A villain is only as good as their motivations. Sometimes, it’s a flawed view of what’s right for the world, like Thanos using the Infinity Stones as a fair and equal way to limit the population. Other times, it’s a political motivation, looking to tear down institutions deemed unjust by the villain’s moral code. It could even just be a personal vendetta, a traumatic event from the past that affected the villain enough to prompt revenge.
In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Karli Morgenthau already exhibits the first two motivations, but a look into her comic inspiration reveals how she could go three for three.
While Karli Morgenthau may be a “little girl” according to Bucky and Sam, her reputation tells a different story. In the comics, Karli Morgenthau was Karl Morgenthau, a grown man with a strange history.
The son of a Swiss diplomat, Karl was raised all over the world, learning all sorts of languages. However, as any kid who moved often will tell you, this constant displacement makes your social life difficult, so Karl wasn’t very outgoing. Still, he apparently had a passion for world relations and went to school for political science, intending to follow in his father’s footsteps.
The lynchpin that took young Karl from burgeoning diplomat to raving supervillain was a freak accident where his father was trampled to death outside an embassy during a riot. That was enough for Karl to leave his studies and reject the notion of politics altogether. He decided to fight for the absolution of all borders and the concept of countries themselves, meaning no more diplomats would die outside embassies — because diplomats and embassies wouldn’t exist.
With Karli, her political motivations are clear: she believes things were better when half the world’s population was dusted, and she thinks the best way to solve this would be to dissolve all borders and live as one global country. However, we don’t know what event spurred her to take on this fight.
Perhaps Karli will also reveal a personal loss in her own life. Maybe she also had a diplomat father who died in the panic after people were brought back from the Snap. Or, conversely, maybe she believes things were better before because someone she didn’t want in her life was Snapped, and she wants things to return to the way they were.
Even if she doesn’t share a personal tragedy with Karl, Karli will probably exhibit his other characteristics. It’s hard to lead a global movement without speaking multiple languages and knowing other cultures, so sharing the country-hopping diplomat’s child backstory would add more credibility to her skills as a leader — and prove herself even more of a threat to Sam, Bucky, and John Walker.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is now streaming on Disney+.