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MCU Characters Who Probably Won't Survive Phase 4

As the saying goes, every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end. Still, that doesn't mean that it's closing time for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With Phase 3 of the MCU officially over, we're casting our gaze toward Phase 4 and the new slate of movies and television shows that will no doubt introduce even more fan-favorite characters to the rapidly-expanding cinematic universe.

Black Widow will finally get her solo film, Doctor Strange and Thor will get sequels, and Shang-Chi and the Eternals are arriving to fill out new corners of the universe. On the small screen, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will undoubtedly follow up on the Endgame closer that saw Cap giving Falcon both his shield and Captain America moniker. Hawkeye will feature Jeremy Renner's Clint passing on the bow and arrow to a new generation. Loki and What If? appear to be playing in alternate timelines and realities, while WandaVision is believed to tie into Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. Plus, there's also possibly She-Hulk, Moon Knight, and Ms. Marvel, all of which have very little information available.

But even with all these new characters and new stories coming down the pipe, not everyone is likely to make it past Phase 4. We've consulted the ancient texts, traveled back from the future, and even gotten a vision from a shallow pool in an undisclosed location in order to ascertain which MCU characters probably won't survive Phase 4.

Red Guardian will put more red in Black Widow's ledger

Red Guardian has a pretty complicated history with Black Widow in the comics. They're married until he fakes his death in order to train with the KGB to become a mask-wearing super soldier. Beyond his history with Natasha, Red Guardian is perhaps best known for being the Soviet Union's answer to Captain America, with a detachable magnetic belt buckle that he can throw around. Considering that the MCU has a long history of changing comic book characters to better fit the cinematic universe, we're willing to bet that, beyond a complicated history with Black Widow, Red Guardian won't be much like his comic book counterpart.

That said, there are some things we do know. For example, we know that David Harbour has been cast to play Alexei Shostakov, and that O-T Fagbenle has been cast as Mason, a character who the actor describes as having a "romantic undercurrent" with Natasha. With that context, we're predicting that Harbour will be playing a father figure to Natasha's Black Widow, rather than her former husband. If that's true, he won't be making it out of the movie, let alone Phase 4, alive. It's rare for any mentor figure to live past the credits, and considering that the Black Widow movie is actually a prequel that will take place immediately following the events of Captain America: Civil War (on account of Black Widow currently being dead in the MCU), it seems even less likely that Harbour's Red Guardian will appear in the series past this film. But who knows? Stranger things have happened.

Trevor Slattery's newest project will be his last

Iron Man 3 took comic book fans on a journey by completely reimagining the Mandarin, one of Iron Man's oldest and most well-known foes. In what seemed to be a nod to the Mandarin's long history as a racist caricature, Ben Kingsley's interpretation of the character was a Mandarin who was literally just a hodge-podge of scary buzzwords and racially-coded visuals. In Iron Man 3, the real Mandarin was racism and fear of terrorist attacks, all along. Kingsley's character was eventually revealed to be Trevor Slattery, a British actor with a dedication to the craft and few scruples about playing a fake terrorist on TV.

However, in All Hail The King, a Marvel short film, it's revealed that the Mandarin isn't quite as fictional as Slattery believed. In fact, the Mandarin and his organization, the Ten Rings, are very real and very angry at Slattery for his deception. The short ends with Slattery being kidnapped by one of the Ten Rings, a storyline that's been left unaddressed since 2014.

Now, with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings on the way, it's the perfect time to address that unresolved plot. How exactly it will be addressed is unknown. We know that Tony Leung will be portraying the real Mandarin in the upcoming film, but whether or not the false Mandarin will be making a cameo is still a well-kept secret. But whether he actually appears on-screen or if he's just mentioned off-hand, it's pretty unlikely we'll see Slattery pop up again in the MCU past Phase 4.

The Ancient One is heading for retirement after Phase 4

No, we haven't forgotten that the Ancient One bit the magic bullet way back in 2016's Doctor Strange. That said, since when has a character's death really kept them from coming back, especially when that character is played by the inimitable Tilda Swinton? As we saw in Avengers: Endgame when the Hulk ran into a past version of the Ancient One, Swinton seems very game to reprise her role whenever possible. Add in the fact that Doctor Strange is one character for whom the laws of reality rarely seem to apply, and it's easy to imagine Swinton making yet another appearance in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.

