As viewers of Avengers: Infinity War can attest, there were several key moments where the tide of battle could have gone differently. J.R.R. Tolkien used to refer to such moments as a “eucatastrophes” – a sudden rush of good fortune. Of course, that good fortune all depends on the needs of the story and the actions of the characters.
Spoilers follow from here.
The characters in Infinity War certainly had chances to prevent Thanos (Josh Brolin) from completing his legendary snap of the gauntleted fingers, but as the fourth Avengers film next year will see the survivors attempting to put things right, his victory in Infinity War was assured. Nonetheless, there are a handful of characters who could have been instrumental in preventing Thanos from completing his goal. Here are five Marvel Cinematic Universe characters who share the blame for his success and the snap heard around the cosmos.
Let’s just start with this one as it sticks in the craw of a lot of MCU fans. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) lost his cool when confronted with the possibility that Gamora (Zoe Saldana) was dead. In the battle on Titan, Peter was meant to be part of the group forcing the Infinity Gauntlet off Thanos’ hand while Mantis (Pom Klementieff) pacified the Mad Titan. But along the way, Thanos began to talk about his personal sacrifice – offering Gamora up so he could gain the Soul Stone – and it hampered Peter’s ability to process any other new information.
Many wondered why Peter assumed Thanos was telling the truth and why he could be so easily swayed. In fact, the moment almost breaks the character in order for Thanos to achieve his victory over Iron Man’s (Robert Downey Jr.) team. It is a fair criticism of the film; which really didn’t have the room to note the passage of time between Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Infinity War beyond Thanos derisively referring to Peter as “the boyfriend” and the one kiss we see. In order for the moment to work, one has to assume Peter and Gamora have been a couple for a while. Then again, his jealousy of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) suggests they are nowhere near a commitment; which once again makes Peter’s easy distraction at the key moment suspect.
Whether it was just a failing of Peter as manchild or the character getting the short straw due to plotting needs, it leaves Peter with a lot of the blame. Without the Time Stone, Thanos could not have undone Vision and Scarlet Witch’s (Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen) sacrifice.
The God of Thunder was the best chance of defeating Thanos on sheer strength alone. He also had his new axe, Stormbreaker, to aid him in getting to Earth in time and harnessing his abilities to stick the landing. And yet, Thor ultimately failed as he aims for Thanos’s chest instead of hacking his gloved hand off or going for the headshot, a tactical error the Mad Titan addresses just as he snaps his fingers.
Yeah, he definitely shares some of the blame here alongside Peter Quill.
Co-director Joe Russo recently suggested Thor had a reason for choosing the chest-hit: he wanted to gloat over Thanos and let him know he got his revenge. A motivation which makes sense when you hear it – even if it is a huge tactical error – but does not come across effectively in the film itself; making Thor’s attempted deathblow an even greater mistake. But at least Thor is still around to learn, once again, that his hubris is his greatest enemy. Maybe it will be a lesson he finally takes to heart this time.
And if we’re assigning blame on tactical prowess, then Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) deserves to sit at that table as well. Despite the awesome power of the Time Stone to create time loops and prevent catastrophe, he ultimately abdicates the Stone to Thanos. Now, anyone familiar with event comic book crossovers or this sort of operatic pulp storytelling knows that Strange is seeing the long game. As he tells Tony, this is the only scenario in which they ultimately win. But it still left plenty of audiences stunned as he, the Guardians, and Peter Parker (Tom Holland) blew away into the Titan sky.
Also, going back to Peter Quill’s screw-up, we have to assume Strange went along with a plan he knew would fail just for the sake of making his ultimate surrender look convincing. Which, in the long game, will probably prove successful, but makes the Titan fight so much sound and fury – and that’s a shame as the Titan fight is the best fight in the movie.
There is the possibility everyone was playacting during the fight to sell Strange’s capitulation to Thanos, but Tony’s surprise as they all vanished seemed truly genuine.
So Doctor Strange’s portion of the blame may not be as large as Peter Quill’s or Thor’s hefty servings, but there is still some blame to share as he kept the full nature of the future to himself.
