Thanos retrieves the Time Stone in 'Avengers: Infinity War'.

A bizarre Avengers 4 theory resurfaced this week that offers a convincing argument not only for why the Infinity Gauntlet was damaged after the Snap but also might explain how the Avengers could use time travel to defeat Thanos in the end. Strap in for a wild ride.

Earlier this week, Observer reintroduced this convoluted, timey wimey theory that feels ripped right out of Doctor Who. But it first emerged from redditor LoL-Guru in July. The gist of it is that while Thanos did indeed collect all of the Infinity Stones, the Time Stone he receives wasn’t quite the one he wanted — it was a different version from the future.

“Doctor Strange conjuring forth the Stone the same way as Loki did the Tesseract is a gigantic misdirect!” they write. “The Stone is glowing brilliantly because it’s actually traveling back in time from the future!” When Strange summons the Stone and gives it to Thanos to save Tony Stark’s life, the Stone is indeed glowing brilliantly, usually an indication that a Stone’s power is being actively used.

Doctor Strange reveals the Time Stone while on Titan during 'Avengers: Infinity War'.
Doctor Strange reveals the Time Stone while on Titan during 'Avengers: Infinity War'.

Thanos even has to grab its aura rather than the Stone itself to put it in the Gauntlet; he was able to touch every other Stone directly (but we never do see him interact with the Power Stone). So rather than Strange summoning it using the same illusion magic that Loki uses, LoL-Guru thinks this is the Time Stone traveling back in time to that exact moment.

While at first glance this theory seems totally outlandish, remember that pretty much every Stone has passive features and something close to a consciousness. Vision can intuit the thoughts of the Mind Stone. The Space Stone deemed Red Skull unworthy and teleported him across the universe. The Soul Stone even taunts Thanos at the end of Infinity War in Soul World. But what of the Time Stone?

“I would postulate that the time stone can be sent through time all by itself, going forward or backward,” LoL-Guru writes. Either this or Doctor Strange actively willing it forward in time is totally plausible. Maybe the Time Stone will pop up on Titan for Tony Stark to claim moments after the action finishes?

The overarching implication here is that the Time Stone moves forward into the future where the good guys can use it to ultimately rewrite history and defeat Thanos, all before the Stone goes back to that moment when it appears in Strange’s hand on Titan.

Doctor Strange peers into millions of alternate futures in 'Infinity War'.
Doctor Strange peers into millions of alternate futures in 'Infinity War'.

Another facet of this theory is that because this would be the same Time Stone that helped defeat Thanos in the future to undo the Snap, Thanos using it to actively wipe out half the universe at the end of Infinity War would create a temporal paradox. Could that be why the Infinity Gauntlet malfunctioned, broke, and injured Thanos?

“It’s using a Time Stone from a reality where the Avengers have already won and sent it back in time,” LoL-Guru writes. “The paradox of using a stone from a mutually exclusive reality breaks the gauntlet and helps advance Doctor Strange’s plan even further because it cripples Thanos’ ability to fight back when the Avengers start mounting their counter offensive.”

There’s the added evidence of several shots and moments from Infinity War marketing that don’t appear in the movie, like when Hulk fights at Wakanda. Maybe after they rewrite history, these events will play out differently?

One potential wrinkle in all this is that in May, Infinity War and Avengers 4 writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely said, “There’s a reason why other people haven’t done this,” when speaking of Thanos uniting the Infinity Stones in the Gauntlet. “Because I think it’ll kill you. So the strongest guy in the universe has to be the one to do it. And I don’t think he’ll be doing much with that arm.”

So would he have been injured either way? Maybe. But the fact remains that Doctor Strange set in motion one specific timeline in which the good guys win in the end, so Thanos has to be injured as part of the “end game” for them to have any hope of defeating him in the future.

Avengers 4 will be released May 3, 2019.

Photos via Marvel Studios