The following post contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame, which came out two years ago and is the second-biggest film in the history of the medium.

In the end(game), the Avengers were able to beat Thanos only at a terrible personal cost. The battle over the Infinity Stones cost the team two of its founding members: Black Widow, who died retrieving the Soul Stone on Vormir, and Iron Man, who used the Stones to wipe out Thanos and his army with a single snap of his armored fingers and killed himself in the process. The film’s final scenes show the survivors grieving their loss and trying to move on with their lives.

But if Avengers: Endgame seemed dark at times, that’s nothing compared to what Marvel initially had in mind. In the new The Story of Marvel Studios: The Making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe book (via ScreenRant), the Russo brothers reveal that the company’s initial plan called for all of the original Avengers to die in the final battle with Thanos.

Here’s how Joe Russo described Kevin Feige’s “initial pitch” in the book:

Kevin's initial pitch was that it was Toy Story 3 - a ‘they’re all gonna jump into a furnace together’ concept,’ ... The brothers’ pushback was that there was no possible way for the story to be able to take the time to celebrate each one of them. And that, for the fans, it was an impossible scenario to walk out of the theater and process.

I think this was the right call. Marvel already left fans with one massive gut punch of an ending with Avengers: Infinity War when that film ended with Thanos triumphant and half the universe erased from existence. The only reason they were able to get away with that is that everyone knew there was another Avengers movie coming one year later where the heroes would presumably defeat Thanos and restore everyone to life, which in fact they did. A couple of noble sacrifices along the way are absolutely warranted and work for the story, but wiping out the entire team would have been brutal.

The Story of Marvel Studios is on sale now.

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