HEAT VISION

Do 'Avengers: Endgame' Flashbacks Reveal How It All Ends?

The trailer's emphasis on earlier Marvel Studios films may offer a glimpse of how the 11-year saga concludes.

Avengers: Endgame is almost upon us.

Thursday's trailer offered up new footage interspersed with black, white and red-hued flashbacks showing moments from the last decade of Marvel Cinematic Universe films. It was an emotional gambit, one meant to remind audiences of the heroes that have been lost, the ones they love, and the struggles they've overcome in their battle to beat Thanos (Josh Brolin).

It was more of an atmosphere piece than something with a heavily structured narrative, but the prominence of the flashbacks may hint at the eventual fate of the Infinity Stones, which have been at the core of the MCU for over 10 years.

The seeds of this theory go all the way back to 1992's Warlock and the Infinity Watch, a comic that followed directly from 1991's The Infinity Gauntlet (which itself inspired much of the Avengers: Infinity War film).

The comic, from writer Jim Starlin and artist Angel Medina, tells the story of Adam Warlock, who, after defeating Thanos, wields the power of the Gauntlet, but his reign of power is brief as Warlock is put on trial by a group of cosmic entities. The most important moment in the first issue comes when the cosmic court — made up of the most powerful and oldest being in the universe — decides that Warlock must split the six Infinity Gems apart (they're called stones in the Marvel Cinematic Universe).

In the second issue of the series, the Infinity Watch is assembled, with Drax and Gamora given the Power Gem and Time Gem, respectively, and the rest going to some now-lesser-known heroes like Pip the Troll, who was given the Space Gem, and the telepathic martial artist Moondragon, who was entrusted with the Mind Gem. Warlock kept possession of the Soul Gem, which he possessed long before it was placed in the Infinity Gauntlet. And, although he keeps it a secret from the others, Warlock gives the Reality Gem to Thanos, who has re-formed after the events of The Infinity Gauntlet.

However, as with many schemes in comics, things don't quite go to plan. The initial concept was a smart one: Separate the Stones so that no one being can wield them all and become omnipotent. It's an idea which has been revisited in the comics since and could open up a way for the original lineup of the Avengers to leave the Marvel Cinematic Universe story without dying.

That brings us to the Endgame trailer. What if those innocuous flashbacks aren't so innocuous? What if they hint at which Avengers might retire with which Stone and what they'll do with it?

The trailer begins with Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) speaking to Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow). We see his memories of the two, including his original arc reactor, which she gave him as a gift to remind him of his heart. It's a solemn moment and, alongside the later reveal that Tony makes it back to Earth sans suit, it looks like Stark has fully realized the dangers of ultimate power. This is why he would be the perfect person to hold the Power Stone. His flashback leans into the idea that after defeating Thanos he will finally retire as Iron Man because he will have actually learned the concept of responsibility. Perhaps he will realize that his focus should be on his family and his new mission of hiding the Power Gem (along with living a peaceful life with Pepper).

Captain America (Chris Evans) has long been a fan favorite, and this trailer offers up a potential farewell for him that could see him reunited with his "nest girl." If the stones being separated is the only way to truly protect Earth and the rest of the galaxy, perhaps Steve will be given the Time Stone. If he's entrusted to hold the power of time travel, which is a likely choice as he is essentially incorruptible, then his flashback offers up an interesting theory.

The sequence begins with Steve's beloved Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) saying a line from Captain America: The Winer Soldier: "All we can do is our best, and sometimes the best we can do is start over." Could Steve take the Time Stone back into the past to protect it, starting over once again with the woman he left behind? It would be a heartfelt goodbye for the sweetest Avenger, who's earned a happy ending 1,000 times over, as well as a very solid way of making sure that the Time Stone will never be unearthed by the villains of the future.

During Thor's (Chris Hemsworth) flashback, we see him coming to terms with the deaths of all of those who were dusted during Thanos' decimation. He's clearly unable to rid himself of the guilt stemming from his failure to destroy Thanos with Stormbreaker. But Odinson seems to have a clear path ahead of him as he comes to terms with the losses he's suffered. His memories of his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), play a large part, and it was established in Thor: Ragnarok that Asgard is not a place but a people. If any of Earth's Mightiest Heroes were most likely to be given the keys to the galaxy with the Space Stone, it would surely be Thor. The trailer shows him dreaming of Asgard, and with the Space Stone in his hands, he would finally be able to find a new home for his people in the stars, as well as protecting the stone from the evils of others.

One more theory gleaned from Thor's sequence involves the death of Vision (Paul Bettany) and the Mind Stone. For fans of the comics, the white and grey hue of the trailer may have seemed familiar, especially when it got to the sequence of Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) disappearing over the body of her dead robot lover. After his mind and programming were wiped in the comics, Vision came back as a white-bodied android — which was visually referenced as he died in Infinity War — who was far more machine than man. Though he doesn't get his own moment here, his prominence in Thor's flashback suggests that Vision's future likely lies with the Mind Stone and the possibility of his being rebuilt once the stone is saved from Thanos' grasp.

That leaves two more stones, Soul and Reality. With many fans theorizing that Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is trapped inside the Soul Stone, perhaps she will take control of that gem once she's freed. Or maybe we'll get a new trailer that focuses on two other Avengers who may get to escape the world-saving life and retire with a shiny new souvenir.

Whatever happens, we'll find out if this theory plays out when Avengers: Endgame hits theaters on April 26.

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