Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers or Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
The Marvel Cinematic Universe proved its ability to shock audiences with the villain in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The series has had many antagonists such as Thanos and Loki, but viewers knew that these characters would be the villains going into their respective movies.
On other occasions, the likes of friend-turned-foe such as Agatha Harkness and unannounced villains such as Karli Morgenthau took audiences by surprise. With the massive revelation of Scarlet Witch’s role in Doctor Strange 2it’s best to look back at the villains who managed to invoke the shock value that viewers love to experience in the series.
Although Mysterio is one of Spider-Man’s most recognizable enemies, the promotional material for Spider-Man: Far From Home had people convinced he was a good guy in the MCU. Moreover, the film also spent more than half of its runtime driving home that he was there to help.
This turned on its head when Mysterio revealed he’d just been manipulating Peter to trust him enough to hand over the EDITH glasses. Since the Elementals had seemed like the villains up until that point, Mysterio’s true nature would have taken many by surprise, especially his backstory of being a bitter former employee of Tony Stark’s.
The Winter Soldier
There have been many appearances by Bucky Barnes in the MCU by now, but the character seemed like he’d bit the dust in Captain America: The First Avenger. Having been the best friend of Steve Rogers who would never even think of hurting him, Bucky’s reveal as the villainous Winter Soldier was shocking.
It became more surprising when the Winter Soldier was shown to be very trigger-happy against Steve, leaving no doubt of his villainy. While it was revealed that he was being controlled by HYDRA, Bucky’s change into a killing machine and an antagonistic assassin wasn’t something fans were prepared for.
W’Kabi was introduced as the best friend of Black Panther, who had known T’Challa since they were children. He had supported T’Challa’s claim to the throne and it appeared as if this was a classic MCU bromance that fans had come to expect from every new film. However, W’Kabi turned out to be a villain due to his resentment toward T’Challa for failing to bring Ulysses Klaue in, the killer of W’Kabi’s parents.
His anger at T’Challa was such that he ended up trying to eliminate him through the Border Tribe, allying with Erik Killmonger and even going against his own wife, Okoye. A friend betraying the main character isn’t the usual MCU formula, so W’Kabi’s certainly seemed to come out of nowhere.
Many fans still feel that Obadiah and Tony had great chemistry onscreen even though he threw away their friendship like it was nothing. Obadiah was built up as Tony’s father figure for about half of the movie, where he seemed frustrated by the latter’s antics but supportive of him in general.
The context of their relationship changed dramatically when it turned out that Obadiah had had Tony abducted by the Ten Rings. It turned into a dynamic filled with petty jealousy on Obadiah’s end and he took it to greater levels when he tried to kill Tony himself. The formerly father-son relationship vanished pretty quickly once it became clear how despicable Obadiah was.
There was a surge of interest in the Ravonna Renslayer from Marvel Comics when the character debuted in the MCU because fans wanted to see the similarities between them. Ravonna started out as a strict judge in the TVA but her friendship with Mobius made her appear like more of an anti-hero.
She surprisingly became a full-on villain when she refused to turn against the TVA despite its practice of stealing variants to brainwash them, which Ravonna was a victim of as well. Most expected her to stand with Mobius, but Ravonna went the other way to have no qualms about pruning him or anyone else who clashed with her hypocritical loyalty to the TVA.
In the lead-up to Captain Marvel‘s release, it was made to appear that Annette Benning’s Mar-Vell would be the main antagonist. Yon-Rogg took up the role of the protagonist’s mentor, with the relationship looking similar to other MCU pairings like Tony Stark and Peter Parker.
Yon-Rogg was the surprisingly true antagonist of the story when Captain Marvel regained her memories to learn that the former had stolen from Earth to turn her into his intended weapon. The MCU was pretty big on the mentor-protege aspect by this point, which is why many did not see Yon-Rogg’s villainous nature coming.
While there have been many evil acts by Agatha Harkness in Marvel Comics, viewers did not even know it was the same character until near the end of WandaVision. Agnes, as she was known until then, was supposed to be a minor character and a nosy neighbor at best.
Agatha confessed that she had manipulated Scarlet Witch’s sitcom-based life through elements like sending a fake version of her brother Pietro to mess with Scarlet Witch’s emotions. The whole friendly neighbor thing was just a ruse to steal Scarlet Witch’s powers, turning Agatha into a sheer force and leaving the unassuming Agnes persona far behind.
The Flag Smashers were known to be the villains of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier before it aired, but nobody expected the leader to be a teenager. Prior to the reveal, Bucky mistook Karli for a hostage and attempted to rescue her until the latter flashed an evil grin to state her true nature.
Even more surprising was the fact that Karli was capable of going toe-to-toe with the super-soldier Bucky, which made her an unpredictable and dangerous villain. Many viewers still expect John Walker to be the main antagonist, only for Karli to cause the death of John’s friend and show no remorse for her revolutionary plans that involved eliminating a lot of people.
The plot of Eternals was not spelled out in the promotional materials for the movie, leaving fans guessing who the villain was supposed to be. For the majority of the movie, it looked like a tossup between the Deviants and the Celestial Artishem until the climax revealed that the Eternal Ikaris was the primary villain.
Most had assumed that Ikaris would be the main protagonist since he was in a relationship with Sersi and was seen as the leader of the Eternals. Ikaris proceeded to ruthlessly beat down his own allies, also revealing that he’d slain their mentor, Ajak. He went as far as to nearly cause the Earth’s destruction to wake up another Celestial, leaving no doubt of his role as the villain.
It’s unlikely that the MCU will be able to top the shocking villainous turn of Scarlet Witch in the near future, seeing as the character was a protagonist for the better part of a decade. Fans believed Doctor Strange 2 would be about the titular character and Scarlet Witch fighting off a multiversal threat, only for the threat in question to be Scarlet Witch herself.
Her story of searching for her children in WandaVision was switched to an antagonistic context where Scarlet Witch slaughtered numerous people to try and steal the life of her Earth-838 variant. The fact that she killed people across the multiverse arguably made her a bigger villain than Thanos, which hardly anyone would have thought possible before Doctor Strange 2 turned it into reality.
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