Tony Stark Surviving Makes His Failure Worse
There can be no doubt that Tony Stark experienced this as a very personal failure. Alone of all the Avengers, he flew through the portal over New York City and caught a glimpse of Thanos's armies. He knew they'd return, and he dedicated himself to protecting the Earth. The Avengers were the easiest way to accomplish this, but they weren't enough; Stark's fear of another alien invasion was why he created Ultron in the first place. But Ultron was corrupted and went insane, and the Avengers schismed. Ultimately, Stark was left alone, and according to the Avengers: Infinity War Prelude he created his nanotech armor precisely for the purpose of protecting the Earth when the aliens came back. It wasn't enough.
It's important to remember, as well, that Tony Stark was one of a handful of people who knew the threat of the Infinity Stones. Thor warned Iron Man and Captain America about them before he left Earth in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Again, for all his foreknowledge, Stark was found wanting.
Tony is no stranger to survivor's guilt; there are arguably hints of it in his reaction to Yinsen's death in the first Iron Man film. He'll be unable to resist looking back at the events of the past, wishing he could have done things differently. Some of the mistakes he'd made would play out in his mind; what if he'd not supported the Sokovia Accords, and the Avengers hadn't fallen apart? What if the entire team had been on Titan when Thanos arrived? What if he'd not allowed Thor to head off into space alone as a scout, but had insisted on being more proactive and joining him in his quest? Making matters worse, Tony is a futurist, his mind able to intuit patterns in history. Where many victims of survivor's guilt have to settle with fantasy, Stark will be able to deduce with a high degree of confidence which decisions - which smaller, perhaps even unnoticed failures - led to the snap.
Can This Failure Be Key To Avengers 4?
But it's possible Tony's survivor's guilt will be the key to Avengers 4. There's strong evidence that next year's Avengers sequel involves time travel; now imagine what a man like Tony Stark, in the thrall of survivor's guilt, would make of time-travel technology. Stark's incredible mind would become resolutely focused on the events of the past, attempting to intuit exactly what changes needed to made to the timeline in order to avert the Thanos' snap Where most victims of survivor's guilt simply have to learn to deal with painful reality, Stark would be able to channel his grief and guilt into a constructive activity, attempting to save half the life in the universe.
That looks to be just what's set to happen in Avengers 4. Set photos have shown the Avengers traveling back in time, most significantly to key events involving Infinity Stones. There's also a small amount of evidence that the film will revisit the events of Captain America: Civil War, and that would make perfect sense too; Stark would be attempting to undo his greatest mistakes, including the division the Avengers suffered as a result of the Sokovia Accords.
It's no coincidence that Tony Stark survived the snap. After looking through the mists of time and viewing countless futures, Doctor Strange fixed upon the single timeline in which the heroes ultimately triumphed. In a cruel twist of fate, that timeline appears to involve Tony Stark suffering the most terrible torture of all; he has to survive his greatest failure. But that very survivor's guilt may hold the key to hope in Avengers 4.
- 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 02, 2019