Originally Posted by Conundrum
Watching the movie for a second time, it almost seems as if the return of Pepper (and Killan) was tacked on afterwards. The final montage doesn't include Pepper at all, except for a short clip of Tony putting a necklace on her.
The scene where the Iron Man helmet rolls towards Tony and he sees that it's empty and breathes a sigh of relief feels like the end of the battle. I wonder if the initial plan was to kill Pepper off, but the Powers That Be intervened?
Unlikely, maybe, but it was just something that struck me during my second viewing.
Pepper was also in the final montage with Tony in China when he had the shrapnel removed from his heart and the arc reactor taken out.
I think that the intent all along was to have Tony fail to save Pepper, who then saved Tony in the end. Black & Pearce set up the typical superhero/action movie scenario of the kidnapped damsel in distress waiting for the hero to rescue her, then subverted that three times in the course of the film. The first time was when Tony sent the Mark 42 to Pepper, then she saved his life in the mansion attack. The second happened when Tony tried to save Pepper from falling and couldn't reach her. (Ironically, it was his attempt to save her and the president that inadvertently caused the structure she was being held in to collapse and nearly crush her to death in the first place.)
The third and most dramatic inversion of the damsel in distress trope came when Pepper used the Extremis powers that Killian had forced on her to defeat him and save Tony, who in that instant became a sort of damsel himself. While it was a very welcome and surprising development for most of the audience (Pepper's rampage got cheers every time I saw it), it was disconcerting for some, particularly males. Pepper stepped out of the role that most people wanted/expected to see her in, that of the powerless girlfriend dependent upon the hero to save her from his enemies. Even Killian admitted he viewed her that way; she was both an inducement to get Tony to work on Extremis and a trophy he could claim as payment for past rejections. The writers rather brilliantly avoided the cliche by turning the scenario on its head and having the girlfriend save the hero -- and herself. It was just the last of several instances in Iron Man 3
where overused tropes were upended, with great results.