The ending of Avengers: Infinity War explained

Whoa. You've just come out of Avengers: Infinity War. You've cheered at all the fights. Laughed at all the jokes. You've been shaken, sobbing and speechless. You've made an appointment for therapy for tomorrow. Don't worry…we're all right there with you. There's only one cure for the post-Infinity War blues, and that's diving straight into the ending and trying to figure out what the hell just happened — and what the hell is going to happen next.

There's a lot to unpack, of course. With so many heroes, villains, twists, turns, and incredible team-ups, there's just so much to dig through to piece together the real meaning of behind everything that happened in Infinity War. And, of course, everything that might come next. Strap in, put on your helmet, and prepare your haunches, people. Here's the ending of Avengers: Infinity War explained.

And of course, gigantic, earth-shattering spoilers ahead. Last chance to turn back…

So...what just happened?

Thanos won! Thanos totally won! Can you believe it? The bad guy beat the good guys, and it's totally mind-blowing because that kinda never happens! But it did this time — and it was just about perfect. Thanos managed to assemble all six of the Infinity Stones — sacrificing his own adopted daughter in the process — snapped his fingers, and poof. Game over, man.

Of course, fans of the comics and MCU-followers probably knew going into this movie that there was a good chance Thanos would be victorious before the final credits rolled. After all, there were not one, but two references to Thanos snapping his fingers and causing half the universe to die. Longtime comic book readers have the image of Thanos snapping his fingers with a fully powered Infinity Gauntlet on his hand burned into their brains, so it only makes sense that one of the most iconic moments in all of Marvel Comics history would show up in this film.

On top of that, we all knew that Marvel would be splitting this story into two movies — even if they later publicly reversed course on that particular point. In the end, if you didn't know that Thanos might pull out the W by the end of this movie, you haven't been paying close attention.

Body count

When it comes to writing about comic book movies, it's pretty fun to try and predict who will live and who will die when the next big flick hits the theaters. It's basically the way that some pop-culture websites and YouTube channels go about building their whole businesses. But it's a safe bet that no one could've quite predicted just how many hugely important superheroic characters would go off to that big comic book store in the sky by the end of Infinity War. For those keeping score at home, we lost Bucky, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, Falcon, Drax, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Star-Lord, Mantis, Groot, Nick Fury, and Maria Hill — and those are just the characters we saw dissolve after Thanos pulled his big trick…and possibly a few more we didn't remember to list. It was a lot.

And that's not even a complete list of all the dead people. Right off the bat, Heimdall and Loki died at Thanos's hands, while Gamora and Vision went down for the count as well. After ten years and 18 movies, the Marvel Cinematic Universe built up a huge roster of memorable and important characters. While it goes without saying that the vast majority of these dead people will not stay dead by the time the fourth Avengers movie debuts, it's hard not to feel the loss of so many characters we've gotten to know over the years.

Where did Thanos talk to Gamora?

Remember just after Thanos snapped those famous fingers and did his whole "kill half the universe" thing? He found himself in an orangey, reddish place, and began talking with a version of Gamora who looked like a child. She asked if it was worth it, and he said that it was. After that, we saw Thanos resting, watching the sunrise, his life's mission finally at an end. So where was he?

It's not entirely clear, but there's a more than decent chance that he was inside the Soul Stone itself. The Soul Stone was orange, and so was the environment of this otherworldly place where he spoke with Gamora. He sacrificed Gamora to obtain the Soul Stone, and so it makes sense that she and the Stone would be connected somehow after her death. And in the various comics concerning Thanos and his quest for the Infinity Stones, the Soul Gem wound up playing host to a few characters who died fighting Thanos — including Gamora. And with that in mind, it's entirely possible that all our dead heroes may have had their souls transported to the Stone as well.

Remember Doctor Strange's prescription for victory

We got a solid dose of Doctor Strange's medicine in Avengers: Infinity War. Early on, the doctor told Iron Man that if it came down to possibly saving him or protecting the Time Stone, he'd choose the Stone every time. Then, around the midpoint of the film, Strange used the Eye of Agamotto to explore over 14 million possible battles against Thanos, looking for the path to victory. Among all of those possible futures, he only saw one where the good guys came out on top. It sure sounded dire.

So when Thanos threatened to kill Iron Man on Titan, Doctor Strange went ahead and offered up the Time Stone to save Tony Stark's life. When Iron Man called him out on it later, he said it was "the only way." Say what?

