Phase Four of the MCU has received a mixed reception from fans, but in it's defense, the phase had a lot to do, and a very tough act to follow. It had to begin building a new story after the conclusion of the decade-long Infinity Saga in Avengers: Endgame, and was also the first phase to include streaming TV series as a part of that storytelling.
The shows allowed the MCU time to properly build up new characters, as well as more deeply explore existing characters who had formerly been supporting players, while also including a few moments and reveals that will hold importance in the MCU's future. However, as always, the films remain the main event.
Here are some of the most important moments from the MCU's Phase Four films.
1. Yelena frees the Widows (Black Widow)
One of the central plotlines in Black Widow, the first film of Phase Four, involves Natasha Romanoff's discovery that Dreykov, the leader of the Red Room who she believed she'd successfully assasinated some years previously, is actually alive. Worse, he has now placed every Red Room graduate, as well as his daughter Antonia, revealed to be the Taskmaster, under a form of powerful chemical mind control. Natasha's initial attempt to confront Dreykov ends in near tragedy when he escapes, leaving Nat trapped and outnumbered by a group of mind-controlled Black Widows under orders to kill her.
Thankfully, Natasha's adoptive younger sister, Yelena Belova, arrives just in time to save her, bombing the room with an antidote to Dreykov's mind control, freeing the Widows and halting their attack. Soon after, Yelena successfully kills Dreykov, and Natasha uses the last vial of antidote to free Antonia. With Dreykov and the Red Room gone for good, the Black Widows are finally free to pursue their own desires. One former Widow is seen fighting in one of the warm-up matches in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Meanwhile, Antonia being freed opens the door for her upcoming appearance in The Thunderbolts.
2. Yelena meets with Val (Black Widow)
In Black Widow's post-credits scene, Yelena is seen visiting Natasha's grave following her death in Avengers: Endgame. Unfortunately, the visit is interrupted by the arrival of Contessa Valentina Allegra DeFontaine, more commonly known as simply Val. Val has a job for Yelena: To assassinate Clint Barton, Natasha's best friend/former work partner.
At the time Black Widow was released, it seemed as if this scene was mostly a teaser for Yelena's role in the Hawkeye series. However, given the announcements made by Kevin Feige at the 2022 San Diego Comic-Con, we now know that the scene is also teasing the upcoming Thunderbolts film, in which both Val and Yelena will play important roles.
3. Xialing takes leadership of the Ten Rings Organization (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings)
At the beginning of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, brother and sister duo Shang-Chi and Xialing are estranged due to Xialing's belief that Shang-Chi abandoned her with their crime-lord Father, Wenwu. However, they reconnect over the course of the film as they work to protect their Mother's homeland, Ta-Lo, from Wenwu, and by the end they are mostly reconciled. However, an occurrence in the film's final post-credits scene could threaten this reconciliation.
Shang-Chi is clearly under the impression that Xialing has only travelled to the base of their Father's Ten Rings organisation in order to disband it. Instead, as the post-credits revealed, Xialing has taken control of The Ten Rings herself and is remaking it in her own image, training women as well as men to serve in the organisation's ranks. While this is not inherently bad depending on what Xialing's ultimate plan actually is, the fact that she lied will likely put her at odds with Shang-Chi at some point. The Ten Rings are relatively prominent in the comics, so we will almost definitely see them again elsewhere in the MCU.
4. The Ten Rings are a beacon (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings)
While Xialing may have taken control of the organisation, Shang-Chi received the real Ten Rings, ancient and powerful mystical artifacts that had been in Wenwu's possession for around a thousand years. Shang-Chi's mid-credits scene, which features Shang-Chi and Katy allowing the Rings to be studied by Wong, Bruce Banner, and Carol Danvers, reveals that they are even older. The Ten Rings also seem to be emitting a homing/tracking beacon of some sort.
A recent fan theory proposes the idea that The Ten Rings, and possibly other powerful objects, have been planted as beacons for the many variants of Kang The Conqueror.
5. Tiamut's emergence is halted (Eternals)
A twist partway through Eternals reveals that the Eternals mission to protect and advance life on Earth was not to help humans themselves, but to facilitate the population's growth to a point that a new Celestial, Tiamut, can be born from the planet's core. Unfortunately, this Emergence would destroy Earth and all life on it. Most of the Eternals, having grown attached to Earth, rebel against their purpose. When the other Eternals share their energy with Sersi in a uni-mind, she is able to use her abilities to turn Tiamut to stone when only his fingers and part of his head has broken through, halting the Emergence and saving Earth.
It has since become a running joke in the MCU that despite his size, Tiamut's partial emergence from the Earth has somehow gone unnoticed since Eternals, apart from a blink-and-you'll-miss-it Easter Egg in She-Hulk. However, that looks set to change in Phase Five. New rumours propose that the upcoming film Captain America: New World Order, will involve a battle for control over valuable resources contained within Tiamut's remains, now known as Tiamut Island. Some fans believe that Tiamut Island may become the MCU's primary source of Adamantium, a powerful metal best known in the comics as the coating on Wolverine's skeleton and claws.
6. The universe forgets Peter Parker (Spider-Man: No Way Home)
The core plot of Spider-Man: No Way Home is sparked when a spell Doctor Strange casts for Peter Parker goes horribly wrong, beginning to summon other Spider-Men, and members of the Spider-Man Rogues Gallery, from across the Multiverse. The walls between universes begin to crumble, and the only way to fix it is with a new spell that makes everyone forget that Peter Parker exists, including his loved ones.
