***The following article contains SPOILERS for Thor: Ragnarok. Avoid reading until after you’ve seen the film.***
When Marvel Studios premiered the first footage from Avengers: Infinity War at D23 Expo last summer, it began with the Guardians of the Galaxy finding Thor (Chris Hemsworth), unconscious and floating within a field of debris in space. This turned all eyes to Thor: Ragnarok for some clue as to exactly how the God of Thunder ended up in such a troubling state. The answer finally comes, at least in part, via the new film’s mid-credits scene.
LAST CHANCE TO AVOID SPOILERS!
At the end of Thor: Ragnarok, the Eternal Realm of Asgard, the place, is destroyed and only Asgard, the people, survive aboard a massive spaceship. Thor, having now accepted his role as king, sets a course for Earth as the credits roll. Midway through the credits, however, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) asks Thor if it’s such a great idea for Loki to return to Earth where he is the planet’s most notorious villain (thus far) when an even bigger spaceship emerges right in front of them.
You probably already guessed whose ship that is and as Kevin Feige confirmed to The Wrap, you were right.
“We call it the Sanctuary II.”
Yes, the ship belongs to Thanos (Josh Brolin), who’s out on the hunt for Infinity Stones. Remember that Sanctuary is the name of the celestial body where Thanos has spent most of his time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, at least in the times that we’ve seen him. He saw him there, sitting on his throne, in The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy. Now, with the Sanctuary II, Thanos has gone mobile and Marvel Studios has honored the original Sanctuary from the comics, which was a spaceship and not a celestial body.
Feige has previously said that the next time we see Thanos, we will see the devastation he can unleash. That may come at the expense of many, or almost all of the Asgardians Thor just saved from Hela (Cate Blanchett) in Ragnarok. If the debris field in which Thor is found in the Avengers: Infinity War footage is all that remains of the rescue ship, then it’s hard to imagine there being very many survivors, unless you remember that Loki is holding the ultimate escape plan.
When Loki went down to Odin’s Vault to place the Crown of Surtur in the Eternal Flame to fulfill Ragnarok and stop Hela, a familiar object caught his eye. Loki paused when he saw the Tesseract, a.k.a. the Space Stone, which, as Loki knows all too well after using it for this purpose in The Avengers, can open up portals across the universe.
Based on the glimpse we caught of him in the Avengers: Infinity War footage, Loki does indeed hold the Tesseract. He will certainly use it to save himself from Thanos and the Sanctuary II, so the question is whether or not he will also save anyone else. Given that redemption has been teased so many times for Loki and it goes even further in Ragnarok, odds are good that Loki will not be completely self-serving with his use of the Tesseract.
I don’t expect Thanos to completely lay waste to everyone aboard that ship. We know at least Thor, Loki, and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) survive based on the Infinity War footage while Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Korg (Taika Waititi) are part of the Thor franchise rebirth that is just getting started. Loki, Hulk, Valkyrie, and Korg will probably rescue at least some Asgardians and travel through a Tesseract portal to Earth to warn The Avengers. That, by the way, is why Hulk/Bruce Banner would have to accompany Loki. No one is going to believe Loki, an Asgardian they don’t know, or the super cool, but strange rock monster, Korg. They need a familiar face with them and that’s probably going to be Hulk.
Heimdall (Idris Elba) could also accompany Loki, but if Thanos is going to kill someone we know and care about very early on, Heimdall seems like a good square to have in your Infinity War deadpool. It’s not hard to see Heimdall staying behind and sacrificing himself to fight alongside Thor and provide as much time as possible for the others to escape. Heimdall and Thor probably won’t save everyone, but they won’t completely fail to save a single person aside from the characters whose names we know, unless Marvel wants a “last son of Asgard” angle to carry forward in the Thor franchise in Phase Four.
Keep in mind, though, that Thanos’ attack on New Asgard may not be the first time we see him in Infinity War. Xandar, where we first went in Guardians of the Galaxy, currently houses the Power Stone. Thanos could destroy that entire planet and take the Power Stone first to use it in his pursuit of the rest of the Infinity Stones, which would include his attack on the Asgardians.
Thor: Ragnarok is in theaters now. Avengers: Infinity War is in theaters May 4, 2018.