Let's nip something in the bud first before the internet collectively turns on me: I enjoyed Infinity War and am truly interested in seeing how the second chapter will wrap things up. Marvel is doing a way better job at storytelling than I could ever dream, but they more often than not miss the mark when it comes to risk, loss, and (perhaps most importantly) death. Avengers: Infinity War is the culmination of 10 years of our movie-going lives and this massive confluence of so many story lines should have come together in a way that would leave us changed and appreciative to the road so far. The stakes should've been higher than ever but after almost three hours of my favorite heroes traversing the universe to beat the big, bad Thanos--they lost and I... I just don't care all that much.
We saw some of our favorite heroes literally crumble into nothingness in one of the most brutal montages in cinema history and I couldn't help but feel like the movie was actively trying to wring unearned tears out of me. But here's the thing: it'll be a cold day in Muspelheim before we actually see all of those characters gone forever. Spider-Man and Black Panther are the new tentpoles of the MCU - do they SERIOUSLY expect us to believe that the debut solo film that's made over a billion dollars is it for that franchise? Or that a sequel that's both been announced AND is coming out a mere 2 months after Avengers 4 is NOT going to feature the main character, alive and well? Do they honestly think we're dumb enough to think the Guardians of the Galaxy would be reduced to a SINGLE guardian? Suspension of disbelief is fine, but we all understand how the movie business works to some degree, and that fact gives away that none of this actually matters.
Plus, I'm somehow supposed to feel bad for Iron Man because he's stuck in space with Nebula? Not a chance, Tony. You cashed in your emotional currency the moment you hired, fired, and re-hired a child soldier from Queens. Scratch that, I meant that time you encouraged the kid from Jurassic World to blind his grade school bully with an illegal super weapon.
Almost all of the characters we lost in Infinity War will certainly be back, so why do we care that they're gone now? The ones i actually feel for are Loki and Heimdall because their deaths had weight and meaning. They died heroes and should be remembered as such for risking their lives to save others. But it'll mean so much less if Loki gets brought back in the next chapter and scampers off in a "Oooh! Maybe I'm still sort of evil! Who knows!? Tee Hee! I'm so mischievous" kind of way. If he stays dead, his arc is complete and it was one hell of a (occasionally) heroic ride.
If you take a look at modern movies and TV shows you'll see the idea of a reset button used far too often. I'm not sure if it's just writers painting themselves into a corner or actually thinking it's a good narrative device, but it just doesn't do much for emotional attachment.
We got faked out with Glenn's Pre-Negan Under-Dumpster Death? on The Walking Dead, Sherlock proved himself as a true sociopath when he let Watson mourn him for his (still not-well-explained) faux-death, and Jon Snow's death at the hands of the Night's Watch was telegraphed for an entire season and then almost immediately undone (plus, spoiled a book 7 years in the making that's STILL not out). The showrunners took something away from us and we may have legitimately felt it the first time around. Bringing them back tells us, in a way, that our feelings didn't matter because the thing we saw happen ultimately didn't matter.
Audiences have been trained to think death isn't a permanent thing in these worlds so why should we believe it when we see it the second, third, or fourth times? Hint: we kind of don't. If Jon Snow dies again, we'll know he can come back. If Sherlock jumps off another building, we suspect he's only messing with Watson again. And if Glenn... well... OK... you got me there TWD.
Lazy storytelling aside, I believe that when a fictional character dies, it can serve as a dry run for us in the real world when we actually have to face loss. When stakes are built correctly, we get to hop into those situations and play them out in relative safety in order to hone how we grieve in real life.
Would the Seymour episode of Futurama have been as good if Fry decided to bring his dog back? Would the 10th Doctor's departure meant as much if he timey-wimey'd his way out of it? Would the Papouli episode of Full House been as impactful if Michelle and the Tanners didn't have to deal with losing the patriarch of the Katsopolis family? I'll cry-fight anyone who thinks "yes" is the answer to any of those.
Let me put it another way. Imagine if Dan Conner from Roseanne didn't actually die at the end of the series and the show came back, effectively nullifying the bittersweet ending to a show we dearly loved all those years ago. Imagine how mad we'd be if a show like that told us what we felt was all for nothing and then came back with some misguided agenda instead of remaining that special thing in our hearts? [Editor's Note: Blake, we should have a talk]
Death and loss in the things we watch let us practice for when it really comes our way and I truly believe remembering the sad - and especially permanent - moments can help us. The follow up to Avengers: Infinity War will certainly answer a lot of questions we have, but if every single character we lost comes back, we'll know that any inkling of sadness we felt in those final moments was ultimately a fake out...and REALLY undermine the stakes in the Marvel universe going forward.
Is it weird to hope that movies and TV can sincerely bum me out and make me think about death? Probably. But I'd rather remember Loki as a hero than see the movie hit the reset button on him. In fact, my weird hope for loss has me wishing Marvel actually throws us a curve ball brings back almost no one. That'd change things in the best way possible with a double fake out and a true lesson in loss. Alright, I guess you can hate me for wanting that, fellow MCU fans.
All of this being said, Valkyrie, Korg, and Miek BETTER have made it out of the Asgard refugee ship somehow.