According to dialogue in Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos only slaughtered half of the surviving Asgardian refugees. That's perfectly in character for the Marvel Cinematic Universe's version of the Mad Titan, whose goal is literally to kill off half the life in the universe. A flashback sequence revealed that, even before he acquired the Infinity Stones, Thanos led attacks upon countless worlds - and consistently massacred half of their population. It would make sense for him to have done the same to the refugee vessel.
But the lack of exposition has left viewers troubled, because it's not quite clear how any Asgardians survived in the first place. The post-credits scene for Thor: Ragnarok saw the Asgardian refugee vessel intercepted by Thanos' Sanctuary II. Infinity War's opening scenes clearly take place shortly after, with Thanos and the Black Order walking among the dead and dying. Thor has already been defeated, a handful of secondary characters including Valkyrie are mysteriously absent, and the refugee ship has essentially become a ship of the dead. It's not at all clear what happened - especially given Thanos and his "children" don't seem to have encountered the Hulk until this point, which just seems rather odd.
Leaving aside the question of what exactly happened in that (brief?) skirmish, how did any of these Asgardian refugees survive? It doesn't seem to be through the Bifrost, since Heimdall's use of "dark magic" appears to be a rare thing, and tie-in comics have suggested traveling through the Bifrost via dark magic could potentially kill all but the strongest. So what are the possibilities?
The Russo brothers have offered a simple solution. "Prior to the start of that scene, escape ships were deployed for Asgardians," Joe Russo explained, "including Valkyrie." He refused to shed any light on the ultimate fate of Korg, but at least this comment suggested Asgardians were able to launch escape pods. It's worth noting, though, that these escape pods likely weren't in a great state of repair. After all, the Asgardian refugee ship originated from the junkyard world of Sakaar.
By the time the Guardians of the Galaxy arrive, all escape ships - and, indeed, escape pods - are clearly gone. The only sign of life they find is the body of Thor, floating through space, barely alive after facing the wrath of the Power Stone.
The Grandmaster's Ship
Thor: Ragnarok saw Thor and Valkyrie steal the Grandmaster's prized personal spacecraft in order to get to Asgard. It was hardly a fighter - its most notable weapons were fireworks to celebrate the Grandmaster's birthday. But it is a fully-functional spacecraft, and it apparently made it out of Asgard intact. Look closely about two minutes into Infinity War, and you can see the distinctive shape of the Grandmaster's ship, docked with the Asgardian refugee vessel. That kind of detail isn't included for no reason, especially given viewers had no reason to believe the spaceship made it off Asgard in the first place.
Notice Joe Russo's precise wording, too. He didn't refer to "escape pods," he referred to "escape ships." That suggests the Asgardian refugees escaped in any other vessel that was docked with the main refugee ship - including the Grandmaster's stolen favorite. It seems likely the survivors in spaceworthy vessels used them to pick up any survivors in pods, and then left the area. They clearly had no idea Thor was still alive, or they wouldn't have just left him floating.
Tessa Thompson was spotted on set in Edinburgh during filming of Infinity War and Avengers 4. Given the Russo brothers have confirmed Infinity War has precious few deleted scenes, that seems to suggest she and the Asgardian refugees will appear in Avengers 4. If that's the case, the answer to their survival will probably be answered in the film itself.
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019