One small line in Avengers: Infinity War could hold the key to understanding that shocking ending. And it’s also a cool callback to 2016’s standalone Doctor Strange flick. Warning: Major Infinity War spoilers ahead! Doctor Strange’s claim that he sees only one of “14 million six hundred and five” possible future scenarios in which the Avengers defeat Thanos could help to explain some of his, well, strange behavior in the movie’s second half.
Infinity War features the MCU’s most powerful heroes fighting to stop Thanos from attaining five Infinity stones and wiping out half the life in the universe. However, their plan is thrown for a loop when Doctor Strange gives Thanos the Time Stone in exchange for him sparing Tony Stark’s life. The move appears to have been a fatal one for Strange, who is wiped out after Thanos gets the Mind Stone and carries out his plot. But before he turns to dust, Strange tells Stark that “there was no other way,” which suggests that giving up the stone is critical to the Avengers’ victory. This could mean a few things. It could suggest that Stark will have a key part to play in defeating Thanos, and had to be spared. It could also mean that Thanos wiping out half the life in the universe temporarily is actually part of Strange’s winning scenario, which brings us to that subtle callback.
In the character’s standalone film, Strange’s mentor the Ancient One tells him she can never see past her own demise. “I’ve spent so many years peering through time, looking at this exact moment. But I can’t see past it.” She then adds: “I’ve prevented countless terrible futures and after each one there’s always another, and they all lead here but never further.” So if Doctor Strange is able to see beyond the moment when he is apparently dusted by Thanos, it means he didn’t really expire, and Thanos’ handiwork won’t last in the scenario in which the Avengers win. This supports the theory that the Avengers are just stuck in the Soul World – a dimension inside the Soul Stone where dead characters sometimes go in the comics – and can be brought back to life for Avengers 4.
It’ll be awhile before we know for sure what’s up with the doc’s enigmatic words, with Avengers 4 not slated to hit theaters until May 3rd, 2019. But for now, he’s definitely given Marvel fans something strange – and hopeful – to think about.