is finally here, which means we know exactly what happens with Earth’s mightiest heroes after the heartbreaking end of Infinity War. It’s an emotional adventure, it’s funny, and it’s full of action and callbacks to previous titles from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s all you expect and more, and absolutely worth seeing in cinemas as soon as possible (read our spoiler-free review right here).
But, as expected, Endgame is also controversial with its choices, and some diehard fans might not accept everything writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have imagined, under the supervision of the Russo brothers and Kevin Feige. In the following post, we’ll tell you why Steve Rogers’ story in Endgame makes perfect sense, but not before warning you about the huge spoilers that are about to follow.
Just as Thor and Tony Stark fans do not necessarily love how their favorite characters were treated in Endgame, Cap’s fans might not appreciate what happens to Steve in this epic climax of the MCU’s third phase of movies either. But it all adds up — here’s your final chance to avoid spoilers.
I’d expected Steve to die since Infinity War, and I was sure he would sacrifice himself for the others in Endgame. It turns out that he might have done it after all, but not by dying. Leaks preceding the Endgame premiere told us that Steve would go back to drop off the Infinity Stones they had collected from the past, and that he wouldn’t return. Instead, he would get married to Peggy and grow old. That old Steve would then show up on the bench by the lake in the future to bring his shield to Sam, and to explain what happened. You know by now that the leaks were accurate.
Fans criticized this ending for Steve because it didn’t make sense for the character. Specifically, some people hated the idea that Steve would return anywhere in the past and then sit idly by, watching unfortunate events unfold and do nothing. At the time, I explained that it all made sense even if it seemed out of character for Steve. I said at the time that going back in time and not acting against all the evil he would witness would be Steve’s own sacrifice, his “grenade” moment. He’d have, at least, the opportunity to have his dance with Peggy and then live a full life with her, though he’d have to remain in the shadows. That’s because he’d know this timeline would have to face Thanos eventually, and they’d win.
At the time, I thought time travel would be just like in other movies. But it turns out that’s not the case. Markus, McFeely, the Russos, and Feige came up with another form of time travel that works perfectly for the movie… until the very end.
In short, what you do in the past doesn’t mess with the future, but any significant changes, especially the ones related to Infinity Stones, could spawn branches in the timeline, alternative realities with different outcomes. The whole thing works perfectly until the puzzling end. It’s unclear whether Steve was able to live a normal life in the main MCU timeline somehow and witness everything that happened with the world from the 1950s to 2023 without interfering. Or, by staying in the past, he created a timeline where he was able to both live with Peggy and fix things along the way.
Whatever the case, it’s still not a bad ending for Steve. His arc is further developed in Endgame, just like everyone else’s. And Steve Rogers, a man out of time looking to do everything right every step of the way, changes too.
For starters, he’s back with the Avengers, and that implies that he may finally agree to those Sokovia Accords. The world is in shambles, but governments of the world need the Avengers more than ever, and it’s clear that the team, now led by Natasha, is out and about fixing things on Earth and other planets. Nobody addresses the legality of Steve and Nat being back with the Avengers, but it’s clear he would do anything to stay with them.
The simple fact that he swears in the first act is a sign that Steve’s arc is about to take a huge turn in Endgame. There’s also a telling detail when they fly to Thanos’s “Garden,” where he tells Nat that he doesn’t know what he’s going to do if the plan fails. And that discussion takes place right after Steve’s heartbreaking fight with Tony back at the compound.
We see a Steve that’s almost defeated, a Captain America who’s not only out of his time, but who no longer seems to have a clear path ahead.
In typical Cap fashion, he never surrenders, however. Just as he tries to move on, with as much optimism as possible given the situation, he’s still secretly hoping he can somehow help fix this.
Later in the film, when he delivers that epic speech that Rocket and Ant-Man like so much, we also learn that Steve is ready to do “whatever it takes” to get the job done. That’s a significant departure from his stance of not trading lives in Infinity War. Because he is willingly trading some lives this time. As much as it might hurt, he agrees to do things the way Tony wants, by not changing anything that happened in the five years since the Snap. The planet has been through a lot over those five years, and it could sure benefit from a reset to 2018. But Steve doesn’t push in that direction. He also accepts Nat’s death, because that was the only way they could obtain all the Stones.
By the way, “whatever it takes” also means that Steve wouldn’t do anything to interfere with the MCU-timeline… other than marry Peggy in the past — and maybe he was destined to do that all along.
In addition to being ready to do whatever it takes to win this time, Steve is also incredibly worthy. Seeing Cap wielding Thor’s Mjolnir is one of the most satisfying moments in the entire MCU. As is his “Avengers, Assemble!” call to action. Add to that the fact that he patches things up with Tony, and his arc really comes together. After all, the many arguments the two of them had over the years were part of the magic that kept the MCU together.
Steve’s arc is all the richer in Endgame, and that includes the controversial ending. He goes to the past to put back the Stones precisely because he’s worthy. This is the kind of action that you’d task Cap to do. Cap would want to do it to make sure nobody abuses the Stones in any way, so other timelines aren’t doomed.
After these decades of fighting, who can blame the guy for wanting to stop and live life in a time where things make sense for him, with a woman he’d loved for decades? Let’s remember that Steve went to war for the US, was then frozen for decades, and then to immediately went to war again for the Avengers.
It’s clear from the moment Steve leaves on this mission that he’s not coming back, or not the way we think. Bucky knows. His best friend knew all along that Steve would “take all the stupid with him.”
With all that in mind, Steve is still Steve. In spite of finally listening to Tony and getting some of that life for himself, he doesn’t forget that he promised his friends he’d be back in the future. And he seems determined to make sure there’s going to be a Captain America in the Avengers team going forward in this timeline.
Steve’s arc in Endgame is just as exciting as Tony’s or Thor’s, even if you don’t appreciate it too much right now. But, unlike the other two Avengers, we do have questions about Steve. We really need to know where Steve lived this regular life, just so it all makes sense for the MCU timeline.
I’ll also point out that, while Steve Rogers is an old man in 2023, we all know that the Avengers have technology on their hands that could move time through a person rather than pushing that person through time. The man who could make this possible is no longer with us, but maybe another genius could replicate Tony’s work.