Like Peter Quill’s screw-up, Wanda Maximoff earns her measure of blame for a very similar reason: the depth and strength of her love for someone else. In this case, it is Vision, the android powered by the Mind Stone on a journey toward humanity. As Marvel Comics readers know, Vision and Scarlet Witch have a long, storied, and occasionally troubling romance. The MCU version of that relationship appears to be only beginning in Captain America: Civil War, but is in full bloom as Infinity War first finds the characters on a romantic getaway in Scotland. That leap in their relationship status left plenty of movie-only Marvel fans confused if they were unaware of the character’s comic past, making Wanda’s reticence to destroy the Mind Stone all the more baffling.
Considering Vision immediately offered himself up for the greater good and explained how she could make the Mind Stone disappear, Wanda’s reluctance to atomize the Stone seemed bull-headed without an extra movie to convey the reality of their relationship. In fact, her hesitation at the end of the film was definitely a topic of discussion heard as audiences left theaters over the last two weeks. If she had just destroyed the stone when they first arrived in Wakanda, Thanos would’ve been defeated.
Unless, of course, he was able to use the Time Stone, go back hours instead of seconds, and retrieve the final piece of his gauntlet.
With that in mind, Wanda’s share of the blame may not be as large as Peter Quill’s or Thor’s, but a case can be made for it — especially from viewers unaware of just how much she and Vision loved one another.
While Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has a reasonable excuse for sitting out Infinity War – accepting the terms of the Sokovia Accords and house-arrest to be closer to his daughter – it has not stopped people from noting he could have offered a valuable resource to Captain America’s (Chris Evans) Earthbound team.
The scenario you might hear while leaving the theater is this: Scott could shrink down to a size imperceptible to Thanos and sneak his way into the Infinity Gauntlet. Then, at a key moment, grow and help push the glove off the Mad Titan’s hand.
Granted, this strategy would require everyone on Cap’s team fully understanding the nature of the Gauntlet prior to leaving for Wakanda. They also would have needed to convince Scott to break his house-arrest and endanger his connection with Cassie (Abby Ryder Forston). With that in mind, it is understandable why Cap dismisses calling Scott into the field at that moment.
Then again, Scott would’ve likely been all in had someone bothered to ask him, but he still would’ve failed once Thanos sensed his presence. So his measure of the blame is confined to a single saltine cracker’s worth as the theory of how he might have helped crumbles into dust.
Sure, Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) has a lot on his plate at the moment: he just got back from a horrendous future where the Kree control the remains of an exploded Earth, his original wound from Loki’s (Tom Hiddleston) scepter in Marvel’s Avengers is threatening to consume his body again, and his old ally Glenn Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) absorbed all the Gravitonium Hydra collected (long story) and threatens to split open the planet himself to get more of the substance buried deep in the Earth.
But thanks to the alien confederacy orbiting Earth, Coulson is also aware of Thanos now and could offer assistance or a word of warning to his old allies, the Avengers. Well, provided that they even knew he was still alive and defending the Earth in his own way from Hydra remnants, evil books from the Dark Dimension, and the impending Kree occupation.
Now, to be fair, he is facing an immediate threat from Talbot, whose already damaged brain is becoming further unhinged by the minds stuck in the Gravitonium, and it seems the Black Order’s New York attack began only as Coulson was learning about Thanos. But if he is to share any of the blame, it stems back from his decision to never tell the Avengers he came back from the dead. Their combined resources might have made a big difference against both of their current foes.
Then again, expecting a lot of crossover between Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Marvel movies is a tall ask these days.
Of course, the blame game might be an academic pursuit once we see the results of Strange’s choice in next year’s fourth Avengers film. But in the meantime, it offers a thought experiment as tantalizing as choosing a side during Captain America: Civil War or deciding whether Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) or Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) is the better life-mate for Cap. And if assigning blame to characters in Infinity War is anything like those debates, it will go on long after the fifth Avengers film.