Before we begin, spoilers are ahead. If you want to watch any of these shows or movies, don’t keep reading. If you want a quick summary, feel free to stick around!
With the release of Black Widow, the first film in Marvel’s Phase Four, the future of the MCU is beginning to take shape in an exciting way. Here’s everything that’s happened so far in the post-Endgame era.
If you’ve kept up with Marvel’s plans, you’ll know that Phase Four didn’t begin with a film, it began with a TV show. WandaVision is a short series on Disney+ that follows Wanda Maximoff after the events of Avengers: Endgame. Viewers learn that a grief-stricken Wanda Maximoff has created a fantasy world with her powers. This world is crafted out of Wanda’s memories of television shows she watched with her family as a child in war-torn Sokovia. These shows offered her an escape then, and they offer her an escape now, after losing the love of her life (and so many others) to violence and conflict. In the process, Wanda takes the entire town of Westview, New Jersey hostage when she uses it as the “set” for her world. In the process, she also creates a fictional version of Vision who can only exist in the confines of her world.
But S.W.O.R.D. (another special task-force U.S. government agency) and the FBI catch on to Wanda’s little world. They send agents out to investigate immediately, including Monica Rambeau, Jimmy Woo, and Darcy Lewis, three recurring characters in the MCU. Eventually, Monica, Jimmy, and Darcy realize Wanda is experiencing a deep sense of loss. Her actions are out of her control. Long story short, S.W.O.R.D. chooses violence, while the trio choose try and help Wanda through compassion.
During the course of the show, major developments for the MCU take place. First of all, Wanda officially becomes the Scarlet Witch. While fans have always referred to her as such, she never really held the title in the Avengers films, until now. Monica Rambeau also gains some powers thanks to genetic mutations caused by being in Wanda’s world. In the comics, Monica has donned the title of Captain Marvel before, but more recently she’s been referred to as Spectrum. Whatever her MCU title ends up being, she officially has superpowers.
Another major development from the show is that Vision is back, and he’s got a new coat of paint. Being recommissioned by S.W.O.R.D. to fight for them, Vision returns as a slick white android, appropriately referred to as White Vision by fans. However, after a deeply philosophical encounter with the fictional Vision, the White Vision realizes he still contains the memories of the original Vision, and he sets out on his own to discover his own truth. Man, how many times can I say Vision?
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
The second television series in Phase Four follows Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson after the events of Endgame. Sam (The Falcon) goes back to his roots and battles threats to the United States with the support of the Air Force, still using the moniker of Falcon even after receiving the shield from Cap in Endgame. After some thought, he gives the shield to the U.S. Government, expecting them to display it at the Smithsonian. This doesn’t happen. Instead, the president picks a candidate to become the new Captain America – John Walker.
Meanwhile, Bucky is dealing with the fallout from his days as the Winter Soldier. In an attempt to distance himself from his uncontrollable actions, he has been going to therapy and attempting to make amends with the loved ones of his victims. Eventually, he is reunited with Sam when the Flag Smashers begin to cause trouble around the world. They’re an organization that believed the world was more united after the snap, when 50 percent of all life disappeared. Their idea to get things back that way? Violence, of course.
Here’s the major developments from the series. John Walker fails as the new Captain America. He finds a vile of super soldier serum, and it corrupts him to a point of violent aggression. This only proves that he could never replace Steve Rogers. Could anyone? Anyway, he gives up the mantle of Captain America after killing an unarmed opponent. Sam resists taking up the mantle for most of the series, conflicted with the complicated idea of a black man being the symbol of the United States. Eventually, he realizes being Captain America can only promote a message of hope and positivity. In the process, Sam proves he’s worthy of being Captain America.
Bucky finds peace with himself for the first time in a long time, too. His friendship with Sam becomes stronger than ever, no longer just being a friendship centered around their love for Steve. And for the hardcore MCU fans, Bucky gets back at Sam by refusing to move his seat up for the new Cap. I’d say that’s a major development.
Lastly, John Walker is recruited by a mysterious figure, Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. She gives him another shot at using his new super soldier abilities under the moniker of U.S. Agent, a name comic fans will recognize. Her appearance also hints at a new team of vigilante-esque superheroes, a team that viewers will certainly learn more about as Phase Four continues.
