Presenting OTP Tuesday! Each Tuesday I will introduce you to a new One True Pairing! Tune in each week to find out which fictional couple you need to agonize/squee over next. A week after seeing Infinity War, I’m finally ready to talk about it — and the joy that is Pepperony!
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR INFINITY WAR AHEAD!
Who Are Pepperony?
Pepperony is one of my favorite ship names. It’s the name given to the pairing of Tony Stark and Pepper Potts from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s actually just a portmanteau of their names, but it makes another word, which is the best kind of ship name.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe started with Tony Stark. Iron Man came out in 2008 (ten years ago now!) and introduced us to an interconnected world of heroes. Tony is one of the biggest characters and a strong connecting thread running through most of the MCU offerings. So who is Tony?
The son of genius/asshole Howard Stark, Tony is an arrogant but flawed genius. He took over Stark Industries when Howard died, weighed down with a legacy of genius and destruction. Tony himself is a prodigious inventor, who designs newer and better weapons. When he finds out that his inventions are going to America’s enemies, however, he changes his tune.
Tony was captured by a terrorist group known as the Ten Rings. While in captivity, he invents a suit powered by an experimental arc reactor that allows him to escape. Back home, Tony refines the suit, eventually creating the Iron Man armor. He works to undo his legacy of destruction around the world and protect the little guy.
At the same time, he’s dealing with massive personal issues. Health issues caused by his captivity and his time as Iron Man lead to rampant alcoholism. His relationships become strained by his seeming disregard for other people. Eventually, he fixes things and takes on a new role: Avenger.
The Avengers really highlighted how great Tony is, flaws and all. He clashed with Steve Rogers and Nick Fury. He “doesn’t play well with others.” But at the end of the movie, Tony sacrificed himself to save New York City. This will follow him, as he deals with lingering PTSD. But it never stops Tony from trying to be a hero and do the right thing.
For as long as we’ve had Tony, Tony’s had Pepper. Pepper Potts starts off as Tony’s assistant/handler in Iron Man. She’s been with Tony a long time, and they have a relationship built on mutual trust and affection. By the end of Iron Man, a fragile romance blooms between them.
That romance deteriorates alongside Tony in Iron Man 2. On the one hand, Tony names Pepper CEO of Stark Industries to replace him, since he fears he will die soon. On the other, he distances himself from Pepper and behaves in a way she doesn’t approve of.
Pepper really comes into her own as CEO. Suddenly, she’s the boss, not Tony. Despite taking over in the midst of a crisis — Tony is attacked by an Iron Man copycat, and is being investigated by the government — she keeps a cool head. In the end, she saves the day as much as Tony by taking control of evacuation and law enforcement issues.
By the time of Avengers, Pepper and Tony have settled into a routine of domesticity. Pepper and Tony work together on Stark Tower, making Stark a good name. When Tony sacrifices himself, his last thought if of Pepper. By Iron Man 3, though, they falter. Tony’s struggles with PTSD hamper them.
They come to an agreement — Tony destroys his suits and agrees to stop being Iron Man. In the end, though, he can’t hold to that agreement. Pepper is noticeably absent in Age of Ultron, and Civil War reveals that they’re on a break.
But have no fear! Spiderman: Homecoming reveals that they are back together. Then, Infinity War reveals that they are getting married. A happy ending may be in sight — if they can just survive Thanos.
Why is Pepperony OTP?
Despite involving Tony Stark, one of the only MCU characters to overtly have and struggle with mental illness, Pepperony is one of the strongest relationships in the MCU.
Perhaps that’s because it’s been around so long. Pepperony is present in all three Iron Man movies (the only ship to do so of the main/stand-alone Avengers). And while they have rough patches, they always seem to fix things back up. But it’s more than just familiarity; Pepperony has been captivating since the first Iron Man.
You’re All I Have
Tony Stark is, without a doubt, a very damaged person. For all his genius and privilege, he’s deeply insecure. This stems mostly from his uncertain relationship with his father. Like his son, Howard Stark was a brilliant man but struggled with expressing emotions or building healthy relationships.
