WARNING: Major spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.

Avengers: Endgame's ending is the high-stakes close to the story Marvel Studios has been on for the last 11 years and an emotional send-off to some of the MCU's biggest characters, but also a setting of the stage for what can come in Phase 4 and beyond. Now that the film is out in theaters, it is time to break it all down.

The movie sees the Avengers learn that their failure is unstoppable and irreversible at the beginning of the film, taking audiences forward five years with a time jump. The surviving heroes have all either retired, continued a seemingly hopeless search, or turned down a darker path. But, once Scott Lang aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) teases Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) with the possibility of time travel, everything falls into place. The Avengers hop through time stealing Infinity Stones from past MCU films with the hope of snapping their own fingers and bringing back those they lost.

Related: Everything We Know About Avengers 5

This is complicated thanks to Nebula's (Karen Gillan) memory network alerting 2014 Thanos (Josh Brolin) that his future plan is being undermined, and sets the stage for an epic finale. There's a lot to discuss when it comes to Avengers: Endgame's ending, including the return of the snap victims, death of Iron Man, new direction for Thor, new life for Captain America, and a lot more.

How Infinity War’s Snap Victims Come Back To Fight Thanos

The Avengers were successful on their missions to acquire the six Infinity Stones for themselves, and after some debate, Bruce Banner aka Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) volunteers to be the one to put on the retro-fitted Iron Man gauntlet to try and bring back the other half of the universe's population. It appears he is able to do this when Hawkeye's (Jeremy Renner) wife calls him on the phone, but Avengers HQ is instantly attacked by Thanos from 2014, who traveled through time himself. Avengers HQ is completed leveled, with Hulk badly injured from the effects of the snap.

Iron Man, Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans), and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) are the only ones capable of trying to defeat Thanos. But they once again fall short, leaving Cap as the only one left standing before Thanos and the massive army he's assembled. But, just as it appears all hope is lost and Thanos will win again, portals from around the galaxy begin to open up. Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and many other sorcerers - including Wong (Benedict Wong) - are responsible for transporting all of Wakanda, the remaining Asgardians, the other alive MCU heroes, and the now returned snap victims to this location to join the fight. They all remember being dusted, but have no idea what happened in the five years since and are just focused on doing their part to protect the universe once again.

Tony Stark Sacrifices Himself To Beat Thanos

Even with the full force of the MCU behind them, the fate of the universe ultimately comes down to one key sequence. The Iron Man gauntlet with all six Infinity Stones is up for grabs and Thanos fights off several heroes to get his hands on it. Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) comes in to deliver punishing blows and is about to overpower the Mad Titan, but then he pulls out the Power Stone and uses it to punch her away. It is at this moment that Iron Man sees the window of opportunity and the one chance to win this war and complete Doctor Strange's plan.

Related: Why Didn't Doctor Strange Trap Thanos In A Time Loop?

He jumps back into the fight and uses the nanotech armor to transfer the Infinity Stones to his suit during this exchange with Thanos. With every stone now in his possession, Tony says "I am Iron Man" one more time as he snaps his fingers. Instead of half of the universe randomly being slaughtered, it is now Thanos and his army who are dusted. However, Tony is just a regular human being and by no means as powerful as Hulk or Thanos, who both barely survived snaps of their own. The entire right side of Tony is instantly charred, giving him just a few moments left with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), James Rhodes aka War Machine (Don Cheadle), and Peter Parker aka Spider-Man (Tom Holland) before he dies.

Tony Stark’s Funeral Unites The MCU

The send off to the MCU's biggest character is sure to leave fans heartbroken, but it is also used beautifully in Avengers: Endgame to unite the rest of the universe to honor the man who started it all. An intimate funeral is held at Stark's isolated household makes up the massive ensemble scene that many MCU stars previously teased had been filmed. Almost every single character of some significance to Stark or the MCU is present for his goodbye, but also to reflect back and show just how big the universe has become since audiences first heard "I am Iron Man" echoed across theaters.

The scene plays as one continuous shot weaving through all of the different characters who have assembled. Pepper, Rhodey, Tony's daughter, and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) all make their way out to the lake after watching a pre-recorded message from Tony just in case this outcome happened. Outside, they are joined by the remaining original Avengers members Cap, Thor, Hulk, and Hawkeye. Tony's newer allies and acquaintances like Peter Parker, Doctor Strange, and Ant-Man all appear, as do the Guardians of the Galaxy. Those with other personal connections to him like Harley Keener (Ty Simpkins), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and - of course - Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) mourn his loss, along with several others. They are all here to say goodbye to Tony Stark - who is largely responsible for many of them being here at all thanks to the success of Iron Man in 2008.

