Even after spending over a decade on our screens, most MCU films have been hit with the same criticism: ‘Where are the consequences?’ Captain America: Civil War did try to give the heroes some repercussions for their city-leveling shenanigans, but it looks like Phase 4 will more deeply explore the impacts of the heroes' actions.
This was no clearer than in Falcon and the Winter Soldier, where not only did the plot heavily focus on the impacts of the Blip (the five years between Thanos’ erasing of half of all life and Hulk bringing everyone back), but Bucky was forced to start atoning for his crimes as the Winter Soldier.
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According to series director Kari Skogland, Bucky isn’t done yet, either. Talking to The Direct, Skogland explained that Falcon and the Winter Soldier just shows the beginning of Bucky’s path to redemption. Perhaps this is the reason why the show’s end card still said Captain America and the Winter Soldier, and not something else.
"I think he’ll always be troubled, because you can’t go through what he’s gone through and who he’s had to be without having residual effects," Skogland says. "So, I think he will always be coping with what that is, but he certainly is in a better place."
Skogland’s comments hint that Bucky’s journey isn't totally complete - perhaps it could continue in a Falcon and the Winter Soldier season 2 - but this also highlights that Phase 4 so far seems like it's about our heroes dealing with the consequences of their past.
The tough journey to redemption
Bucky isn't alone in finding ways to deal with his past. While WandaVision was mostly about Wanda learning to deal with grief, it arguably established her as a villain-like figure in the way she took over the town of Westview. The end of the series, too, suggests that her future might not be unambiguously heroic as the powerful Scarlet Witch.
The Lagos commercial in episode 5 of the show, too, demonstrated to the audience that Wanda is still processing the consequences of her actions in Lagos in Captain America: Civil War – where she accidentally blew up a building containing innocent people.
As far as other characters go, several upcoming MCU projects seem to continue a pattern of tackling the mistakes of the past. Trailers for Loki show that the god of mischief might have to travel through time to fix the cracks he’s formed in reality, and Black Widow looks like it'll give us our deepest look yet at Natasha Romanoff's complicated history. And surely Hawkeye will address Clint Barton's violent spree, as depicted in Avengers: Endgame.
New Phase, new Marvel
Marvel's new approach to characters is arguably driven by its current approach to content. The Disney Plus series are at long last giving some lesser-used characters the screen time they need to develop – and some needed the additional spotlight more than others.
Wanda and Vision probably had the lowest screen times of any of the Avengers, yet the series managed to draw focus on them in a way that made the show's finale where they separate devastating. Similarly, Bucky's journey in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier gave him emotional dimensions we hadn't seen before – now it would be nice to see Marvel find something new to say with the character that isn't just linked to his past.
Hopefully, future shows will continue to give Marvel the freedom to explore the consequences of events in its films. This is the kind of deeper characterization that can make the MCU's shared universe feel more alive than ever.
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