(Welcome to Great Moments in MCU History, where we fondly recall great little bits that made us fall in love with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.)
As WandaVision ramps up to its conclusion, Avengers: Age of Ultron’s importance to the current status of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has found a surprising boost. There was a time where the film felt nearly inconsequential. Ultron did not stick around as a villain. Thor’s search for the Infinity Stones did not add up to much. And Avengers: Infinity War kind of swept aside the long-term consequences of the Sokovia Accords, which originated in this film.
And yet, this is where both Wanda Maximoff and Vision get their start. Their relationship would gain ground later, but this is where we saw his birth and learned of her ability to warp reality. It is also where the MCU lost its first superhero, Wanda’s brother Pietro, a plot point that has new relevance with the emergence of Evan Peters’ alternate universe version of the character in WandaVision.
If you want to nitpick the MCU, examining the invincibility of its characters might be a good place to start. I love these films, so I say from the heart that their stakes are never all that high, simply because these characters are very difficult to kill, both in-universe and from a marketing standpoint. Even Agent Coulson came back. And look at the shocking deaths that came at the hands of Thanos! Loki’s has been erased due to time travel shenanigans. Vision’s has been undone, somehow, by Wanda. Captain America gracefully retired. And Iron Man…well, he’s still dead. For now. Only poor Black Widow’s death remains in terms of illustrating the shocking toll of Thanos’ actions, and she still has a new solo movie coming out.
Quicksilver’s death, however, felt a bit different.
You’ve seen Age of Ultron, so there’s no need to review the absolutely insane predicament within which this moment takes place. The important thing is that Hawkeye has talked Wanda and Pietro into becoming Avengers and they’re both doing their part to save Sokovians. Unfortunately, Ultron is in a jet – we don’t give this movie’s third act the credit it deserves in terms of comic book silliness – having a time shooting at Avengers.
Well, he only hits one Avenger, but he hits him a lot. Pietro takes lead while moving Hawkeye and a Sokovian child to safety. And then he dies and seems certain to stay dead.
Why It’s So Great
Pietro’s death seemed certain for multiple reasons. For one, he died in a real concrete manner – a hail of bullets. Pietro’s fast, but there’s nothing in his power set that makes him impenetrable to anything. His human body got filled with holes. He even fell to the ground with his eyes open. That’s movie dead.
Beyond that, Pietro’s death is narratively useful because of the way it impacts Wanda, clearly the character the MCU wanted to keep around. The Fox X-Men movies, after all, already had their Quicksilver (due to sticky rights-sharing issues), and the whole thing was a little confusing. Might as well burn Pietro off to embolden the better character.
And beyond that, Pietro just did not pop like an exciting new Avenger should. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is fine and Pietro’s look was okay, but overall the character had a built-in blandness that made him seem especially expendable – an ingredient of this film that did not fold in well with the larger universe. Getting killed was the character’s entire purpose.
And that’s exactly what this scene gives us. Through Pietro’s eyes we learn to trust Hawkeye and see what good SHIELD can do for the world. After his death, we witness the anguish it causes Wanda and the unaimed violence that follows. And we do feel bad for the kid. It’s not as shocking as Agent Coulson’s “death,” but it does heighten the danger of being an Avenger for once.
And hey! If he was a favorite, now he’s back! In Poochie form!
The major What If? for this one is obvious. What if Pietro didn’t care or reacted slower and lived while Hawkeye perished? The ramifications might not even be that major. We would definitely feel bad for Hawkeye’s family on the farm. Plus, he probably would not be enjoying his own upcoming Disney+ series. Meanwhile, Vision and Wanda’s romance might hit road bumps or not happen altogether due to Pietro being a constant third wheel. His “return” in WandaVision would seem to illustrate otherwise, but he’s also coming in as an uncle figure in an already established family (of sorts). Furthermore, he’s a completely different version of the character than the angsty guy seen in Age of Ultron.
Overall, I think things would have roughly gone the same way, with Pietro taking the trip to Vormir instead of Hawkeye and having a suicide-off with Black Widow instead of Hawkeye and somehow losing that confrontation instead of Hawkeye. The real question is: would WandaVision still be happening if Pietro never died? The answer to that is a lot harder to say. Maybe all Wanda needed was a brotherly shoulder to cry on.
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