Courting Death: Characters Who Might Die In Avengers: Infinity War

—by Nathan on April 3, 2018—

Before we begin, a brief note: I typically dislike articles like these. I see a post with a title like “Characters Who Will/Probably/Are Going to Die In [Insert Movie Title Here],” and I brush them aside, mainly for two reasons: 1. I don’t want to actually spoil a potential movie death by reading someone else’s ideas and convincing myself they actually make sense (so why are you still reading this, then?). 2. Since so many of these articles speak in absolutes or at least close to absolutes, it’s a little hard to take them seriously. “Cap’s going to die for sure in Civil War!” they scream, or “Tony Stark has got to die in order for the plot to go anywhere!” This generally makes me scratch my chin and wonder “Really? You’re that certain?” So, I offer you the alternative: I’m just making assumptions here. Those articles do too, sure, but let me be really clear that I am only offering my beliefs on what may occur. I’m not pushing anything but my interpretation of canon; no other grandiose statement is being made.

Now, with that out of the way…

Avengers: Infinity War. Ever since Thanos turned his ugly purple head at the end of the first Avengers in 2012, it’s been all but inevitable. The Mad Titan was going to hunt down the Infinity Stones (or Gems, as they’re termed in the comics) and, hopefully, form the entire Infinity Gauntlet in a glorious duel against Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. And this summer, Marvel will deliver what is one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year if not the decade. Let war begin. But, of course, war breeds casualty. Death is never too far behind, and it is basically a promise to fans by directors the Russo Brothers that not everybody will make it out of this flick alive. But which of our favorite characters will bite the bullet?

I have some opinions on that particular subject, as does half the Internet, so I decided to flesh them out here. Again, these are just assumptions, based on my knowledge of the previous films, the comics, and trailers for the upcoming brouhaha. If you prefer to remain absolutely spoiler free from said comics and previous movies, steer clear; if you wish to go into Infinity War without any presumptions, turn back now.

Another note before the guessing begins. In my mental compiling, I have decided to do two things in making this list. First, I’m leaving out any “main characters,” tentpole characters such as Cap, Iron Man, Thor, and the Hulk. Why? Because they’re obvious, they’re the ones fans automatically assume will go down, and because, dang it, Marvel has too much at stake with them. Now, the Russo Bros. have seemingly assured us no one’s safe, but it’s difficult to see Marvel willing to take out their top guns. It’s a no-win: Killing a guy like Iron Man seems incredibly obvious and would therefore lack a resounding emotional punch (unless Marvel pulls it off expertly), but not killing him would only be because Marvel wouldn’t want to take the risk and remove a guy like Robert Downey Jr. from the board. It’s disappointing both ways, and Marvel’s failure to take such risks until rather recently during the last ten years is to blame. To shift so late in the game would ring hollow. And, plus, unless you’re Logan or Rogue One, killing your main characters never seems a really good option (Dawn of Justice, anyone?).

Second, I’m also ignoring characters we know to be slated in further upcoming films or at least rumored/believed to be in upcoming films. Therefore, since we know a second Spidey film occurs after Avengers 4, we know Spidey will make it through the third and fourth Avengers installments. The same goes for Cap, who we know is in Avengers 4, and most likely Dr. Strange and Black Panther. However, though Guardians 3 is for sure happening, who’s to say the lineup of the team will be the same? That’s one caveat I’m making. Oh, and also that these character deaths will stick, as the filmmakers have let slip that at least one demise will be for sure permanent. I’m not saying that Thanos is going to kill Spidey or Cap, just for them to come back because of magic or the power of friendship or an Infinity Stone by movie’s end. That’s cheating. One final thing: This list is just random. Not much of a ranking; if anything, it’s just personal preference.

10. The Black Order

Right off the bat, it may seem like I’m cheating…because the Black Order isn’t a character. It’s four characters! Thanos’ henchmen—Cull Obsidian, Proxima Midnight, Corvus Glaive, and Ebony Maw—jump from comic panel to screen to aid their master in his galactic hunt. However, I will argue that “the Black Order” is a single entity comprised of four people; also, I didn’t want to waste four slots on these guys when there are so many other options to choose from. As far as villains go, I could have selected Thanos for this position--mainly considering the line "To challenge the humans is to court death" that he smiles at at the end of the original Avengers, perhaps foreshadowing his own demise--but I feel like he'll be making an appearance in the as-yet-unnamed Avengers 4 film in 2019, so I'm keeping him in the game.