Well, it all makes sense if you think about it. Doctor Strange has some experience using his time powers to cheat his way out of some bad situations. This time around, he took a peek at the script for the next Avengers movie and realized that, somehow, it was important that Iron Man live — important enough that he gave up the Time Stone to make sure it happened. And considering that Iron Man is the one who kicked off this whole crazy Marvel Cinematic Universe in the first place, it only makes sense that he'd be pretty necessary to finishing things off over a decade later. Trust the Doctor's orders.

Working out the Hulk's issues

When you've got a story this huge, you've got to save some good stuff for the end. There's no better example of that than the push and pull between Bruce Banner and the Hulk — a conflict that didn't get resolved this time around, and will surely be a major plot point for next time. Throughout the film, we saw Banner trying and failing to coax the big green guy out to start fighting the bad guys, to no avail. It was an interesting twist in the Hulk's relationship with his alter ego. Usually, it's all Banner can do to keep the Hulk at bay. But this time around, Banner really wanted to let loose with the Hulk, only the Hulk refused to rise to the occasion. But why?

Because it's all about the emotions. The Hulk's main emotion is rage. He's anger personified. And what's the only emotion stronger than anger? Fear.

The Hulk has never met a foe he couldn't fight — until, of course, he met Thanos and got his butt beaten in the process. Now the Hulk is running scared, leaving Banner to try and figure out how to bridge the gap with his big, green self. Don't be surprised if we get a fan favorite version of the Hulk in the next Avengers movie. That's right: Professor Hulk is probably on the way. Once Banner figures out how to merge his two selves into one, that is.

Nebula's revenge

While the body count at the end of Avengers: Infinity War was pretty high, it's important to remember that plenty of characters wound up surviving the whole ordeal. Okay, maybe not plenty of them, but a few! Some! Okay, a couple. But among the survivors was Thanos' least favorite daughter, Nebula. She managed to make it to the end of the movie despite being literally dissected earlier in the film. So why would a scrub like Nebula be alive while so many fan favorite characters were turned to dust? As with so many things, the answer lies in the comics.

In the early '90s Marvel Comics featuring Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet, Nebula spent a lot of time shambling around as a creepy zombie lady — a victim of Thanos' powers. But at one point in the story, Thanos was distracted by an encounter with Eternity, a cosmic being that represented the universe itself. And during that time, Nebula grabbed his fancy glove for herself and contributed to his eventual undoing. There's a good chance that the MCU version of Nebula will wind up fulfilling a similar role in the next Avengers movie, too.

Paging Captain Marvel…

In the movie's lone post-credits scene, we saw the long-awaited return of Nick Fury and his S.H.I.E.L.D. second in command, Maria Hill. The two were driving along, minding their own business, when suddenly they experienced the effects of Thanos' magic mojo taking out half the population of New York — both of them included. Throughout that sequence, Fury was trying to get in touch with somebody. And given that we'd spent a full movie not seeing Hawkeye shooting arrows at anybody, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that he was the guy Fury was trying to reach. But as it turned out, that wasn't quite the case.

No one said it, but the logo that appeared on Fury's spy-tastic pager was that of Captain Marvel. Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe know that Brie Larson is all set to debut as the star of the MCU's first female-fronted superhero movie in March, 2019. More interestingly, Captain Marvel is supposedly going to take place in the 1990s, meaning that the superhero who shows up to help save the day in the fourth Avengers will have already been established for years. Meanwhile, if she's been around since the '90s and a friend of Nick Fury's, there's a whole lot of mystery surrounding just where the heck Captain Marvel has been all these years. Wouldn't she have come in handy during that whole alien invasion of New York? And the Sokovia Incident? Where you been, Cap?

Wasp, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, and the aftermath

Between the third and the fourth Avengers flicks, there are two MCU movies set to debut in theaters: the aforementioned Captain Marvel in March, 2019, and Ant-Man and the Wasp, set for July of 2018 — just a few months after Avengers: Infinity War hit theaters. So will Ant-Man, Wasp, and all the rest of the grow-gang be dealing with the aftermath of Thanos' dirty deeds?

As of this writing, it's just too soon to say for sure. But a few different outlets — like Digital Spy and Comic Book Resources, just to name a couple — seem to take it as a given that Ant-Man and the Wasp takes place after Captain America: Civil War and before the events of Infinity War.

Meanwhile, we never did get that glimpse of Hawkeye, meaning he's surely going to show up in the next Avengers movie to help set things right now that half the world has been turned into piles of dirty leaves. Is his family okay in the aftermath of Thanos' dirty deeds? Will he be looking to…avenge them, perhaps? Count on it.