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‘Avengers: Endgame’ directors finally addressed the biggest lingering mystery

Published Feb 14th, 2021 3:08PM EST

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  • Captain America’s fate at the Avengers: Endgame stirred up controversy among fans, who disagreed on the timeline that Steve Rogers settled in.
  • Endgame directors Anthony and Joe Russo addressed the matter a few times since the premiere, making it clear that the Endgame time travel rules indicate that Steve lived his life in a different timeline until he returned to the primary MCU reality with the shield.
  • But there was one lingering Captain America mystery left: what did Steve Rogers do in the reality where he married Peggy? Now, the Russo brothers have addressed the matter in a new interview.

When The Falcon and the Winter Soldier premieres in mid-March, we’ll be getting at least one new version of Captain America. Steve Rogers passed his shield to Sam at the end of Avengers: Endgame, but we know from the TV show’s trailers that Sam won’t necessarily jump right into his new role as Cap. Instead, a different character from the comics to take on the Cap role.

It’s unclear whether the show will explain what happened to Steve after returning to those alternate timelines to fix everything. He replaced all the Infinity Stones and did the same thing with Mjolnir. That way, those realities would not suffer irreparable harm. Then he went to visit Peggy so they could have their dance and get married. Steve got to have the life he never experienced in this reality.

This is the perfect ending for Steve, but it’s also something that caused plenty of controversy. Some people argued that Steve went on to live in an alternate reality until he returned to the main timeline to deliver the shield to Sam. Others said that Steve somehow returned to the primary reality’s past. Marvel has already set the record straight on the matter, with directors Anthony and Joe Russo having explained exactly where Steve went. But now, nearly two years after Endgame, the brothers have finally addressed the only lingering question we have about Cap.

The MCU canon is that Steve Rogers restored the order in the universe by returning the stones and Mjolnir. Then he settled down in an alternate reality where he married Peggy. Later, he traveled back to the main timeline to pass along the shield. Joe and Anthony said as much in late April 2019, right after the premiere:

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?

Anthony Russo: 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.

The Russo brothers then explained Steve’s time travel adventures in an interview in early July.

Joe Russo: The way that it would work is that when Captain America goes back, he would create a branch reality, Now he would exist in that branch reality with a second Captain America who was frozen in ice.

Anthony: 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.

Joe: 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.

These explanations are consistent with the time travel rules that Endgame implemented for the MCU. Going back in time would not change the future. Instead, any action taken in that specific place would alter that reality, which could then develop differently. Clint taking that baseball glove during one of the tests they performed might be enough to create a chain reaction in that past that would impact the entire timeline, for example.

Captain America in Avengers: Endgame
Still from Avengers: Endgame showing Captain America (Chris Evans) during the final battle, probably thinking he could do this all day. Image source: Marvel Studios

Getting back to Steve Rogers, we still have no idea what Cap did in the timeline where he settled. That would be a great story to tell, and perhaps we’ll see that question addressed someday. The Russos just explained that they have no idea what happened to Rogers from the moment he left the main timeline until he returned as an old man.

The Russos talked about Steve on the Lights Camera Barstool (via ComicBook), where they were asked if they knew of Steve’s life with Peggy.

“Nope, no idea,” Joe said. “One thing that’s clear that Anthony and I have discussed, I don’t know that I’ve discussed this publicly at all, Cap would have had to travel back to the main timeline, that is something that yes, he would have been in a branch reality but he would have to travel back to the main timeline to give that shield to Sam Wilson…In our internal logic that we defined in the room, that was the choice that we made was based on everything that happened he would have been in a branch reality and then had to have shifted over to this so jumped from one to the other and handed the shield off.”

Anthony Russo added that they never had to worry about that part of the story in the first place. “One of the great thrills of doing Endgame though was at that point we had worked with [screenwriters] Markus and McFeely for four films telling a continuous narrative,” he said. “I can’t tell you how liberating it was to be able to finish and deliver Endgame without any idea or any thought about how it moves forward from there. Because up until that point, it was always about how do we move forward, how do we move forward, and it was very creatively liberating to not have that burden any longer.”

Interestingly, Markus and McFeely are among those people who think that Steve lived his life in the main timeline.

These comments should settle the debate once and for all. Steve lived his life with Peggy on a different Earth in the multiverse. But since Phase 4 is just beginning to introduce the multiverse, that Steve Rogers story could still be told at some point. After all, we still need to find out how he had a shield made in that timeline and how he got the Pym particles required to come back to Sam and Bucky.

Recent rumors said that Chris Evans will reprise his Steve Rogers role, but he will not necessarily play Captain America.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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