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Why we didn't see these characters in Avengers: Endgame

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a vast narrative that grows more expansive and complex with each movie. Masterfully, Joe and Anthony Russo managed to work a healthy chunk of that universe into first Avengers: Infinity War and now Avengers: Endgame, and they did it without making you feel like a lot of characters got the short end of the stick.

Still, there isn't always room for one more. With an epic runtime of three hours and three minutes, Avengers: Endgame gave us as much Marvel as most people could handle. But for countless reasons including scheduling conflicts, characters whose stories had run their course, characters whose inclusion in Endgame would've taken far too much strenuous narrative acrobatics, or the simple question of what a particular character had to offer the plot of Endgame, not everyone in the MCU saga could make an appearance.

As much as we may have wanted to see them, here's why we didn't see these characters in Endgame.

Selvig is part of an older paradigm

Though Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) can't boast any magical powers or high-tech suits of armor, he was integral to the first two phases of the MCU. Appearing in the first two Thor films as well as the first two Avengers entries, we last saw Selvig in 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron helping Thor recapture his vision of the Infinity Stones and later aiding the Avengers in their move to their new compound in upstate New York.

A week before Endgame's premiere, Skarsgård confirmed he wouldn't be part of the newest film. "I've done four [Marvel films] and they have me contracted for five and they haven't called me yet," Skarsgård said. "They usually call me when they need some weird plot to be explained in a quasi-scientific way."

It may be that the fifth phone call isn't going to come. Selvig entered the MCU as part of Thor's entourage, but that was before the game-changing Thor: Ragnarok, which was the first entry of the Thor franchise to not involve Skarsgård, Natalie Portman, or Kat Dennings. It was also unquestionably the most successful in that franchise. Ragnarok's success made Skarsgård part of a Thor paradigm that the MCU isn't interested in anymore, no matter how much quasi-science the filmmakers need explained.

Eitri's work was done

As soon as it was revealed that Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage would appear in 2018's Avengers: infinity War, there was all kinds of wild speculation about who the actor (now forever known for his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister) would be playing in the MCU. Shortly before Infinity War's release, a brief exchange in a preview clip left fans believing incorrectly that Dinklage was voicing Black Order member Corvus Glaive (who was actually played by Michael James Shaw). Instead, Dinklage was revealed as Eitri the Dwarf, the forgemaster of Nidavellir who made Mjolnir and whom Thor (Chris Hemsworth) seeks out for a new weapon.

He doesn't appear in Endgame and we're left to wonder what the sole survivor of Thanos' carnage on Nidavellir does in the wake of the Avengers' defeat. In fact, we don't even know if Eitri survives the purge. Whether he does or not, he'd still be left alone on Nidavellir since all his dwarven brethren were killed before the purge and wouldn't have been restored in Avengers: Endgame.

Presumably, with Stormbreaker made and the first battle with Thanos fought and lost, Eitri's work in the Infinity Stones epic was over. But considering the genocide he survived and his massive contribution to the fight against Thanos, it would be gratifying to find out how the forgemaster is faring.

Arnim Zola probably had an appointment

When Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) lose the Tesseract to Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and are forced to go back to 1970 to get their hands on the Space Stone, we get to see some old friends. Tony is reunited with his father; a young Howard Stark (John Slattery) and we even get a brief conversation between Howard and Edwin Jarvis (James D'Arcy) of Agent Carter. Agent Carter (Hayley Atwell) is accounted for as well when Cap notices her through an office window. And as much as Michael Douglas was digitally de-aged for the prologue of Ant-Man, that's nothing compared to the youth added to Hank Pym when Steve Rogers visits his lab in Endgame.

But conspicuously absent is Dr. Arnim Zola (Toby Jones), and we might not even take note of the absence except Howard first runs into Tony when he's looking for the Hydra veteran and even calls out his name several times.

In all likelihood, Zola doesn't appear because bringing him into the film wouldn't serve the plot of an already crowded film. But there's also a convenient narrative explanation for his absence. We learn from the Zola A.I. in Captain America: The Winter Soldier that the scientist received a "terminal diagnosis" of some kind in 1972. Whatever that diagnosis was, it's possible he was already suffering its effects in 1970 which could explain why he wasn't at work that day whether Howard Stark needed him or not.

Korath probably turned around

In order to capture the Power Stone, Nebula (Karen Gillan) and War Machine (Don Cheadle) travel to Morag in 2014, just as Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) was about to nab it in the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy. But unlike when Star-Lord nabbed the Orb in the earlier film, the Kree warrior Korath (Djimon Hounsou) doesn't show up with his Sakaaran soldiers to try to get the Orb from Quill even though the timing seems right for him to show up.

Narratively, the reason for Korath's absence can be explained by an unfortunate development for the Avengers.

