Source: Marvel Studios

Recently it was brought up by our very own Sean Gerber and Paul Hermann on the latest Marvel News podcast whether the mad titan Thanos would show up again before he makes his grand splash in Avengers: Infinity War. This got to me thinking whether he should show up or not in the films that will make up Phase 3 of the MCU before that gigantic Avengers movie.

As of now, we have only seen Thanos in small doses. His screen time in the MCU amounts to a total of three and a half minutes. Yet what Marvel Studios has done so brilliantly with him in that small amount of screen time is make him effective as a villain. Not only that, but even when we don’t see him rear his ugly purple head, we feel his presence and influences moving the events of the MCU to this “Infinity War” that is to brew in May 2018. Even in Captain America: Civil War, where we didn’t see him at all or even hear a mention of him, we felt his presence. We knew that the infighting between all the different Avengers wasn’t going to be good as they would need to be together to fight him down the line.

Even though we have seen very little of Thanos in small snippets in the three movies, we have gained a clear sense of who that character is. We know he is menacing and a force to be reckoned with. Loki, the trickster god, was fearful of him in the first Avengers movie. Ronan, although resentful of Thanos’ treatment of him, knew he couldn’t take him on without the aid of the Power Stone in Guardians of the Galaxy. And now, as we learned in Avengers: Age of Ultron, he has brandished the Infinity Gauntlet with a vow to retrieve all the Infinity Stones for himself. He is most definitely on a rampage.

Which brings us to the big question – – When will we see Thanos in these films again? This leads to another question – – why do we need to see Thanos again? We can’t have another version of his Guardians of the Galaxy appearance, where he just says cool stuff and we’re left aghast. He needs to have a purpose to his appearance, where his appearance is actually driving the story towards Infinity War.

Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, in an interview with Empire Magazine late last year, was asked whether Thanos would make an appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, much like he did in the first film. He responded:

“I wouldn’t look too hard in that movie for Thanos. The next time we see Thanos he will not be messing around. It will be, ‘Oh, that’s why they’ve been teasing this villain for five years!”

In regards to him not appearing in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, James Gunn, through his various social media channels, has reiterated this fact over and over. So the franchise in which we got our first extended look at The Mad Titan is not where we’re due to get our next glimpse of him. If not GotG Vol. 2 next may, when?

Let’s break this down here. We have five films between now and Avengers: Infinity War. Those films are Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, and Black Panther. So which of these Phase 3 films will Josh Brolin return as Thanos?

Doctor Strange seems a bit unlikely, given the more mystical and horror nature of that film (although I do believe we will see an Infinity Stone somewhere in there). It is still possible, that he might sneak in a post-credits appearance like he has in movies past.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 has already been ruled out and Spider-Man: Homecoming is most likely not going to have an appearance by The Mad Titan, given the film’s focus on Spidey’s high school life.

The same goes for Black Panther.  The tone and feel that they seem to be going for is more of a geopolitical action adventure and I do not think Thanos would appear in that sort of film. Although Kevin Feige has stated that that movie would have “ties” to Avengers: Infinity War, I do not think Thanos will be one of these cross-pollinating elements. Which leaves, of course, one film that I believe is the most likely candidate for Thanos’ next appearance in the MCU — Thor: Ragnarok.

So why this film? For one, it makes sense given the longstanding history of the MCU. It was in the first Thor film in 2011 in which we caught our first glimpses of an (but not the) Infinity Gauntlet itself. It is a blink and you’ll miss it Easter egg in that film but it gave us a small taste of where Marvel Studios would perhaps go in the storytelling of its cinematic universe. Then, a few years later, in Thor: The Dark World during a post-credits scene, we received our first mention of “Infinity Stones”, which gave us a clue as to what Thanos might be up to. It would be very nice for Marvel to come full circle with that cosmic side with an actual appearance from Thanos himself.

Second of all, we know from his brief appearance in Avengers: Age of Ultron, he is on a hunt for the Infinity Stone, after being tired of having others do it for him. We also know that an Infinity Stone remains on Asgard in Odin’s Vault — the Tesseract (the Space Stone) from Phase 1. It would make sense during Hela’s supposed siege of Asgard through Ragnarok, that Thanos wouldn’t be far behind. He definitely needs that Infinity Stone for his plans with the Gauntlet.

Third of all, I think something that would take Thanos to Asgard is something that we know is a big factor with the character: Death herself. It is my belief (and also the belief of editor-in-chief Sean Gerber) that Hela (Cate Blanchett) may actually end up being Lady Death herself. Hela, after all, rules the dominion of the dead. For those unfamiliar with the source material, the primary motivation for Thanos doing everything he does is not to rule the universe, but to impress the woman he loves, a very “human” characteristic for one so alien. And that woman is the living personification of Death. Because in the Marvel universe, Death is more than a concept; she’s an actual living being.

Another big question with Thanos possibly appearing in Thor: Ragnarok — will The Mad Titan actually cross paths with the God of Thunder? We know that Thor left Earth  for answers about the Infinity Stones at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron. This “Infinity quest” has been offhandedly mentioned in the Captain America: Civil War “Team Thor” video.

It is reasonable to assume that Thor’s investigation might play an integral part in Ragnarok. Not only that, but Thor seeing Thanos and connecting him to the Infinity Stones that he’s been inquiring about would give him great impetus to go back to Earth to warn his fellow Avengers about what is coming. But what Thor doesn’t know is the “civil war” that happened between his friends. I would like to see Thor kind of be the one thing that unites his fellow Avengers to fight Thanos in the movie. Now, whether they all agree is another matter entirely.

So, that is how I figure that Thanos will figure into the rest of Phase 3. I could be dead wrong. I would love to see what I’ve theorized here happen in the MCU, but I’m more than willing to bend my theories to see what Taika Waititi, the Russo brothers and Kevin Feige have in store for us in these next few films. Thanos has been a relatively small presence in the MCU when compared to other elements and characters. But as we get that much closer to Avengers: Infinity War, he and his world are about to get a whole lot bigger.

Avengers: Infinity War arrives in theaters on May 4, 2018, with Thanos’ next possible appearance coming six months prior when Thor: Ragnarok hits theaters on November 3, 2017.