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If you regularly read comic books, then you know that death is rarely permanent in the Marvel and DC worlds. Important characters will often meet their demise, but they'll eventually be brought back, whether it's through magical resurrection, cloning, time travel, the options are endless. Within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, death isn't nearly as much of a revolving door, but many of this franchise's most prominent characters are still around and kicking. But Avengers: Infinity War, as well as Avengers 4 next year, will throw the biggest conflict yet at this universe's heroes, and rest assured, there will be casualties.
We're coming up on the end of an era in the MCU, and while the franchise will continue into Phase Four and beyond, nothing is going to be the same. Certain characters, like Spider-Man and Black Panther, will still be around when this new era begins, there are other characters who should be killed off before we venture into this uncharted territory, whether it's because they've been around long enough or their character arcs are completed. Let's begin with the man whose kept the MCU anchored all this time.
Robert Downey Jr. has been part of the MCU since it launched with Iron Man in 2008, and I'd argue that if it wasn't for his performance as Tony Stark, this franchise wouldn't be as popular as it is today. It's been a blast watching Tony evolve from self-absorbed weapons manufacturer to superhero focused on the greater good (even though he has been responsible for a number of threats that have emerged). But after a decade of putting on armor and saving the world, it's about time for Tony to make his exit. He's had plenty of time in the spotlight, and with Robert Downey Jr. seemingly looking to wind down his time in the MCU and there being no plans to recast the character, Tony should finally depart. While it would be great if Tony could finally settle down with Pepper and live the rest of his years quietly and without drama, I also suspect that him going out in a blaze of glory in one final mission as Iron Man would be a good way for us to bid farewell to him.
Steve Rogers is a hero, there's no getting around that. Whether he's serving his country as Captain America or fighting the forces of evil without donning the red, white and blue uniform, his primary duty is protecting the innocent. So although part of me would be happy to see Steve somehow reunited with Peggy Carter, I also believe that ultimately him sacrificing his life to keep others safe, just like he thought he was doing at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger, is the best way for him to leave the MCU. Chris Evans has strongly implied that Avengers 4 will be his last Marvel movie, so unless Steve plans on retiring once the universe is safe, it's a good bet that he'll die on the battlefield. Fortunately, like in the comics, the Captain America mantle can be passed on to someone else (I vote Bucky Barnes).
There's a reason that Loki is considered to be one of the MCU's best villains, if not ranking at the top of the list. Unlike most other baddies in this universe, the Asgardian God of Mischief has had a proper character arc spread out over multiple movies, going from son desperate to earn his (adoptive) father's approval to power-hungry conqueror to supportive brother on the path to redemption. Looking at that, along with the many times he's cheated death, we've come to a point where Loki finally needs to get his end to wrap up his story, and it looks like that's coming in Avengers: Infinity War. Judging from the footage that's been released so far, it appears that Loki gives Thanos the Tesseract, a.k.a. the Space Stone, in exchange for keeping Thor safe, but we haven't seen any other scenes featuring Loki outside of that ship. Considering that the Mad Titan is probably mad at Loki for failing him in The Avengers, don't be surprised if he crushes the life out of his former partner.
After cameoing in The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thanos is finally stepping out of the shadows in Avengers: Infinity War, and we'll finally see why he was selected to be the overarching antagonist of the MCU. We don't know yet how Infinity War wraps up, but Josh Brolin is confirmed to reprise the Mad Titan in Avengers 4, so evidently he'll still be causing trouble in a year's time. Thanos has been a long-serving villain in the Marvel Comics universe, but for the sake of the MCU, his reign of terror needs to end permanently by the time Avengers 4 is over. Don't get me wrong, my fingers are crossed that Brolin's Thanos turns out to be a compelling villain, but considering how long he's been teased, it'd be better for him to be eliminated so that we can enter Phase Four with room for a new baddie to take his place, like Galactus (assuming the Disney/Fox deal is finalized).
When Idris Elba joined the MCU in 2011's Thor, he was already known from his work on The Wire and Luther, but he wasn't the star he's considered today. Maybe if he'd waited a couple years, he could have been cast in a bigger MCU role, but as far as the Thor corner of this franchise is concerned, Heimdall is one of the God of Thunder's most important allies, and he thankfully made it out of Ragnarok unscathed. Unfortunately, he and the other surviving Asgardians didn't get much of a respite, as they were intercepted by Thanos' ship and it doesn't look like they'll be in good health when Avengers: Infinity War rolls around. Keeping that in mind, as well as Elba's ever-growing stardom, now's the best time for Heimdall to depart the mortal plane and head to the halls of Valhalla. Like Thor, he's a warrior, and if falling in battle meant keeping his people safe, you can be sure he would be willing to do that.
Like Loki, Nebula is a former MCU villain who's working for redemption. She and Gamora finally managed to patch up their relationship in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and while she's not hanging out with the Guardians aboard their ship, she's basically now a member of the team. But like Drax the Destroyer, Nebula is determined to kill Thanos so that other people's children won't have to suffer like she did when he was "raising" her. Whether that happens or the Mad Titan dies in some other fashion, in order for Avengers 4 to have meaningful stakes for the Guardians, I feel like one of the team needs to meet their end, like Yondu did last year. It's hard to imagine Marvel disrupting the core five, and with Mantis now the newest regular member, that leaves Nebula as the most likely candidate. here's hoping, though, that she gets to deliver the lethal blow to Daddy Thanos before that happens.
Nick Fury is best known as the longtime director of S.H.I.E.L.D., but let's not forget that without him, the Avengers wouldn't exist. When we last saw Fury, he was helping the Avengers establish their new base in upstate New York, and next year in Captain Marvel, we'll learn what his first experience with superheroes was like and probably how he lost that eye. Beyond that, Marvel hasn't officially announced what the future holds in store for Fury, but unofficially, it appears he'll be back for Avengers 4. If that indeed happens, that would be the time to take him off the proverbial board. Fury's spent decades to help keep the peace, but Earth now has numerous superheroes to do that now, and even if S.H.I.E.L.D. is one day reestablished on the big screen (so far its presence is still just limited to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), there are plenty of other agents who can lead the organization. Before we enter this new era of the MCU, let's say goodbye to Fury by having him give his life to protect Earth.