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10 Greatest Ensemble Dark Horses Of The MCU

by Kristy Anderson about a month ago in superheroes

These unexpected fan favourites deserve their place among the greats.

Credit: Disney.

We're now just weeks away from the premiere of Loki, the next big MCU series to air on Disney Plus. Ever since his debut in the first Thor film, Loki has been a firm fan favourite, making him an obvious choice to get a series of his own, however, it may not have always been that way.

Loki, having begun his MCU journey as a villain of the piece, is what you would call an 'Ensemble Dark Horse': A character, like a villain or supporting player, who unexpectedly becomes a fan favourite. With as large a cast as the MCU has, Loki is far from the only character to gain such a following.

Here are some of the greatest ensemble dark horses in the MCU.

1. Loki

Loki was probably the first unexpected fan favourite the MCU produced, being the first in a string of somewhat sympathetic villains. Loki's actions in the first Thor, are understandable, at least to begin with. He has discovered his life is a lie, everything he believed himself to be ripped away from him, and so he reacts badly. His behaviour in The Avengers is, admittedly, a little less forgivable, but also understandable given that he was likely partially under the influence of the Mind Stone.

Throughout Thor: The Dark World and Thor: Ragnarok, Loki is on a winding path to redemption, slowly transforming from a villain into a loveable, mischievous anti-hero.

Much of Loki's popularity is down to the wonderful acting of Tom Hiddleston. We can't wait to see where he takes the character in the Loki series.

2. Darcy Lewis

A film-exclusive character created to be Jane Foster's assistant in Thor, Darcy Lewis, played by Kat Dennings, was likely never meant to be a major player in the MCU. However, the character proved popular with fans, returning in Thor: The Dark World, and later in WandaVision. In WandaVision, we get to see Darcy as a character who has truly had her life changed by her previous experiences, with her education and career path having changed from Political science to Astrology after the events of the Thor films.

Darcy's popularity likely stems from how relatable she is. She is truly a normal person dragged into extraordinary circumstances. In the first Thor, she is most upset about loss of her IPod, while in The Dark World, she repeatedly struggled to pronounce Mjolnir correctly. The character's relatability made Darcy a perfect fit for WandaVision, in which she served as an audience surrogate during the early episodes.

3. Luis

Another film-exclusive character to have become an ensemble dark horse is Luis, Scott Lang's best friend/former prison cellmate from the Ant-Man movies. Luis is a bright spot in Scott's life in the first film, remaining positive and trying to help his friend however he can.

Where Luis has gained the most popularity is through his quick-mouthed but long winded story telling. According to Kevin Feige, there exists an unreleased clip of Luis recapping the entire first three phases of the MCU. Fans have been begging to see the clip ever since.

4. Nebula

Introduced as a villain in the first Guardians of the Galaxy, as the films went on, it soon became clear that the character of Nebula was much more complicated. She was not simply a villain, but a young woman who had been subjected to horrific abuse at the hands of her adoptive Father, Thanos.

Initially placing blame at the feet of her sister, Gamora, Nebula eventually comes to realise that Gamora was also a victim. From then on, Nebula takes a nobler path, vowing to kill Thanos so no other little girl will ever have to suffer at his hands. Over the course of her appearances, Nebula has slowly built a fan following, cementing her Ensemble Dark Horse status.

5. Jimmy Woo

Jimmy Woo first appears in Ant-Man And The Wasp, as the FBI Agent overseeing Scott Lang's house arrest after the events of Captain America: Civil War. He spends much of the film as a complication to Scott, trying to catch him out when he leaves his home to aid Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne in recovering Janet Van Dyne from the Quantum Realm.

It was not until his second appearance in WandaVision that Jimmy gained a true following, forming a lovable trio with Darcy Lewis and Monica Rambeau. Many fans began clamouring for Jimmy to receive a series of his own, like an MCU 'X-Files' style show. While no such series has been confirmed as of yet, in the comics Jimmy Woo leads the Agents of ATLAS, of which Shang-Chi, soon to join the MCU in a film of his own, is a member. It's safe to say we haven't seen the last of Jimmy in the MCU.

6. Wong

Wong, a talented sorcerer, first appears in the 2016 film Doctor Strange, having recently become the guardian of Kamar-Taj's library after the previous one was murdered by Kaecilius. Initially viewing Strange as an arrogant nuisance, the two bond when Strange saves Wong's life by rewinding time in the film's final battle.

While Wong's appearances since have been few, they are significant, aiding in the battle against Ebony Maw in Infinity War, and transporting the restored heroes to the battlefield in Avengers: Endgame. These moments have cemented Wong as a fan favourite, despite his short amount of screentime.

7. Wanda Maximoff

After a brief appearance in the end credits of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Wanda Maximoff made her full debut in Avengers: Age of Ultron. First appearing as a villain, she later switches her allegiance to the Avengers after learning that Ultron's plans are not just a danger to the Avengers, but the world as a whole.

While an immediate favourite of comic fans more aware of the character's history, it took a while for more casual viewers to connect with Wanda. However, after saving the day at least once in every movie in which she appears, Wanda slowly built a devoted fanbase. Having the character star in her own series, WandaVision, not only completed her transformation into the Scarlet Witch, but also her conversion from ensemble dark horse to MCU A-Lister.

8. Maria Rambeau

Maria first appeared in Captain Marvel as the best friend of Carol Danvers, and mother of future hero Monica Rambeau. Monica, like Carol, was one of the few female pilots in the U.S air force at the time the movie takes place, and aids Carol in regaining her memories of life before the accident that gave her her powers, and later accompanies Carol into space to help rescue the Skrull refugees. Later, in the backstory of WandaVision, we learn that Maria was inspired by her experiences to found the S.W.O.R.D organisation, which her daughter, Monica, eventually works for.

Maria gained quite a few fans after Captain Marvel, mostly due to her status as a positive black female role model, and the 'found family' aspect of her relationship with Carol.

9. Korg

Korg, a rock-like member of the Krona race, first appeared in Thor: Ragnarok, voiced and performed in motion-capture by the film's director, Taika Waititi.. Enslaved in Sakarr's Coliseum after a failed revolution against the Grandmaster, Korg is the one to show Thor the ropes after he too is enslaved. Later, Korg stages a second, successful revolution, providing a distraction while Thor, Valkyrie, and Bruce Banner escape.

The quirky, lovable Korg quickly became a favourite with fans, so much so that he was worked into Avengers: Endgame, living with Thor in New Asgard.

10. Groot

When it was first announced, Guardians Of The Galaxy was seen as a big risk for Marvel, with many expecting the film to be the MCU's first flop. Of the big risks the film took, one of the biggest was thought to be introducing the character of Groot, a sentient tree with a vocabulary of just three words: I am Groot. Surely, many predicted, the character would be just too odd for casual audiences to accept.

The predictions couldn't have been more wrong, with Groot becoming the film's break-out character. After appearing as adorable Baby Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, and a surly teen in Avengers: Infinity War, his popularity only grew. Now Groot, as Baby Groot, is receiving his own series of shorts, I Am Groot!, set to stream on Disney Plus.

We can't wait to see what else the future holds for these unlikely fan favorites.

Kristy Anderson
Kristy Anderson
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Kristy Anderson

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