WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for Avengers: Endgame.
The movie’s conclusion is different for many of the Marvel key players, but – as expected – it’s Tony Stark’s Iron Man who has one of the hardest-hitting farewells.
This is your last chance to dodge a massive Endgame spoiler – stop reading now if you haven’t seen the movie.
When Robert Downey Jr’s character wields the Infinity Stones and snaps Thanos and the Black Order into oblivion, it takes such a toll on his body that he soon dies, with Pepper Potts and Peter Parker by his side.
But it’s a moment that takes place shortly before this that reminds us when the seeds for this finale were first sewn last year.
On the battlefield, Tony steals a word with the revived Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch).
In Infinity War, Doctor Strange said he had foreseen over 14 million different outcomes of the plight against Thanos – and only one in which they won.
When Stark desperately asks Strange if the events of Endgame are the same as the events of that one successful outcome, Strange says cryptically that he can’t tell Stark – as it would risk it not happening.
AVENGERS ENDGAME POST-CREDITS: DID YOU HEAR THIS NOD?
The fact that Stark then went on to sacrifice his life makes Strange’s previous stance in Infinity War make much more sense.
When the two characters first met, Strange made it clear that he would not hesitate to sacrifice Stark’s life if it meant protecting the Time Stone, and therefore the greater good.
At the end of the film however, when Stark was being slowly killed by Thanos, Strange stopped him; offering to surrender the Time Stone in exchange for Stark’s survival.
At the time, this could have been interpreted as a change of heart from Strange.
AVENGERS ENDGAME: WHO WAS THAT KID AT TONY STARK’S FUNERAL?
But now, it all makes sense: Strange may have been sparing Stark’s life then, but in putting that “one successful outcome” into motion, he was still putting Iron Man down a path that would lead to his death.
Several fans had theorised that this would be the case; and that Strange surrendering the Time Stone was precisely because he knew what needed to be done for good to conquer evil.
That, too, was what convinced the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) to give Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) the Time Stone when the latter travelled back to 2012.
It seems Doctor Strange may have been the orchestrator of mankind’s salvation after all.
Avengers: Endgame is out now.