The newest characters in the MCU, debuting in the film, the Black Order will assist Thanos, encountering our heroes as they help him seek out the Infinity Stones. In the comic book story known as Infinity from a few years back, three of the four Black Order members wind up dead by the end. That’s largely the basis for my assumption. Also, isn’t a natural film trope to have the lead villain’s sidekicks go all out for their lord and master? The secondary villain(s) usually end(s) up killed off at some point, so it seems a safe bet that these villains will perish for their atrocities. Perhaps not much time will be spent with these vagabonds, but it feels like Infinity War could introduce them, use them, and wrap them up in a neat little package within its two-and-a-half hour runtime. Also, what other need for them is there? They’re thugs; they’re expendable.

9. The Collector

Last we saw this Elder of the Universe, Taneleer Tivan had survived an explosion that demolished much of his collection in the first Guardians of the Galaxy. Though the purple Infinity Stone of Power was then removed by the Guardians, it seems the red Stone of Reality stayed. Naturally, then, we can conclude that Thanos or one of his minions will accost the Collector at some point, demanding he hand over the precious bauble.

Much like the Black Order, the Collector will have seemed to fulfill his role at this point. We know Thanos at least gets the purple Stone, held on Xandar, and that he’ll most likely go to any lengths to get it. If he, presumably, wipes out much of a planet’s population for a Stone, who’s to say he won’t smash an Elder to get a second? Now, while the comics have a whole “Elders can’t really die” rule, that might not fly in the movie. We could very well see the end of Mr. Tivan in the film. He’s also a pretty safe character to kill. Sure, we’ve spent a little time with him and gotten to know his eccentric personality, but he’s no big fish in the whole of the MCU. There’s really no reason to keep him alive. Plus, killing off an Elder of the Universe would certainly help establish Thanos’ tenacity and credibility as a good villain.

8. M’Baku

The one issue I had with 2018’s first Marvel film, Black Panther, was its lack of consequences. Nothing terrible happened to anyone. In a movie where I was certain Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross was going to get killed, or at least Dora Milaje member Okoye, I was disappointed the film did not go in either direction. Okay, the priest died, but I didn’t care for him anyway. But for Infinity War, I’m changing my mind and going with fan-favorite M’Baku, leader of the Jabari tribe. Trailers show him standing next to T’Challa, helping the Black Panther defend Wakanda against Thanos’ invading horde of Outriders. He’s there to fight, to protect his homeland.

Picture it: a total Boromir moment. The man who was once his king’s rival has finally put that petty grievance aside and fights beside him against an oncoming force of foes, ultimately sacrificing his life in the process. M’Baku knows who the true king of Wakanda is, so to see him fight—and possibly die—defending his homeland against the Outriders would be awesome and would definitely pack an emotional punch. And while M’Baku is a supporting character, he’s an incredibly strong one, garnering laughs from the audience during Black Panther and making his presence truly felt. Perhaps he has not been around long, but his loss would be felt, by the characters in the movie and the audience outside. And I select him over other Wakandan characters—such as Shuri, Okoye, Nakia, and W’Kabi—because his characterization is perhaps the strongest of all of them, making his potential demise a far more emotional and dramatic beat in the film.

7. Drax

Steering more into main character territory, let me remind you that I didn’t necessarily say Guardians were off the list just because a sequel is coming. But why Drax, over everybody else? Primarily, I select him over Star Lord, Mantis, Gamora, Rocket, and Groot because he is one of the Guardians with the most to fight for. Sure, Thanos is Gamora’s adoptive father and she has plenty of reason to want him defeated, but Marvel teased Drax’s hatred for the Mad Titan way back in the first Guardians movie. Even deeper, his hatred for Thanos for the death of his family in the comics led him to actually kill the villain in a story several years ago (naturally, it didn’t stick), so there’s some comic basis for a confrontation between the two.

Out of all of the Guardians, the battle against Thanos signals the end of a story arc for Drax. With Thanos beat, his family is avenged. Other than saving the universe, Star Lord, Groot, and Rocket really have no personal stake in this. Star Lord and Gamora’s burgeoning relationship could easily keep them safe; Mantis’ death would have little impact, I believe, but her losing Drax would be heartbreaking for her. While I could plausibly see Rocket and Groot going out in a blaze of fury (and, uh, fur), their popularity with fans and merchandising prowess makes it seem a tad too unreasonable in financial terms. Admittedly, I think a solid death by any Guardian could be heartbreaking—Marvel is just that good at making beloved characters—but Drax stands out as the guy with the most on the line here. Fans may think he’s a bit of a joke, but if the big guy could go down swinging, it would make for a heck of a moment.

