In Avengers: Infinity War, the fate of the universe depends on whether or not Thanos gets all of the Infinity Stones, so if Thanos already had the Mind Stone before The Avengers (2012), then why did he give the Scepter to Loki? In an interview published by Screen Crush last week, Infinity War writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely acknowledged this pretty huge plot hole, but they also hinted at a fairly obvious explanation.

“My assumption is that perhaps that wasn’t up on the board early,” McFeely said, referring to how at first, The Avengers director and writer Joss Whedon might not have intended for Loki’s Scepter to house the Mind Stone. (Whedon did, of course, later confirm in Age of Ultron that the Scepter did.) When asked if they felt obliged to answer for fans why Thanos would give the Stone away, Markus said, “Certainly we had to be aware of it.” A more plausible and somewhat convoluted explanation has everything to do with timing: Thanos didn’t want to prematurely reveal his grand plan before executing it was doable, so loaning out one Stone to Loki was a gamble that could have gotten him two Stones without having to attract unwanted attention.

Odin's death made 'Infinity War' possible.
Odin's death made 'Infinity War' possible.

Here’s a complete guide to the location of the Infinity Stones leading into Avengers: Infinity War.

Thanos has been culling populations for decades; He kidnapped Gamora around 18 years ago but has had his genocidal tendencies for far longer. He’s quietly sought Infinity Stones for years. He sent Gamora hunting for the Soul Stone long before the first Guardians of the Galaxy. But in Avengers, if Thanos had gotten directly involved and attacked Earth for the Tesseract himself, then he might have attracted the attention of characters like Odin, Ego, or the Ancient One, who could have contested his mission. Manipulating Loki into a red herring was a safer play, especially when Thanos couldn’t fully wield the Stones at that point.

It wasn’t until after Odin died in Thor: Ragnarok that Thanos had the chance to attack Nidavellir and force the dwarf king Eitri (Peter Dinklage) to build the Infinity Gauntlet. We know from a brief exchange between Eitri and Thor that the space station was under the protection of Asgard, so when Odin’s death unleashed Hela, leading to the destruction of Asgard, the dwarves were left unguarded. That’s when Thanos struck, had the Gauntlet made, and then quickly took each Stone one-by-one until he eliminated half the universe.

Most of the MCU’s heroes have turned to ash, with just the original Avengers left alive along with Rocket, War Machine, and Nebula. How will they all handle the fallout in Avengers 4? And can they use Captain Marvel’s help to somehow fix things?

Captain Marvel is scheduled for release March 6, 2019 with the still untitled Avengers 4 scheduled for May 3, 2019.