The cliffhanger ending of Avengers: Infinity War left viewers shaken and amazed. Thanos had succeeded in his insane goal to "rebalance the universe", with a snap of his fingers erasing half of all life (including the deaths of some key Avengers). It was the biggest event in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date, sure to have massive repercussions for the rest of the MCU. After all, the core principle of the MCU has always been "it's all connected", meaning that - in theory at least - the "snap" should have consequences in every other Marvel movie and TV series.
Except it's now become clear that it won't. Marvel Studios is actually avoiding dealing with the impact of Avengers: Infinity War's ending, reserving any consequences for Avengers 4. Marvel Television seem to be studiously ignoring it, with even Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. dodging the bullet due to scheduling. Far from having repercussions on the rest of the MCU, Infinity War's cliffhanger appears to exist in a bubble, one that will only be explored in next year's sequel film.
It's frankly more than a little disappointing, and feels like a breach of the shared universe model that has made Marvel so successful. But is the problem really so severe? And if it is, why is Marvel going to such effort to avoid exploring the impact of Avengers: Infinity War?
- This Page: Even the Movies Aren't Dealing With Infinity War's Cliffhanger
- Page 2: Will Infinity War Be Dealt With Anywhere Else?
The Movies Themselves Are Avoiding The "Snap"
Until Phase 3, the MCU has largely progressed in a linear pattern, with every film set chronologically after the next. But Phase 3 is completely out of sequence, with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 set in 2014, and both Black Panther and Spider-Man: Homecoming exploring the fallout from Captain America: Civil War. The next two films are even more dramatically out of sync with the rest of the timeline. Ant-Man & the Wasp returns to the pre-"snap" status quo, although some marketing for the film has suggested events are happening at the same time as Infinity War. And Captain Marvel is actually set in the '90s.
Avengers: Infinity War set up a potentially fascinating - and horrific - new status quo. Half of the human race has vanished from existence in a moment at random. Thanos doesn't care for occupation, wealth, social standing, gender, language, tribe, or ethnicity, and as a result the entire world would have been plunged into chaos. Planes would have dropped from the sky, suddenly pilotless; fires would have raged out of control; skilled surgeons would have vanished even as they were about to operate; world leaders would have disappeared in the middle of their speeches. Some countries would fall into civil war, with uprisings and other dark acts. It's impossible to imagine the scale of the chaos - which frankly means that it deserved to be explored.
Until we get to Avengers 4, however, the Marvel movies are avoiding it completely, and when we get to that culmination it may be glossed over; while Avengers 4 will surely open with a sequence giving viewers a sense of how the world has changed (possibly after a time jump), the movie will then move on. It has to do so. We know the heroes who disappeared are all confirmed for their own sequels, so this isn't a story of if the heroes survive the end of the world, it's how they put it right. There's no way for Avengers 4 to do justice to the "snap" without sidelining its own narrative. And so, strangely, Marvel Studios has just carried out the most dramatic plot twist in the history of the MCU - but has no intention of exploring it.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Won't Explore Infinity War's Consequences
This gap is where Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. usually comes in. Although the relationship between Marvel Studios and Marvel Television has been rather more distant since 2015's corporate restructure, the series remains Marvel's official tie-in show. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 5 built up towards Infinity War's cliffhanger, with several mentions of the Black Order's attack on New York. Then, to viewers' surprise, the series ended on a positive note, with no hint of the "snap". It simply didn't make sense.
In an interview with EW, S.H.I.E.L.D.'s showrunners were pressed on quite why the series had taken this unexpected approach. Jed Whedon explained that "there would really be no way for us to address it and keep our show intact." The scale of the Thanos' snap was even more intimidating given Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was, at the time, in "the bubble" - it had a 50/50 chance of either being renewed or canceled by ABC. That meant the showrunners had to create a season finale that could actually bring an end to the entire series, and the disappearance of half the universe would hardly be the right note. As Whedon added, "What we felt was that the safe play for our story, and for the integrity of our universe, was to operate outside of it."
ABC ultimately decided in favor of renewing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for an abbreviated sixth season. But that's actually scheduled to air in Summer 2019, after the theatrical release of Avengers 4. Although ABC head Channing Dungey has insisted she has no knowledge of Marvel Studios' plans, this is certainly a fortuitous decision for the show. Not only did the season finale ignore Avengers: Infinity War's ending, but the next season will kick off after the issue has been resolved. The most important event in the history of the MCU has been sidestepped by the TV series that usually dedicates itself to filling out the movies.
Page 2 of 2: Will Infinity War Be Dealt With Anywhere Else?
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019