Major spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok.
Thor: Ragnarok's mid-credits scene is one of the MCU's most mysterious stingers. Could that be because, more than just a tease of Thanos, it's actually setting up the reveal that the Mad Titan's minions in Avengers: Infinity War are more familiar than we realized?
Marvel has managed to keep the bulk of the storyline for the upcoming Infinity War film largely under wraps outside of the most basic description (short version: Thanos is coming, in case you've been off-world for a few years), but at least one thing we do know is that The Avengers will be facing not only The Mad Titan himself (and, one assumes, some permutation of largely-expendable invasion force) but also "The Black Order"; a quartet of brutal alien generals operating in his service. While adapted (with some noteworthy changes) from characters introduced in the comics, The Black Order have reportedly received new origin stories that will present them as more of Thanos' "adopted children" a la Nebula and Gamora from Guardians of The Galaxy.
The four characters are, thus far, mainly identified by their design, weaponry and powers: Corvus Glaive (spear weapon), Proxima Midnight (female warrior), Ebony Maw (sorcerer-esque telepath) and Cull Obsidian (a giant.) It's believed that they will be realized through motion-capture FX, but apart from longstanding rumors that mocap specialist Terry Notary (the Planet of The Apes movies) will be portraying at least one of them much is still unknown. Will mo-cap actors also be voicing the characters? Will they get proper backstories of their own? If so, what will they be - and will the increasingly fast-paced "everyone already knows this" approach to storytelling that's characterized the last several Marvel features allow for four whole new "important" characters to be introduced in an already packed feature?
One possibility: what if the Children of Thanos are actually figures we've already gotten to know well - just not under these names? Turning good guys (or their allies) into enemy minions with new "evil" forms is a tried and true dirty trick for big-time supervillains of the type Thanos is usually presented as; and it also makes for economical storytelling in terms of getting audiences invested and adding big stakes to the proceedings. And in this particular case, it would be an even greater complication which will already see Thanos' attack hitting at a moment where The Avengers are disbanded and at odds along with who knows what frictions will arise from the Guardians of The Galaxy, Doctor Strange and Black Panther getting involved as well.
Thor: Ragnarok's Mid-Credits Scene Links To Thanos
If the Children of Thanos are going to start out as other characters we already know, the first question becomes "who?" followed by "under what circumstances?" Do these characters remind us of anyone particularly familiar and, if so, would it make sense for them to have gotten swept up into such a situation? In this case, it's possible that the answers (or the seeds of them) might be waiting in the somewhat surprising final scenes of the latest Marvel feature; Thor: Ragnarok.
Ragnarok, of course, refers to the End of The World for the old Norse gods; and the third Thor film makes good on the reference. As the film ends, Asgard has indeed been destroyed - although things aren't quite as grim as they might sound: Thor realizes that his destiny is not to prevent but rather to facilitate the destruction of (his) world by the prophecized demonic entity Surtur in order to rob the far more dangerous villain Hela of her power source; with he and Loki (along with The Hulk, Heimdall and newfound allies Korg and Valkyrie) in command of a massive spaceship carrying the surviving population of Asgardians in a cosmic search for a new home. A happier than expected ending, considering the title... at least until the first of two the post-credit scenes, in which an even more massive spacecraft rises into view above them. Uh-oh.
That mid-credits scene, of course, cuts off before we find out who is in charge of that ship - though it feels safe to assume that it probably has something to do with Thanos. Fans who got to see (or at least read about) the much-hyped Infinity War early trailer at SDCC, additionally, will likely infer that whatever goes down between that ship and the Asgardians' doesn't end well for The Mighty Thor; that footage opened with the God of Thunder hurtling unprotected through outer space before slamming into the windshield of the Guardians of The Galaxy's spaceship, The Milano. What puts him in that state will, presumably, be revealed in Infinity War; though it could be connected to The Tesseract, which contains one of the all-important Infinity Stones and which Ragnarok takes multiple opportunities to remind us has been on Asgard since the conclusion of The Avengers (and which Loki is seen eyeing during the evacuation).
What Happened To The Rest of the Asgardians?
Bottom line: According to the preview footage of Infinity War, Thor will be separated from his people and his allies by some unknown circumstance. So what happened to everyone else on the ship? Assuming for the sake of argument that the Asgardians were attacked by Thanos, probably nothing good - attacking (maybe evening destroying?) an entire civilization's worth of innocent refugees would certainly be the kind of "big evil" bad guy move that would set the stage for biggest Marvel good-versus-evil confrontation ever.
Then again, mass-genocide might be too dark of a plot point for the family-friendly Marvel Cinematic Universe, so perhaps he'd make them prisoners - or slaves: Asgardians are pretty tough, even the "ordinary" ones have superhuman (by Earth standards) strength and live for thousands of years. Those are conceivably attractive qualities if you're looking for forced-laborers... or maybe even conscripted soldiers. And then there are Thor's main allies: Heimdall and Loki are both "gods" in the same way Thor is, Valkyrie is a warrior of comparable skill to Thor himself and The Hulk is indestructible.
Put those elements and the "big unknown" of where the apparently important and formidable Black Order are going to come from and an intriguing possibility begins to emerge: if these four warriors are going to be "Children of Thanos" and the previous such "children" that we've met (Nebula and Gamora) were both augmented and physically transformed by him as part of that existence, could they have come from among the passengers/crew of the Asgardian ship? More specifically, is the reason we don't know more about these characters than their names that Glaive, Proxima, Ebony Maw and Cull Obsidian are actually Heimdall, Valkyrie, Loki and The Hulk "gone evil" and transformed?
- Black Panther (2018) release date: Feb 16, 2018
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017) release date: Nov 03, 2017
- 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