Because of this, Tony often felt overlooked or undervalued by his father. They had a strained relationship, which unfortunately ended too soon, as Howard died when Tony was only 17. This unfortunate circumstance not only left Tony alone, but it hampered his ability to make new meaningful relationships.
As an adult, Tony has few friends. Pepper is the one he can rely on, no matter what. This is tested when Tony needs someone to help him with an unsightly medical issue. Pepper helps, though she doesn’t want to because she knows she’s the only one who is there for Tony. Which is not to say this is all one-sided; Pepper reassures Tony that he’s all she has, too.
As we see Pepperony develop over the following movies, we see them rely on each other. Sure, they may splinter apart at times, especially when Tony’s mental illness hampers his ability to communicate with Pepper. But they always come back, because at their core they rely on each other — they love each other — too much to let it go.
When they do separate, things get worse. Pepper is the balance Tony needs to keep his mind in check. It’s worth noting that the two movies where Pepper is noticeably absent — Ultron and Civil War — feature Tony in over his head and facing problems he can’t handle. Now that they’re back together, here’s hoping Tony can survive the dark times ahead.
(More Than) 12% of an OTP
Another reason Pepperony just works is that they get along well. There’s a reason they were able to work together so well for so long even before they became romantically involved. Pepper can hold her own against Tony — something not everyone can say. She grounds him, but she also keeps him humble.
We see a humorous dynamic early on. Thanks to years of experience, Pepper is used to all of Tony’s peculiarities and knows just how to handle him. She never lets his ego get the best of him. At the same time, she does appreciate his positive qualities. She knows he is a genius who can do great things for the world.
For his part, Tony supports Pepper in everything she does. He gives her encouragement when she would potentially undervalue her importance. Tony may be the genius and the inventor, but Pepper is the CEO. He believed in her enough to appoint her to the job and respects her as an equal (or even his better).
This dynamic is seen most clearly in Avengers when their project — Stark Tower — comes to fruition. Tony asks Pepper how it feels to be a genius, which she assumes is a joke about his intelligence. But Tony assures her that she is the genius here — she’s the one who came up with Stark Tower. He may have realized that dream, but it would be nothing without her.
And, of course, they snark back and forth at each other. When Tony makes a comment about Pepper deserving 12% of the credit, it comes back to haunt him later. Pepper has plenty of genius in sarcasm, which is practically Tony’s first language. It works out well, and they mesh well with snark and support in equal measures.
What’s Next for Pepperony?
HERE THERE BE SPOILERS. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Things appeared to be looking up for Pepperony at the start of Infinity War. Although it seemed like Tony’s proposal in Homecoming was just a joke, we learn that they actually are engaged. More than that, they’re actively wedding planning. A happy ending is in sight — so of course, everything must go terribly wrong.
At the end of Infinity War — SERIOUSLY SPOILER ALERT — half the universe’s population ceases to exist. Thanos has succeeded in his goal. One of the remaining humans is Tony — broken and alone, but still alive. What’s not clear is if Pepper is alive or not. Her no longer existing would put quite a damper on my OTP, so fingers crossed that Pepper survived.
Granted, it’s almost certain that those deaths will be undone in the as-of-yet-untitled Avengers 4. So, even if Pepper is gone, she may come back. But that brings up the next scary thought: Tony may not survive Avengers 4. We know that some Avengers will not be returning, and one of them may be Tony.
Ideally, of course, they will both survive and Tony will retire. He can still work for the Avengers, inventing and supporting, but maybe he’s earned a rest. He and Pepper can get married and live happily ever after. Okay, I know that’s delusionally optimistic. But a girl can dream, right?
Is Pepperony Canon?
Yes! Pepperony has been borderline canon from day one. It has now been confirmed canon with Infinity War showing them as engaged and wedding planning. I so rarely ship canon pairing that I’m happy to have this, even if it may very well end in tragedy.
We’re all eagerly awaiting Avengers 4 to find out what happens to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but I for one am waiting to see if Pepperony can get their happy ending after all.