing more than a waste of time. Similarly, at the beginning of The Old Guard, Andy decides that her centuries-long crusade against evil has been futile, and that she hasn't accomplished a thing. Throw in some similarities between Sancho Panza and Booker — both characters are sidekicks who aren't quite what they seem — and the Don Quixote moment suddenly makes a lot more sense. It isn't just a quick piece of character building. It's a roadmap to The Old Guard's most important emotional arc — and a subtle hint at Booker's upcoming betrayal.

Some real sketchy characters

While watching The Old Guard, you might've noticed that Joe, one of the members of Andy's team, is a really, really good artist. When everyone else scrambles to decipher the dream warning them of Nile's newly awakened powers by talking as quickly as they can, Joe takes a different approach. He begins sketching furiously, trying to commit every last detail to paper before the memory fades.

Now, obviously, Marwan Kenzari, who plays Joe, didn't actually draw that picture. So, who did? As it turns out, that sketch — as well as a few others in the movie — was provided by Leandro Fernández, the artist who co-created The Old Guard and drew both its original comic book miniseries and its sequel. In fact, Fernández even makes a brief cameo in that scene: Whenever you see a close-up of Joe drawing, those aren't Kenzari's hands. They're Fernández's.

In addition to The Old Guard, Fernández has worked on a number of other big comics, including runs on The Punisher and the X-Men spin-off New Mutants; a Max Max: Fury Road prequel starring that film's villain, Immortan Joe; and Greg Rucka's spy thriller Queen & Country. He wasn't as involved in the production of The Old Guard as Rucka was, but his influence is all over the movie. The characters' wardrobes are clearly inspired by his designs, as is the look of Charlize Theron's axe. And given how important his art was to making The Old Guard a success, including some of his actual work in the film serves as a nice tribute.

What's in a name?

Unlike the comic it's based on, The Old Guard doesn't delve too much into Andy's backstory. We don't know how old she is, where she comes from, or — outside of a few brief flashbacks — what she's been through. However, if you pay close attention, there are a few clues. At one point, Andy mentions that she's been worshipped like a god. Another time she mentions that her biography is the basis of a few myths and legends. Copley's bulletin board is full of data about Andy's past escapades, and then, of course, there's her full name, which is revealed late in the film: Andromache.

In case you were wondering, that's Greek, which explains Andy's love of baklava. It also ties her to a trio of characters in Greek mythology, with the implication that, somehow, she's actually all three of them. First, Andromache was the name of an Amazon queen who wore a tunic decorated with mythological beasts, and who fought (and lost) to the legendary Herakles. According to some sources, Andromache was also the name of one of the Minotaur's victims.

The third character called Andromache, and by far the most famous, is a key figure in the Trojan War, as well as the subject of a number of stories detailing her life in the war's aftermath. This Andromache was best known as the wife of the Trojan champion Hector and the mother of Astyanax. Hector met his demise at the hands of the Greek hero Achilles, while Astyanax was murdered by Ulysses. After the war ended, Andromache was taken captive and became a slave, although she ultimately gained her freedom and married Hector's brother, becoming a queen once again.

Look, it's called a tragedy for a reason

There's more to Andromache's story than all that, though. Her life after the Trojan War has been documented in two separate plays. There's Andromaque, a Greek tragedy written by Euripides and first performed somewhere around 425 B.C. There's also Andromaque by French playwright Jean Racine, which arrived in 1667 and covers much of the same ground.

Racine's play features heavily in The Old Guard, getting numerous close-ups on Copley's big conspiracy board, implying that Andy's life inspired the fictional story. In Andromaque, Andromache is taken prisoner after Troy falls. While Andromache is mostly concerned with keeping her son Astyanax safe — in this version of the story, Ulysses killed the wrong baby — she's also caught the eye of her captor, Achilles' son Pyrrhus. Naturally, Pyrrhus' betrothed, Hermione, doesn't take kindly to her fiance's divided attention. Death and misfortune follow.

It's difficult to reconcile what we know about Andy with the various historical Andromaches — it's hard to imagine Andy sitting idly by while a war rages around her, and even the Minotaur would be hard-pressed to beat her in a fight. But given how The Old Guard plays it, there must be some elements of truth in there. We'll just have to wait for a sequel to find out what they might be.

Bow down to the king

Andy isn't the only character in The Old Guard with links to some classic literature. At one point, The Old Guard's villain, the weasley pharmaceutical executive Merrick, drops a Shakespeare quote: "We will do such things — what they are, yet I know not: but they shall be the terrors of the earth." Specifically, that's a line from King Lear, and it tells you pretty much everything you need to know about Merrick's character.

See, while that sounds ominous, in the context of the play it's actually a hollow threat. When he utters that line, Lear has just been betrayed by his two power-hungry daughters, who have done everything they can to dismantle Lear's last remaining vestiges of authority. It's one of the last things that Lear says before he wanders out into a rainstorm and loses his mind, and it's completely brushed off by Lear's daughters and their husbands.

In other words, it's the perfect quote for Merrick to spout. As the wealthy head of a major corporation, Merrick thinks he holds all the cards. Up against thousand-year-old immortals who've fought in countless battles, though? Merrick doesn't stand a chance. He just hasn't realized it yet.

A very intriguing Prospect

So, Merrick has been taken care of. Booker has shown his true colors. Nile has come to terms with her powers, and Andy, at long last, has learned that her actions really have made the world a better place. And so, the team settles down at an English pub to share a few pints and discuss their next steps. While the characters are there, the camera settles on a wood sign that gives a brief history of the bar where they're drinking, including the fact that the pub is over 500 years old.

If you're an experienced London pub-crawler, that's all the info you need to identify exactly where the Old Guard is drinking. That sign is one of the most notable features of London's The Prospect of Whitby, which claims to be the city's oldest riverside tavern. The Prospect of Whitby, which has also been known as The Pelican and The Devil's Tavern, has a pretty sordid history. Not only was it a popular drinking spot for pirates and smugglers, but it was also the favorite watering hole of George Jeffreys, who condemned so many men to death that he became known as "The Hanging Judge." To this day, the Prospect of Whitby hangs a noose in its window in Jeffreys', uh, honor.

It's also one of the oldest surviving bars in London — like the sign notes, the floors are still original, although the rest of the building underwent some major renovations after a 19th century fire decimated the place. No, the Prospect of Whitby isn't quite as old as Andy, Joe, or Nicky. But like them, it's steeped in history, and it's hard to think of a better place for a group of immortals to kick back, put their feet up, and relax.