6. War Machine

He’s been there since the beginning, since the first Iron Man. As long as Tony Stark’s been suiting up, James “Rhodey” Rhodes has been there right alongside him. Marvel teased his potential death in Civil War, a concept which ultimately just led to him being paralyzed. But a little thing like losing the use of one’s legs won’t keep Rhodey from suiting up as War Machine again this summer (minus the tank treads he has in the comics…I was really hoping for the tank treads). So, already, you have a guy who’s popped up in five movies and really established himself as a strong character; his near-fatal crash in Civil War could even have just been a preview. Just when you breathe a sigh of relief, in comes Thanos and crumples him like a tin can. “Surprise! We did kill him this time!”

Speaking of which, Thanos actually did kill Rhodey recently in the much-maligned Civil War II over in comic book land. Yeah, the Marvel Comics Universe version of the hero is dead, killed by the purple jerk with a quadruple chin. So if you’re looking for an actual comic-centric basis for a death in the movie, look no further. Though Rhodey may have never been an exceedingly important character, he’s been a mainstay in the series. For story purposes, he’s Tony’s closest friend, so ending him would just rip Iron Man apart. Again, going for emotional moments here, having Tony lose his best friend only a few years after he thought the guy had died? Chilling. I honestly just convinced myself to jump on the “Let’s Kill War Machine” bandwagon. Ride with me.

5. Bucky

Since we’re talking about best friends, why not switch from Iron Man’s to Cap’s? Bucky is the guy you can’t seem to keep down. Falling from a train, being brainwashed by Hydra, getting beat to heck by Iron Man…the dude’s been through a lot and just keeps coming. Serving as the main thrust for two out of three Captain America movies, Bucky has been in the spotlight for a few years now. Like many others on this list, he is a supporting character within the franchise, but fewer characters have had quite as much impact on individual stories as Bucky.

Also like other characters I’ve mentioned, Bucky’s death would be a fitting conclusion to his tale. He’s gone from soldier to assassin to brainwashed maniac to potentially being rebranded as the “White Wolf” and protector of Wakanda in Infinity War. Despite rumors of his picking up the shield and becoming a new Captain America in the near future (an idea I’m not terribly fond of), Bucky’s story doesn’t necessarily need to go any further. Also, going back to Cap, having his best buddy get killed in the line of duty would be satisfying in a deeply emotional sense. The guy who’s watched Steve’s back since childhood maybe makes one more stand with his pal. There’s no better friendship in the whole MCU; to tear it down would be raw and moving in a way Marvel movies don’t tend to be. It’s a risk…perhaps a necessary one.

4. Nebula

Appearing in both Guardians films, Nebula’s been bounced around the universe quite a bit. Ping ponging it like Bucky, she’s gone from dedicated servant to Thanos (or, at least, coerced minion) to wanting nothing more than to tear her abusive stepdaddy into pieces. Much like Drax, she despises the Mad Titan with every fiber of her being. Guardians, Vol. 2 teased her derision for Thanos in a brilliantly delivered monologue, leaving her a new member of the Guardians team and trawling with them to the edges of space to seek the villain. To end Thanos is her one goal, so it feels like she would have nowhere else to go following the end of this conflict.

Bit of a SPOILER, but the comic book story The Infinity Gauntlet teases this idea as well. At one point, Nebula manages to wrench the Gauntlet away from her supposed grandfather (it’s different in the comics) and use its power for a brief time after he tortures her. Her hate for Thanos fuels her abilities. What better attachment to the original story than by seeing this play out in the actual film? It’s a scene I’ve hoped to see for years, and in a movie that already packs in other comic-based sequences, this would be a nice touch as well. But to change it up by killing Nebula by the end—perhaps as a sacrifice to save the universe—would work out really well.

3. Vision

Perhaps moving on to one of the more obvious choices on our list, Vision’s involvement in Infinity War was known ever since he debuted in Age of Ultron three years ago. For any fan realizing Thanos was definitely going to be searching for the Stones, we knew that Mind Gem wouldn’t be staying intact inside Vision’s forehead forever. The first trailer even hinted at it being torn from his mind, adding another emotional layer as we see him finally pursuing a romance with fellow Avenger member Scarlet Witch. Like Rhodey, Vision has been with us since the beginning, first as A.I. butler Jarvis in Iron Man and then in his more corporeal form later on. While Jarvis was more comic relief, Vision has been a bit of a powerhouse, a quirky strongman learning humanity from the people around him. He’s just fun. Maybe not all that important, save for the MacGuffin in his head, but he’s an enjoyable character.

