Welcome to The Week in Fan Theories, your guide to what fan theories are taking the internet by storm!
With so many fan theories floating around the web, it can be hard to know which ones to take seriously and which ones are wildly off the mark. Some theories are brilliant breakthroughs that reveal a whole new understanding of what a work of fiction means, or they're spot-on predictions about what's going to happen in the next installment. Others are deeply flawed theories that nevertheless get traction on news sites.
After taking a break from Avengers: Endgame fan theories last week on account of the film's release, we've got some theories of varying quality that need addressing (spoiler alert), as well as a wildly popular, wildly bad theory about the Battle of Winterfell from the last episode of Game of Thrones. Let's start with that one, since it's the big fan theory story of the week.
**Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers for Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame in this post. Obviously.**
JON SNOW WAS YELLING AT THE DRAGON TO DISTRACT IT FOR AYRA
"The Long Night" was a divisive episode of Game of Thrones, with many viewers being upset about how dark it was or how anticlimactic the end was. Your mileage may vary on all counts, but there's a vocal aspect of the fandom that feels cheated by the Night King's demise — not just because it happened too unexpectedly soon, but because Jon Snow wasn't the one to do it.
Instead, Arya drove her Valyrian steel dagger into the Night King's chest. I'd say she came out of nowhere, but that's not true. Sure, she emerged from the darkness in thrilling fashion, but Arya has been training for this moment since the beginning of the show. Yet, there's a popular theory that steals some of the thunder from Arya's big moment.
The theory posits that Jon Snow was not just yelling at the zombie dragon, but that he was actually aware of Arya's plan, and was yelling "Go! Go! Go!" to encourage her while distracting the dragon.
There's a lot of wishful thinking behind this theory, and some of it more destructive than others. To start with, there's really no evidence in the show, as it's shot, that this is what's happening. If Jon's shout-off was meant to be a heroic sacrifice to help his sister out, Game of Thrones would've actually shown that happen, rather than rely on Redditors to lip-read (something fan theorists have a bad track record of, as seen when everyone was trying to figure out Jon's true Targaryen name).
This theory also makes it so that Arya needed Jon's help to do what she did, when the whole point of the twist, as the showrunners explained in the "Inside the Episode" afterward, was that Jon wasn't the one who did the deed. The theory bends over backward to ensure that Jon Snow is, somehow, still responsible for defeating the Night King, rather than letting Arya have the whole unexpected hero moment.
To a certain extent, I get it. Jon Snow has been pretty underwhelming in recent seasons, so it's tempting for fans to try to find a way for him to actually get a win, rather than just be saved from his own stupidity by the Knights of the Vale or Dany and her dragons north of the walls. But, this theory grasps at straws to redeem Jon's character at the expense of Arya's.
THERE'S A SECRET SKRULL IN AVENGERS: ENDGAME
Get ready to see variations on this theory for every Marvel movie. In the comics, the shape-shifting Skrull race seen in Captain Marvel infiltrated Earth by replacing several heroes with Skull versions of themselves, the aptly named Secret Invasion. There has been speculation that the MCU will adapt the storyline, though Captain Marvel threw a wrinkle in that plan with the twist reveal that the Skrulls aren't actually the bad guys.
That hasn't stopped people from seeing Skrulls where there probably aren't any. This theory posits that the school administrator who is present when Peter Parker and Ned reunite in Endgame is actually a cameo. Supposedly, it's Ben Mendelsohn, sneakily playing his Captain Marvel character Talos in shape-shifted form.
Nevermind that there's no confirmation that Mendelsohn actually made the cameo (it's a blurry, middle-aged white dude in a suit off in the distance, hard to get more generic than that), but there's no real reason why this would be happening? Why would Talos be back on Earth? Why would he be working in a Queen school? Why would he turn evil, if that's what the Secret Invasion storyline would imply? Why would Marvel Studios bother burying such a confusing "clue" in the emotional climax of their biggest movie?
The guy in the high school is not a Skrull, but this almost certainly won't be the last time that some random actor in the background of some random scene in a future MCU movie is pegged as the lynchpin of a secret Skrull invasion.
CAPTAIN AMERICA UNDID BLACK WIDOW'S DEATH
Many Endgame viewers were shocked when Black Widow sacrificed herself for the Soul Stone, in part because they're making a Black Widow movie, and also because it seemed like a bad end for her character. Naturally, there are fan theories that explain how she may have been resurrected, like this one, which posits that Steve Rogers bargained with death when he went back in time to return the Soul Stone.
It's not a totally implausible theory, and unless the Black Widow movie is a prequel (which is likely), there has to be some way to bring Natasha back. The only issue is that this theory, like so many, involves believing that a ton of important action happened off-screen and was never mentioned.
Crafting fan theories can sometimes obscure the fact that movies are themselves crafted. Endgame ended the way it did for a reason, and if Natasha's resurrection occurred, it almost certainly would have been important enough for the film to show — or, heck, at least hint at. But, that's not where the filmmakers took the narrative.
It's possible that Natasha could come back — nobody really stays dead in superhero comics, after all. But, should that happen, it will be a big deal, and would be will like a big deal in the movies. For now, these off-screen theories can be fun head-cannon, but they don't jive with the film as it exists.
A VERY GOOD EXPLANATION FOR THE CAPTAIN AMERICA PLOT HOLE
Time travel is a wonderful storytelling tool, but it's also a nightmare. Introducing it to a plot introduces so many narrative and logistical headaches that it's easy to see why J.K. Rowling decided to destroy all the Time-Turners in Harry Potter rather than worry about them. (Well, until Cursed Child, but that's another story).
For the most part, though, Avengers: Endgame is internally consistent with its in-universe "rules" for how time travel works, right up until the end. Before that, the film makes it very clear that trips to the past create alternate timelines, rather than affect the current reality. And yet, Steve Rogers goes back in time (read: to another reality) and somehow stays in that past and lives a whole life, somehow existing as an old man in the present day (read: the original reality).
It doesn't add up, and it introduces a bunch of plot hole that threaten to overshadow the intent of the scene, which was to give Steve a happy ending with Peggy Carter and to allow him to handle the shield and mantle over to Sam Wilson.
The Russo Brothers' "explanation" for how this happened doesn't really explain anything, but I'd recommend this Polygon essay, for anybody looking for a way to make the ending make sense. Without getting into it too much, the essay manages to use Infinity Stones and quantum physics as a way to explain why the conclusion "don't worry about it" actually makes sense, in-fiction. It's simultaneously a bulletproof theory and the equivalent of throwing your hands up in the air and saying "I dunno, whatever." It's a great theory.