Thor Joins The Guardians of the Galaxy

While Iron Man's story has come to a close, the ending of Avengers: Endgame opens up a new chapter for Thor. He previously moved the remaining members of his Asgardian fleet to Norway following the snap, and after not being the best king during this time, he decides it is time to move on. Thor boards the Benatar with Rocket Raccoon and the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy, marking the beginning of the Asgardians of the Galaxy, as he jokingly calls them (a reference to a recent comic run). The banter with Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) returns instantly as part of their individual struggles to be seen as the leader, and it appears this will continue for the foreseeable future.

Related: Thor Should Replace Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy

Star-Lord Wants To Find HIS Gamora

The new look Guardians of the Galaxy team does not have a clear cut mission from the get-go, but Star-Lord does have one goal in mind that he isn't yet sharing with the team. He famously lost his cool on Titan when it was revealed that Thanos had to sacrifice Gamora (Zoe Saldana) in order to obtain the Soul Stone. Since she was not a victim of the snap, she was not among those brought back when Hulk reversed it - and he couldn't even get Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) back either. But, after encountering the 2014 version of the galaxy's deadliest woman, Star-Lord is shown searching the cosmos for any sign of the Gamora he knows and loves. This could be a storyline ripe for exploration in James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which Saldana has teased before she could appear in.

Valkyrie Becomes Queen Of Asgard

Since Thor has left New Asgard, a new ruler had to be appointed, and he made the no-brainer decision to make Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) the queen. The former Asgardian warrior and member of the Valkyrie is a natural choice to rule according to Thor, and the recognition is moving for the character. While there's no official announcements on what Valkyrie's future will be as the queen, we do know from Thompson that Taika Waititi has pitched his take for Thor 4/Thor: Ragnarok 2, which now will likely feature her as the star. The only question that remains is if she'll get a special Nidavellir weapon of her own.

What Happens To The Infinity Stones?

The Infinity Stones have been as central to past seven years of the MCU as just about any actual characters, with Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige even dubbing this 22 film story the Infinity SagaAvengers: Endgame is the end of this story, and by all means, is also the end of the Infinity Stones being part of the ongoing narrative. It's revealed very early on in the movie that Thanos used the power of the stones to destroy them just three weeks after the snap occurs; this is why the Avengers must travel through time to acquire past versions of them. We've already covered how the Avengers use the stones to successfully bring back the fallen and defeat Thanos, but what happened to the stones next?

What we do know is that the Infinity Stones must be placed in the exact same point in time in which they were taken to avoid creating new realities and futures. Captain America is tasked with doing this, meaning he will travel to Morag to put back the Power Stone in 2014, Vormir to give back the Soul Stone, the Battle of New York in 2012 to return the Time Stone and Mind Stone, Asgard in 2013 to inject the Reality Stone back into Jane Foster, and place the Space Stone back in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody in 1970. The plan is for him to do this and return five seconds later in the present day, but then he misses the window... on purpose.

Related: Captain Marvel May Have Already Teased A Proper Avengers Team Replacement

Steve Rogers Gets His Dance (& Life) With Peggy Carter In The Past

After spending the last decade being the man out of time, Captain America uses this to give himself the life he never got. Instead of going back to join the Avengers, Steve decides to stay in the past so he can have the long-awaited dance with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). This single moment isn't the end of their time together though, as he stays with Peggy and they grow old together. We have already seen in Captain America: Civil War that Peggy passed away due to old age, but Steve now was able to experience a full life together, as he is able to accept a life outside of war for the first time ever.

Falcon Becomes The New Captain America (Not Bucky)

While Cap didn't make it back to the present day as the plan originally called for, he does return to Avengers HQ to be reunited with his best friends Sam Wilson aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) one more time. The old man Steve Rogers is sitting on a bench when Sam and Bucky notice him, and Bucky tells Sam to go over first. Sam mentions to Steve that it will be strange to live in a world without Captain America. Steve uses this opportunity to pull out the star-spangled shield and gives it to Sam, hoping that he will be the new Captain America. Sam is honored to have the shield, while Bucky appears to be perfectly happy with Steve's decision. This will be explored further in the upcoming Disney+ series, Falcon & The Winter Soldier.

