In last year’s epic Avengers: Endgame, the titular heroes found themselves in a world with 50% less people in it than they were used to – and the missing individuals included several of their close friends, allies and family members.
That’s because in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, the Mad Titan Thanos had collected all six Infinity Stones, then used them to wipe out half of all life in the universe with a mere snap of his fingers following an intense battle with the heroes in Wakanda.
Endgame revealed that the prune-chinned villain had subsequently “retired” to a remote planet and destroyed the stones, in order to both avoid the temptation to use them again and prevent his actions from being undone.
When the Avengers discovered this, they were understandably devastated, but the sudden and unexpected reemergence of Scott Lang from the Quantum Realm five years later gave them hope.
Lang had come to the realisation that time flowed differently in the Quantum Realm, which provided him with the inspiration to come up with the idea of travelling back in time to collect the Infinity Stones from the past and use them to bring the victims of the snap back.
After presenting the idea to Tony Stark, the Avengers were delighted when Stark went on to reveal that he’d figured out how to make time travel possible and promptly leapt into action.
Stark, Lang, Steve Rogers and the Hulk travelled back to New York in 2012 to collect the Space, Time and Mind Stones (with Stark and Rogers forced into an unplanned diversion to Camp Lehigh in New Jersey in 1970 to collect the former), Thor and Rocket travelled to Asgard in 2013 to collect the Reality Stone, while Nebula, James Rhodes, Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton travelled to Morag and Vormir in 2014 to collect the Power and Soul Stones respectively.
But there was a very simple rule that had to be subsequently adhered to, as explained to the Hulk by the Ancient One in 2012 New York: the Infinity Stones would have to be returned to their original timelines, at the exact point of removal, because any kind of change to a timeline caused by time travel could be catastrophic – and that’s where the plot hole we’re referring to in this article’s title comes in.
You see, when some of the Infinity Stones were initially collected by the heroes, they were in completely different forms to when they were returned; the Mind Stone was in the sceptre, the Space Stone was in the cube-shaped Tesseract, the Power Stone was in the Orb, and the Reality Stone was in liquid form inside Jane Foster.
Moreover, the Soul Stone didn’t even exist on the physical plane when Romanoff and Barton arrived on Vormir, so it probably couldn’t simply be returned to its original location – but that’s open to debate and a matter for a different article (maybe, for example, simply handing it back to the Red Skull or placing it in the water at the bottom of the cliff on Vormir would automatically send it back to where it came from).
With that in mind, when Captain America returned those items – in stone form, inside a briefcase – he may have returned them to their original locations, but they would have been noticeably different in terms of their physical form and, as such, that means he had changed the timelines in which they were taken from (albeit in a relatively minor way).
How, for example, would Star-Lord have taken the Power Stone in 2014 when it wasn’t inside the Orb? How would S.H.I.E.L.D.’s scientists have handled the Space Stone when it wasn’t inside the Tesseract? How did Captain America get the Reality Stone back inside Jane Foster? That would have been difficult even if it was still a liquid!
Those points, right there, create a rather huge and gaping plot hole – but it wasn’t even remotely acknowledged in the movie – and it’s a plot hole that should, going by the Ancient One’s explanation at least, have created a series of darker branched realities.
This theory, however, solves that problem and fills the aforementioned gaping plot hole – and it’s a very simple one based on on-screen evidence that we saw in 2016’s Doctor Strange.
Remember how Strange used the Time Stone to return both an eaten apple and a damaged spell book to their original, untainted forms? Well, when Captain America headed back in time at the end of Avengers: Endgame, he could have made his first stop in 2012 New York and asked the Ancient One to do the same thing to the Infinity Stones that had been physically altered.
Given that the Time Stone itself wasn’t missing any casing – the Eye of Agamotto was literally around the Ancient One’s neck awaiting its return – this scenario shouldn’t cause too much of a butterfly effect.
She could, therefore, have reformed the Tesseract around the Space Stone, the sceptre around the Mind Stone, the Orb around the Power Stone and returned the Reality Stone to its liquid form using that same technique demonstrated by Strange – perhaps even reforming Rocket’s extracting device around the latter to give Cap somewhere to store it (as well as something to potentially use to put it back inside Foster).
Essentially, what we’re saying is that, while the potential solution wasn’t shown on screen, there is indeed a way in which an apparently major plot hole from Avengers: Endgame could have been plugged.
So, if you’re one of the people who’s been having sleepless nights about the Infinity Stones being returned to their original timelines without their casings, you can finally rest those tired eyes – we’ve got you covered!
One of the very items of power that was being returned gives us an acceptable solution – and it was being handed back to the very person you’d want to make that solution happen.
And that’s that!
What do you think of this theory? Does it solve the Infinity Stones plot hole Avengers: Endgame seemingly created? Let us know your thoughts!