**SPOILERS FOR INFINITY WAR. SO MANY SPOILERS.**
We tried our hand at predicting who would die for months, but that doesn’t mean that we were ready to see it happen.
It’s hard to know how to process the deaths in Infinity War. While most of us close Infinity War-watchers were primed for a few poignant goodbyes, Thanos’ use of the Gauntlet and its subsequent deletion of half the universe’s population was … something else entirely.
At the critics’ screening I attended, we all sat there in stunned silence through the end credits. At a screening on opening night, the audience around me was more vocal, yelling, cursing, and shouting comments at the screen as what was happening at the end became apparent. I’ve seen reports of sobbing children and people joking that they’re going to sue the Russos to cover the therapy that they require after Infinity War. Everyone had a strong reaction, whether you loved or hated the film.
However, as hard as the end landed, we know that some—if not all—of those “dusted” characters will be returning. Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa is the star of what is poised to be the most successful superhero franchise going forward. Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes has at least five more movies in his contract (we hope the same is true for Anthony Mackie’s Falcon). We’ve only had one Doctor Strange movie, but he’s been tipped as a big part of Marvel’s future. All of the Guardians save Rocket are gone, but Guardians Vol. 3 is going to happen. And a second Spider-Man has already been announced.
The knowledge that these characters will be returning eventually did not stop some of those dustings from hurting a lot—and there were some deaths that may not be reversed going forward. Here are the exits that the internet (and me) seem to be collectively mourning the most.
I have a lot of conflicting feelings about this death. I’ve been predicting and prepared for it for months. I wrote a manifesto about why Loki would not be betraying Thor this time around. (I was right.) Even so, it was an extremely difficult scene to watch, and by far Infinity War‘s most gruesome death.
Starting the movie off by strangling a fan favorite is an interesting choice on the Russos’ part. They’d already spoken on how the beginning of Infinity War would quickly establish Thanos as the MCU’s biggest villain, and I suppose Asgardian genocide and murdering Loki in front of his brother is a way to do that. The violence of the Asgardian slaughter and Loki’s death seemed gratuitous, but I guess it got across the message that Thanos meant business. And it set a traumatized Thor off on a mission to gain a weapon capable of killing Thanos and avenging his brother and his people.
I don’t hate everything about Loki’s death. If the character had to be killed off, at least he was made to go out in style. Fans had long been afraid that Infinity War would see Loki turning back to his villainous ways and betraying Thor once again. But he does not. Instead, he only hands over the Tesseract when Thanos threatens Thor, and he jumps to shield Thor when the Hulk comes out to rage against Thanos.
Then Loki returns to the scene in an attempt to kill Thanos that is nothing short of a suicide mission. He gets to proudly announce his heritage—both an Asgardian prince and the rightful king of Jotunheim—and at the last, he names himself Odinson, a name that he’s been denying since the events of Thor seven years ago. Loki comes full-circle in a single scene, returning to his introduction as his brother’s trusted companion, and Tom Hiddleston’s excellent performance does a lot with those few spare moments. This time around, no one would say that Loki lacked conviction.
What’s most upsetting about this death is that Loki may not be coming back again. He wasn’t dusted by the Gauntlet; he was strangled by Thanos. “No resurrections this time,” Thanos says of the famously rejuvenating Loki. And Loki looked pretty damned dead. Then again, there was a similar “death” at the end of Thor: The Dark World, so you never know—maybe the God of Mischief will have one last trick up his sleeve. He did promise Thor that the sun would shine on them again, after all.
I didn’t expect to be moved by the Vision/Wanda plotline, but you have to give Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen credit for basically creating a whole convincing relationship out of scraps, acting the hell out of it, and making the audience care about them via a mere handful of scenes. I had anticipated that Vision would be the MacGuffin of Infinity War, as an entity given life by the Mind stone in his forehead, and that he was always going to be driving the plot forward as our heroes fought to protect him from those who wanted the stone. In some ways, that’s true. But Vision got to transcend the usual MacGuffin definition of lacking intrinsic importance through his humanizing romance.
Just as Marvel has struggled with strong villains, it has often dropped the ball where romances are concerned. But Vision/Wanda worked for me. You believed that these two cared for each other and had been slowly developing a relationship in the two years that passed since Civil War. Their relationship even seems surprisingly healthy and even-keeled considering what they’ve gone through, and that Vision is a sort of all-powerful synthetic android comprised of many parts.
I love the moment when Bruce Banner points out that Vision is made from Ultron, Tony Stark, himself, and JARVIS, but that, if they can find a way to remove the Mind stone, Vision is also himself underneath, and what’s left behind may be the best of all. As Vision tries to make his friends and lover recognize the error of trying to save him at the cost of so many other lives, it’s not hard to understand what Wanda sees in him.
Infinity War is a movie that revolves around losing what one loves the most, often actively sacrificing it, and this is what makes Vision’s first death so powerful. He and Wanda are finally out of time, and for the greater good, Wanda destroys the Mind stone and thus the man she loves. It’s a wrenching scene with Vision on his knees before her, giving her back the line “I only feel you,” as Wanda has to undertake the worst task that could be asked of her. But the worst is still to come, when Thanos uses the time stone to reverse their sacrifice and Vision must die again, brutally, in front of Wanda.