What Happens To The Rest Of The Characters At The End Of Avengers: Endgame

As for the rest of the characters in Avengers: Endgame - and there sure are a lot of them - they mostly just get quick bookends to this story that can set up their own futures. Banner is still injured and in his Professor Hulk form, while Hawkeye and Wanda have one final talk before he returns to his farmhouse to be reunited with his family. We get a quick shot of Wakanda where Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Shuri (Letitia Wright), and Ramonda (Angela Bassett) look over their thriving advanced nation. Peter returns to school an emotional wreck, but finally gets to see Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon) again. Scott sits on his porch with Hope van Dyne aka Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) and an older Cassie Lang (Emma Furhmann), potentially setting up the trio working together in the future.

Unfortunately, we don't get to see scenes like these for every character, with Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel among those not to be seen again after the funeral.

Who Are The Avengers Now?

With most of the original Avengers dead, old, or leaving, where does this leave the superhero team? Avengers: Endgame never addresses an actual passing of the torch and formation of a new team, so it is unclear at the moment if the Avengers even truly exist anymore. If they do, it may only be in loose forms, where Professor Hulk may be the only one to stick around. Rhodey is still an Avenger and didn't drive off in the sunset at the end, so it could just be him and Hulk that are left. That said, Tony did knight Spider-Man in space to make him an Avenger, which could make him an actual member too - if he had any interest that is. Captain Marvel's possible affiliation with them is unclear as she barely was a part of their team to begin with, but maybe Fury convinces her otherwise.

Additionally, we could see Falcon and Scarlet Witch reinstated with the Avengers. Secretary Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt) was at Tony's funeral with all of them and showed no signs of arresting them, so the Sokovia Accords could have been voided or their past actions forgotten, which would allow them to rejoin the team. There's also a case to be made for Ant-Man to be a member of the team officially now, as well as other heroes like Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Wasp, and more. If they aren't members now, there is still a good chance they'll be called upon in the future.

What Marvel Movies Are Next After Avengers: Endgame?

Avengers: Endgame is a satisfying conclusion to the MCU up to this point, but the universe is not going to slow down now. It will move forward in just a few months with the release of Spider-Man: Far From Home, which will see Peter go on summer vacation to try and get away from the superhero life after this traumatic experience. The film was recently revealed by Kevin Feige to actually be part of Phase 3 and not the kick off to Phase 4 as previously thought. But, this just means that the new Phase will kick off a brand new era with a different familiar face.

Related: Avengers: Infinity War Doesn't Set Up Spider-Man: Far From Home

Marvel Studios is currently expected to have two 2020 releases and all signs point to those being Black Widow - which is definitely a prequel following her death in Avengers: Endgame - and a new cosmic franchise The Eternals. After this, Black Panther 2 and Doctor Strange 2 are both in development with directors Ryan Coogler and Scott Derrickson returning to their respective franchises. James Gunn was also previously reinstated on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but his initial firing has pushed back the expected timeframe. We'll also be getting a Shang-Chi movie directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, marking the MCU's first Asian-led movie. All of these movies are technically unconfirmed from Marvel, and even though Captain Marvel 2Ant-Man 3Thor 4, or Spider-Man 3 have also yet to be announced, they will likely happen too.

The MCU Is Now Set In 2023

One aspect to Avengers: Endgame's ending that may add some confusion to the larger MCU moving forward is the timeline. The movie features a five-year time jump from the end of Avengers: Infinity War and the 2014 set scenes with Thanos, Gamora, and Nebula state that these events are happening nine years in the future. That means, with little room for leeway, that the ending of Avengers: Endgame and everything that will follow it chronologically are going to be taking place several years in the future (for us).

In the past, Marvel films took place in the same year they are released - unless otherwise noted. This will not be the case anymore, as the five year Decimation period will forever remain part of the MCU's history. Thankfully, Marvel should be able to shorten this window fairly quickly, as Black Widow and The Eternals are expected to be prequels, while the rest of Phase 4 could follow these characters in the almost immediate aftermath of Avengers: Endgame. Now we'll just need to hope they can do this and avoid making major continuity errors.

More: Every Phase 4 MCU Movie In Development

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