The Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t typically known for having cliffhanger endings, but Avengers: Infinity War changed all that by delivering one of the most ostentatious finales in the history of blockbuster filmmaking. As everyone is now painfully aware, Marvel’s record-shattering superhero epic concludes in heartbreaking fashion with half the universe’s population — including half of the Avengers themselves — wiped out, reduced to ash by a single snap of the fingers from Thanos and his fully powered Infinity Gauntlet. As a result, for the first time in the franchise’s history, it’s truly difficult to predict where things are going to go from here.

While it’s safe to say that characters like Spider-Man and Black Panther aren’t going to stay dead since their respective solo franchises are producing sequels in the next few years, it’s unclear how many of the deaths in Infinity War were permanent. And even if every hero killed by the Infinity Gauntlet is resurrected, the event itself will cause reverberations throughout the Marvel Universe, guaranteeing that the franchise is going to change in certain ways going forward. With Avengers 4 shrouded in secrecy and still a year away from release, here are the best theories for how the Phase 3 finale will play out.

12. Gamora is the Key

Although the deaths at the end of Infinity War are set up to be reversible (at least we hope), every death prior to this feels like it may be permanent. This includes Gamora, whom Thanos sacrifices in order to attain the Soul Stone. However, based on the ending of Infinity War, which sees Thanos transported to another plane of existence after using the Infinity Gauntlet, there’s reason to believe that Gamora’s soul at least is still intact.

Thanos encounters a young Gamora, who asks him about the cost of his actions and there’s reason to believe that this scene takes place inside the Soul Stone (the directors have basically confirmed this). The thinking goes that if Gamora is able to escape from this realm, it would bring an imbalance to the universe and bring about a chain of events that could lead to Thanos’ actions being reversed. Maybe she could even get a hold of the Infinity Gauntlet herself and exact revenge on her twisted father!

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11. Iron Man Could (Temporarily) Fill Doctor Strange’s Shoes

Yes, this theory is quite improbable and totally ignores Wong being the obvious candidate to inherit the title of Sorcerer Supreme with Stephen Strange reduced to a pile of ash at the conclusion of Infinity War. But then, we also don’t know if Wong survived the universe plunge or not, and there is actually precedent for Tony Stark becoming a practitioner of the mystical arts, as he becomes the Sorcerer Supreme in an alternate timeline in the comics.

This theory also rests on a behind-the-scenes video from Marvel Studios showing Robert Downey Jr. wearing Strange’s cape, which could be a case of the actor just goofing around or a hint of things to come. With Strange gone and the fate of the universe resting on his shoulders (and the rest of the surviving Avengers of course), Tony will need every tool at his disposal to reverse what Thanos has done and as a futurist, it would make sense for Tony to make use of magic to help in his cause.

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10. Vision Resurrected

Vision is the final character killed before the Infinity Gauntlet snap, with Thanos ripping the Mind Stone from his head, leaving the android (what are we even supposed to call Vision at this point anyway?) lying on the ground looking like a scrap heap. The thing is, it’s difficult to write off the possibility of Vision being resurrected in some capacity since it’s suggested during Infinity War that he could exist without the Mind Stone. In fact, Shuri nearly succeeds in extracting the stone from Vision’s head and she could be the key to bringing him back.

Of course, it would be preferable to have Vision back with the Mind Stone intact in his head and there’s a possibility that Shuri could be able to recreate it (or at least a suitable equivalent), reinsert it into Vision’s head and bring him back to life. What this would accomplish is difficult to say but having another ally at this point could only help the Avengers in their desperate quest to save the other half of the universe.

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9. The Dead Stay Dead

We’re not putting much stock in this theory on account of there being no way Marvel Studios would permanently kill off half of its characters, especially Spider-Man, Black Panther, and nearly all of the Guardians of the Galaxy. That being said, having Infinity War’s shocking deaths stay permanent is technically an option on the table and would absolutely be a move nobody would expect. Unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen but all of Infinity War’s “pre-snap” deaths stand a very good chance of being permanent, which means that we’ll have seen the last of Loki, Heimdall, Gamora, the Black Order, the Collector (probably), and Vision.

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8. Let The Universe Decide

Here’s a really interesting theory that perhaps puts a little too much faith in Thanos’ ability to be an impartial being. The thinking goes that because Thanos is convinced his decision to use the Infinity Gauntlet to wipe out half the universe was the right one, he’ll turn the power over to the remaining half of the universe to prove it. By spreading all six Infinity Stones randomly throughout the universe, Thanos would be putting all remaining life to the test to see if they have the conviction to reverse his actions or not. Yes, it’s a bit of a stretch, especially when it comes to the Soul Stone, as it’s hard to see Thanos parting with it willingly if Gamora is locked within it, but it would certainly make Avengers 4 a much different kind of movie than most of us are expecting it to be!

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7. Adam Warlock Changes Thanos’ Mind

We’re ranking this one lower on the list primarily because James Gunn has stated that Adam Warlock won’t make his proper debut in the MCU until Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but it’s not like directors haven’t lied before to throw fans off the trail. Yes, introducing Adam Warlock at this point would be a bit jarring but it’s not like Marvel hasn’t introduced all new characters before in previous Avengers movies. If Warlock is in Avengers 4, it means he’s going to play a significant part in foiling Thanos’s plans and for this one, we can look to the comics for inspiration.

