Avengers Infinity War post-credits scene

Avengers: Infinity War is not only the biggest movie Marvel Studios has ever made, it’s also one of its bleakest. This is not a film that sends people out of the theater laughing and high-fiving. It’s more akin to a cinematic concussion grenade, something that knocks the wind out of you. But it’s not entirely hopeless: the Avengers: Infinity War post-credits scene leaves us with the tiniest sliver of optimism.

Major spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War follow.

Avengers Infinity War Trailer Breakdown - Thanos

A Bleak Conclusion

After the Battle of Wakanda, Thanos shows up in Black Panther’s homeland to steal the Mind Stone from Vision’s forehead. The Mad Titan allows Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch to think she’s sacrificed her lover for the greater good, only to cruelly turn back time using the Time Stone and rip the Stone from Vision’s forehead anyway, leaving him a lifeless, darkened husk. Thor swings in at the last minute and tries to kill Thanos once and for all, but Thanos manages to snap his fingers and wipe out half of humanity – including a significant number of The Avengers themselves. Chris Evans‘ Captain America, one of the members we were sure would die by the end of this film, is still alive, and as he collapses to the ground while many of his friends turn to dust around him, he’s hit with the realization that he’s failed. Thanos, finally satisfied, breathes a sigh of relief. Credits.

But the post-credits scene doesn’t let us walk out of the theater completely depressed. We see S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) driving through the streets of New York, and suddenly the effects of Thanos’ destruction catch up with them. A helicopter crashes into a nearby building, its pilot vanished. Hill herself fades into dust before Fury’s eyes – or, uh, eye – and he springs into action. Just before he, too, blows away (with a perfectly timed “motherf–” line), he manages to pull out a mysterious device and send a signal. The camera pans down to the device on the New York streets, and we see the logo of Captain Marvel before the film cuts to black.

Captain Marvel Details

A Beacon of Hope (and a Tease for Another Movie)

The device Fury used is old technology (it almost looks like a pager), which reflects the 1990s setting of Captain Marvel’s upcoming solo movie, which hits theaters a few months before next year’s Avengers 4. Using that device appears to be some kind of apocalyptic contingency plan – Fury must have agreed to call Carol Danvers back if things ever went to hell. And while he trusted that The Avengers could handle the threats of previous movies, people turning to ash in front of him takes things to a whole new level. It’s time to call in the big guns. This at least partially explains why Captain Marvel is a prequel movie – her big re-appearance after all these years will come when the world, and The Avengers, need her the most.

We know Captain Marvel will star Brie Larson as the title character and Samuel L. Jackson as a younger Nick Fury (with both eyes), so we’ll presumably see the start of their relationship and maybe learn what kind of deal she made to return to action if called upon. But why did she leave in the first place, and where is she now? As far as I can tell, there are two choices: she’s somewhere in the vast reaches of outer space, maybe doing battle with the Skrulls. Or – and to me, the more likely option – she’s in an alternate dimension, maybe even the Quantum Realm.

If Captain Marvel is in space, that would mean she’d have aged like a normal human – look at Peter Quill, who was a boy on Earth before being whisked across the galaxy to grow up into Chris Pratt. If Larson is playing Carol Danvers in a movie set in the 1990s, there has to be some explanation for her not aging if she joins the action in the modern timeline in Avengers 4. Maybe the alien DNA that’s fused with her character’s in Captain Marvel makes her immortal. Or maybe, just maybe, she’s in the Quantum Realm, where time might not work quite the same way it does in our world. We’ll find out soon.

Captain Marvel arrives in theaters on March 6, 2019. Avengers 4 hits on May 3, 2019.

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