There are plenty of opportunities to bring back the Ancient One to interact with Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange. For example, Nightmare has been rumored to be the villain, and the hallucination-causing supervillain could manifest some terrifying version of the Ancient One to tell Strange all the ways he's failed to live up to her expectations. Or, with other rumors hinting that the sequel will feature dimension hopping, Strange could run into an alternate universe version of his former mystic master, giving Swinton a chance to reinvent the character she's played twice already. 

Either way, it seems likely that we'll see some sort of cathartic confrontation between the two masters of the mystic arts, but that doesn't mean we can expect a full resurrection for the Ancient One. Cameos aside, her death in the first Doctor Strange was an integral emotional beat for everyone involved, and bringing her back over and over again past Phase 4 would retroactively damage the film. If Tilda Swinton appears in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, you can expect it to be her swan song.

Zemo won't be starting the Thunderbolts any time soon

As with plenty of other characters in the MCU, the Helmut Zemo we met in Captain America: Civil War wasn't quite a faithful adaptation of his comics counterpart. Instead of the racist aristocrat who hates Captain America with a passion, Daniel Brühl's conception of the character was largely a melancholy soul who put the events of Civil War in action as revenge for his family's death in Sokovia. His character arc seemed more or less complete in that film, since his revenge was achieved, while T'Challa, seeing the kind of man that Zemo had become in search of vengeance, pledged to be better.

That's why it was a bit of a surprise to see that Brühl will be reprising the role for the upcoming The Falcon and the Winter Soldier television show on Disney+. Zemo might have framed Bucky for murder once upon a time, but Falcon and Winter Solider were both absent during the Battle at Sokovia, so the two heroes are a strange target for further vengeance. Regardless, while the comic book character has a long and storied history, the Zemo of the MCU is just too different to easily imagine starting the Masters of Evil or impersonating heroes as the leader of the Thunderbolts. Whatever Zemo's role in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier might be, it's very unlikely that we'll see him pop up again past Phase 4.

Black Widow's sacrifice is inevitable

Technically, Black Widow died in Phase 3 of the MCU, sacrificing her life to manifest the Soul Stone so the surviving Avengers could resurrect half the population of the universe. It was a sacrifice that her character had been building toward ever since 2012's The Avengers saw her tell Loki that she had red in her ledger. That said, she's obviously still in Phase 4 of the MCU, as her long-awaited solo film will finally hit theaters. The film is a prequel to Avengers: Endgame, taking place immediately after the events of Captain America: Civil War, and it seems poised to introduce Taskmaster and, possibly, Black Widow II.

Obviously, we know that Black Widow will survive the events of her solo film, since she needs to eventually sacrifice her life in Endgame. We also know that just about everyone involved with Endgame swears up and down that Black Widow will not, and cannot, be resurrected the way everyone else was. It wouldn't be the first time — and it definitely wouldn't be the last — that someone involved in superhero fiction has lied about whether a character will come back to life, but this does seem about as permanent as it could be. Expect Black Widow to say goodbye to Natasha Romanoff, because we doubt we'll be seeing her again once Phase 4 ends.

We can't see the Vision appearing again after Phase 4

Yeah, the Vision died in Phase 3, but that's not stopping him from showing up in Phase 4. So how is he coming back after Infinity War? Well, considering that T'Challa's sister, Shuri, seemed to be making progress on downloading Vision's personality before his death, rebuilding the guy could be one possible solution. However, with every tidbit of information released about WandaVision, it seems like a mundane resurrection for everyone's favorite synthezoid is about the least likely possibility. 

Rumors abound that the television show could take place in an alternate universe. Perhaps it will be a dreamscape created by Nightmare (the possible villain of Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness). Or maybe this alternate world will be created entirely by Scarlet Witch's reality-warping powers in a reference to the time she reshaped the entire world in House of M.

No matter how Vision appears again, it's important to remember that he'll be showing up on a television show that's likely to be watched by far less people than Avengers: Infinity War. In other words, it would be pretty bizarre for Vision to pop back into the MCU in Phase 5 with his actual resurrection taking place entirely in a side television project. With that in mind, we're predicting that the Vision goes up to that big server farm in the sky in Phase 4.