Sending Nebula back to 2014 has the unintended consequence of alerting the Thanos of that time what the Avengers are up to. Once Thanos' forces detect the signal from the 2019 Nebula, they set course for Morag and eventually capture her. Meaning that at the same time Korath — who works for Ronan (Lee Pace) who is working for Thanos — is heading to Morag, Thanos is on his way there as well. The Kree warrior wouldn't be dumb enough to try to get in Thanos' way once he learns he shares a destination with the Mad Titan. It's just as likely Thanos' forces detected Korath on his way to the planet and let him know it would be better if he stayed home.

The Wombats know when to back it up

As much as we all would love to hear the story of Endgame told by Luis (Michael Peña) — including whatever wine-tasting or modern art exhibit he was at during the events — neither he nor his colleagues Kurt (David Dastmalchian) or Dave (T.I.) show up in the film. In a sense you could argue Luis at least is there in spirit, as we hear his famous musical car horn a couple times, including during the final battle. Regardless, the trio Hank Pym calls the "Wombats" in Ant-Man choose to "back it up" when it comes to showing up in person for Endgame.

Which makes sense really. While Luis has proven he's got a punch you do not want to be on the receiving end of, neither Kurt nor Dave have shown us they'd be very effective against Chitauri soldiers or whatever those giant cybernetic ape things were. Whether or not "Daddy don't get scared," the Wombats would be little help against Thanos' forces and would probably get in the way.

Though … an alternate version of Avengers: Endgame that's simply Luis' retelling of the events would probably sell like hotcakes.

Odin was busy warmongering

When Thor and Rocket go back to the 2013 events of Thor: The Dark World to retrieve the Aether, the plumper thunder god has what proves to be a much-needed reunion with his mother Frigga (Rene Russo) who, later that day, is destined to murdered. Like the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), Frigga is no stranger to the concept of time travel and realizes quickly that the Thor in front of her is from the future. But Thor doesn't get to see his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) whose death early in 2017's Thor: Ragnarok causes so much trouble.

On one hand, it makes sense story-wise that we don't see Odin in this part of Endgame. At this point Odin is busy riding down something that isn't just a river in Egypt: denial. He's in denial about his son's place in Asgard, in denial about the return of the Dark Elves, and soon he'll be in denial about his chances against the Dark Elves. When Frigga speaks with Thor, her husband is likely meeting with his generals about the invasion that won't happen because of the Dark Elves that are definitely all dead.

On the other hand, we haven't seen Frigga since 2013. Odin, though dead, still gets to talk to his son to give him pointers. Ironically, though she appears in both of the first two Thor films, Frigga probably enjoys more lines and screen time in Endgames than in the two earlier films combined.

Sif is probably gone for good

With the absence of Sif (Jaimie Alexander) in Avengers: Endgame, it's starting to feel pretty safe to say we've seen our last of the character in the MCU. Alexander is conspicuously absent from 2017's Thor: Ragnarok, and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige explained this as part of Loki's machinations when he disguises himself as Odin and usurps the Asgardian throne. Loki wouldn't want Thor's closest allies in Asgard to threaten his rule, so just as he accuses Heimdall (Idris Elba) of treason, he exiles Sif off-planet before the events of Ragnarok.

The real-world reason for her absence was scheduling. According to Alexander, Marvel waited until the last minute to ask her to appear in Ragnarok, at which point Marvel's shooting schedule conflicted with that of Alexander's NBC series Blindspot. Alexander told Yahoo that Marvel "called and said, 'Hey, by the way, would you come do this?' I said there is no way I can make that work that fast." But with Feige placing Sif off-world, it seemed possible Sif could ultimately return.

But as of Endgame, Sif is still a no-show. She isn't with the refugees in New Asgard, and she doesn't appear at the final battle with the resurrected heroes. By the end of the film Thor is headed back to the stars, so it's possible we might see a reunion between the two, but as the years tick by it feels less and less likely that one of the MCU's first fierce warrior women will return.

Coulson is a little complicated right now

Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) is murdered by Loki in 2012's Avengers, but like a true Marvel hero he's resurrected in time to star in Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.Only…if you didn't watch Marvel's TV shows, you'd have never known that. Considering how famously fractured the movie and television sides of the MCU have been, Coulson has been cinematically dead after the events of the first Avengers film — full stop. 

Still, ever since his traumatic televised revival, fans of the MCU have wondered — particularly considering how Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) shamelessly uses Coulson's death to motivate the Avengers' formation — whether the man whose "first name is 'Agent'" would ever get the chance to let his old friends in the films know he was back. It sure seems like Endgame is just about the last chance Coulson has to give the Avengers an FYI. Regardless, Coulson's nowhere to be seen in Endgame, and with good reason. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s fifth season ends with Coulson learning he is dying. He chooses to retire to Tahiti with Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen). To further complicates things, Season 6 will reveal that Coulson has died but will introduce a new character played by Clark Gregg.

So all this means in order to find a way to include Coulson in Endgame, the directors would need to first explain Coulson's confusing status to film audiences unfamiliar with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., along with everything else they had on their to-do list for Endgame. It's for the best things worked out the way they did, with the Avengers believing Coulson is dead (which he will be soon) unless he sent them a friend request off-screen or something.