"We don't trade lives," the First Avenger says to the solemn android. His smile offers comfort, his voice as confident as his rugged new beard — which a mighty Asgardian would approve of later.
Oh Captain, my Captain.
Maybe you should've traded one this time.
**SPOILER WARNING: This post contains spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War.**
One life for the sake of millions? Billions? The universe is vast, so maybe even trillions? To the Mjolnir-worthy android, his sacrifice makes sense. What's the difference between shattering a forehead Stone and crashing a plane into the Arctic? Or jumping onto a grenade during military training – yes, it was fake, but the sacrificial act was real, Mr. Steve Rogers.
But the Captain hath spoken. The trip to Wakanda has been booked, so we're gonna save Vision, dammit. No one's dying today.
Except for half the universe. They're dying today. Perfectly balanced, as it should be.
Because y'all didn't kill Vision until the last possible second. Because you went back on your word about protecting the Time Stone, Doctor Strange, so it's in the hands — or rather, gauntlet — of a madman who puts it to good use. Twice. Always aim for the head, or at least chop off the arm. Seriously, how did no one think of that? Rocket the Rabbit out here eyein' Bucky's arm like candy and he didn't suggest a quick choppy chop? Not saying it would've worked, but it's the thought that counts.
I know what you're thinking. I'm crazy for championing the notion of sacrificing others for the greater good. And you know... I think I'm crazy, too. I'm not a huge fan of the protagonist giving a heroic smile before willingly plunging to their death. I'm always scrambling to find any solution other than "Promise that you'll kill me," combing through 14 million scenarios to find the one good one. Let all the heroes pull a Clint Barton: settle down on a farm with a spouse and some kids. Frankly, I don't want any of Earth's Mightiest Heroes to die. I've been rockin' with these folks since the MCU started, and as Cap said to Bucky, I'm with them till the end of the line.
But here's the hard truth about Avengers: Infinity War: It is the end of the line.
"We're in the endgame now," says the wizard.
10 years and 18 movies? Yeah, we all went in expecting to lose someone... we just didn't think we'd lose that many someones. OK, it's Thanos they're facing, so maybe we did, but we certainly weren't expecting it to be the newest players in the MCU. We, arguably, just got the best take on Peter Parker, and don't get me started on watching the King of Wakanda vanish into sand.
"They wouldn't dare," we said before April 27, clinging to box-office numbers as proof because "Black Panther made too much money! They won't kill him off that quickly." Ask anyone on Twitter and they'll tell you that they thought one of our original Marvel juggernauts would bite the dust. We spent months pre-mourning the loss of Cap and his brand-new beard, weeks forming prayer circles around Tony as Thanos beat him down in that trailer.
But to our surprise, the OG Avengers defied the odds and lived... only to have everyone else die around them.
Because no one could bear to make any sacrifices.
"Why does someone always have to die in this scenario?" Peter Quill asks, voice trembling at the thought of having to kill Gamora. Because, Mr. Lord, at this stage of the game, someone's gotta do it. That's the definitive message of Infinity War: You gotta take that hard loss before you can succeed. Numerous characters are tasked with killing someone they care about... or marginally tolerate if you're a doctor dealing with Iron Man and his, quote, "ward." Loki and Thor. Wanda and Vision. Peter and Gamora.
Hell, Thanos and Gamora.
Even our villain is put in an uncomfortable position as Red Skull — hey there, unexpected cameo — tells him the requirements of getting the Soul Stone, and really, this is the entire theme of the movie. A high price must be paid in order to win the day. None of our heroes are willing to go through with it, but Thanos? He's turned his back on his destiny once, he ain't about that non-sacrificial life no more.
So yeah. Goodbye, little one. Soul Stone get. And the rest of the Stones get. And "balance" in the universe get. Thanos wins because he makes the sacrifice, something the Avengers aren't willing to do. I think that's why Thanos has some respect for the team — as twisted as he is. Here they are, trying their best to not pull that trigger or shatter that Stone, even if they know they have to. It's admirable, but futile, as Thanos snaps his fingers and obliterates half the universe and all our collective feelings.
"What did it cost?" Young Gamora asks.
"Everything," he says. But hey, that's quite the view from that picturesque planet he's on. I'd bet Bucky's arm it's Gamora's home planet.
So, what happens now?
Well, if I had to guess, I'd say some wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey... stuff. Doctor Strange obviously gave up the Stone because he saw the one scenario that works, but Tony and the others are gonna have to figure out what that means without him being there. If comics have taught me anything, it's that half the universe disintegrating into sand doesn't necessarily mean that everyone's dead, so methinks our remaining heroes are gonna spend the still-untitled Avengers 4 working to unbalance Thanos' great vision.
As for the whole "sacrifice" theme? My money's on Cap and the others realizing that, unfortunately, some lives are gonna have to be "traded" to set things right.