After Wanda Maximoff’s sacrifice in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Marvel fans are debating the true meaning of heroism, villainy and the in-between of antiheroism.
What could a supervillain, who has likely killed, maimed and tortured hundreds of innocents, ever do to redeem themselves? Well, anything can happen in the MCU, including lifelong bad guys turning over a new leaf on more than one occasion. We’ve seen it happen to Nebula, whose vengeful hate for her sister Gamora is channeled into world-saving motivation. Thor’s brother, Loki, eventually recognized the errors of his ways and sacrificed himself for the greater good in spite of Thanos’ attempt to reinvent Midgard.
Reddit asked, like we’ve all wondered before, which MCU villain has the best redemption arc? There’s so many to choose from, each one’s journey drastically different to the last, but they’ve all proven themselves trustworthy and honorable. When the going got tough, they stuck around.
Obviously, Loki takes the most votes. Not only is Loki already a fan-favorite, but his redemption arc is touching and somewhat poetic. When we first meet Loki in Thor (2011), he harbors a deep hatred for Thor, believing that Odin favors his biological son to rule Asgard over a Frost Giant hybrid. By The Avengers (2012), Loki enacts a master plan to use an alien armada known as the Chitauri to invade and enslave Midgard, which is foiled by the combined efforts of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. It isn’t until the Thor sequel, Thor: The Dark World, that Loki begins a metamorphosis of sorts.
When Malekith, leader of the Dark Elves, seeks to use the Aether (the Reality Stone) to plunge Earth into an eternal darkness, Loki helps Thor wipe out the Elves for good and save Jane Foster. However, his redemption arc truly kick-started in Thor: Ragnarok, when Loki aids Thor in thwarting Hela’s attempt at subjugating Asgard. All of these heroic acts culminate in Avengers: Infinity War, wherein Loki dies by Thanos’ hand after attempting to double-cross him. Reddit acknowledges Loki’s sacrifice as “extremely brave.”
As expected, right underneath Loki, Karen Gillan’s Nebula is feeling the love. Originally starting out as a shameless supervillain, Nebula progresses from a Guardian of the Galaxy to an Avenger. As Thanos’ adopted daughter, Nebula was always second-best to Gamora, whom she formed a bitter rivalry with. She was a raised as a ruthless assassin without remorse, but her upbringing was abusive and upsetting. Debuting in Guardians of the Galaxy, Nebula was introduced as a second-hand villain after Ronan the Accuser.
After Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Nebula was promoted to a more central role. With each appearance that followed in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, Nebula was awarded more screen time and started changing her outlook on friendship and camaraderie and developed a sense of belonging. For starters, Nebula’s redemption arc is much more than a plot device; she earns the respect of her teammates and works to overturn her wrongdoings by outweighing the lives taken with lives saved.
Following Nebula, Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier snags some votes. Arguably, Bucky was never actually a villain, especially since HYDRA manipulated him and gave birth to The Winter Soldier. Before that, Bucky fought for America alongside Steve Rogers, always looking out for the little guy and acting as a role model for the uninspired.
It was only in Captain America: Civil War, after CCTV footage revealed that The Winter Soldier viciously murdered Howard and Maria Stark, that Bucky Barnes was branded a villain. Even then, Bucky wasn’t in control of his actions and expressed remorse for the fate of Tony Stark’s parents. From then on, after breaking free from HYDRA’s influence, Bucky pledged his life to fighting alongside the Avengers and turned a tragic chapter of his life into positive change.
Even though she had somewhat of a redemption arc in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, many Marvel fans don’t agree, claiming that Wanda Maximoff has never made a decision that benefits anyone besides herself. After she lost Pietro in Avengers: Age of Ultron, she became blinded by vindictive intent and began destroying anything and anyone in her war path. From WandaVision onwards, it has been proven that Wanda is prepared to ruin the lives of thousands in exchange for a happy, fulfilling life with her husband and children.
In MoM, Wanda was willing to murder America Chavez in cold blood just to gain the ability to travel between dimensions and be reunited with Billy and Tommy Maximoff. Even though she does step up to the plate when it counts, Wanda is ultimately selfish and destructive and that isn’t likely to change, especially not after she became a full-fledged villain in MoM.
Loki takes the cake, which comes as a surprise to absolutely no one. Tom Hiddleston plays a compelling part, but it’s the impeccable writing that develops Loki’s redemption arc to transfer his sadness and rage into selfless determination.