Death in the MCU and Why It Needs to Count

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Quit your crying, he's not dead (source MCU Wikia)

This short article isn't about the Death from the comics, the entity that Thanos wanted to impress by killing half the universe. This short article is, instead, about the events that should end a character's story arc as it appears in the MCU. And we propose this article because such events are very scarce in this shared universe, but only when we are talking about important and relevant characters.

And that is because everybody knows that Marvel isn't too shy when it comes to killing one-note villains.

Death and Thanos (source Movie Pilot)

Death and Thanos (source Movie Pilot)

The first major death scene was the one of Agent Coulson, the other guy who appeared throughout the solo movies until the Avengers assembled. And his death scene was something the fans didn't expect. But it was necessary, because it was the one to push the superheroes to work together in order to defeat the responsible villain. In a way, that death scene didn't just take Coulson out of the picture - it also gave his life a higher purpose.

Obviously, it didn't stick. By that time, Coulson became a fan-favorite, and Marvel wanted to cash in on his popularity. So he was revived into his own TV series (we guess we can describe it that way), the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. And we might not have a problem with that, even if it means that we were tricked into investing more in his story arc than otherwise (death makes one remember how good a person was - or, in this case, how perfectly Coulson fit into the MCU).

Apparently, it was just a scratch (source MCU Wikia)

Apparently, it was just a scratch. (source MCU Wikia)

Let's move forward now, to Thor: The Dark World. During a pretty good fight with Malekith and Kurse, Thor and Loki seem to be fighting a losing battle (Kurse is tremendously powerful, since he is able to deflect a speeding Mjolnir as if it were nothing). But Loki somehow manages to defeat the uber-powerful villain after receiving a fatal blow.

This was the perfect ending for the character. Loki's death would have meant so much, since it would have completed his story. He rebelled against his father and brother, he went to war with the latter, he reconciled with him, and then died heroically on the battlefield. A perfect ending for Marvel's best villain to date. It was a moment to echo throughout the entire MCU, a moment which could have been the best in the entire movie.

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice... (source Movie Pilot)

Fool me once…shame on you…fool me twice… (source Movie Pilot)

But, surprise! He wasn't dead! It was all just a ruse, another part of his plan to take over Asgard. Even if this might seem reductionist, Loki is now back at square one, as if he hasn't already appeared in three movies. To some degree, it can be said that his character didn't progress at all - and we do say that. Marvel once again fooled us into believing that an important character had died significantly (of course, he also died in the first Thor film, only to have it revealed in the credits scene that he really hadn’t).

Moving backwards, we find Pepper Potts kidnapped by Killian in Iron Man 3. And while most of the fans don't agree with how the character was portrayed, she is still on this list. Just like Coulson before her, her death scene was to have provided Tony with enough anger to kill the baddie. Her death would have also had a great impact on his life, and it would have opened so many story line opportunities.

So, she falls to her death and Tony Stark seems to be losing the fight. Out of nowhere (literally out of nowhere), she pops up from the flames and kills Killian herself (apparently, the serum was also injected into her bra). Way to go, Marvel! As far as we are concerned, this was yet again another wasted opportunity to make death significant.

We could mention some other deaths as well - such as that of Nick Fury, or of Captain America and Bucky Barnes (in The First Avengers). For that matter, even Groot has a place on this list - his altruistic sacrifice was no sacrifice at all.

No, we are not Groot (source Movie Pilot)

No, we are not Groot. (source Movie Pilot)

Death increases the stakes in movies. It makes the characters more relevant. Faking it so many times can lead to the fans’ developing some sort of immunity - is anybody going to believe that the next big death scene (rumored to be Steve Rogers’ during the Civil War) is for real? No.

It can be argued that the MCU is based on comic books, and fake deaths can be found all over the place in comic books. But the thing is that, despite these origins, the MCU’s story is told in a completely different medium. If in the comics the Civil War story spans half a year, the movie will last at most 3 hours. If the comics introduce a myriad of characters, the movie cannot afford that.

It makes sense to reveal in the comics that a previously killed character is actually alive and well. It makes no sense to do that in a shared universe - re-watch the first Avengers flick now, and you will see that Coulson's death scene was just filler, since now you know that he survived.

Quit your crying, he's not dead (source MCU Wikia)

Quit your crying, he’s not dead. (source MCU Wikia)

What we can say is that Marvel doesn't have to kill anybody, for that matter. But when it does, that death should be permanent - in this way, when they finally use this trope from the comics, it will be even more surprising (for us, Quicksilver's death scene doesn't really count, since he was just a secondary character and since it isn't actually set in stone).

When death becomes irrelevant, so does life. Don't you believe that, too?

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