[Editor’s note: The following story contains spoilers for “Thor: Love and Thunder” and its post-credits scenes.]
When Taika Waititi’s “Thor: Love and Thunder” opens, our Asgardian god of thunder, key Avenger, and all-around fun dude Thor Odinson (Chris Hemsworth) is at loose ends. And who could possibly blame him? The last time we saw the superhero in this Marvel Cinematic Universe milieu, he was reeling from the events of “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame” (remember “the blip”?), and while things were looking up (remember when “the blip” got reversed?), even the burliest member of Earth’s mightiest heroes realized he needed to do something different.
Thor eventually headed out to space with the Guardians of the Galaxy, and while most of the crew loved the big lug, it was unquestionably a temporary situation. Said situation is winding down as the fourth “Thor” film kicks off, with Thor finally realizing that in order to find himself, open his heart, and live life to the fullest (a real “live, love, laugh” situation), he needs to strike out on his own (plus close pal Korg, voiced by Waititi himself).
What follows is a colorful, brash, funny, and often quite emotional film that sees Thor reuniting with his beloved Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and close pal Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), helping defeat a nasty piece of work named Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), and basically saving the day (with a few tear-stained twists, more on them to come). So, after his fourth standalone adventure, what’s next for Thor?
In the grand tradition of the MCU, Waititi’s film ends with a pair of post-credits sequences that — dare we say it? — actually seem to be pointing to the next stage of his adventures, including introducing a fresh potential challenger and taking us to a brand-new realm.
[One more time: Spoilers ahead for both “Thor: Love and Thunder” and its post-credits scenes.]
1. Thor’s Next Challenger Emerges
When Gorr the God Butcher (what a name!) arrives in New Asgard, snatches the village’s entire kiddie populace, and absconds with them to the Shadow realm, it sets in motion a plot that forces Thor, Jane (now wielding Mjolnir, which turns her into Mighty Thor, even as it doesn’t seem to be curing her cancer, which is why she picked up the damn thing to begin with), Valkyrie, and Korg to cook up a plan to defeat him.
One early idea: head to Omnipotence City (where all the gods hang out, of course) and ask for their help in defeating a dude whose entire reason for being is killing them all. Any easy ask, right? Wrong. Thor and company are brutally rebuffed by no less than Zeus (Russell Crowe, clearly having a lot of fun), who mocks them for their quest and assures them that Gorr will never be able to enact his master plan. Understandably enraged at Zeus’ narrow-mindedness, Thor attacks him with his very own thunderbolt, seemingly killing him and sending the gods into total disarray.
But, come on now, even Thor can’t just off Zeus with a little old thunderbolt, right? When the film’s first post-credits scene kicks off, Zeus is indeed a) very alive and b) very mad. Surrounded by some of his more attentive handmaidens (the credits actually refer to them as the “Zeusettes”), the almighty ruler pouts and whines about his current state.
His main beef isn’t even that Thor tried to kill him, it’s that no one seems to respect the gods anymore! Everyone loves superheroes, and Zeus is done with that. It’s time, he says, for the universe to remember the power of the gods, to stop making them the butt of all jokes, to do away with all that affection for boring old superheroes. And who better to help Zeus with his master plan than his cherished son Hercules?
(Important note: Zeus, Hercules, and a number of other Olympian gods have long been part of the Marvel comics world. Zeus first showed up in a Thor comic way back in 1949, and Hercules even had his very own comic series for more than a decade.) As Zeus looks up to the one being he thinks he can make his god-centric dream a reality, Waititi pans to introduce Hercules, perhaps the next great baddie in the MCU (or at least the Thor portion of it): it’s “Ted Lasso” star Brett Goldstein.
Surprising? It was to Waititi, too, who recently told IndieWire, “I have zero idea about that. That was Kevin [Feige]’s idea to put Hercules in the film, so he knows what’s going on there. I have no idea! All I know is that we wanted to show that Russell wasn’t dead, because he had just gotten a lightning bolt through his heart and fell off that thing. I wanted to make sure we had a tag where, ‘Oh, he’s back, because I love that character and want to see more of him.’ Then Kevin was like, ‘Oh, why don’t we put Hercules in there?’ He even cast Brett. He was like, ‘I want to see what Brett looks like in this.'” Good call, Feige!
Given that the film ends with a tantalizing (and, yes, traditional) reminder that “THOR WILL RETURN,” it seems safe to assume that Hercules and Zeus will, too.
2. Welcome to Valhalla
There’s no way around what is arguably the biggest spoiler of all when it comes to “Thor: Love and Thunder”: Jane Foster (AKA Mighty Thor) dies. Waititi’s film adapts a long-running comic storyline that sees Jane taking up Mjolnir, both to help defend Earth and in hopes that its great power will help heal her cancer. And while Jane certainly feels great when she’s wielding Mjolnir (she’s a Thor!), once she puts the weapon down and goes back to just being Jane, she’s sicker than ever.
During the film’s final big battle sequence, a very ill Jane opts to grab Mjolnir and join the battle, knowing full well it will probably kill her. And though it does, the good doctor gets to pass into the next realm as a proud Asgardian warrior, which means she gets the eternal reward of no less than entrance to Valhalla.
The film’s second post-credits scene sees Jane (looking healthy and sprightly and very much herself) passing through a number of shimmering portals, only to end up in the quite idyllic-looking afterlife, where she is greeted by Heimdall (in a surprise cameo from Idris Elba), who was killed by Thanos in “Avengers: Infinity War.”
As Portman told IndieWire, despite the seeming heaviness of the scene, she quite enjoyed making it. “We’d actually filmed it quite early on in the shoot, so I think it didn’t have the kind of weight that I realize now seeing it, where it’s placed, of course,” she said. “It was incredible to get to shoot with Idris. I admire him so much and I was so excited to get to even have a little one line exchange.”
Even with just one exchange, it’s still a lovely moment, one that also seems primed to make the audience consider the limits of Valhalla, which surely houses plenty of beloved MCU characters who have passed on and could (maybe?) return in some form or another (hey, it’s happened in the comics).
Additional reporting by Eric Kohn.
A Disney release, “Thor: Love and Thunder” is now in theaters.