*Spoilers included for Avengers: Endgame*
As with most popular blockbuster films, Avengers: Endgame was barely released in theaters before the grumbling and criticism began. No movie is perfect, of course, and not everybody will be happy with the events that transpired in Avengers: Endgame. But there is one character whose arc has many people up in arms against the beloved Russo Brothers: Thor’s.
In the film, the Avengers seek out Thanos in order to regain the Infinity Stones and restore the lives lost during “the snap.” But by the time they arrive, Thanos has already used the Stones to destroy the Stones, effectively ending any plans to bring back what was lost. Fast forward five years, and some members of the Avengers team strive to find another solution. Others attempt to move on. And then there is Thor.
Hidden among the town known as New Asgard, Thor has spiraled into an overweight drunkard who lays around all day threatening children on an online gaming platform. Basically, he’s a mess.
Suddenly, the God of Thunder has become a sniveling coward who can’t even face his ex-girlfriend or mother even if the entire universe depended on it. (Oh, wait… it does.) Fans have lamented that Thor’s character has been reduced to comedic effect and an offensive joke, completely reversing everything Taika Waititi did with the character in Thor: Ragnarok (unless, of course, you’re of the opinion that Ragnarok only made Thor more comedic than before). While we can all agree that making jokes about overweight people is a terrible move on Marvel’s part, I don’t think we should rule out Thor’s entire character development as ruined.
Everybody grieves in different ways. For Steve Rogers, that means attending support groups to talk about the loss and working at finding a solution to fix the problem. For Clint Barton, that means becoming a rogue assassin taking down mob bosses and gangs. For Thor, that means spiraling into a pool of guilt and alcohol.
Of all the Avengers, Thor may have lost the most when Thanos arrived. As the newly crowned king of Asgard, it was his duty to protect his people after Asgard blew up. He lost everything before Thanos ever snapped his fingers. He lost his mother and his father, his girlfriend and his team of warriors, his brother and his best friend, and then his entire kingdom. Then the snap happened and he lost more friends and more Asgardians. He lost who he was.
It comes as no surprise that Thor would take everything that happened and pile it on his shoulders as guilt. He’s always been emotionally driven. In Thor, he was so angry he decided to invade Jotunheim because he could. In Avengers, he fought Iron Man because Tony egged him on. He grieved over Loki, multiple times, despite how treacherous his brother acted. But since he was the one who didn’t cut off Thanos’s head when it mattered, he blames himself. Since he was the one that allowed Thanos to stomp all over the Asgardians, he feels he failed. In Thor: Ragnarok, he may have come to terms with being Asgard’s king and finding the lightning inside of him without Mjolnir, but Thanos came and did what Thanos does best: he ravaged Thor’s world.
So yes, it’s cringe-worthy to watch Thor be reduced to an overweight coward. But grief is hard to watch, especially in someone you care about. Thor’s character isn’t gone, though. It’s just shifted. Nobody could survive the snap and stay the same, after all. It affected the whole universe; it affected the God of Thunder.
There are glimpses, too, of Thor’s character moving in a new direction, not going backwards. After a heart-to-heart with his mother, he makes the effort to help the Avengers for real this time despite his being out of shape and Steve picking up the Mjolnir mantle. At the end of the film, he humbly hands leadership of Asgard to Valkyrie because he knows she would be the better leader. The old Thor never wanted to be king anyways, and only through the loss of his kingdom did he understand again that he’s not meant to be king of Asgard. He has another path for his life.
What’s in store for Thor’s character in the future? Nothing has been confirmed yet, but we can be content in knowing his character isn’t just comic relief or a bad joke. It’s the beginning of something new, something greater than before. It’s who he is, not who he’s supposed to be.