Marvel has finally started devoting more time to exploring its cinematic universe in the aftermath of Endgame. Last year’s Spider-Man: Far From Home did little to show us the actual chaos that ensued after the Avengers beat Thanos, bringing billions of people back to life. WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier showed us that the planet is in turmoil. People returning to life after vanishing for five years would be jarring, to say the least. The upcoming movies and TV shows will explore the aftermath even further, and we’re likely to see other stories that are tied directly to the events in Endgame.
But Marvel also has a serious issue it needs to somehow address going forward. Otherwise, we might be left with a huge plot hole on our hands. Mind you, massive spoilers follow below, so make sure you watch WandaVision and Falcon before reading any further.
The more films and TV series Marvel releases, the clearer it is that Captain America: Civil War is easily one of the best MCU stories told so far. The film is more of an Avengers story than a Captain America sequel, as it features all our beloved superheroes forced to deal with the side effects of saving the world from deadly threats.
One of the great things about Civil War is that it shows the darker sides of superheroes. Depending on whose team you’re on, the other Avengers become villain-like characters. Well, they’d be anti-heroes, not quite villains.
Root for Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), and Iron Man’s gang represents the “bad guys.” But if you agree with Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) stance on the Sokovia accords, then Cap’s side is in the wrong. And the brilliant thing about Civil War is that it’s very difficult to pick sides. Moreover, you might discover that your opinion on the problem at hand — the regulation of superhero activity — might have changed over the years.
If I had trouble picking a side before, I’m now firmly in the Stark camp… and it’s Endgame, WandaVision, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier that convinced me. This brings me to what I think is a serious plot problem for the MCU right now, one that Marvel has to fix or explain in the not-too-distant future.
Our beloved heroes do some unspeakable things, but there aren’t always consequences.
Following Infinity War and Endgame, every Avenger who did not sign the Sokovia accords seems to be pardoned. The heroes who survived the blip are working together again, with Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) coordinating Avengers activity and Rogers partially involved.
But Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) became a full homicidal maniac over the course of those five years. He went on to avenge the disappearance of his entire family by inflicting pain on every villain he could find. He did all that without having to suffer any consequences, murdering untold numbers in the process. And while Hawkeye did play a key role in the events of Endgame, he got to return to his family without having to face any sort of investigation into his actions as Ronin.
Some might say those were special circumstances, and Ronin might have flown under the radar. Well, Nat and Rhodey (Don Cheadle) clearly knew what Barton was up to.
Then came WandaVision. Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) went full villain in the series. We might love her and Vision (Paul Bettany), but this doesn’t change the fact that she took an entire town hostage, putting everyone inside in danger. She then kidnapped law enforcement agents when they tried to intervene and incorporated them into her fake world.
You probably hated SWORD Director Tyler Hayward (Josh Stamberg), and he might have had his own agenda for Wanda. But he wasn’t wrong when he likened her to a terrorist.
Agatha (Kathryn Hahn) might have manipulated Wanda, but it was Wanda who captured Westview and forced everyone to live in her imaginary life. At the end of WandaVision, Wanda just flies away without getting any sort of opposition from SWORD, the FBI, and whatever governing body exists for superheroes.
Wanda’s grief is understandable and her heroism in the final Endgame fight deserves recognition. But there must be consequences for her recent actions that endangered the lives of innocent civilians.
Moving on to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, we have the same problem. This time it’s John Walker (Wyatt Russell), another character you might hate for the wrong reasons. As Captain America, he killed an antagonist who was surrendering, and he did it in the worst possible way. He used the iconic shield to deliver the fatal blows, and it all happened in plain sight.
There was some justice in the film, but it wasn’t the kind that people would accept in the real world. Walker lost the Captain America role, but that was all the government did to address the fact that he murdered someone in cold blood. Moreover, Walker took matters into his own hands after that, going on to save help the new Cap — or get more revenge for his friend.
The Falcon finale marks the start of a redemption journey for Walker. He realized he was wrong and acted in a Captain America-like manner, helping Sam (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky (Sebastian Stan) save the day. But this still doesn’t excuse his earlier actions just a few days prior. Moreover, Bucky and Sam’s quiet approvals come far too soon. Just like how the Avengers accepted Hawkeye’s crimes and how Monica Rambeau (Teyonh Parris) let Wanda fly away.
Shifting gears to a different superhero story might help us see the actions of these “bad” superheroes in a different light. In Amazon’s The Boys, we root for a group of misfits hunting down superheroes who misbehave in the real world. These superheroes are almost untouchable, but the boys get the job done.
Could these instances where Avengers misbehave be part of Marvel’s bigger plan for the MCU? Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, and US Agent will return in other TV shows and movies, and some of them might appear in different crossovers. Barton will probably retire after Hawkeye, but we expect to see Wanda and Walker in the MCU for quite a while.
What if Marvel is intentionally highlighting the dark sides of these characters? We already know that Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl) wants to destroy superheroes, and we’re going to see him again in the future. Marvel is also building up anti-hero groups like the Thunderbolts. The Dark Avengers might be another possibility.
Let’s not forget that one of the themes of X-Men comics is that regular people hate mutants. This can be extrapolated to all superheroes, especially now that
By having superheroes do bad things in public, Marvel might be setting the stage for future conflicts where regular people hate superheroes. Spider-Man: No Way Home might deliver us an example of that. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has been wrongly accused of murder, and we’ll soon see how the world reacts to that.