Long before any of Marvel‘s Avengers were actively working against Thanos, the Mad Titan had one very powerful enemy: the Mind Stone. We know this is true because–while it’s easy to forget–Thanos found the Mind Stone long before he had any of the other Infinity Stones. Not only was he forced to eventually recapture the artifact in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, but the reason he needed to win it back is because, inexplicably, he gave it away to one of the least trustworthy people in the MCU–Loki.
The Mind Stone was working against Thanos for the entirety of the MCU’s Infinity Saga, and even earlier.
We don’t know when or how Thanos first got his hands on the Mind Stone, but in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, we learn almost everything we need to know in order to figure out the artifact was consciously working against the Titan. First, we learn Thanos loaned the Mind Stone to Loki, housed in the scepter. Second, we learn the Stone contains an intelligence.
For the first to be true, the second must be true, otherwise the first makes no sense. We have seen Thanos do unspeakable things and sacrifice all he held dear to get his hands on the Infinity Stones. Do you think that same man would then–upon getting one of the Stones and only one–loan it to a god of mischief who had just finished a campaign of lies and subterfuge against his own family?
The only way it makes sense for Thanos to loan the Mind Stone to Loki is if the Stone was influencing Thanos.
Think of the Mind Stone similarly to how Gandalf describes the One Ring in Lord of the Rings. He warns Frodo, “it wants to be found.” This is why the Ring is always pushing the Hobbit to wear it, why it manages to slip onto his finger in the Prancing Pony, and why it inexplicably slips off Frodo’s neck on the lower slopes of Caradhras to be found by Boromir.
The difference is the Mind Stone is trying to get away from Thanos rather than go to any specific “master.” The Stone knows Thanos wants to wipe out half the universe and it doesn’t necessarily care. However, it also knows the Titan plans to destroy it and all the other Stones once he’s done–as he does early in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame–and like anything else with a mind, the Stone’s first job is self-preservation.
The Mind Stone Influencing Thanos Explains A Lot
If you look at the Infinity Saga through this lens, it has the potential to answer a lot of otherwise difficult questions.
In Infinity War we see Thanos gather all of the Infinity Stones (except for the Power Stone, which he gets off camera) within a matter of days. Yet between the events of The Avengers and those of Infinity War were six years. Why does he suddenly go from taking his sweet time to going after them all in one big galactic super-fast tour?
He allies himself with the Kree warlord in spite of already getting burned by his alliance with Loki, and he pays for it.
This, I’d argue, was due to the lingering affects of the Mind Stone. The quicker Thanos got the other Stones, the closer he would get to recapturing Mind. So, the artifact implanted a far-reaching suggestion into the Titan’s brain, convincing him that he should work from the shadows and let others do his dirty work for him.
This would also help to explain why in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, rather than sending his own servants to capture the Power Stone while it was completely defenseless, Thanos worked through Ronan. He allies himself with the Kree warlord in spite of already getting burned by his alliance with Loki, and he pays for it.
It also explains why at first Thanos doesn’t go to Earth himself to get the Mind and Time Stones, but instead sends the Black Order. By the events of Infinity War, not only has the Mind Stone’s influence worn off, but Grimace figured out the artifact was influencing his decision making.
At first his plan is for his servants to get the Mind Stone so it will have no chance to once again influence him. When that doesn’t work out, he goes for the artifact for himself, but it is the very last of the Stones he captures.
Once Thanos gets the Time Stone, the Mind Stone is no longer a threat. He knows he’ll make his infamous snap as soon as he has the last of the six, and so Mind won’t have enough time to influence him.