The release of [The Avengers: Age Of Ultron](tag:293035) on Blu-Ray and DVD did not just release the movie to people's homes, but it also released hours of unseen footage, including behind-the-scenes footage and even some deleted scenes. Many of these scenes have shed light on the plot of the film that was cut out for time, including what really happened when Thor went to the Water of Sights and the real reason Quicksilver sacrificed himself.
But the more we read into these deleted scenes, the more we find out about what is going on in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. One of the things I wondered during the movie was what James Rhodes (War Machine) was up to between when we first saw him during the party and when we saw him again during the climactic final battle. One of these deleted scenes finally gave us the answer.
To view the scene, jump to about 3:34 in the video below.
In the scene, we see Natasha (Black Widow) talking with Rhodes on Skype (or something similar to Skype). The conversation is as follows:
Natasha: "We're getting access tonight on all basic information streams."
Rhodes: "Yeah, well you guys are definitely off the Pentagon's Christmas list. Every country with a nuke is fighting a cyber attack. War Machine is being deployed to the Middle East in case certain people start blaming each other instead of you."
Now, in order to grasp my fully theory, you have to really look into the context of the Middle East in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
At first glance, Rhodey's mission seems like he is going in there just to stop a political uproar. But, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a very different world than our own, creating a few complicated differences between what goes on in our world and what goes on in theirs.
One of the biggest problems in the Middle East right now in the real world is terrorist groups. Formerly, it was groups like Al Qaeda, but now it is groups like ISIS that are taking to the streets and are causing more chaos than that region has seen in a few years at least. However, that is in our universe. To avoid the difficulties with endangering themselves, Marvel Studios presumably does not have terrorist groups like Al Qaeda or ISIS for fear of offending them and leading to threats and attacks. (Anyone remember what The Interview did with North Korea?) To avoid creating this complication, Marvel put the Ten Rings into the films to replace the real life terrorist organizations.
This is similar (but not perfectly similar) to Marvel using Red Skull as the villain in Captain America: The First Avenger instead of Hitler. Instead of using potentially offensive material drawn from real life, Marvel replaced the real life villain with a fictional one. The only difference between using Red Skull and using the Ten Rings is that Hitler still existed within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, whereas the terrorist groups of the Middle East presumably do not.
I am not saying War Machine's mission had nothing to do with political unrest -- that was certainly part of it. But the focus was more likely to focus on making sure that the Ten Rings did not get involved. This acknowledgment of the existence of the Ten Rings (even after being presumably beaten off in Iron Man) leads us to one conclusion...
The real Mandarin still exists within the MCU
Now, I did make a big leap there, so allow me to explain. In Iron Man, we witnessed the leader of the Ten Rings being stunned by Obadiah Stane while everyone else in his terrorist group was killed. Many presumed that that would have been the ending of the Ten Rings. Several years later, though, Iron Man 3 was released and had the Ten Rings presumably as the main focus, introducing the Mandarin as the primary villain. However, to the negative response of many fans, this was not the case as the Mandarin was actually an actor and the attacks were just accidents caused by Killian, the main villain.
After that, the Marvel One-Shot All Hail the King was released, following the story of Trevor Slattery (the actor who played the Mandarin) being sent to jail. This One-Shot ended with a surprise twist when Slattery was kidnapped to be taken to the real Mandarin, who was angry that his name was used elsewhere. Many people shrugged this One-Shot off as most shows and short films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have very little impact on the feature length movies themselves. Many doubted that the Mandarin would ever truly appear and that this was just a way to soothe the anger of many of Marvel's fans.
This subtle nod in Avengers: Age of Ultron, however, suggests that the Ten Rings are still at large, and that therefore the Mandarin still exists and is the leader of the terrorist organization. That would be the main focus of War Machine being sent to the Middle East -- to make sure that the Ten Rings do not get involved with the potential political unrest. Perhaps it is not too much to expect for the Mandarin to make his full appearance on screen in a later Marvel film. We have finally found enough proof to directly point to his existence, both in the One-Shot and now in Age of Ultron.