When Thanos took Gamora to the planet Vormir to collect the Soul Stone in Avengers: Infinity War, no one expected Red Skull would be the one guarding it. We saw the former villain once more when Hawkeye and Black Widow went to retrieve the Soul Stone in Endgame. Neither film revealed what happened to Red Skull after Thanos obtained the stone, but a fascinating new theory may finally explain the loose end and how it might connect to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Speculative spoilers ahead for Marvel’s Phase Four.
Following the events of Infinity War, many fans wondered whether Red Skull would be free from his guardianship of the Soul Stone for good. When a fan posed the question to Joe and Anthony Russo on Twitter, the directors said “Red Skull is free to leave Vormir” and that he was now able to “pursue his desire for an Infinity Stone.” That left the door wide open for the Captain America villain to return to the MCU in Phase Four to carry out whatever vendetta he was planning before being zapped to Vormir.
Reddit user ak2sup predicts Red Skull survived Thanos’ snap and that he will be the primary villain in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The theorist suggests Red Skull has been wandering Earth since Thanos’ snap, impersonating government officials thought to be gone for good.
It's possible Red Skull has been working behind the scenes for a long time, pulling the strings that ultimately lead to the events of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. His presence may also explain why Bucky Barnes and Baron Helmut Zemo are potentially working together, and the return of the the super-soldier serum that may account for U.S. Agent’s entire existence.
While the theory sounds remarkably plausible, there is one major hiccup. Endgame’s introduction of time travel changed everything. After the Avengers were done with the stones, Captain America went on a mission to return them to their original locations. In an interview with CinemaBlend, Joe Russo hinted Cap would “have to encounter Red Skull” upon returning the Soul Stone to Vormir. Wait, what? That’s confusing given the Russos’ earlier confirmation regarding Red Skull leaving Vormir in Infinity War.
It may be that the Red Skull who terrorizes the heroes in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is an earlier iteration of the character. It would certainly help to tie up that loose plot thread from Endgame. After all, Loki is set to follow the 2012 version of the god of mischief, so perhaps the same can be said for Red Skull. Whatever the case, there’s still a chance Red Skull is a major player in the Disney+ series and is simply biding his time before revealing his next diabolical plan.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier premieres on Disney+ in August.