Ah, the T.H.A.N.O.S. theory. It's one of the most popular theories among Marvel fans, the idea that the six Infinity Stones are hidden in objects that spell out the name "THANOS." So far, you have:
- T — The Tesseract, a.k.a. the Space Stone
- H — As yet unused
- A — The Aether, a.k.a. the Reality Stone
- N — The Necklace of Doctor Strange, a.k.a. the Time Stone
- O — The Orb, a.k.a. the Power Stone
- S — Loki's Scepter, a.k.a. the Mind Stone
Based on the theory, fans had eagerly expected the sixth Infinity Stone to appear in Thor: Ragnarok. Would it be tied to Heimdall? Would Hela retrieve it from the remains of Thor's hammer? We can now finally reveal the answer to those questions, but note: Spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok follow beyond this point.
Does The Soul Stone Appear In 'Thor: Ragnarok'?
There's always been strong evidence that the Soul Stone is tied to Heimdall. After all, the original Thor movies had teased that Asgard was a realm where magic and science were one and the same thing, but Heimdall's ability — to see "every soul" in the Nine Realms — always seemed odd. His trademark power effect in the MCU has always been orange, traditionally the color of the Soul Stone. And our first hint for Thor: Ragnarok, Thor's vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron, hinted at a future in which Hela had triumphed and Heimdall had been blinded.
This has led most fans to believe the Soul Stone will play a major role in Ragnarok. Hela is the Goddess of Death, after all, and her traditional role has been to rule the souls damned to Hel and Niflheim. The popular theory was that Hela would take the Soul Stone from Heimdall, and use its power to ravage Asgard.
Sometimes fan theories prove to be right. Sometimes Marvel chooses to acknowledge a popular fan theory and make it canon. And sometimes the fan theory is completely wrong. In this case, it's the latter. Not only does the Soul Stone play absolutely no role in Ragnarok, the film resolves in such a way that it seems unlikely the Soul Stone will be connected to Heimdall.
Unlike the previous Thor movies, Ragnarok gleefully embraces the supernatural side of the MCU. It doesn't picture Asgardians as merely an advanced race, but instead accepts that they are gods. One major character arc revolves around Thor's realization that he is the God of Thunder, not the God of Hammer, and that he doesn't need Mjolnir to wield his awesome power. Suddenly Heimdall's ability is no longer unusual or inexplicable. It's simply his divine power as a god of Asgard.
What Next For The Soul Stone?
Next year's Avengers: Infinity War will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the MCU in style, with Thanos pursuing the unlimited power of the Infinity Stones. Footage at D23 and #SDCC2017 suggested Thanos will use the Power Stone and the Space Stone against the Avengers, but has so far shown no trace of the Soul Stone. So it's unlikely the villain already possesses the last Infinity Stone.
Where could it be?
It's possible that the Soul Stone is still tied to Heimdall, and that a plot twist in Infinity War will see Thanos tear the Stone from him. This seems increasingly unlikely after Ragnarok, though, given that Heimdall's powers now have a simple explanation. He is a god, after all, and it makes sense for him to have supernatural and mystical abilities.
Instead, it seems far more likely that the Soul Stone will appear in Black Panther. The nation of Wakanda has always been portrayed as a nation where science and mysticism blend, and in the comics the Black Panther's power is tied to Necropolis, the legendary Wakandan City of the Dead. There, T'Challa can commune with the souls of Black Panthers past. It would make sense for the Soul Stone to be tied to Wakandan legend, perhaps coming to Earth in ancient times as part of the meteorite impact that gave the nation its vibranium. Although the first trailer for #BlackPanther focused on the scientific side of the fictional African country, the second included what seemed to be a vision quest, with T'Challa catching a glimpse of the Panther God. It's possible that this spirit quest is driven by the power of the Soul Stone.
Footage released at D23 and SDCC supports this theory. Fans described seeing the armies of Wakanda prepare for the Black Order's invasion, and there's only one reason the Black Order would target Wakanda. They're seeking out the power of the Infinity Stones, and any person or nation tied to an Infinity Stone is a target.
Is This The End Of The T.H.A.N.O.S. Theory?
As popular as the T.H.A.N.O.S. theory has always been, not every fan has considered it persuasive. Some parts of the acronym are very specific, with the "T" referring to the Tesseract, or the "A" to the Aether. Contrast this with "N," which only works if you describe the Eye of Agamotto as a necklace. This suggests the theory has only ever held true in the eye of the beholder, rather than in reality.
It may be possible to save the T.H.A.N.O.S. theory if we deploy those same fluctuating standards. Let's say, for example, that the Soul Stone is a mystical object associated with the Wakandan religion. In that scenario, it may be that the Soul Stone is traditionally carried by the High Priest of Wakanda, and some fans will insist that this fulfills the necessary criteria. It's still associated with a letter "H," after all.
Still, it's a fan theory that already felt forced. Should this theory even be true, we'll have two occasions where fans are distorting the MCU's narrative in order to make it fit the fan theory. This time round, the issue would be even more dramatic. Unlike the other letters in the acronym, the "H" would actually describe the person who carried the Stone, rather than the object containing it.
The T.H.A.N.O.S. theory has been a tremendously popular one, and #Marvel has a habit of paying homage to fan theories. This time around, however, it looks as though Thor: Ragnarok has ushered in the twilight of the fan theory, and the House of Ideas is headed in a very different direction.
Do you think the Soul Stone will appear in Black Panther? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!