Marvel’s Phase 4 has more TV shows on Disney+ than Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, and while there are many positive sides to that, it also created a problem for the introduction of the next villain of Thanos’ caliber. Loki’s season 1 finale and all of the MCU reveals from Comic-Con 2022 hinted at a specific villain becoming the next Thanos for MCU Phases 4 to 6, who is inextricably connected to the Multiverse saga and even getting a Marvel Avengers movie title in his name. However, the initial reveal in Disney+’s Loki season 1 finale of all the terrible things that Kang the Conqueror can achieve if the Multiverse were created by one of the many Nathaniel Richards (Jonathan Majors) variants didn’t have the same impact as Thanos’ first appearance, and a big part of the problem resides in the medium utilized for it.
MCU Phases 1 to 3 did an excellent job of introducing Thanos. As a villain, Thanos became exponentially more relevant in the ten years leading up to Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, with the Infinity Stones story arc being first introduced in 2011 with Thor‘s post-credits scene where Fury shows the Tesseract to a Loki-controlled Selvig. MCU post-credits scenes had a huge role in presenting Thanos as a villain, with Thanos’ first appearance in The Avengers offering just a glimpse of the imposing villain. Avengers: Age of Ultron‘s after-credits scene went even further, upping the hype by showing Thanos getting the Gauntlet. Whether by talking about the Infinity Stones or directly showing Thanos or his minions, MCU Phases 1, 2, and 3 gradually made Thanos more central to the main story until his first scene in Avengers: Infinity War cemented him as the big, almost unbeatable, villain.
While the insight Loki‘s season 1 finale gave about Kang the Conqueror’s abilities built him up to be a foe at least equal to Thanos, the impact they had on the public couldn’t be more different. After all, MCU fans all had a chance to see the threat of Thanos growing bigger through many MCU post-credits scenes, while in Kang’s case, the first reveal happened in an MCU Disney+ TV show, which some MCU fans may not watch. In addition, references to the threat to the Multiverse appear throughout MCU Phase 4 TV shows and movies, but another Kang variant has yet to make an appearance, and there is very little time remaining before Marvel’s Phase 4 is complete.
How MCU Shows Damage Its Next Thanos (But Improve The Franchise)
Kang is set to be central to Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania, so being first revealed in an MCU Disney+ TV show shouldn’t lessen his impact there. In addition, there are also many films and TV shows Kang the Conqueror’s variants could still cameo in to be built up as a Thanos-sized threat. Nevertheless, expanding the MCU with Disney+ Original TV shows will inevitably impact the fans’ reception of Kang as a villain. After all, Marvel’s Phase 4 is the first to propose this hybrid setting that sees MCU movies and TV shows as equally important to the world-building of the Multiverse saga, leaving fans who mightn’t have kept up with all of Marvel’s TV shows possibly out of the loop about the next Thanos-level villain.
However, integrating MCU Disney+ TV shows into the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t all bad, as it marks a significant change for Marvel TV shows. Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD proved that, while being directly influenced by what happened in MCU movies, the reveals in the TV show didn’t do the same for the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe. Instead, having MCU Disney+ TV shows reveal such important villains establishes their credibility, which overall improves the franchise. The TV shows offer more time for their characters’ development and more points of view that end up bettering and interconnecting the MCU even more. The Marvel Cinematic Universe introducing Disney+ TV shows to the wider MCU undoubtedly brought positive and negative changes. Hopefully, Phases 5 and 6 will be able to improve how they introduce villains like Kang in the future.