All good things must come to an end. While the Marvel Cinematic Universe itself looks set to continue indefinitely until either the Sun burns out or people stop watching superhero movies, its individual character arcs can’t go on forever. That’s why Robert Downey, Jr. and Chris Evans triumphantly ended their MCU tenures this year with the perfect conclusion for each of their characters’ arcs in the final moments of Avengers: Endgame. Downey said recently that he and Evans “will be there to welcome others as they retire their jerseys.”
So, here are 10 characters who should probably retire from the MCU soon.
10 The Hulk
The Hulk has finished his character arc, which has many MCU fans wondering what his place in the franchise’s future is. The Phase 4 slate announced by the studio proves that he has no place in the franchise’s future. As perfect as Mark Ruffalo was for the role of Bruce Banner, he’s told Banner’s story now.
His Jekyll-and-Hyde struggle with the Hulk took him to space and had him stuck as a gladiator on Sakaar for two years and then got him killed by Thanos (to then be resurrected by Heimdall) and then left him unable to join in the fight on Wakanda. Now, he’s Smart Hulk, his internal conflict has been resolved, he used the Infinity Stones to save the world, and we’ve left him in a good place.
It’s a shame that Thor’s time in the MCU could be coming to an end, because it feels so recent that the character became interesting. Taika Waititi turned him into a comedy character and Chris Hemsworth leaned into the wackiness, which aside from making the character more exciting, has also made the subtler dramatic scenes displaying Thor’s despair even more powerful.
However, his arc has seen him lose a battle for the first time and live with the guilt and depression for five years before finally getting his groove back. He’s getting another solo movie, but it’ll see him hand off the reins of his mantle and his kingdom, so it could be time for Thor to retire.
James Rhodes’ place in the story of the MCU has always been as a supporting character to Tony Stark. Whereas Sam Wilson, who was similarly introduced as an Avenger’s supporting character, was given Cap’s shield and mantle in Avengers: Endgame, therefore taking his place in his absence, Rhodey has no place in a world without Stark.
If Marvel had made the War Machine solo movie they promised years ago, that would be one thing, but they didn’t, and the time to make one has passed. Rhodey has enjoyed plenty of great moments in the MCU, but there doesn’t seem to be a place for him in the future.
Although Ant-Man has only been given two solo movies in the MCU, he was integral to saving the world in Avengers: Endgame and, as a result, is in a good position to end his superhero career. Plus, with his relationship with Hope going well and his family troubles all smoothed over, his character arc in the MCU is effectively over.
Kevin Feige has mentioned that the five-year time jump aging Scott Lang’s daughter Cassie into a teenager (“You’re so big!”) set her up to take on her own superhero mantle, so maybe Scott will be passing the torch in the next couple of years.
Clint Barton is actually about to hand off his superhero alter ego to a successor, so there’s a good chance he will be retiring from the MCU. The Hawkeye series on Disney+ will revolve around Clint training Kate Bishop, his successor in the comics, to take on the “Hawkeye” mantle and replace him in the Avengers roster.
The MCU has gotten plenty of mileage out of Clint’s relationship with his family and the extent he went to in order to bring them back from the dead in Endgame, so his journey is over. If he gets one last moment with Black Widow in her upcoming prequel to sum up their relationship and bring everything between them full circle, that’ll be it.
5 Happy Hogan
Happy Hogan has always been a fun character. From getting undermined by Tony Stark to being disrespected by Pepper Potts to groaning cynical complaints at Peter Parker, Jon Favreau has always played Happy as a likably sarcastic guy. And he’s always been a “regular” guy, to off-set the superheroics of characters like Black Widow and Iron Man (his hallway scene with Natasha Romanoff remains one of Iron Man 2’s greatest moments).
However, Tony is out of the MCU, Pepper is probably out of the MCU, Natasha is out of the MCU, and now, sadly, due to a rights dispute with Sony, Peter Parker’s out of the MCU, too. So, where does that leave Happy?
Bucky has been a key player in the MCU since Phase 1 and he’s enjoyed a very complex character arc, which was played brilliantly by Sebastian Stan. He was Steve’s best friend who “died” in World War II, but was actually brainwashed by Hydra as an assassin and sent after Steve in 2014.
Then, he started to remember his past life and committed to undoing his brainwashing, even getting himself cryogenically frozen in Wakanda so that Shuri could sort out his head. Now, he’s all better and he’s about to take on a heroic role in his own Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. After that, there won’t be much use in keeping him around.
3 Pepper Potts
Gwyneth Paltrow said in the months leading up to Avengers: Endgame’s release that it would be her final appearance in the MCU. However, she did say that if Marvel asked her to return for a cameo appearance or a supporting role in another movie, she’d be open to returning.
Pepper has been with this franchise since the beginning, like Tony Stark, so she deserves a proper send-off. It’s likely that she’ll retire as CEO of Stark Industries and focus on raising Morgan and signing giant charity checks, but Marvel owes it to the character to show this and not just leave it to be assumed.
When James Gunn was hired back to direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, he said that one of the biggest reliefs was getting to finish Rocket’s character arc. We first met Rocket as a cynic who didn’t care about anybody but himself (and also Groot). He was very reluctant to help Peter Quill save the galaxy and he was even more reluctant to accept love from his new family.
However, over the course of the last two Avengers movies, we’ve seen him grow into a sensitive hero. With Gunn ending Rocket’s character arc, it might be time for him to leave the MCU.
Loki’s “final” appearance in the MCU has been teased for a while now. He was killed off in Thor: The Dark World, but this turned out to be a fake-out as he posed as Odin and took over Asgard. He was killed off in Avengers: Infinity War, but then he used the Space Stone to alter the past and save himself in Avengers: Endgame.
Now that he’s getting his own six-episode solo series on Disney’s new streaming service, Disney+, it might be time to finally end Loki’s character arc and retire him from the MCU, despite the fans’ adoration for him.