What took Thanos so long? It’s a question asked by those who believe “Thanos did nothing wrong,” sure, but also it’s a worthy question about the Avengers: Endgame villain’s motivations.
Thanos could have sought out the Infinity Stones at any point. Instead, he bided his time until years later. So what caused the wait? One theory suggests it was done entirely out of fear of other superpowered beings, and he was just waiting his turn to make an uncontested strike against the people of Earth.
The Theory — According to a theory posted by Redditor u/Village-Patient, Thanos postponed his plans because he was terrified of his own “Big Three,” to put it in Sam Wilson’s terms.
Instead of aliens, androids, and wizards, Thanos is afraid of aliens, Asgardians, and wizards. The theory posits Ego, Odin, and The Ancient One as three of Thanos’ greatest fears, and he waited until all of them were dead to make his move.
This would make sense, as all of these characters were massively powerful and had strong ties to the Avengers, which meant they could be called in for backup at any time.
Of course, this was before time travel was introduced, so while the Ancient One was able to return in Endgame, Thanos didn’t know that was possible. His only solution was merely to wait for all of them to be defeated, whether by an Avenger like Ego, by an outside threat like The Ancient One, or by natural causes like Odin.
All of these characters had different roles in the MCU but each served in a father-like capacity to an Avenger. Odin, of course, was Thor’s father. Ego’s fatherly relationship to Peter Quill is complicated at best and the sole focus of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The Ancient One served as Doctor Strange’s mentor, proving you don’t have to be male to play a paternal role.
Thanos waited until the Avengers were at their most vulnerable to pounce.
This wasn’t unexpected, though. Wong warned Strange that foes would take advantage of the Ancient One’s loss, saying news of her “death will spread through the Multiverse. The Earth has no Sorcerer Supreme to defend it. We must be ready.” Thanos must have been one of those beings who heard the news and decided now was the time to get the stones.
Thanos’ plan may have worked perfectly to the point where the only way to undo it was to time travel, but perfect plans like this don’t just appear. They require meticulous planning and a razor-sharp sense of timing. Any earlier, and he could have run into the earlier generation of superpowered beings, and any later, the Avengers may have had enough time to evolve into something that could have defeated him.
The Inverse Analysis — Looking past the fourth wall, Thanos attacked when he did not because the Ancient One, Odin and Ego were dead. The reason is much more simple than that: it’s because the storyline suited it.
Cynicism aside, this theory provides a motivation that not only makes sense, but also shows what Thanos is afraid of — and how those characters reflect on his own fears in parenting, especially knowing seeking out the stones means sacrificing his daughter.
Avengers: Endgame is streaming now on Disney+.