*WARNING: THE FOLLOWING POST INCLUDES SPOILERS FOR AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FILM YET, THEN DO NOT READ THIS POST. SERIOUSLY – AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR IS A FILM THAT YOU SHOULD SEE SPOILER-FREE.*

Since watching Avengers: Infinity War earlier today, I’ve had the film running around my mind, trying to work out how the events will be resolved in next year’s as-yet-untitled Avengers 4 and beyond. After thinking about what happens in Infinity War and what this could mean, I’ve just had a thought which may explain how Marvel could retire some of its characters after this next movie.

Of course, this is all speculation… but, it’s worth considering.

Before I get to it, let’s just do a very quick recap on what we know – i.e. which characters survived Thanos’ ‘finger click’ and which didn’t.

Those that survived:

  • Thor
  • Iron Man
  • Captain America
  • Black Widow
  • Hulk
  • War Machine
  • Rocket Raccoon
  • Nebula
  • Okoye

Those that didn’t survive: 

  • The majority of the Guardians
  • Black Panther
  • Spider-Man
  • Falcon
  • Doctor Strange
  • Bucky Barnes
  • Vision
  • Scarlet Witch
  • Nick Fury
  • Maria Hill

What do you notice about the two lists?

The majority of those that survive are characters which have been with the series for a long time – specifically characters we know are likely to retire after Avengers 4. The majority of those that die are characters that either have sequels in the works, or in the case of Doctor Strange or Black Panther are almost certainly getting sequels.

So, here’s the theory.

Everyone is presuming that Avengers 4 will deal with a time travel element (presumably via the time stone) to allow the surviving Avengers to change the events of Infinity War. But what if that doesn’t happen? What if something else happens?

What if the outcome of Infinity War is flipped. What if the 50% of the universe that survived now have to die in order to bring back the 50% that have already gone? What if some kind of cosmic balance means that in order to bring someone back, someone has to go?

If this is the case and a ‘flip’ takes place, then characters such as Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk etc could effectively bow out after Avengers 4. Meanwhile, all of the future stars of the Marvel Cinematic Universe could return, allowing for a new run of movies where Cap and Co. become legends and there’s no need to recast parts.

Of course, there are a few anomalies at present which could scupper this theory: Ant-Man, Wasp and Hawkeye, who were all missing from the events of Infinity War. We don’t know when or how these characters will show up in Avengers 4.

But… speculating again…

The next Marvel movie, Ant-Man and the Wasp is reportedly set during the events of Infinity War, meaning the characters can have one last adventure before Thanos causes devastation. So, who’s to say that the movie doesn’t end with Ant-Man and the Wasp disappearing as the movie closes.

If my ‘flip’ theory pans out, they could then come back during the events of Avengers 4 and return for future sequels.

As for Hawkeye, I believe he’s still alive – there’s nothing to suggest he isn’t. However, I believe he’s another character likely to be retired post Avengers 4, so if the ‘flip’ takes place he could bow out too.

As I say, heavy speculation at this stage… and it would require 50% of the universe to remain dead… which seems harsh. But what if?