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Half of all life in the universe disappearing was definitely the most surprising thing to happen in Avengers: Infinity War, but a close second was the return of the Red Skull. After seven years, the fate of the Red Skull was finally revealed and it was completely satisfying and exciting. It doesn't get much better (or weirder) than being sentenced to live out the rest of your life as the guardian of an Infinity Stone. However, therein lies something of a problem. Now that the Red Skull has come back in such a grand fashion, what is Marvel supposed to do with him? Honestly, I'd be fine if we never see him on screen again, and Marvel might want to consider that path.
First off, the Red Skull reveal in Joe and Anthony Russo's Avengers: Infinity War is Grade-A awesome. People had wanted Red Skull to return, and there were multiple theories about when and how this could happen, but it's fair to say that the actual reveal was still a total shock. Red Skull (this time a CGI character voiced by Ross Marquand) caught a ton of people in my first screening by complete surprise, resulting in a very cool theater experience. But just because it was a great comeback doesn't mean that he should show up again. This very much felt like a Red Skull who was at the end of the road, and I don't see many ways that Marvel can utilize him moving forward.
The Russo Brothers recently revealed in a Vudu Viewing Party that Red Skull is now free to leave Vormir now that the Soul Stone is gone. They also added that he was free to pursue the stones once again, which feels like it could be a teaser for a future storyline. I would argue that the Infinity Stones are done after Phase 3, which means Avengers 4 is the only logical choice for Skull to hunt the stones again. Avengers 4 is already a pretty packed movie that has to wrap up a lot of storylines, so adding in the Red Skull might take away some of the precious screentime.
As far as villains go, the Red Skull is solid. He's one of the more memorable villains from the early days of the MCU and while he doesn't stack up against Thanos, Killmonger, or Loki, he's a good mid-to-high-tier villain. The important thing to remember about the Red Skull though is that he worked really well in the setting of Captain America: The First Avenger. The movie was a throwback to old-school, fun adventure films that capture the sensibilities of that golden age. Set in World War II, everything was black and white with a red-faced, mad scientist villain. The Red Skull is deliciously evil, which is exactly what he had to be. He's the perfect foil to good old boy Captain America, with a classic plan to take over the world.
Fast forward to Infinity War and it's clear that Red Skull's time on Vormir has changed him. His years of isolation have drained and exhausted him, with little sign that he has any ambition to reignite his schemes. 70 years as the Stonekeeper has taken its toll, and while there's no indication that he still isn't a villain, he's not the same guy who wanted to take over the world. So, assuming that he's given up on that particular goal, what is there left to do with him?
Even if it turned out that Red Skull was just as sinister as he's always been, there's not really a place for that type of villainy anymore. With Cap making his transition to the modern day, the Captain America films had to evolve to reflect modern times, forcing its hero to do the same. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) no longer sees the world as black and white, and has even gone as far as to become a fugitive of the government. A guy who wants to use a glowing box to make a bunch of bombs doesn't really fit into that puzzle. The Red Skull's lip-smacking villainy is what made people like him, so without that, what are we left with? It's important to note that comic book Red Skull is super hateful and racist, which is just depressing and I don't think really has a place in the MCU.
The people at Marvel are very smart and they could probably come up with a new, satisfying motivation for Red Skull that involves less mustache twirling. However, Infinity War does a nice job of wrapping up Red Skull's story. After trying to abuse the power of the Space Stone for his own malicious ends, he is sentenced to watch over the power he coveted on a desolate alien world without ever being able to claim it as his own. That's a pretty good punishment. Now that curiosity has finally been satiated, this seems like a solid ending to Red Skull's story. There doesn't really need to be anything else, and while fans are still curious about what else is in store for Red Skull, this puts a bow on his arc.
However, I will say that a possible reunion for Cap and Red Skull is really exciting and the idea of their stories ending together is poetic. It would also be cool to see Red Skull as a phantom-type being that follows Thanos, but again, we don't really need that -- especially not when Avengers 4 has so many other things to do. I would gladly be wrong on this because I like the Red Skull, but all Marvel really had to do was tell fans what happened to him and they've done that with flying colors.
Should that be the end of Red Skull's story?