Spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok, up to and including its ending, below.
Teasing Thanos has been the MCU’s go-to post-credits scene strategy for going on five years now, with the Mad Titan casting an impressive (albeit far-off) shadow over the cosmic goings-on since the first Avengers film back in 2012. However, with Infinity War just around the corner, that distance has started to close.
Thor: Ragnarok spoilers below–this is your last warning!
Thor: Ragnarok‘s first post-credits stinger is potentially a major step in that direction. With the ruins of Asgard in the rearview, Thor and Loki convene on the deck of their makeshift ark to talk about next steps before plotting a course for Earth. But as they make the jump into, presumably, deeper space, they find themselves face-to-face with a massive, intimidating space ship.
Whose ship is it? The ship isn’t immediately recognizable from either the preexisting MCU canon or the comics, but its size and the fact that it seemed to be either waiting for–or actively moving to intercept–the Asgardian ship telegraph some decidedly unfriendly intentions. It doesn’t take too much to infer the Thanos connection, despite the ship being way more organic in design than Thanos’s traditional transportation, The Sanctuary.
(It does, however, bear some resemblance to the Shi’ar battleship the Lilandra. And though it’s unlikely the Shi’ar will be represented in the MCU any time soon–they’re owned by Fox–the design could be a tease or potential Easter Egg for cosmic Marvel fans. After all, we live in a post-Spider-Man: Homecoming world now, and stranger things have happened.)
It’s worth pointing out that there are some plausible alternatives to the ship housing Thanos himself. It was confirmed at this year’s D23 Expo that Infinity War would feature The Black Order, a gang of monstrous lackeys Thanos uses to help him hunt down and murder his son, Thane–all of whom were originally introduced in the 2013 crossover event titled Infinity. There are four confirmed members of the Black Order in the MCU: Corvus Glaive, Proxima Midnight, Black Dwarf, and Ebony Maw.
Thane himself is less likely to appear in the MCU any time soon (Gamora and Nebula, and perhaps, depending on the origin story tweaks, the Order themselves, already have the whole “children of Thanos” niche pretty well filled for the time being). But it is likely that segments of Infinity are going to be lifted and reconfigured to fit the Infinity War plot. Coupled with the recent interview given by directors Joe and Anthony Russo calling Infinity War “a heist movie,” it seems like a fair guess that Thanos could be using The Black Order as his hunting dogs to search out and claim the Infinity Stones.
So, why would a member (or members, plural) of the Black Order be looking to gun down Thor’s Asgardian ark? Well, at the end of Ragnarok, it’s heavily implied that Loki clandestinely made off with the Tesseract, also known as the MCU’s Space Gem. It’s entirely possible to guess that Thanos somehow learned of the Tesseract’s location and sent his lackeys after Loki around the time Ragnarok ends.
It’s also worth noting that from what little Infinity War footage has been shown, we’ve seen Thor encountering the Guardians of the Galaxy while the God of Thunder is seemingly adrift in space, though very much alive. So we can assume that the ship we glimpsed in Ragnarok’s post-credits scene caused some chaos, but left survivors.
An encounter with Thanos himself, amid a bunch of civilians (Asgardians or otherwise), would most likely have a very different outcome. That isn’t to say that the Order isn’t terrifying in their own right–just that you’re more likely to live to fight another day coming up against one of them than you would facing down the Mad Titan himself.
Is the Black Order hunting down the Tesseract? Is Thanos himself? And, perhaps more importantly, if that is the case, what will Loki do about it? This is all just speculation, of course, and it’s doubtful we’ll catch up with Thor and his refugees again before Infinity War. Luckily, that 2018 release date is getting closer and closer.
Oh, And That Other One
Meanwhile, in the film’s second post-credits stinger, we see a scene of The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) after narrowly having made his escape from Korg’s “revolution” on Sakaar. While this scene is mostly a gag, it does confirm one key element for Infinity War‘s build up: Grandmaster is decidedly still alive.
This may or may not come into play with The Collector (Benicio del Toro) of Guardians of the Galaxy fame, who is occasionally framed as being Grandmaster’s brother in certain comic book canons. Grandmaster may not have had any direct contact with the Infinity Stones this time around, but The Collector most certainly has.
We could be edging toward a Del Toro/Goldblum meet up in the future–but it’s anyone’s guess what that might mean for our heroes (and the MCU’s costume design department).