Many fans have been conflicted in the way Thor’s storyline played out in Avengers: Endgame, but the story is more complex when you take a step back and look at Rocket’s involvement.
Avengers: Endgame takes a major turn for Thor and gives him a closing to the arc of the character in a big way–one that is heavily influenced by the events of Thor: Ragnarok and Infinity War. The one thing that most people have overlooked in their discussions on the character is the fact that Rocket Raccoon is the one that stands by his side as he goes through this final chapter. It’s something that changes everything about it and reinforces the important aspects of his arc. Be warned, we’re about to dive into some MAJOR SPOILERS for Avengers: Endgame.
The main storyline for Infinity War in terms of Thor’s journey to stop Thanos was the fact that he was overwhelmed by the trauma he’s experienced. One of the reasons that journey worked so well is that he took it with Rocket Racoon. Rocket and the rest of the Guardians are the poster children for overcoming trauma within the MCU. That team’s entire story arc has been directly related to how they experience, relive, and recover from their traumas. Rocket being one of the characters to find it hardest to remove himself from that mindset.
By pairing Rocket and Thor, Infinity War gives someone for Thor to lean on. Rocket is a snarky asshole at times, but he understands what Thor is dealing with. He knows because he’s been there. Rocket does attempt to help Thor, to talk through things, and help him find peace. He understands why Thor would want to make a new weapon in Stormbreaker because he often uses violence as a way to escape from his pain. It isn’t a healthy coping mechanism, but he understands it, and he realizes that it would help save the universe this time.
When Thor doesn’t succeed, when all he can do is kill Thanos, he falls deeper into the pain from his trauma. He lets it overtake him, and he forgets about everything else that’s important to him. He retires to New Asgard, spending his days wasting away, getting fat and drunk with his friends who understand that there are some things he just doesn’t want to talk about. By the time Rocket returns to him, Thor is lost in his grief and his pain. He’s not the man he used to be, and he doesn’t even know if he could be that man again. He’s killed Thanos; what more could he do?
Banner doesn’t help the situation because Banner isn’t dealing with the same pain. Banner has found a way to help better his life post snap by merging the Hulk and Banner into one “Professor Hulk” entity. He’s blinded by the good in his life, and after a few years, he’s past the darker points in his life now. But Rocket, whose sole good thing in life was his family, a family taken by Thanos, realizes what Thor is going through. Rocket makes fun of Thor at first, but then he realizes that Thor is doing the same things he’s done in the past. He doesn’t ask Thor to come with them to save the world and fix everything; he asks Thor to come with and drink beer. It’s his way of saying, “You don’t have to change right now, but join us.”
Past that point, everything Rocket does isn’t about making fun of Thor or belittling him for what he is now. It’s all about him trying to get Thor to focus. It’s about him trying to ease Thor into the idea that he can do better. He does slap Thor when he says he’s having a panic attack, but Thor and Rocket are both individuals who can be focused with forceful acts. Rocket isn’t telling him “Your feelings are invalid,” he is telling him, “Focus on what’s here and what we’re doing because if you do, things can be better.” He’s trying to center him, even if it’s not the best way possible or the most desirable situation.
The greatest aspect of this journey is how it ends. Thor doesn’t just magically become a lean and muscular hero at the end. But he does get reinforcement from his mother Frigga, and in a sense, his father Odin via Mjolnir, that he is worthy and powerful enough to overcome this. From there he begins to grow again and stands tall with Tony and Steve as they take on Thanos three to one. Once Thanos is defeated, Thor also acknowledges that his life can grow from what it was. His people no longer need him, as he has brought them to a new level of peace in New Asgard. He can find a new purpose in this life and rebuild from there. His life doesn’t need to be defined by the trauma he experienced.
Thor barely had a character arc in the first four films he was featured in. Thor, The Avengers, Thor: the Dark World and Avengers: Age of Ultron, never really expanded the character past his role as a warrior for Asgard. Yet in a way, all of that time keeping him defined to that role helped him to then change through his last three films. When you strip away Asgard, Mjolnir, Odin, Heimdall, Frigga, Jane Foster, and Loki, what’s left of Thor? That’s something I’m interested in seeing. It’s something I hope we see soon, and even if it’s in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, I’ll still be happy to watch the next step of Thor’s story.
You can see Thor in Avengers: Endgame, which is currently in theaters nationwide.
Written by Alex Lancaster
(Alex is a life long film fan, and has dedicated his life to watching, making and obsessing over films. His favorite film is Big Fish, and he despises Avatar. He has a 4 year old son. And a bad habit of saying more than he needs to. Follow @alex5348 on Twitter)