Age of Ultron is packed to the brim with action and that famous Whedon-esque dialogue, but some parts can get a little confusing if you’re a Marvel newbie—especially the dream sequences. How was Captain America’s trip to the army ball supposed to pit him against the other Avengers? Did Hulk even have a vision? And what in the name of Odin was up with Thor’s? Here’s a breakdown of what happens in each dream, and how it’s supposed to tear the Avengers apart.
What happens in the dream: Tony Stark (Iron Man) is the first to fall under the spells of Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch), and his nightmare is in some ways pretty straightforward: He sees all his teammates dying around him, and Captain America scolds him for not doing everything he could to stop this fate. (Is it just a nightmare or is it an actual vision of the future? We might have to wait until Avengers: Infinity War to find out.)
How it helps tear the Avengers apart: This vision plays on Stark’s somewhat narcissistic fear that he’s the only one capable of saving the world. Scarlet Witch knows this fear could be Stark’s undoing, which is why she lets him take Loki’s scepter, which houses the Infinity Stone. It then leads him to—without consulting the whole team—try to create an AI that would be the world’s shield, but which instead spells its potential demise.
What happens in the dream: Thor is also haunted by what could be the end of his world—but in this case “his world” is not Earth but Asgard, which he sees reveling as it decays. Heimdall (Idris Elba), his eyes white, seizes him around the neck and suggests that the end is upon them. What Thor is seeing might even be Ragnarok, the Norse apocalypse—and sure enough Thor: Ragnarok is the name of the next Thor movie.
Thor also catches a quick glance of an Infinity Stone, which prompts him to dig deeper. With the help of Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) from the first Avengers movie and both Thor movies, Thor makes his way into a mystical pool that allows him to revisit that vision. There, he sees all four of the Infinity Stones that have been revealed so far—two in the Avengers movies, one in Thor: The Dark World, and one in Guardians of the Galaxy.
How it helps tear the Avengers apart: Thor’s vision is less destructive to the group than Stark’s—it’s kind of helpful, in fact. But it does take him away from the team at a crucial moment, and sends him soaring off to Asgard, making him less immediately helpful to Earth’s mere mortals.
What happens in the dream: Steve Rogers (Captain America) is not scared of the future, but rather haunted by the past. Rogers’ dream lands him at a World War II-era dance with many of his former comrades, including former flame Peggy Carter (introduced in Captain America: The First Avenger), who dances with him and tells him the war is over and they can go home. Rogers knows this isn’t possible, and sure enough we soon cut to an empty dance floor, where he stands alone.
How it helps tear the Avengers apart: He knows going home is impossible, and as always, that he’s trapped outside his time. This has always been the biggest wedge between Rogers and the rest of the group—the feeling that he doesn’t belong, as an outsider and the perpetual butt of Stark’s jokes. Perhaps this is why he and Stark get so testy as they stand outside chopping wood once it’s all over.
What happens in the dream: Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) is the only one who seems to recall something that actually happened—her assassin training at the Red Room. There appears to be a final trial where she must shoot someone, and then we see her rolled down a hallway on a gurney. We find out later that all of the Red Room’s assassins incur forced sterilization, to eliminate the possibility they could ever care about something more than their mission.
How it helps tear the Avengers apart: The dream taps into the main thing that consistently isolates her from the group: As someone who took many lives as a trained killer, she feels she doesn’t belong.
What happens in the dream: We don’t know!
How it helps tear the Avengers apart: Whatever it is, it makes Hulk very angry, and Iron Man has to fight with the big green guy to stop him from Hulk-smashing the city to pieces.