There’s a moment in Captain America: The Winter Soldier when Robert Redford, playing a higher-up at the intelligence agency SHIELD, says that in order to improve things you often need to tear down what’s come before — no matter what the cost. It ties in to the movie’s larger themes about freedom, security, and how people are often willing to sacrifice one for the other, but it also brings to mind Marvel itself.

Since Joss Whedon’s The Avengers broke box-office records, the company has made a point of switching things up to keep its slate fresh. Iron Man 3 was a darker, ’80s-fueled take on Tony Stark, and the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy is a comic adventure based on characters that even die-hards may not have heard of. Marvel’s taking some risks, and with Captain America: The Winter Soldier it jettisons the primary-color innocence of the original film for a sinister tale of conspiracy and intrigue. It’s exactly what the series needed.