Since the closing films of Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s been one unifying theme connecting most, if not all of the projects. No, it’s not the multiverse, although that is also threaded through so many of the films and series in Phases 4 and 5. It’s the idea of grief and loss that began with Avengers: Infinity War. What happened in that film and its sequel, Avengers: Endgame, has changed not only the characters but the entire MCU. The grief and loss are paramount, especially in the most recent Marvel Studios film, The Marvels.
Stemming from 2019’s Captain Marvel, which was sandwiched between the two tentpole Avengers films, The Marvels brings together three intricate character narratives, weaving them together into a tale of the impact of grief and loss, especially when it comes to family.
It beautifully ties together several projects across the past three phases, exploring the healing that comes after the heartbreak of loss in the family we build, not the ones we are given. For that reason alone, The Marvels is one of my personal favorites of the entire MCU, because any media that can provide just a bit of healing for those watching it, is a win in my books. So let’s explore the impact of grief, loss, and eventual healing as seen in The Marvels.
[Warning: spoilers from The Marvels are below!]
Monica’s anger and resentment of Carol in The Marvels
When we first meet Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) as an adult in WandaVision, we aren’t aware of the tragedy she’s befallen. Like so many others, she was trapped in Wanda’s (Elizabeth Olsen) witches hex, playing a role in a sitcom with no way out. However, when we learn her story in episode four, “We Interrupt This Program”, the horror of the blip is fully realized.
Monica disappeared like so many others when Thanos snapped his fingers and returned with Tony’s (Robert Downey Jr.) sacrifice to the same location where she vanished. At a hospital in the middle of all the chaos, she not only learns that years have passed in seconds to her, but her mother has died. The panic that sets in is incredible, as Monica’s entire world comes crashing down in the blink of an eye.
However, the rest of WandaVision doesn’t provide much closure for Monica, which is mildly understandable as her story isn’t the point of the series. Instead, her loss is pushed aside for the bigger mission, having thrown herself into a job at S.W.O.R.D. instead of taking time to deal with her grief.
While Monica is still very much a task-oriented person, The Marvels provides a better landscape in which to explore her loss and grief, through the lens of her relationship with Carol (Brie Larson), her aunt.
Monica holds a lot of resentment towards Carol, for leaving her and her mother when she was a child. She’s angry and resentful towards Captain Marvel for choosing responsibility for the Skrull and the galaxy over that of her family. At times it can be hard to let go of that childhood anger stemming from the disappointment in a loved one.
This is compounded by Monica watching her mother go through cancer, which pulls her once again into the frame of mind of a child. Her mother is dying and the only other person who should be around and helping is out among the stars. That’s the second strike towards Carol, which is the basis of the animosity that Monica exhibits throughout the first two-thirds of The Marvels. Even though she’s a strong-willed adult, Monica needed support for both herself and her mother. She needed Carol there to help shoulder the burden.
This resentment is amplified threefold when she returns from the Blip, her mother is gone, and once again Carol is nowhere to be seen. While it wasn’t Carol’s fault specifically, as she couldn’t predict the return of individuals who blipped, in Monica’s eyes, Carol had ample opportunity to seek her out. Upon her return, she was completely alone and lost, something that her family could have helped with. Nothing like a hug from her auntie Carol to heal some of the hurt.
There are so many levels to Monica’s grief, which of course makes her relationship with Carol tense when they first come together in the film. It’s unclear exactly how much time has passed from the Blip and The Marvels, however with the growth of Carol’s hair we can assume it’s been a while. That being said, for a few months Monica has stewed in her grief and therefore her anger towards Captain Marvel, setting the stage for a rock bottom and a ton of character growth. However, on the flip side, Carol herself was burdened with her own grief and loss.
Carol’s emotional journey
There’s nothing like looking in the face of someone who looks up to you and realizing you’ve let them down or failed in some way. This is the core struggle that Carol faces between Captain Marvel and its sequel.
Carol left Earth to find a new home for the displaced Skrulls, however with Secret Invasion, we know that didn’t work out too well. Instead, many of the Skrull returned to Earth either for safety or out of anger. She also destroyed the Supreme Intelligence, intending to end their terror, but causing more problems in the end.
That’s an unbelievable burden to shoulder, with the feeling of failure insurmountable. How do you return to face those you love, knowing the reason you left them only caused more problems? It’s understandable as to why Carol stayed away, even though it was the wrong call for the majority of the parties involved.
Not only that, she wasn’t on Earth to protect Monica from Thanos’ plan, which led to her blipping away for years. Having to look Maria (Lashana Lynch) in the eyes, feeling like she has continuously messed up had to be the hardest moment of Carol’s life.
This guilt is seen in the flashback to Carol and Maria’s chat during the blip, where Maria confirms the return of her cancer. Carol is almost sidelined from her grief, not knowing what to do. For someone who is perhaps one of the strongest individuals in the entire MCU, this moment leaves her raw and defenseless.
Again, I can understand why Carol found it so difficult to face Monica post-blip. The overwhelming feeling of guilt and disappointment tainted the family reunion. Instead of returning and facing the shame, Carol runs far away, looking for redemption among the cosmos.
Ultimately, these two heroes find their way back to each other, perhaps reluctantly, and begin to build a new normal together, that is until the actions of Dar-Benn drive them apart once again. Who knows if and when Monica and Carol will ever meet again, but at least there’s a sense of peace gained by both of them, as the guilt and resentment are shucked off by the end of The Marvels.
Dar-Benn lost everything
The theme of loss is not special to just the heroes of The Marvels, as Zawe Ashton’s Dar-Benn also experiences insurmountable loss, leading her to a life of villainy. In Dar-Benn’s eyes, Captain Marvel destroyed the only life she and the rest of the Kree knew. To them, the actions of the Supreme Intelligence were unifying the universe, with Carol acting as the annihilator of their reality. Dar-Benn uses the loss of her society and uses to fuel her anger towards the Skrull and those who destroyed Hala.
Carol mentions that Hala was ruined due to the civil war stemming from her actions against the Supreme Intelligence, but Dar-Benn places all the blame on Carol. In the way that dictators tend to do, Dar-Benn feels justified in her anger and actions against those who caused Hala’s destruction.
She not only wants to return her home back to its former glory, she wants revenge against Carol. Instead of using that grief as a positive motivator like Carol or Monica, Dar-Benn is fixated on causing more pain in her pursuit of a better tomorrow for her future.
How Dar-Benn uses her grief and loss is a fantastic foil to that of Monica and Carol, as all three characters have similar feelings motivating them, however, they have different experiences through The Marvels with those emotions.
As we like to say in psychology, all feelings are valid, however, there are constructive ways to work through them. While none of these characters initially processed their grief in constructive ways, Carol and Monica eventually overcome their feelings of abandonment and shame, finding common ground built from love with each other.
Final thoughts on The Marvels
Overall, The Marvels is a fantastic showcase of the impact of grief on those who have lost so much in their lives. The story allows for a deep dive into the many ways people can heal through their grieving, showing that there isn’t any one way to overcome it. The film provides tons of emotions and heart in which to explore this difficult subject, which it does amazingly. It proves that those behind this film truly understand the message behind the film and these characters, handling grief in a beautiful way.
The Marvels is currently in theaters. Let us know your thoughts on the exploration of grief in The Marvels on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord.