Given how many character deaths, grief counseling sessions, and openly weeping Thors it features, this summer’s Avengers: Endgame is a weirdly upbeat movie; certainly, it’s got more pure “fun” moments than its lead-in, Avengers: Infinity War. Much of that has to do with the movie’s “time heist” middle-act conceit, which not only serves as a way for the movie to look back on the various decade-worth of storylines it’s capping off, but also to create moments like Rhodey watching Peter Quill dancing around a hostile alien planet, and accurately diagnosing him as “an idiot.”
The movie’s use of time travel almost got a whole lot darker, though; directors Joe and Anthony Russo revealed this week that, at one point, they were going to make sure audiences knew that the movie’s fun parts were over by having Thanos show up holding a very special accessory: Captain America’s skull, still in its cowl, which he would roll toward the hero’s feet as a way of saying “Hey, what’s up?”
Per an interview with Empire, the brothers were inspired to the idea by a classic image of comic book Thanos—whose motivations for wiping out half the universe are a lot, well, hornier than his film counterpart’s—looking out over reality from atop a throne of skulls. Thus the idea to have the film’s final bad guy be a version of the universal conqueror who’s already beaten The Avengers, now showing up for a universal rematch with his new little friend in tow.
Why didn’t it happen? Because time travel is hard, people, something the movie makes abundantly clear with its various diagrams, long-winded Bruce Banner speeches, and lampshade hangings on how convoluted its own plot actually is. “The logic to get there defeated us,” MCU mastermind Kevin Feige admitted, thus denying us not only a very heavy metal album cover sort of image to kick off the film’s climactic battle—not that it lacks for them, really—but also the ultimate Halloween couples costume for any comic-loving duo. (“Sweetie, do you want to be Thanos, or do you want to be Captain America’s severed head?” “Let’s flip for it! Heads, or, uh…Head?”)