How does Winter Soldier set up Age of Ultron?

And AoS and the greater MCU as well. Free fire SPOILER zone...

  • It's not really clear to me that SHIELD is entirely defunct. Obviously Cap and Fury are undercover, Natasha is a free agent, and Hill is looking at career alternatives, but presumably the organization still exists on some level, with agents, assets (like the original Helicarrier), and ongoing missions — after all, they've got a whole TV show left.
  • Was Coulson's non-death one of the tidbits of information that got leaked, I wonder? Will Coulson end up becoming the acting Director with all of the other top-level members either dead, gone to ground, or incarcerated? And does this mean he'll be in Age of Ultron? (Probably not.)
  • What happened to Rumlow? We see him being treated for his injuries in the hospital, but it's not clear if he's in custody. Since all of the STRIKE guys were outed as HYDRA operatives, presumably he's under arrest, though he could come back as an antagonist in a future movie — in the comics, he's a super-mercenary named Crossbones.
  • Based on Pierce's comments, Tony Stark is still apparently Iron Man, despite having cathartically destroyed all or most of his armors at the end of his last movie.
  • In what capacity will Hill be working for Stark? It seems like she could take over for Happy or Pepper if either Favreau or Paltrow decided to leave the series, either running security or handling the administrative affairs.
  • Stark Tower still has just the "A" on it, implying that Tony is putting together his own version of the band, an impression reinforced by recent set pics of Evans wearing a variant of the "Cap Classic" costume with an Avengers insignia on the shoulder.
  • The mid-credits sequence reveals a remnant HYDRA cell run by Baron von Strucker, one of the villains of Age of Ultron, as well as the "twins," Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. It's implied that they are the sole survivors of a secret experiment conducted by HYDRA to create, well, mutants... though not, presumably, the capital-M version seen in Fox's X-Men movies. (I always figured they were Inhumans, though that's not the case.) But what does Loki's scepter have to do with all this? (Presumably it contains an Infinity Gem, which was why it was able to interact with the Tesseract field at the end of Avengers.) And how did HYDRA obtain it? (Pierce, I'm guessing.)
  • What is Ultron's role in all this? It looks like he's Stark's creation, since there's no Hank Pym so far in the MCU, and it doesn't look like the Michael Douglas version in next year's Ant-Man will appear in Age of Ultron. So far, we've seen AIs that are completely artificial, like Jarvis, as well as AIs created from the minds of humans, like the Zola complex. I wonder if Ultron will be derived from Tony's mind, perhaps using some variation of Zola's techniques, though embodying his darker impulses. Perhaps he'll be created to fight Strucker and what's left of HYDRA, only to turn on his masters.
  • Just wanted to add: ZOMFG I loved this movie! May 1st 2015 can't come soon enough. And I'm psyched to see Burt Macklin, Space Detective.