It all comes down to this.
The end of Avengers: Infinity War completely changes the status quo of the MCU, so we’re here to break down all the big twists of the Avengers’ final showdown with Thanos, and explain what that ending could mean for Avengers 4. Needless to say, there are major spoilers ahead. If you want even more Infinity War, here’s a breakdown of what that post-credits scene means.
The final act of Infinity War takes place on multiple fronts, with Thanos facing off with Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man and half of the Guardians of the Galaxy on his home world – Saturn’s decimated moon, Titan – in an attempt to get the Time Stone, while his Black Order henchmen and their outriders attack Wakanda to try and yank the Mind Stone from Vision.
Explaining That Strange Choice
After their initial plan to separate Thanos from the Infinity Gauntlet is ruined by a grieving Peter Quill, who’s furious that the big purple dude sacrificed Gamora to retrieve the Soul Stone, all hell breaks loose on Titan. Thanos easily takes down all of the heroes and is about to strike the killing blow against Tony Stark when Stephen Strange offers Thanos the Time Stone in exchange for sparing Tony’s life. But why would he make such a huge sacrifice, after previously warning Tony that protecting the stone is his only priority?
For the answer, we have to rewind a bit to before Thanos shows up, when we see Doctor Strange looking ahead to see “all the possible outcomes” of their battle with the Mad Titan. Out of millions of potential scenarios, Stephen tells Tony that they only win in one. Never tell us the odds!
While we don’t know what Stephen sees, it’s a safe bet that the key to defeating Thanos relies on Tony being alive for some reason, even if that means the Sorcerer Supreme has to sacrifice himself (and billions of others) to give Tony and the other surviving Avengers a fighting chance somewhere down the line.
Vision May Have Survived
Once Thanos retrieves the Time Stone, he hotfoots it over to Wakanda to take the final Infinity Stone from Vision. Luckily, Scarlet Witch is one step ahead of him, and despite her heartbreak at needing to sacrifice the android she loves, Wanda succeeds in separating the Mind Stone from Vision and destroying it before Thanos can reach them. Unfortunately, now that Thanos has the Time Stone, he simply turns back time so that he can snatch the Mind Stone from Vision before Wanda can stop him, leaving him with all six stones. (Thanks for nothing, Doctor Strange.)
Although Vision looks pretty dead, we don’t know how far Shuri got in her attempt to separate his consciousness from the Mind Stone before she was interrupted – but she did grab the holographic file before her lab was attacked, so perhaps Vision can be resurrected in Avengers 4 without his life being tied to that pesky gem.
Meanwhile, Thor attempts to kill Thanos with his newly created ax, Stormbreaker, but unfortunately, the God of Thunder isn’t as familiar with pop culture tropes as Spider-Man is, and aims for Thanos’ heart rather than a headshot, giving the Mad Titan enough time to gloat and snap his fingers to wipe out half of existence. Ruh-roh.
The Meaning of Thanos’ Final Words
After completing his master plan, we next see Thanos in an empty orange realm; it’s possible he’s actually inside the Soul Stone, which also happens to be orange and, in the comics, is known to contain a pocket dimension known as the “Soul World” – a place which stores all of the souls stolen by the gem (and wouldn’t that be handy later?). There, he’s confronted by Gamora as a child, who asks him what his crusade cost.
“Everything,” Thanos says heavily – not in reference to the countless lives he just wiped out, of course, but to Gamora herself, the soul he loved most and was forced to sacrifice in order to earn the stone. His melancholy doesn’t last too long, though, as our last glimpse of the Mad Titan in the final scene sees him seemingly ready to retire on a lush green planet, watching the sun rise with a look of contentment on his face.
It’s worth noting that he still has the Infinity Gauntlet at this point, but the metal looks twisted and charred as if his final act broke it beyond repair – raising the question of whether the stones can still be used together, or whether the Avengers will need to find an alternative place to put them if they actually succeed in tracking Thanos down and retrieving the universe’s most deadly accessory. Either way, it will clearly take more than another snap to put reality back the way it was – if that’s even possible now.
But the real gut-punch of the ending comes as the Avengers are faced with the reality of what Thanos has done: In the aftermath of the battle, we see some of our heroes safe and sound, while others disintegrate into ashes before our eyes. Cap watches Bucky fall apart just a few feet away from him, while Okoye reaches out to her king, only for T’Challa to disappear right under her hand. The destruction isn’t restricted to Earth, either – on Titan, Tony and Nebula watch Doctor Strange, Mantis, Drax, Star Lord and finally Spider-Man start to fade from existence – with Spidey’s death proving to be the most traumatic, as Peter sobs and clings to Tony before he vanishes.
Back on Earth, the only heroes left standing after the battle are Captain America, Black Widow, Thor, Bruce Banner, Rocket, War Machine, Okoye and M’Baku. Is it a coincidence that all of the original Phase 1 Avengers survived? Probably not. (We assume Hawkeye is fine too, because since the Russo Brothers have said that he’s pursuing his own secret mission during the events of Infinity War, which will have to play out in either Ant-Man and The Wasp or Avengers 4.)
While there are other characters we don’t see in the immediate aftermath of Thanos’ snap, like Shuri and Wong, the fact that they don’t disintegrate on screen is probably a good indication that they’re okay – but at this point, we wouldn’t be surprised if Avengers 4 had a few more gut-punches in store. (Am I the only one concerned about Pepper?)
As the dust settles, literally, our heroes look around in horror with none of the Infinity Stones within their reach and no idea what to do next. For now, at least, the war is over, and Thanos has won. We’ll have to wait until May 3, 2019 to find out how – or if – the Avengers will be able to fix what the Mad Titan broke.
For more on Avengers: Infinity War, check out our deep dive into what the Soul Stone does, explainer on the film’s post-credits scene, theories on whether the movie’s deaths are permanent, and all the easter eggs and references we spotted. Plus find out how its Rotten Tomatoes score compares to other MCU movies, learn what Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige had to say about how the next Spider-Man movie will be a return to “normal life” following Avengers 4, and find out who played Red Skull for the character’s surprise cameo (since it’s not who you think).
And if you need cheering up, watch Spider-Man’s Tom Holland and Doctor Strange’s Benedict Cumberbatch interview each other, learn about all the MCU rumors that turned out to be false, discover whether future Marvel movies will movie away from adapting existing comics’ stories, and find out why Bruce Banner can’t change into the Hulk in Infinity War.