Warning: Spoilers abound for Avengers: Infinity War. Obviously.
So you’ve seen Avengers: Infinity War (because if you haven’t you shouldn’t be here, because this right here is Spoiler Town). And having seen the Avengers: Infinity War ending, you now either want to talk about the Avengers: Infinity War post-credits scene, want the post-credits scene explained, had to run to the bathroom before the post-credits scene and want it describing to you, or really just need a hug after everything that just went down in the movie and are hoping you’ll find someone here who understands what you’re going through.
I do understand, by the way. All my e-hugs are yours. Because Spider-Man, right?
But yes, that damn ending. We should discuss it. Because not only does Infinity War conclude with the ballsiest conclusion in all of the MCU, but its post-credits scene is a direct continuation of the story, and sets up some huge things for the MCU going forward. Even huger than you might think, actually, once referenced against one or two small, easy-to-miss details earlier in the movie.
But to get started, what actually happens? Well, with Thanos having Resolutely Goddamn Won, half of the Avengers dead or swiftly vanishing from existence along with 50% of all life in the universe, and everyone bar the big purple conqueror in a broken state of disarray, we refocus to New York, at the same time that the Wakandan finale is occurring. Nick Fury and Maria Hill are driving through the city as humans start vanishing left, right, and centre. A van, now bereft of its driver, tumbles down the street, causing just one of many pile-ups. Things are rapidly falling apart, and the pair aren’t slow to realise that something very, very big is happening.
Quickly analysing reports of the arrival of Thanos’ forces in Wakanda, they recognise the similarity of the incursion’s signature to that of the fleet that attacked New York in the first Avengers movie, and conclude with no small amount of urgency exactly what is going on. Getting out of the vehicle, Fury grabs some kind of paging device from the back seat, and starts hammering out a message. But just as he hits ‘Send’, Thanos’ life-devouring half-apocalypse claims him too, disintegrating the SHIELD founder and leaving only an unfinished ‘Motherf’ floating on the death-laden breeze. The camera pulls down to show the pager lying on the road, and on its screen we see the communication still sending, the confirmation message overlaid upon Captain Marvel’s logo.
So, questions. The first one we need to consider is why, in this time of unprecedented global doom, does Fury call Captain Marvel rather than any of the Avengers. At this point he doesn’t know what’s happening to them, and with Captain Marvel not yet having been part of the on-screen MCU narrative, you would naturally assume that Steve, Tony and co. would be the go-to. Clearly, something big and so far unexplored has been going on. To be Fury’s first thought, Carol Danvers must have some sort of specific, pre-existing relationship with the events currently unfurling. 2019’s Captain Marvel movie is going to be a ‘90s-set prequel filling in narrative gaps a couple of decades before the start of the MCU proper, and in light of Infinity War’s post-credits scene, we can now pretty assuredly expect it to set up some serious lore leading to Thanos’ eventual conquest.
Why so certain? Even before Infinity War, we knew that Ronan, the villain from Guardians of the Galaxy, would be making an appearance in Captain Marvel’s solo movie. Ronan has strong ties to Thanos, so that throws Danvers right into the long-term cosmic doom narrative long before the Avengers ever considered off-world shenanigans to be an issue.
We also need to consider some of Thanos’ actions in Infinity War. Specifically the point, just before he sacrificially hurls Gamora off that cliff, that he explains that he once gave up on his destiny and cannot do so again. When exactly did he do that? Again, we’re presented with a snippet of past MCU lore we’re entirely unaware of. With the Captain Marvel movie scheduled for release just a couple of months before Avengers 4, in March 2019, all signs increasingly point toward it giving some pivotal answers that will inform the Infinity War story.
And while we’re on the subject of time-jumps, we need to discuss Doctor Strange and Ant-Man. Strange seems to throw the fight in Infinity War, handing the Time Stone to Thanos in exchange for Iron Man’s life. After resolutely defending the stone up until that point, there’s no way his actions are as straightforward as they seem. Earlier in the film he conspicuously states that he’d let Tony die before giving up the gem. Stephen is very much Up To Something. Through meditation, he’s already seen the solitary timeline in which the Avengers beat Thanos, so surely he too is aware of the previously unknown, bigger-picture causality at play here.
Ant-Man is also very obviously missing from the Infinity War. And his next film, Ant-Man and the Wasp, is also set to appear before Avengers 4. I highly doubt this is a coincidence either. Ant-Man has access to the Quantum Realm, the subatomic domain that exists outside space and time, and there’s a strong belief that it will feature prominently in his upcoming sequel. So, we have a hero from the past with a deep but hitherto unexplained relationship with the current situation. We have a current (now dead) hero who’s seen through time and is aware of the long-game. We have a (presumably still alive) hero with the potential to travel outside space-time. And we have a universe utterly broken and seemingly irreparable via normal means.
The conclusion? The same one we predicted before Infinity War. Avengers 4 will be a time-travel movie about rebooting the MCU, and the upcoming Ant-Man and Captain Marvel movies will be the route to getting there. And don’t forget, that universe will be resetting around the same time that Disney and Marvel will be getting ready to use all of those characters that were previously lost to Fox.
So while a bunch of the heroes who are dead at the end of Infinity War will be resurrected (Spider-Man and the Guardians already have confirmed sequels of their own in the future), don’t expect the new MCU to look exactly the same. The appearance of the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Deadpool is almost certain. It’s going to be a hell of a busy time for post-credits teases, and don’t be surprised if a few established Marvel heroes stay gone to make space for the new crop.