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Avengers: Infinity War's biggest unanswered questions

Well, that just happened.

Avengers: Infinity War has finally arrived, and after 10 years and 19 movies, the Marvel Cinematic Universe brought almost all of its major characters together in a mind-blowing epic battle for the fate of the universe that almost defies description — and understanding. Thanos is finally here, and he definitely means business — as do directors Joe and Anthony Russo, who delivered all the incredible set pieces and laugh-out-loud one-liners fans could ask for, all while setting up one whopper of a cliffhanger ending setting up Avengers 4. As shell-shocked fans stumble from the theater and head directly into group therapy, though, there are more than a few loose ends that need typing up. Wondering what happened to your favorite character, or what that shocking moment in the final act really means? Luckily, we're here to help you piece your life back together with this spoiler-filled look at the biggest unanswered questions in Avengers: Infinity War.

What is Doctor Strange's plan?

If there's one thing we know from watching his faceoff against Dormammu, it's that Doctor Strange isn't an idiot. So it seemed pretty, you know, strange that he just up and handed over the Time Stone to Thanos in exchange for Tony Stark's life after explicitly stating earlier in the film that he would happily sacrifice Iron Man in order to protect the Stone.

Obviously, Strange has some sort of secret plan. He told the others he'd used the Time Stone to glimpse millions of possible outcomes of their battle against Thanos, and only seen one future reality where they'd won. He then told Stark after handing over the Time Stone that they had entered the "end game," and just before dying, he reiterated that he gave Thanos the Stone because it was the "only way." Obviously, he has a plan. Unfortunately, since he didn't bother telling anyone what it was, it's going to be pretty hard for the rest of the heroes to follow through on it — so here's hoping a lot of random luck factors into that 1 in 14 million chance of getting it right. 

What role will Captain Marvel play?

At the end of the film, after what seemed like hours of credits, Marvel finally delivered their signature post-credits scene. But rather than get things in motion for 2019's Avengers 4, it seemed to be a standard tease for Captain Marvel, which is set to debut Brie Larson as the cosmic hero Carol Danvers on March 8, 2019. Kind of... underwhelming, right?

Maybe not, as the post-credits scene may in fact have subtly been setting up Avengers 4 after all. We know that the Captain Marvel movie is a flashback film, set in the 1990s, and that it probably involves a space war between the alien Kree and Skrull races. During Infinity War, Thanos makes a curious comment to Gamora, saying that he'd already turned away from his destiny once, and would never do it again. Is it possible that Captain Marvel will actually be Thanos' backstory and show this incident?

If so, that also suggests that Captain Marvel could be set up as Thanos' major cosmic nemesis. When Thanos first appeared in the comics, it was the original Captain Mar-Vell who stood against him as the protector of the universe. Marvel honcho Kevin Feige is already on record as saying that Captain Marvel "will be by far the strongest character we've ever had." That's much more powerful than Carol Danvers is usually portrayed, but would be in line with a Captain Marvel who wields the power cosmic as Thanos' archenemy.

So will Captain Marvel show up to save the day in Avengers 4? The fact that the Captain Marvel solo movie debuts less than two months before Avengers 4 suggests her story may directly set up the final showdown with Thanos. 

What's the deal with the Hulk?

As cool as it was to see Bruce Banner inside the Hulkbuster armor, even using his big science brain to defeat one of Thanos' minions, we have to wonder just what is going on with the Hulk. Banner himself seems to have no idea — the Hulk just doesn't want to come out, and straight up refused when Banner tried to trigger a transformation on more than one occasion during Avengers: Infinity War. Is he afraid of getting another beatdown at Thanos' hands, like the one he suffered after the Asgardians were slaughtered at the Mad Titan's hands? Or is something else going on here? Could this be the start of a subplot that sees Banner's two halves merging to create a Hulk with Banner's incredible intellect? The smart Hulk has appeared in the comics before, but whether or not we'll see it in Avengers 4 is still anyone's guess. 

Where is Hawkeye, really?

For months, fans have been wondering why Hawkeye was so conspicuously absent from the posters. All sorts of theories have been flying, the main one being that he would be changing identities to the sword-wielding Ronin. Well, that could still happen in Avengers 4, but it didn't happen in Infinity War, as instead fans were treated to a single throwaway line stating that he and Ant-Man both took plea deals after the events of Civil War in order to protect their families.

Is that really why the two heroes didn't appear? Or is something else going on with Hawkeye and Ant-Man? They aren't the only heroes missing in action, either. After making her breakout debut in Thor: Ragnarok, Valkyrie was nowhere to be seen in Infinity War. That puts her in great company with Thor's other badass lady friend, Sif, who vanished after Thor: Dark World and hasn't even been mentioned since.

If the end of the universe isn't enough to bring these four heroes out of hiding, we have to wonder what would be.

What happened to the dead?

Of course, it's possible that all those missing heroes are now dead, having vanished into a pile of dust — or leaves, or whatever that was — when Thanos wiped out half the universe at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. But exactly what happened to all those people? In the comics, they blinked out of existence, but their demise in the movie was a little more dramatic, as they left behind a trail of smoke and the fresh scent of pine.

But are they gone entirely? Or are they maybe trapped somewhere right in plain sight? In the comics, the Soul Gem often collects the souls of the dead and houses them in a garden-like utopia — and sometimes, those souls even get back out and return to life. When Thanos uses the Infinity Gauntlet, he momentarily seems to step into the Soul Stone to converse with Gamora's soul. So could the rest of the untold trillions of souls also be housed inside the Stone, waiting to be released and returned to life? We'll just have to wait for Avengers 4 to see.

What's up with the Red Skull?

Speaking of the Soul Stone, if you were totally gobsmacked when the guardian of the Soul Stone turned out to be the Red Skull, well, you weren't alone. Though it did answer the question of what actually happened to the Red Skull at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger way back in 2011, it also raised some new question. Such as: what?

Like, how and why did the Red Skull end up getting tasked with being the guide to the Soul Stone? How did he apparently gain some kind of immortality — or longevity at least — to survive so long? Is he actually still alive himself, or has he become some kind of ghost or spirit? And once Thanos took the Stone, what happened to the Red Skull? Is he still there, guarding nothing? Was he released from his eternal bondage? Sent back to Earth?

Seriously, what the heck happened there?

Now what?

Finally, the biggest question is also the most obvious: now what?

We know that in the Infinity War comics Thanos was eventually defeated because he basically defeated himself, as he unconsciously doesn't believe himself worthy to wield all that power. As a result, Nebula stole the gauntlet from him — and in turn, the gauntlet was captured by the cosmic hero Adam Warlock, who used it to restore everything back to the way it was and bring everyone back to life.

Warlock has so far only been hinted at in the post-credits scene of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, so it seems unlikely that he'll play the same role in the MCU. It's possible that Captain Marvel will fill that role, while Nebula could still play her part, as she survived the winnowing and is now stuck on Titan with Tony Stark.

Just how the remaining heroes will manage to get the Gauntlet and whether they will be able to restore all their slain friends to life remains to be seen in Avengers 4. We know one thing for sure about all these unanswered questions, though: Fans are going to have a lot of fun over the next year trying to guess the answers.