Major spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok.
Thor: Ragnarok delivers a frankly shocking ending that leaves the Thor trilogy on a very unexpected, somber yet redemptive note and sets an interesting stage for the God of Thunder going forward. Today we're going to dive deep into how it all fits together.
The third Thor film is nothing if not different to what came before. Whereas Thor and The Dark World were mostly Earth-based adventures presenting the God of Thunder as a fish-out-of-water in our own world, here he's thrust into the MCU's cosmic arm; our hero is forced into gladiatorial combat against the Hulk then bounds onto a mission to stop his maniacal sister Hela from destroying Asgard. Plot aside, it's funny (although given how humor has always been a calling card of this franchise, perhaps it's better to say "funnier") and ridiculous. But the movie is still named after Norse apocalypse, so when things get serious, they get really serious.
How Ragnarok Wraps Up The Thor Trilogy (This Page)
Thor Destroyed Asgard To Save Asgard
As Thor says in the film's opening, he's been plagued by visions of Asgard in flames - the foretold Ragnarok. He (correctly) believes this is the action of fire demon Surtur and so defeats him, seemingly ending the threat. However, it transpires that Surtur is a passive element and that the ultimate grand threat against his home - banished sister Hela - is inevitable. But, ultimately, it's not her that brings about Ragnarok, but him. In the finale, Thor realizes that his visions weren't a prophetic warning, more a signal of what he'd have to do; the only way to stop Hela is to destroy the world she wants to rule. And so, after the newly formed Revengers evacuate Asgard, Loki unleashes Surtur, who begins burning the realm to the ground.
This is acceptable, and not realizing the villain's plans, because Thor's discovered the truth that Asgard isn't the giant gold pillars and trippy rainbow bridge, but its people. Throughout the Thor series we've witnessed the devious antics of Odin and his sons around the Throne of Asgard with minimal consideration for the people they rule over. Ragnarok makes them a key consideration and through a run of visions Thor has of his dead father it's made clear to truly rule he should put his subjects first - and so he does, saving them and then doing the only thing to stop the aggressor.
That entire final battle is about our heroes facing who they truly are. Thor aside, Valkyrie stops hiding from her noble past (although not her alcohol-induced stupor) and once again leads the fight against Asgard's aggressors in her white outfit, Bruce Banner realizes that despite his own personal reservations he's truly a hero when the Hulk and potentially sacrifices himself forever to become the Green Goliath, and Loki goes against his long-standing selfishness to bring the fight to Hela (although may wind up taking the Tesseract for his own nefarious deeds). Outside of the Revengers, Korg finally discovers what real revolution is and Skurge turncoats on Hela, sacrificing himself to save his people.
Ragnarok is a film more about its characters than its plot, and that makes each of these final stands all the more pronounced. The ultimate conclusion of them forsaking their well-being, what they're wanting to protect or, in Hulk's case, not fighting a big monster is that bit more striking.
Thor Is Now Odin
For Thor, the ending goes a bit deeper. It has him discovering that the prophecy he was fighting against was actually a destiny he had to fulfill (something that was explicitly set up in Avengers: Age of Ultron when his Scarlet Witch-induced vision saw Heimdall blame him for the realm's destruction), which is really emblematic of a bigger issue across the Thor trilogy: his inherited ascension to the throne.
The trilogy has been exploring that familial clash from the start. In Thor 1, he was banished for his brashness and had to re-earn the mantle of God of Thunder while proving he was worthy of his inheritance in the face of his deceitful half-brother, while The Dark World had him facing up against his father's previous errors and deciding he didn't want to rule (in both The Avengers and Age of Ultron he was primarily dealing with/cleaning up Loki's meddling on Earth, so these don't quite fit the broader arc). Ragnarok picks up there and has Thor thrust unexpectedly into responsibility first by Loki, then the death of Odin, then the threat of older sister Hela. She's someone who by all rights has a greater claim than him, but through a gladiatorial adventure, he endeavors to do what is right and stop her conquest. He is not just fulfilling the vision of Ragnarok, he's finally learning to accept the throne and appreciate the flaws that have always run through the royal family.
And so, at the end of the film, he becomes Odin proper. Hela symbolically gives him the key by slicing out his eye, requiring a very fetching eyepatch, and with her gone he's able to take the crown, leading a now mobile Asgard out to a new dawn. It's the sort of change that would have seemed impossible during Odin's rule, yet one totally fitting of his peacetime ethos - his willing death (or, given the recurring visions, transcendence to another plane of existence) shows an acceptance of the change.
While the Thor trilogy is the most disparate of all the Marvel franchises (Iron Man clearly charts Tony Stark becoming a hero without his suit, while Captain America is the fall and return of Bucky), it's not without its bigger picture, hammered home with this ending.