As is implied by the headline, this story is all about the ending of Joe and Anthony Russo's Avengers: Infinity War. It is LOADED with spoilers. Stop reading if you haven't seen the film, and come back here when you have.

We weren't ready for that. No matter how bleak you thought Avengers: Infinity War would get, the actual ending to the film delivered a staggering gut-punch from a villain wearing a massive gauntlet on his meaty paw. Thanos (Josh Brolin) won. He acquired every Infinity Stone, digging the last one out of Vision's forehead and leaving the hero as an empty husk on the ground in Wakanda. The Avengers lost. For now.

We think that this will get resolved in Avengers 4. The sequel has no subhed yet, but this movie -- while having a resolution -- offers a cliffhanger that needs to be cleaned up. Let's discuss what the ending of Avengers: Infinity War means, and the three ways that it could be continued in the upcoming movies.

Are the heroes really dead?

It looks like it. Thanos completed his quest to bring balance to an overpopulated world by eliminating half of existence. He snapped his finger while wearing the Gauntlet, and people started fading to dust. Literally. The affected included such key members of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and even Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who surfaced in an end-credits scene.

The movie ends with the existing Avengers as confused as the audience. What actually happened to these heroes? They don't drop dead. They fade away, and are very much alive and aware of what's happening to them as it happens. Spider-Man even resists it long enough to apologize to Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) in one of the film's most heartbreaking moments.

So, are they dead? Have they phased away to another realm? Could they be brought back? For now, it looks like they are -- in the definition of a comic book movie -- dead. They are gone. They could come back, though, and the movie left a few interesting threads that could be pulled for Avengers 4. Yes, Thanos won, and brought balance to the universe by eliminating half of it with the snap of his fingers. But here's how the ending could set up a beginning for the next chapter of the MCU. Read on.

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