While everyone remains aware of Spider-Man, nobody knows or remembers Peter Parker. This means that many fellow heroes who had been aware of Spider-Man's secret identity no longer are. This, in a way, brings MCU Spidey closer in line with the comics, where only a select few are aware of the hero's secret identity.
7. A piece of Venom is left behind (Spider-Man: No Way Home)
A post-credits scene in the Sony Pictures film Venom: Let There Be Carnage revealed that Eddie Brock and his alien Symbiote, Venom, have been transported to the MCU, eventually revealed to be the consequence of Doctor Strange's spell in No Way Home. While they do not feature in the plot of the film itself, Eddie and Venom appear briefly in No Way Home's post-credits scene, before they are returned to their own universe. However, a small piece of the Venom symbiote is left behind.
In the comic book origin of Venom, the symbiote originally becomes attached to Peter Parker, becoming a living black Spider-Man suit, until Peter eventually rejects it after realising that it is altering his personality for the worse. Official concept art has emerged depicting Tom Holland's Spider-Man in a symbiote suit. This, coupled with a piece of Venom being left behind in No Way Home, suggests that there are plans for an MCU version of Venom in the future. It is also worth noting that in the original comic version of Secret Wars, the film version of which will close the Multiverse Saga, Spider-Man wears the Symbiote suit.
8. The Scarlet Witch destroys The Darkhold (Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness)
For most of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, is corrupted by the evil dark magic book the Darkhold, leaving her with an obsessive desire to get back her twin sons, Tommy and Billy, at any cost. However, when she is forced to confront what she has become through the eyes of her sons, Wanda is able to shake the Darkhold's influence. She destroys any sign of the Darkhold, not just in her own universe, but every universe, including the original copy carved into the walls of Mount Wundagore.
Unfortunately, Wanda's actions may have unforeseen unpleasant consequences. The Darkhold was created as a conduit to spread the influence of an evil Elder God, Chthon, on Earth. In some comic stories, Chthon was sealed within Wundagore, leading to a theory that Wanda may have inadvertently freed Chthon when she brought the Mountain down. Others extend this theory to propose that preventing Chthon's potential reign of terror could form the basis of the Scarlet Witch's redemption arc.
9. Incursion (Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness)
A commonly discussed matter throughout Multiverse of Madness is that of Incursions, aka, when one universe encroaches upon another, and the potential destruction this can cause. The Doctor Strange of universe 838 caused an Incursion bad enough to completely destroy another universe.
In the film's mid-credits scene, Strange is confronted by a new character played by Charlize Theron, since confirmed to be Clea, a Sorceress from the Dark Dimension and Strange's main love interest in the comics. Clea claims that Strange has caused an incursion, and that they must work together to fix it. At surface value, this is most likely a tease of the plot for a third Doctor Strange film, but it may go beyond that. In the Secret Wars comic story, a universal Incursion forms part of the plot.
10. Valhalla is a real place (Thor: Love and Thunder)
Following her heartbreaking death at the end of the film, the post-credits scene of Thor: Love and Thunder sees Jane Foster appear in Valhalla, the mythical resting place of Asgardian warriors and Gods. This proves that Jane had been truly accepted as a God by the laws of Asgard, and also establishes Valhalla as truly existing within the MCU.
Valhalla's existence in the MCU is significant for a couple of reasons. One, it hints at Jane's potential future as a more myth based take on the Valkyrie, guiding the souls of heroes to Valhalla. It also opens up a possible avenue for the return of Asgardian heroes we have lost in the past, or might lose in the future. In the comics, Valhalla is only usually treated as a temporary stop until the character is reincarnated. This means we could see some dead Asgardians return, possibly with new actors.
11. The introduction of Namor and Talokan
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever introduced fans to the underwater city of Talokan, and it's King, Namor. Like Wakanda, Talokan has remained hidden to the rest of the Earth to protect their own store of Vibranium, gained from a second fallen meteorite. Namor believes T'Challa unknowingly opened up Talokan to danger when he revealed the truth about Wakanda and it's Vibranium to the world.
Namor accepts Shuri's offer of a truce at the end of the film only because he believes Wakanda and Talokan will need to work together to defend their cities from an inevitable attack by other world powers wanting to control the ir Vibranium. Time will tell if his prediction comes to pass. However, many fans believe Namor has underestimated Wakanda's close ties to the Avengers.
12. Wakanda has both a new Black Panther AND a new King (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever)
For most of Wakanda Forever, Shuri resists her Mother's wishes for her to synthesize the Heart-Shaped Herb and create a new Black Panther. She thinks the Black Panther should remain in the past, a decision mostly born of grief over T'Challa's death. However, after Namor's devastating attack on Wakanda's capital city, Shuri finally creates a new Herb using a similar plant from Talokan, and with it, becomes the new Black Panther.
At the end of the film, Shuri declines to attend the ceremonial challenge for the Wakandan throne, leaving M'Baku to step up as the new King. This is a wise decision, both from a story point of view, and for Wakanda practically and politically. And, given M'Baku's obvious lack of surprise at Shuri's no-show, this was likely a decision the two made together. Splitting Wakanda's two most important jobs greatly reduces the likelihood of the country losing both their Ruler and Protector at once, as happened after T'Challa's death. Plus, M'Baku taking on the duties of ruling Wakanda leaves Shuri free to focus on her scientific pursuits, and her new responsibilities as the Black Panther, including, when the time comes, participating in the events of the upcoming Avengers films.
We've only just finished the first Phase of a brand new saga, but we're heading towards something great. We can't wait to see what Phase Five brings.