This is going to be a bit of a personal one, but the bulk of this article will be talking about major plot points about a major character in Avengers: Endgame, including the end of Infinity War. If you still haven’t seen both of these films do not read on until you have. Consider yourself warned.
So Avengers: Endgame has come out and completely wiped the floor with box office records so far, and audience reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. However, a good number of people have taken issue with the way that a certain character had changed between Infinity War and Endgame; myself included the first time round. But then I rewatched Endgame, and something clicked in a way that I’m really surprised it hadn’t on my first watch.
So let’s talk about Thor’s depression.
Actually, first of all, I want to talk about why I’m talking about Thor’s depression. A few years back, after denying for ages – sometimes in anger and always at threat to my closest relationships – that I might have any problems with my mental health, I finally decided to go and see a professional about the things troubling me. Sure enough, the diagnosis was depression and anxiety, and so began a long journey of accepting that I have this illness and finding ways of getting by with it – lo and behold, this site, and by extension, this article.
Looking back at it all now, it seems absolutely bonkers to have insisted that there wasn’t a problem, but for the longest time I was so worried that by admitting that I have depression, I would be therefore admitting some kind of personal failure. As someone who has, to date, suffered failures academically, professionally, romantically, and around friends and family, I couldn’t stand failing yet again.
In so many ways, I saw this denial reflected in Chris Hemsworth’s portrayal of Thor in Endgame. Thor’s story is one of a man trying to grow stronger through his failures, but by the beginning of Endgame, he’s finally lost the ability to pick himself up. Instead of facing the reality of what’s happened as a consequence of not going for Thanos’ head with the Stormbreaker at the end of Infinity War, Thor adopts some truly toxic coping mechanisms, and loses himself in a fog of alcohol and junk food, with no intention of pulling himself out. The name “Thanos” is banned around him, and he’s surrounded himself with friends who either can’t or won’t prevent The Mighty Thor from fading into a pathetic shadow of his former self.
Of course, there are many things which can cause depression to develop in someone, and every person who lives with depression has a different story. That said, Thor’s experience with the disease entirely resonates with my experience so far; the jokey insistence that he’s fine which quickly turns into intense quiet, the panic attacks when faced with a simple yet important task, and the paradoxical insistence to put himself forward for something which he couldn’t possibly see through to the end, all to clear up some self-imposed sense of guilt – all these things and more became easy parallels for me to draw with my own experiences.
I’m immensely grateful to the writers of Avengers: Endgame and to Chris Hemsworth for not only deciding to portray Thor’s mental health issues in a sympathetic manner, but also by showing just how subtle yet destructive depression can feel to one’s own self.
When I finally accepted that I needed to see someone about my mental health, the greatest fear I had was that I would consequently lose who I was. Once I had gotten round to telling those important to me that I had been diagnosed with depression, it came with the reassurance that “I’m still me”. That assurance quickly became an affirmation for me, and it remains a warm reminder that, no matter how hard the days may get, the only thing that’s changed is that I know now what I’m up against.
Nowhere was that clearer for me than in what might be Thor’s most important character moment in Endgame, when he discovers that he’s still worthy of his hammer, Mjolnir. It’s his own reminder that, no matter the guilt or the depression he’s enduring, Thor is still the mighty Asgardian he was, and that’s something that no amount of Infinity Stones can make fade away.
At the end of the film, Thor decides to follow the advice of his mother, and gets to working on being the best version of himself, rather than stumbling at becoming who he’s been told he’s supposed to be. It’s pure self-care, and the first step in fighting through his depression. While it remains to be seen if Thor’s story will continue to a point where he can perhaps recover altogether, I’m glad that Endgame at least didn’t wrap up this part of Thor’s journey with any neatness, because when it comes to depression, nobody gets a clean break.
Not even the God of Thunder.