Fans learned in WandaVision that Monica Rambeau has a strained relationship with Carol Danvers, being actively dismissive of her. Then, fans saw Carol preoccupied with another matter off Earth in the post-credits scene of Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings. Now, fans have gotten the most explicit clues in Episode 1 of Ms. Marvel that something is wrong with Captain Marvel.
An explanation for Carol's behavior will come in her sequel, The Marvels, but Ms. Marvel doesn't paint an entirely positive image of Carol Danvers, despite Kamala's denial. However, Carol's absence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn't new and was introduced as early as in Avengers: Endgame, when it's shown where Carol's duties lie.
Duty to the Galaxy, Not Earth
In Captain Marvel's introduction to the Avengers in Endgame, Rhodey asks the obvious question, "Where the hell have you been all this time?" To this, Carol responds, "There are a lot of other planets in the universe. And unfortunately, they didn't have you guys."
Five years after failing to bring everyone back, Carol mentions to Natasha in a meeting with Earth's remaining heroes that she wouldn't be available for "...a long time." Rocket questions why the space-bound hero wouldn't be coming back to Earth with Carol, clearly agitated, saying, "... I'm covering a lot of territory. The things that are happening on Earth, are happening everywhere, on thousands of planets." This answer implies that Carol is monitoring and visiting thousands of planets throughout the galaxy—by herself.
As Carol told Rhodey, she never came back to Earth because there was never any need for her. She gave Nick Fury the pager for a reason: in case of an emergency. Carol would only return if her homeworld truly needed her, but seemingly not if her family needed her.
Death in the Family
In WandaVision, it isn't made clear to the audience why Monica has animosity towards Captain Marvel, but it presumably has to involve the death of her mother, Maria Rambeau. Again, while not definitive, it can be assumed that after Monica returned from being blipped, she learned that Carol never visited Maria before she succumbed to her cancer.
Someone you consider family leaving your mother to die without so much as a call or a visit would leave anyone bitter towards that person. So, it's no surprise that Monica shows signs of being outright dismissive of the cosmic superhero in WandaVision. When Jimmy Woo brings up Captain Marvel, Monica quickly changes the subject: "We are not talking about [Captain Marvel]. We are talking about Wanda."
When Carol and Monica meet again in The Marvels, there will definitely be immediate tension between the two, made even more uncomfortable by the presence of Kamala Khan. But, these warning signs didn't stop with WandaVision, as even Shang-Chi was able to give the audience another glimpse into Carol's odd behavior.
Always Somewhere Else
In the post-credits scene for Shang-Chi, the titular hero, alongside Wong, asks Carol and Bruce Banner about the potential origin of the Ten Rings. Unfortunately, neither can give a satisfying answer, leading to Carol being called away. She apologizes, saying, "I have to deal with this," and hastily leaves, telling Shang-Chi that Bruce has her number.
Bruce denies that he does and acts like this is typical behavior for Captain Marvel, telling Shang-Chi, "She does this a lot." However, the film directly pointing this behavior out is telling, especially given the broader context of what Carol has said and done so far, especially regarding her apparent duty to the galaxy and the thousands of other planets.
After Endgame, all audiences have heard and seen from Carol is that she's constantly busy and off-world, but does that also mean she has no time for family or the Earth?
Warning - the rest of this article contains spoilers for Episode 1 of Ms. Marvel.
The premiere of Ms. Marvel finally confirms how much time Carol spent on Earth after both Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, which was not long.
Kamala's homemade video addressed Carol Danvers' absence from Earth, acknowledging comments on the matter from Earth's population in a mocking tone by saying, "I know some of you think, 'Well, she abandoned the people of Earth.'" The young hero even shows speech bubbles of people asking questions like, "Where is the 'Cosmic Avenger?" and "Has she left us?"
Kamala dismisses the notion that Carol abandoned the Earth and proceeds to, rather poorly, defend her absence. Kamala states that "...we don't know exactly what she's been up to," suggesting Captain Marvel could be busy off-world as she imagines various bizarre scenarios. It's clear now that while Monica is a bitter cynic towards Carol, Kamala is an eternal optimist, but they both lack a nuanced perspective on the woman they deride and admire respectively.
But, what potential nuance is there to Carol leaving Earth?
A Workaholic Instead of an Alcoholic
Tony Stark was never portrayed as an outright alcoholic in the MCU due to limitations set by Disney, which meant that the MCU had to replace Tony's drinking problem with PTSD and panic attacks. Similar to Stark, Carol Danvers was an alcoholic in the comics, due to her failure to cope with her trauma.
Something like that could happen to Carol Danvers by replacing her alcoholism with another struggle. The biggest clue is when Kamala speculates why Carol hasn't returned to Earth, pushing the idea that "...maybe she just needed a break you know?" Given the context of Carol's last several appearances and mentions, it's obvious Carol doesn't take breaks or intends to take any.
Instead of Carol being an alcoholic, the MCU could reshape her into a workaholic; a woman who's constantly working on behalf of thousands of planets in the galaxy to the detriment of her health and closest relationships. Audiences haven't seen this affecting her health yet, but it's undoubtedly affected any connection she has left with Monica.
But, what had pushed Carol to act like this to the point of missing the death of her best friend?
A Woman Driven by Guilt
Carol was riddled with guilt over helping the Kree Empire enact its reign of terror across the galaxy for five years. So when Carol saw the Skrull survivors of the Kree's genocidal crusade, she was almost in tears as she apologized to them for her ignorance.
Talos empathizes with her, saying that it was a war and that, "My hands are filthy from it, too," but adds that it isn't over. The Skrull general declares that it's only the beginning and that "There are thousands of us separated from each other...scattered throughout the galaxy."
By the end of Captain Marvel, not only does Carol Danvers declare war on the Kree Empire, but she volunteers to help Talos and the other Skrull survivors find a new home. Carol's impact on the Kree has likely even been shown as early as Guardians of the Galaxy, in which the ruthless empire was shown to have signed a peace treaty with Xandar.
However, the Skrulls aren't the only people the Kree have hurt, as they've no doubt attacked other worlds under the pretense of liberating them from the Skrulls. Carol would positively go out of her way to help those people and planets, but where does it end?
According to Carol herself, she seems to be putting the entire galaxy on her shoulders, and it could be out of a sense of guilt. Nevertheless, it'd certainly be an eye-opening moment for both Monica and Kamala to see Carol sequestering herself to a lonely life being the galaxy's one-woman Avengers team on speed-dial.
It will be interesting to see what has caused the rift between Carol and Monica when The Marvels is released in theaters on July 28, 2023.