Jonathan Majors, who had been positioned to play the next main villain of the biggest movie franchise of all time, was convicted of assault and harassment on Monday, and about an hour after that verdict came down, Marvel Studios fired him. Thus ends a year of uncertainty during which the Marvel Cinematic Universe has cratered both creatively and in terms of audience interest (link to something), and which resulted in the whole MCU slate being delayed a year while the powers-that-be try to get it together.
Without Majors, the big immediate question is easy: What is Marvel going to do with Kang the Conqueror, who was supposed to be the Thanos of this era of the MCU? The easiest option is to just recast the role, which they’ve done before with Terrence Howard and Ed Norton in the franchise’s early days. Majors has thus far only appeared in Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania–a movie that’s proven to be pretty unpopular–and the two seasons of Loki. That’s more screen time than Howard or Norton had in the one movie they each appeared in, but not too much more. I doubt audiences have gotten overly attached to Majors at this point.
If Marvel wants to go the recasting route, it would probably be fine–or it wouldn’t be any worse than the current status quo, at least. But I have a different idea that Marvel may well have already set in motion: It’s time for Ravonna Renslayer to step into the spotlight.
From where we sit now, it’s really tough to tell what exactly happened with Loki Season 2, which felt pretty stripped down in its final two episodes. Whatever arc was planned for Ravonna, played by the great Gugu Mbatha-Raw, seems to have been cut off. But while Ravonna wasn’t in Season 2 as much as we’d expected, it did set her on a new path, free from He Who Remains and Kang, who had been her boss for eternity.
Ravonna’s story in Season 2 of Loki began with a paradox. She and Miss Minutes go back in time to the 1800s and deliver a Time Variance Authority field manual to a child named Victor Timely, a variant of He Who Remains from the main Marvel continuity. Later, they try to recruit Victor for their cause, but it doesn’t work out thanks to Loki’s interference. But Miss Minutes is less than enthralled with Victor. She says he’s not the real thing, and will never be able to become what He Who Remains was–and so, as Miss Minutes declares quite forcefully, “We don’t need him.”
Nonetheless, Ravonna continued to oppose Loki until Sylvie forced Hunter X-05 to prune Ravonna and send her to the end of time. There, Ravonna found the corpse of He Who Remains, and learned about her own past. She had been He Who Remains’ top general in the previous multiversal war, and he paid back her loyalty by erasing her memory and making her work at the TVA. Learning this was the last straw for Ravonna.
But it was also her last real scene on Loki, because she was entirely absent from the Season 2 finale aside from a single context-free shot of her apparently still hanging out at the end of time. Her plot was left dangling.
Those motivations and that backstory combine to establish Ravonna as a wild card in the MCU who’s perfectly positioned to replace Kang, and maybe she should. Mbatha-Raw is an excellent actor who would make for a much different baddie than Thanos or Kang. Her backstory is sympathetic–she had a crappy boss who treated her poorly despite her skill and loyalty, and now she believes both that she can do the job better than he did and that she has an obligation to do so. Those are pretty clearly laid out motivations that we understand and relate to. And that’s exactly what we want from the MCU’s key bad guy.
By contrast, Marvel was holding back almost all of Kang’s story for an Avengers movie that was scheduled for 2025, and so we don’t really know him. Ravonna is already grounded in a way that Kang, the multiversal mad scientist who has lost his mind many times over, probably never really could be.
In other words, Marvel has a replacement villain waiting in the wings, ready to step into the spotlight, and she would be damn good for it. But with everything up in the air and the schedule in flux, she’s also probably the best available option, creatively.
But this is a fairly wild behind-the-scenes situation at Marvel Studios, after The Marvels bombed and the rest of the 2023 slate failed to make much of an impression. The franchise has been so fractured for the past couple years that there hasn’t been any main MCU thread spidering through it all–Kang/He Who Remains was never even hinted at outside of Loki and Quantumania, and that means it would be relatively easy to pivot in any direction Marvel might want to head in. But a pivot to Ravonna as the new main big bad would be the easiest and most natural option from a story standpoint. They literally already did the legwork.