Ah yes, everyone’s favorite trickster returns to the MCU in a wonderfully wacky way. In Endgame, the Avengers accidentally help the 2012 version of Loki escape with the tesseract. With this series, we find out that this act leads Loki to a strange place called the Time Variance Authority, or the TVA – a bureaucratic organization that controls the “sacred timeline” or more simply, the proper flow of time under the jurisdiction of the Time Keepers, powerful cosmic beings. Viewers find out that this escaped Loki is a “variant” of the original Loki we see in the MCU films. What’s a variant? Basically, a parallel universe version of anyone.
The variant Loki is initially going to be executed, but after meeting Mobius M. Mobius, an employee of the TVA, Loki is given the opportunity to work as a TVA agent. His task? To find and capture another Loki variant that has been causing trouble for years across the timeline. After a little cat and mouse game, Loki finds the variant, a female version of Loki that goes by the name Sylvie. She reveals to Loki that all of the people at the TVA are also variants of people in real life. They’ve been brainwashed into thinking they only exist as TVA agents. Sylvie vows to destroy the Time Keepers and free these people, as well as get revenge on the Time Keepers for kidnapping her from her timeline.
In summary, we find out that the Time Keepers are not real. A Wizard of Oz situation where someone is pretending to be these powerful beings. Loki and Sylvie hatch a plan to figure out who this person is. That person? Kang the Conquerer. Well, sort of – a variant of Kang. One of millions of variants. This particular Kang claims he really isn’t that bad. Sure, he controls billions of variants and prevents them from living full lives, but he keeps order in the universe. The other Kangs are really bad. Sylvie is hell bent on revenge, so she kills him anyway. In doing so, the other Kangs are given the opportunity to wreak havoc in the universe. Something we’ll probably start to see in upcoming films.
So, Kang the Conquerer is in the MCU, as well as the existence of the multiverse. Hmm, the next Doctor Strange film is titled The Multiverse of Madness, and it’s directed by Sam Raimi. Do I smell a Spider-Man variant played by Tobey Maguire?
That brings us to Black Widow, the first film in Phase Four. We learn more about Natasha’s traumatic past. First of all, Natasha is sent on an undercover mission in the United States as a child, posing as the daughter of Alexei Shostakov, a Russian super soldier also known as the Red Guardian (basically the Russian Captain America). Natasha also has a “mother” and a “sister”. Alexei is really only there for the mission, barely caring about his “daughters”.
Eventually, the family is found out, and they quickly have to escape the United States. When they arrive on safe ground, Natasha and her sister Yelena are taken back the Red Room for further indoctrination as Black Widows. Fast forward to the time after Captain America: Civil War, and Natasha is on the run from the U.S. government. She hides out for a while until she receives a strange package from Belarus. Following the lead, Natasha finds a grown up Yelena, who has been freed from the brainwashing of the Black Widow program, AKA the Red Room.
The sisters vow to destroy the program. The only way they know how to find the Red Room is to locate their old “parents”. They reunite the fake family, find the Red Room thanks to their “mother”, and take down the program. Natasha deals with some demons from her past in the process, and amends things with her estranged family members when all is said and done.
Finally, Black Widow introduces two major plot points for the MCU. First, the Red Guardian becomes active again. To what extent? We don’t know yet. But he’s ready to fight Captain America. Second, Valentina Allegra de Fontaine shows up again. She seems to have recruited Yelena to her little team of vigilantes. With a little hint at the upcoming Hawkeye television series, Valentina gives Yelena an assignment with seemingly evil intentions. Find Clint Barton, and “avenge” the death of her sister.
An Even Larger Cinematic Universe
So that’s where the MCU is at right now. Big developments, new characters, and a nice set up for a major villain to appear in future films. With the introduction of the multiverse, anything is possible too. Could the original X-Men films be retconned as a parallel universe in the MCU? Could Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire both appear as Spider-Man again at some point? Even variants of Steve Rogers or Tony Stark could show up in the future. Endgame had a huge number of heroes on the screen at the same time, but the MCU just got much bigger.