Will the removal of the Mind Stone mean the death for him, though? All signs point to yes. It was the Mind Stone which granted him life in the first place (plus a little Frankenstein-esque lightning from Thor), so to take it from him seems to plausibly indicate he would no longer be living. The first Infinity War trailer really pushes that, certainly, the stone will be removed from him—which is not so much a spoiler but a confirmation of fact. Perhaps the end of Vision would not be a highly dramatic or tear-jerking moment in the movie, but it feels necessary. And it would certainly enrage Wanda Maximoff, and you would not like her when she gets angry. If the death of Vision serves as a catalyst for a super powerful, super deadly Scarlet Witch moment like what we witnessed in Age of Ultron following Quicksilver’s death, bring it on. That alone would be worth the android’s demise.

2. Loki

Ah, the God of Mischief. His rugged looks and witty one-liners have earned him legions of fangirls, and his wicked schemes, backstabbing, and clever use of illusion have made him one of the most devious villains in the whole MCU. Just when you think he’s about to turn the right direction, he switches off the GPS and goes his own route. As both Infinity War trailers indicate, Loki might be responsible for giving Thanos the Space Stone, aka the Tesseract. Will Loki go back to his evil ways? Or, perhaps, is it a plot done by the Ice Giant turned Asgardian as a redemptive ploy to help stop Thanos? One can only wonder.

One can also surmise that, after having Loki be both villain and hero in several films, there’s only so much Marvel can do with the guy. Admittedly, Loki’s charm is not the same as it was back in 2012; he’s starting to become a character with a fading direction, kept on by Marvel just because he’s so popular. In storytelling terms, that’s a bad idea. He’s had his fun, so let him go. It could work several ways: could his last act of goodness earn him death at Thanos’ hands? Could he be made an example of by the Mad Titan? Could the God of Trickery be felled by his own deceit? Will the Severus Snape of the MCU die hero or villain? Lots of questions, but only one answer will be given. Not only would Loki’s death be a decent blow to Thor, to work to crush his spirit, but it would be a fun twist. Loki already “died” once, back in The Dark World, so to have him actually bite the dust would really mess with everyone’s heads. “He’s not dead, right? He’s just faking again. Right? Right?” Wrong. On multiple levels, it seems to work well. Let’s see if Marvel actually pulls that trigger.

1. Hawkeye

In recent months, fans have noticed that our favorite bowman has been surprisingly absent from any promotional material for the film. Save for showing up in a poster released several months ago in 2017, Clint Barton has been conspicuously lacking from both trailers and several other posters. Where is he? Retired again? Dead already? Are the directors saving footage of him for the film because he’s just so awesome this time around? Fans have speculated widely as to why Hawkeye has yet to make an appearance, but many wonder if this is signaling his demise. Hawkeye was one of the favorites in guessing which hero would die in Age of Ultron, and even Whedon’s writing—introducing his family, talking about finishing home projects after the mission, having him save a kid in Sokovia—seemed to indicate Hawkeye wasn’t going to make it out. But having been given a reprieve following that film, fans are holding their breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

To many, Hawkeye has been underused. He is the underdog of the Avengers team, spending much of his time in the first film under Loki’s control; his family reveal in Age of Ultron, to most fans, seemed forced in as a way for Whedon to make up for his lack of use in the first movie. And he didn’t do all that much in Civil War either. Perhaps more than any other character in Infinity War, Hawkeye needs to be redeemed. He has to be saved from the lameness fans believed he has been crippled with; he has to be able to be the breakout hero he has yet to become when compared against heavyweights like Thor, Cap, Iron Man, and the Hulk. In a movie so chock full of characters, so rife with interstellar conflicts and consequences on a universal scale, how fitting it would be to have the little guy, the dude with no powers, the man with only a bow and arrows to make the big play and perhaps lose his life as he saves the universe. It would be the ultimate “David and Goliath” example that Marvel could make, and I think, despite his lack of shining moments, Hawkeye’s been with us long enough to garner a few teary eyes in the audience if this really is his last hurrah.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who dies. The majority of these characters have been featured in at least two movies, with the exception of much of Black Panther’s supporting cast who still managed to take the world by storm. You kill off anyone, anyone, there will be tears shed and hearts torn. In ten years, Marvel has crafted a massive ensemble of heroes and villains fans have grown to love or hate or both. We’ve gotten to know all of them fairly well, so any death will press the right buttons. A death in a story is most impactful when it leaves you with a hole, when you regret that that character is gone because you can’t read about them or watch them anymore. They’re gone. It’s done. Not to make deaths in fiction more poignant than death is in real life, but the core concepts are the same: loss, pain, tears, longing. If any of these listed characters pass—or, really, if any MCU character dies—and leaves audiences with that hole, Marvel has done their job. It can be an obvious choice, it can be an obscure choice. Doesn’t matter. Whether you see it coming, think you see it coming, or are completely blindsided by what goes down this April, there’s no arguing that Infinity War will spell the end for at least some of our favorite characters. That’s a promise from Marvel.

—Tags: Movies

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