It seems increasingly likely to me that Avengers: Endgame could spell the end of Thor Odinson.
We know that there are going to be “real” deaths in Endgame—permanent ones this time, as permanent as fulfilled Marvel contracts can make them. And while I expect a majority of the most dramatic moments in Endgame to feature Iron Man and Captain America, the two leaders of the Avengers franchise, it makes a terrible kind of sense if the biggest sacrifice play ends up being Thor.
Here’s my reasoning. I don’t see Endgame permanently doing away with Tony Stark. Even if Robert Downey Jr. is at the end of his contract, he’s been willing to make extended cameos in the past—see Spider-Man: Homecoming—and it’s hard to imagine that Marvel Studios wouldn’t want to keep him around as the elder statesman of the MCU if they can. I remember seeing fan commentary a while ago that in the absence of Stan Lee, perhaps Downey Jr. could step into the tradition of showing up in passing in every movie; that could be a touching continuance of the Lee legacy.
Further, while we still know little about Endgame‘s plot points, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts is returning, and there’ve been rumors that she and Tony will have a child. Why else have them wedding-planning in Infinity War, where Tony’s dreaming about a baby? I find it highly unlikely that if any of Tony’s matrimonial or familial plots come to fruition that the movie will then see him made dead in its denouement.
Similar logic holds for the rest of the original Avengers. They’ll be bowing out of action to make room for the new guard, but I don’t expect many of them to die. Hawkeye hasn’t had a ton to do as of late, but he appears to play a big role in Endgame, and it’s also unlikely that the movie would have him fighting to reunite with his tragic family (I’m presuming), only to have him die at the end. The Black Widow solo film is in the works, and while we don’t know what time period it’s set in yet, I think that renders Natasha Romanoff safe. Mark Ruffalo has at least one more post-Endgame movie in his Marvel contract, and there’s the potential to do a lot more with the Hulk in the future.
While most of us are dreading that we will soon watch Steve Rogers die, Endgame could defy this long-held expectation once more. (I didn’t expect him to survive Infinity War, to be honest, though that seems like a hundred million years ago.) If the Russos really want to surprise us, in fact, they’d spare Cap. Couple this with a host of conflicting statements from Chris Evans and the Russos about whether this is Evans’ last bow or not, and I’m at sea about what’s going to happen here. CBR made a compelling case in this recent video for why the MCU might choose to have Steve stick around.
Whether Cap and Iron Man stay with us, I’m pretty worried about Thor. Thus far, we haven’t seen much of him in the trailers—first, just a glimpse of him sitting and brooding sadly while wearing a hoodie, and then speaking for the first time in the comedic kicker bit with Carol Danvers in the last trailer. The very lack of focus on him could mean they actually have a lot planned for Thor that we can’t see. It seems to me that Thor is going to spend parts of Endgame on other missions that take him away from his teammates; he’s notably absent for that epic “walk across the airport in white suits” shot, and doesn’t seem to be in several of the Avengers compound scenes we’ve seen.
Thor is also the only character, after Tony and Steve, who has “flashback” footage from his previous film embedded in the official trailer. The three are really the golden trio of MCU Past; each starred in three stand-alone movies and are hugely popular with audiences. But Thor’s story was always a world apart—literally, on another world, that is now so much space dust. While it’s conceivable to imagine Tony and Steve making their way after Thanos, I can only picture Thor feeling unmoored once the fight is over. He could potentially guide the last remaining Asgardians to a safe haven, but I don’t think his ultimate end is settling down to community-build. He’s never been all too keen on being a crowned head.
As I’ve examined in the past, Thor’s supporting characters really got screwed by the MCU. All of his closest friends and family are dead, often brutally slaughtered. His relationship with Jane Foster was concluded offscreen, discussed in a couple of throwaway lines. Asgard got blown to Hel. Thor’s current closest companions aren’t even on the Earthbound side of things—and we imagine Rocket and Groot will be headed back to Guardians space.
While Valkyrie has been confirmed to be gloriously alive, and we might be seeing Korg as well in Endgame, again it’s difficult to see where Thor-based stories would go in the future with the current cast. Tessa Thompson is an incredibly in-demand actress, and she and Hemsworth have a new potential franchise on their hands, co-starring in the upcoming Men in Black International. Taika Waititi is probably not going to often halt directing projects to play a man made of rocks. Tom Hiddleston is committed to the Loki series, and it’s unclear if Loki will return to the present-day timeline. The last few films have attempted to wrap up the entire Thor universe. Even his signature weapon was destroyed, replaced with an unwieldy axe.
There are contrasting reports from Chris Hemsworth himself. Hemsworth has implied that he’d be down to reunite with Waititi, who directed the well-received Thor: Ragnarok, which was a renaissance and remaking of the character. Otherwise, he’s appeared to be quite done, and admittedly bored with Thor’s direction pre-Ragnarok.
A narrative advantage of killing Thor in Endgame is that he is the most “realistically” capable of resurrection in the future if Hemsworth and Waititi struck a new deal down the line. It’s tricky to bring the dead back to life on Earth, and Steve Rogers can be frozen in ice only so many times. But Thor, a mystical godly space-being, doesn’t have to play by the same rules. There’re a million “plausible” ways they could hand-wave him back to life, and the lines between life and death are already blurred in the Thor comics, which have of late taken our hero into being the king of Hel and back.
Beyond all this, Avengers: Infinity War took pains to bring Thor to the forefront, a place he had never occupied in prior Avenger films. He’s the only Avenger with an axe to grind (sorry) against Thanos that was deeply personal pre-Snap. Thanos callously slaughtered half of the Asgardian refugees under Thor’s protection and strangled Thor’s brother just when he and Loki were on good terms again. The Russos also kicked up a big brouhaha about how Thor failed to properly kill Thanos the first time around because … he was too emotional about seeking vengeance or something. Still, he’s now duty-bound to get it right this time, even if it means dying in the process.
While Thor is conceivably easy to bring back in the future, his death in Endgame would be huge and devastating for the audience. That’s why I’m increasingly convinced this is where we’re heading. If I could write the scene, Thor and Nebula—the other person here to have been grievously injured by Thanos pre-Snap—would get to finish off the Mad Titan together, avenging their siblings and their own grief in the process. But what do either of them have waiting on the other side of the fight?
(image: Marvel Studios)
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