Avengers: Infinity War is the endgame of a decade of films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — from the Elon Muskesque origins of 2008’s Iron Man to the geopolitical themes of this year’s Black Panther, and everything good (Spider-Man: Homecoming) and bad (Thor: The Dark World, LOL) in between. The MCU has spent nearly as much time hyping up the arrival of Thanos, a giant alien god who looks like a Josh Brolin who ingested the Willy Wonka blueberry, as the universe’s biggest Big Bad. And after all of that buildup, Thanos’s arrival had to come with some consequences. In short: Some heroes were expected to die.
Even so, the climactic event of Infinity War was cataclysmic, likely beyond most fans’ expectations. Or was it? (Major spoilers for Infinity War ahead, so this is your last chance. Beyond this Jeff Goldblum GIF, it’s your own fault.)
A few thoughts came to mind once Thanos got his hands on all six Infinity Stones and, with the snap of his fingers, wiped out half of Earth’s population, including some of the Avengers, in a rapture-like event. The first was whether HBO’s The Leftovers had grounds to sue (can someone please add Max Richter’s melancholic score to the ending of Infinity War?). The second was, after a fleeting moment of concern, the understanding that these deaths are all very reversible. T’Challa was never going to vanish only a few months after making the third-most money in box office history.
That doesn’t mean that all deaths in Infinity War are meaningless, just that only a few should be considered final. Let’s break down who is likely safe, who’s probably all right despite not being too important, who never showed up (LOL Hawkeye), and who needs poorly edited farewell tributes soundtracked to Blink-182 songs on YouTube.
The Safe Ones
Most deaths in Infinity War didn’t land because the characters who died were cornerstones for future movies, while characters like Iron Man and Captain America — both played by actors whose contracts are likely to expire after the fourth Avengers movie — were left unscathed. There’s at least one Black Panther sequel in the works, and the chances that T’Challa passes on the mantle after just one movie are poor. It’s similarly unlikely that we’ll lose Tom Holland’s Spider-Man — what, are we really going to have a fourth Spider-Man since the early 2000s? Bucky Barnes is surely coming back, given that actor Sebastian Stan has a nine-picture Marvel deal, and the Guardians of the Galaxy probably aren’t permanently gone, either: A third Guardians movie, which is happening, wouldn’t work if the only surviving member of the team was a space raccoon.
While a Doctor Strange sequel hasn’t formally been announced, the character was only just introduced to the MCU, and he’s the only character who knows how to stop Thanos. He ran over 14 million (!) future simulations in his head, and only one scenario involved the fall of Purple Rick Harrison. Conveniently, we don’t know what that plan was, but considering Doctor Strange seemed way too chill about being raptured, that scenario is likely coming to fruition in the next film.
It might feel a bit cynical to write off character deaths because of external factors like franchise potential and actors’ contracts, but the MCU is a multibillion-dollar enterprise: These deaths feel exploitative because they wiped out nearly every young star that matters, and the MCU can’t possibly survive in the long term without reverse-engineering this event. Good thing the MacGuffins — er, Infinity Stones, can literally reverse time.
The Safe-ish Ones That Don’t Have Franchise Potential
Along with the aforementioned heroes, the Scarlet Witch and Falcon — plus former S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives Maria Hill and Nick Fury in the film’s post-credits scene — are also raptured. With respect to all these characters, it’s very unlikely that any of them will be headlining their own movies, but that doesn’t mean they’re goners.
If Infinity War’s ending is reversed and heroes like Black Panther and Spider-Man are brought back to life, the characters in this category will probably be resurrected for the sake of continuity. Nick Fury and Maria Hill are guaranteed to show up in Captain Marvel next year — though the movie takes place in the 1990s, and may not address the events of Infinity War at all, with the exception of a flash-forward post-credits sequence.
Still, because they died in the cataclysm that must be reversed, these heroes are all probably safe, despite their relative insignificance to the MCU.
You Weren’t in the Movie So You’re Probably Fine?
Both Ant-Man and Hawkeye never show up in Infinity War — but with the amount of characters already crammed into the movie, it’s not like their presence was needed. Ant-Man has a sequel arriving in July, so he should be safe. And even a hero as unimportant as Hawkeye wouldn’t unceremoniously vanish offscreen; that’s only reserved for the likes of Edward Norton and Natalie Portman.
If nothing else, the next Avengers movie might use both characters to service the story, but good luck to the screenwriters for finding a way to have Hawkeye’s arrows make any impact against a giant alien that can bend the fabric of time.
Before Thanos snapped his fingers, we did lose a few characters that probably won’t — and, frankly, shouldn’t — return. Idris Elba’s Heimdall was barely seen and completely underutilized in the Thor movies. Giving the actor a clean slate is in everyone’s best interests, and specifically in my interests if this frees up Elba to do a James Bond movie.
The AI hero Vision was at the top of our Infinity War death pool, and for good reason: The dude literally had an Infinity Stone on his forehead. When Thanos ripped it out of him, we lost Vision — almost assuredly for good. Even though this happened right before Thanos raptured half of Earth, Vision is as inconsequential to the MCU’s grander scheme as Falcon or Scarlet Witch.
Finally, while Loki has escaped peril several times in this franchise, Thanos choking him to death in the film’s opening sequence felt final. It was the foreboding entrance that begets a villain as menacing as Thanos — what better way to show the MCU’s biggest villain is not messing around than murdering the bad guy from the original Avengers movie? Thanos also says, “No resurrections this time,” in Infinity War’s most meta moment and a clear wink to the audience. Loki is almost certainly gone — and Thor will have to make do with his Earth pals, and at least a couple of hugs. (Seriously, he’s lost his brother, dad, and sister in the span of two movies; this Norse god needs a vacation!)
RIP … Maybe?
The one death that stood as Infinity War’s most impactful is also its most complicated: To get the Soul Stone, Thanos had to sacrifice someone he loved, and in his own twisted way, he loves his daughter Gamora. Throwing her off a cliff to her death was hands down the most shocking and heartbreaking moment of the movie. It also happens way before the Infinity Gauntlet is completed and half of the planet is scrubbed.
If the MCU actually killed off Gamora, it would irreversibly affect the dynamic of the Guardians of the Galaxy, who, again, have at least one more movie coming out. Actress Zoe Saldana implied her own involvement in the fourth Avengers movie — and even gave away the movie’s supposed title! — which suggests she’ll somehow be revived. But if that does happen, why not reverse time even further and save every other character who died in Infinity War? If so, did any of this even matter?
That’s the tricky line that the MCU has to walk with the next Avengers movie, and it’s what The Ringer’s Sean Fennessey pointed out in his review: “The very thing that makes it an effective, entertaining blockbuster is the same thing that undermines it: Those stakes are basically meaningless.”
Gamora’s death encapsulates the Marvel dilemma more than any other moment in Infinity War. That I expect Gamora to return is an indictment of the MCU itself: Most of the deaths in this movie feel like empty calories. If Gamora were irreversibly killed, it would be the weighty punch to the gut this cinematic universe sorely needs.