As with Loki, it’s questionable if Vision can ever come back. He also does not die because of the Gauntlet snap, and it’s difficult to imagine that he’s not among the characters that the Russos promised would stay dead after the events of Infinity War. We feel you, Vision.
I know, I know. He’ll be back eventually. But that knowledge didn’t make Bucky’s dusting any less horrific when it happened. As the first casualty of Thanos using the Gauntlet that we see onscreen, Bucky’s loss is meant to shock, and it does. We’re totally unprepared for it to happen, and as Quicksilver might say, You didn’t see that coming? No, I didn’t.
It hurt to see Bucky fall to literal pieces in front of his best friend/boyfriend (depending on which corner of fandom you’re in), Steve Rogers. Bucky’s confused query to Cap as he starts to turn to dust—”Steve?”—manages to be one of the most tragic moments in a movie rooted in tragedy.
It’s also a call-back to a happier time when Steve rescued Bucky in Europe during World War II, finding him on a prison camp’s experimentation table. “Steve,” Bucky says then, incredulous and amazed. But this is its opposite, and I hate everything.
Context also matters in considering why it wrenched so much to see Bucky go. After seventy-five years spent brainwashed as the brutal killing machine The Winter Soldier, Bucky was finally getting another chance. He survived Civil War and chose to be refrozen in Wakanda until a solution could be found for his still-programmed brain, afraid that he would be dangerous otherwise. Thanks to Shuri’s genius, he gets “rebooted,” and seemingly has had a long rehabilitative stay in Wakanda.
“I love this place,” Bucky says when Wakanda’s shields keep back the first wave of the Outrider attack, and you can see that it’s true. When he reunites with Steve and the other Avengers, there’s a genuine smile on Bucky’s face for the first time since the beginning of 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger. That was seven years ago for us, and more than seventy-five for Bucky.
This respite from the hardships Bucky’s endured turns out to be terribly brief, and therein lies why the loss tugs the heartstrings. It also has the double whammy of how it does and will affect Steve going forward. Let’s consider: Steve was devastated when Bucky fell from the train in First Avenger, devastated to find his best friend/boyfriend turned into the enemy in Winter Soldier, devastated enough by the idea of losing Bucky again that he chooses a side in Civil War on his account and fights Tony Stark into submission. He’s devastated in the closing scene of Infinity War, collapsed to the ground where Bucky fell.
“Best friends since childhood, Bucky Barnes and Steven Rogers were inseparable on both schoolyard and battlefield,” the museum exhibition drives home in Winter Soldier. Yet once more they’re forcibly separated, and Steve has had to watch Bucky seemingly die twice and been powerless to stop it. When Avengers 4 starts, Cap will presumably be dealing with the loss of his two best friends. (Sam was dusted also, but at least not in Steve’s line of sight. Small favors.)
Hasn’t Steve been consumed by grief long enough? It’s even worse to imagine that Avengers 4 will probably also end in Cap’s death and that Steve and Bucky will likely never get to take that friend vacation/honeymoon that they deserve. I just made myself sad again.
Yet somehow the saddest death of all is the character with the least history in the MCU. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man had a charming cameo in Civil War and won fans in his not-bad-at-all first outing, Spider-Man: Homecoming. Holland is a popular Spider-Man, with his eager charm and good humor, and it’s testament to how much Holland has made the character his own that Peter’s dusting managed to rock audiences to their core.
First of all, it was one of the most unexpected to see. Going into Infinity War, Peter looked like one of the few sure bets to emerge intact. He’s just a kid, as Tony Stark likes to remind him: Peter is 15 or 16 in this universe, still riding a schoolbus. An ingenious and also hilarious part of Infinity War, Peter more than earned his “knighting” as an Avenger. So when the heroes on Titan started to fall victim to the Gauntlet snap, most probably expected that Peter wouldn’t be going anywhere.
But—to drive the knife in even deeper—Peter’s Spidey sense seemed to clue him in as to what was happening before it happened. “Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good,” he says. That’s the point where most of us lost it.
“Mr. Stark I don’t feel so good” pic.twitter.com/dOFOkexLLD
— deluss. (@mamasupermalt) April 28, 2018
“I don’t know whats happening,” Peter says, though he can sense that something terrible is. And then follows a shockingly heartbreaking scene in which a teenager fades to dust in his mentor’s arms while pleading not to die. “I don’t want to go. I don’t want to go, sir, please, please, I don’t want to go. I don’t want to go.”
As though this weren’t the worst departing lines we can imagine, Peter’s last words to Tony are, “I’m sorry,” as though he feels he must apologize for not being able to stay.
There were audible gasps and people crying around me as this occurred. I’m not feeling so great myself after typing out Peter’s goodbye.
What’s clear as I recount these moments is that the Russo brothers did not come to Infinity War to play around, and the stakes for Avengers 4 are incredibly high. Though Avengers 4 will presumably find a way of reversing much of this death and damage, there are some in the MCU who will not be restored to us, and exits that we will never be able to quite forget. Infinity War altered an entire universe, and nothing will be the same again.
Whose death are you still processing? Let’s do some grief counseling in the comments.
(images: Marvel Studios)
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