If there’s one thing Avengers: Endgame fans couldn’t really agree on about the ending, it was Captain America’s time travel escapade. To what version of the past did Steve Rogers go? Did he create an alternate timeline by staying in the past, or did he live quietly in this one, witnessing the future from the sidelines? And to that end, where did he get the new shield? How did he travel back to the future, and why did he appear on that bench?
These are just some of the questions that come to mind concerning the movie’s divisive ending. What’s interesting is that not even the writers and the directors, who worked together on four MCU films, including the last two Captain America and Avengers installments, could agree on what happened. However, the Russos’ explanation is the one that makes the most sense, and they’re sticking to it.
Before we get to the new interview with Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo, let’s double back and refresh our memory as to what they said right after Endgame premiered earlier this year:
Q: Did Captain America’s action at the end affect the timeline? Does that mean there was a time where two CA existed in a same universe?
A: To me, CA’s action in the end wasn’t the fact he wanted to change anything, it’s more like me has made a choice. He chose to go back to past and lived with the one he loved for the rest of his life. The time travel in this movie created an alternate reality. He lived a completely different life in that world. We don’t know how exactly his life turned out, but I’d like to believe he still helped many others when they were needed in that world. Yes, there were two CA in that reality, it’s just like what Hulk said, what happened in the past has already happened. If you go back to past, you simply created a new reality. The characters in this movie created new timeline when they went back to the past, but it had no effect to the prime universe. What happened in the past 22 movies was still canon.
And now let’s check out what writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely said:
Fandango: So people are asking… Does this mean an old Captain America was hanging out this whole time while another Captain America was saving the day?
Christopher Markus: That is our theory. We are not experts on time travel, but the Ancient One specifically states that when you take an Infinity Stone out of a timeline, it creates a new timeline. So Steve going back and just being there would not create a new timeline. So I reject the “Steve is in an alternate reality” theory.
I do believe that there is simply a period in world history from about ’48 to now where there are two Steve Rogers. And anyway, for a large chunk of that one of them is frozen in ice. So it’s not like they’d be running into each other.
This brings us to Fox 5 DC’s new interview with the Russos, where the Steve Rogers question inevitably came up. The Russos stuck to their original explanation that Captain America created an alternate universe when he went back in time to see Peggy, but offered a bit more insight into the matter.
“The way that it would work is that when Captain America goes back, he would create a branch reality,” Joe explained. “Now he would exist in that branch reality with a second Captain America who was frozen in ice.”
“Peggy understood that he was dead at that point in the storytelling because Cap went back to a point in time where nobody knew he still was alive, frozen in ice,” Anthony added.
More interestingly, Joe also explained how Cap would return to the future of the main timeline using Pym particles: “Now what’s also a story for another time is, of course, if he created a branch reality, he would then have to use a Pym Particle to come back to this reality to hand that shield off,” he said. That’s definitely an interesting idea, one that could very well see Marvel bring Chris Evans back for more Captain America adventures.
The Russo’s explanation is the best one, as it plays well with the rules of time travel that were introduced in the movie. Each change of the past creates alternate universes, and bringing back the Infinity Stones to those past points only ensures those universes have access to Infinity Stones, not that those secondary timelines would fall into the main one.
Watch the full Fox 5 DC interview with the Russos brothers below, and catch Endgame again in theaters to revisit the plot before Spider-Man: Far From Home launches this week: