In Avengers: Endgame, the heroes travel back in time to "borrow" the Infinity Stones from the past to use them in the future.

I get that. At the end of the movie,

Captain America travels back to return the Infinity Stones to their various points in time to merge the two timelines (I think).

But because the movie has gone for an alt-timeline mutliverse version of time travel, it's not a problem. It just means that there's now an alternative timeline kicking off in 2014 in which Nebula and Thanos don't exist. That timeline doesn't have a snap. But that doesn't mean that the MCU timeline - the one we've been watching for the last 11 years - is changed at all. Because changing the past doesn't alter the future, remember - killing baby Thanos wouldn't change a thing in the current timeline, as they point out, and that also means that killing Thanos 2014 equally has not affect on the current continuity.


But, if the timelines are reset and the snap still happened and the early events of Avengers: Endgame (before the "5 years later") then aren't the Stones now destroyed in the ongoing timeline?

Specifically, what happened to the Time Stone? Surely Doctor Strange would be concerned about losing it.

(or is the last point opinion based?)

3 Answers 3


NOTE: this answer is totally wrong! The Russo brothers have confirmed that alternate realities are created without removing Infinity Stones from the timeline.

It just means that there's now an alternative timeline kicking off in 2014 in which Nebula and Thanos don't exist.

Just like in the movie itself, people love to confidently state how time travel works, despite the fact that it's an entirely fictional concept, and thus works exactly how the authors of any story decide it works, regardless of your own conception of temporal logic.

The movie goes to considerable effort to explain its time travel rules, including the alternative timeline question. The Ancient One even draws us a picture. Here's what she tells us:

  • The Infinity Stones (as a whole) are responsible for creating the flow of time in the universe.
  • If you remove an Infinity Stone from the timeline via time travel, an alternative reality will be created, without that stone in it. This would be bad for that reality.
  • By implication, aside from that, time travel does not create ongoing alternate realities, yet does not affect the past, or the present.

So, after Cap returns the Infinity Stones to their original places in the timeline, everything is fine, and still happens in the way we saw it happen. Thus the Infinity Stones are eventually used to destroy themselves in Thanos' garden. (For some reason, this is presumably fine for the universe, even though the stones are apparently responsible for creating its flow of time.)

I'm not saying it makes sense! I'm just saying this is how the movie tells us it works.

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    Yep this is the way I understood it too, +1 because I think you explained it clearer than me
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 9:08
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    @TheLethalCarrot: aw cheers man. This is why I'm not keen on time travel stuff — it makes everyone's brain itch, because there's almost no way it can really make sense to our puny mortal minds. But I think the movie does fairly clearly rule out alternative timelines — although, having mentioned them, I wouldn't be surprised if they used the concept within a few years, either in the movies or on Disney Plus. Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 9:14
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    Sorry Paul, but I disagree. It's true that the Ancient One shows us that timelines with Infinity Stones removed are unstable, but she explicitly shows us a new "branch" being formed by time travel. Putting the stones back doesn't mean that branch disappears - it simply means that the branch doesn't turn black and decay, at least that's my reading. Yes, Cap puts the stones back at the end - but that doesn't mean that Loki didn't escape with the Space Stone in 2012 in another timeline, or that Thanos didn't disappear in 2014 in another. Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 9:20
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    @DrRDizzle: “with my reading, there are now 3 timelines in the MCU - there are also 3 TV shows planned” — sure, but I think what the Ancient One and the Hulk actually say contradicts the possibility that alternate realities exist. Of course, they can do what they want, and the power to dodge continuity must be incredibly tempting. I wouldn't be surprised if they did decide alternate realities are a thing, but Endgame itself very explicitly tells us that they aren't. Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 9:25
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    @PaulD.Waite Putting the stone back the moment it disappears would prevent a new branch being formed, yes - but only if that's the only change to the timeline made, and as we see, there are other changes made when the Avengers travel back in time, such as Loki escaping in 2012 or Thanos and his armies disappearing in 2014. I don't see how putting the stone back prevents branches caused by those changes. I could be wrong, of course, but like I said, I suspect this is deliberate set up for the future. Or, to put it another way - why else show us Loki disappearing? Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 9:28

The status of the Infinity Stones in my mind is quite simple, the ones from the past are back in the past returned as they were taken so that the timeline doesn't spawn alternate timelines as explained by The Ancient One. The ones in the future are still destroyed as Thanos had destroyed them, assuming he wasn't lying of course, which I don't think he was considering past Thanos' comments about it.

It just means that there's now an alternative timeline kicking off in 2014 in which Nebula and Thanos don't exist.

FWIW I think this statement in the article is wrong, there is no alternative timeline starting in 2014 because the Infinity Stones were placed back where they came from.

As for whether Doctor Strange would be concerned about losing the Time Stone, probably not really. He is concerned about keeping the universe alive and losing the Time Stone is a small price to pay for that.

  • Dormammu might disagree with this :)
    – Paulie_D
    Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 9:05
  • "there is no alternative timeline starting in 2014 because the Infinity Stones were placed back where they came from" -> What about the fact that Loki escaped with the Tesseract? Did Captain America fix that too?
    – Fatalize
    Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 9:06
  • @Paulie_D Well there is going to be a second Doctor Strange movie I think...
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 9:06
  • @Fatalize We don't know and we don't know if he ever left the timeline with the Space Stone or not, if he didn't then nothing matters. Of course Loki is getting a TV series so we'll see.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 9:06
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    @aleppke I haven’t seen TWS but who’s to say that someone else isn’t Cap? He is married as the old man.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 16:56

The Russo’s have confirmed the infinity stones are not destroyed at all. Thanos just reduces them to atoms but they still exist in the MCU


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