Arguably the most surprising moment of Avengers: Endgame’s entire three-hour runtime comes in the film’s opening minutes, when Thor impulsively follows the advice of the villainous Thanos and goes for the head. By Marvel Studios standards, it was an unusually macabre moment that left filmgoers around the world asking the question, “What now?”
In an interview with ComicBook.com, executive producer Trinh Tran reflected on Thanos’ decapitation, and recalled how she was the first to bring up the idea in discussions:
“He defeated the Avengers in Infinity War. Where does he go from there? How do we continue a story where audiences are going to go, ‘Oh, this is new, this is different,’ rather than just tell the same story again? And we wanted our heroes to be able to go back in time, like that’s the fun of it, right? So I just went, ‘Okay, this is a crazy idea. They’re probably going to think I’m nuts for saying it, but let’s talk about it.’”
Though Tran’s idea was initially met with some resistance, it did manage to start a conversation that eventually led to the Marvel team finding their story:
“It started a conversation and I think that was key. It was that we were able to take that and whether or not we ended up with that, I wanted that conversation to go, ‘What if this can happen? What if this crazy idea can happen and what happens with the Avengers if we do that?’ And that actually kind of just took a role of its own and we made that happen. I’m like, ‘Oh my God, we’re going to kill him off in the beginning. Now, how are we going to fix this all?’”
Among other things, the Mad Titan’s death served as the punchline to Thanos’ “gone for the head” line from last year’s Avengers: Infinity War. Nonetheless, in the commentary track for the Endgame home release, co-writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely admitted to feeling a little shocked by how much laughter the scene drew from audiences. The pair ultimately conceded that viewers may have needed a moment to absorb the reality that Thanos’ demise was essentially a hollow victory.
Incidentally, the purple tyrant’s death wasn’t the only decapitation idea that was being thrown around in the film’s early stages. At this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Markus and McFeely revealed that they also suggested a scene where the alternate reality Thanos taunts Earth’s Mightiest Heroes with the severed head of Captain America after killing the Avengers in his own timeline.
It certainly would’ve been a moment to get audiences talking, but we’ll leave it to you to decide if one decapitation scene was enough for Avengers: Endgame. Regardless, now that Thanos has been killed a second time, the MCU is free to start anew with a fresh saga, and we’ll likely find out just what Marvel Studios has in mind when Phase 4 gets underway next year.