In the Infinity Gauntlet arc, Warlock taps into Thanos’ head in order to change his perspective. Many believe Avengers 4 will find Thanos lording over the Soul Stone universe and all the souls he took with the Infinity Gauntlet, which would help explain that final shot of him watching the sunset in Infinity War. Warlock could end up confronting and defeating Thanos, who in turn will give up his quest to balance life in the universe (and if it plays out anything like in the comics, choose a quiet life as a farmer instead – yes, this is a thing that happens).

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6. Thanos Has Regrets

Even though Thanos is the most fearsome, lethal villain the MCU has seen to date, he’s also one of its most sympathetic. Thanks to a combination of strong writing and Josh Brolin’s performance, Infinity War presents Thanos as someone who derives little pleasure from what he does — indeed, he tells Gamora that wiping out half the universe cost him “everything” — but sees his actions as being a necessary evil to bring about positive change. As such, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine Thanos having second thoughts about his decision and it could all have to do with Gamora.

Assuming we see her pop up in the Soul Stone again in Avengers 4, Gamora could occupy the Mistress Death role from the comics in that she stands as Thanos’ judge and, disgusted by his actions, ultimately deems him to be unworthy of her love. This could bring about a change of heart in Thanos where he tries to undo the effects of the Infinity Gauntlet, only to have a new threat (Nebula perhaps?) emerge instead.

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5. Captain Marvel Timeline Change

Considering Infinity War’s post-credits scene directly references her, Captain Marvel is going to play a big role in Avengers 4. What that role will be is the real question. Time travel is a theme that keeps cropping up when discussions about Avengers 4 arise. At first, it looked as if Infinity War would feature time travel of some sort, as leaked set photos showed Captain America in his classic outfit and sporting his haircut from 2012’s The Avengers. This has got some fans thinking that time travel could be a big part of Avengers 4 and since Captain Marvel is capable of accessing the Quantum Realm (more on that below) — plus the fact that her solo movie is set in the past (the 1990s to be exact) — she could be the one to initiate it all. Whatever the case, look for her to be an essential piece in resolving this whole conflict in Avengers 4.

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4. The Quantum Realm

Introduced in Ant-Man, the Quantum Realm’s rules of time and space are different from that of the regular world and it’s this fact that could make all the difference in fixing what Thanos has wrought. We know that Ant-Man and the Wasp are capable of accessing the Quantum Realm and there’s a theory that they were there during the events of Infinity War, which would have spared them both from the effects of the Infinity Gauntlet. In Avengers 4, Ant-Man and the Wasp could emerge from the Quantum Realm to discover an alternate reality where the vanished heroes have been forgotten or never even existed in the first place. It would then be up to the pair to remind the remaining Avengers of what happened and use the effects of the Quantum Realm to reverse what has happened.

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3. Everyone’s Trapped in the Soul Stone

This is a theory we’re ranking high on this list not just because it seems like the direction Marvel would take after showing Gamora being in the Soul Stone at the end of Infinity War, but would also allow all the departed characters to still have roles in Avengers 4 despite still technically being dead. Think about it: how much of a bummer would it be if Avengers 4 has a much smaller cast than Infinity War because half of the characters are dead? Yes, there will be new characters such as Captain Marvel and we’ll probably see Ant-Man, the Wasp, and Hawkeye too, but to go a whole movie without the likes of Spider-Man, Black Panther, Star-Lord, and Drax (not to mention everyone else turned to dust by Thanos’ nasty scheme) would be kind of a drag.

There are all sorts of ways Avengers 4 could present this, but having the Soul Stone act as some sort of afterlife/purgatory would make the most sense and with the souls all still intact inside of it, bringing some or all of those souls back would make narrative sense, though that’s probably still going to take some sacrifices on the part of the remaining living heroes to pull off.

Source: LADbible

2. Cap Makes The Ultimate Sacrifice

Many people assumed that Infinity War would end with Captain America’s death, as Chris Evans has made no secret that he plans to walk away from the role after the current crop of Avengers films. However, Steve Rogers is one of the heroes spared from the Infinity Gauntlet, setting him up to play a big role in Avengers 4. In fact, the entire original six Avengers team is still intact heading into Avengers 4, which means that Cap and Iron Man are going to be working side-by-side once again, only this time the fate of the entire universe is at stake.

This is perfect fodder for finally resolving the feud between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark and what better way to do that then for one of them to prove his love and loyalty to the other by sacrificing themselves? Cap mentions that the Avengers “don’t trade lives” when Vision brings up the idea of self-sacrifice in Infinity War, but Steve Rogers wouldn’t hesitate to give his life to save Tony … or give him the power to bring their friends and loved ones back from the dead. Yup, Cap’s giving up his soul so that Iron Man can wield the Infinity Gauntlet and fix everything, thus opening the door for someone else to take over as Captain America in the MCU’s next phase.

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1. Iron Man Lays Down On The Wire

Basically the inverse of the previous theory. When it comes to Iron Man, the consensus is that Avengers 4 will be Robert Downey Jr.’s last appearance in the role; it’s just a matter of how Marvel will choose to send Tony Stark off. If he survives the events of Avengers 4, having him permanently retire to settle down with Pepper Potts and raise a family would offer a natural conclusion to his arc, as Tony has been driven to find a way to give up the superhero life since the conclusion of Iron Man 3.

On the other hand, having Tony give his life so that everyone else can survive would also be a fitting end. Back in The Avengers, Steve Rogers accuses Tony of not being the guy to lay himself down on the wire and make the sacrifice play, but Stark has come a long way since then. After seeing Peter Parker die in his arms, it’s hard to imagine Tony not doing whatever it takes to bring him and everyone else Thanos killed back and if that means laying down his life, he’s not going to hesitate.

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