Avengers: Endgame made good on its title and delivered a ton of endings–and most of them had been really nice, if tragic, satisfying conclusions to a decade of labor. One of them, nevertheless, was not.
And it very almost ruined your complete film.
Consider this your spoiler warning.
Steve Rogers completed out his tenure as a fundamental line MCU hero by not solely wielding Mjolnir and surviving a very brutal beating by Thanos, he additionally (apparently) volunteered to be the individual to ship the Infinity Stones again to their respective factors within the timeline. You know, to keep away from all of the branched timelines that the Ancient One warned Bruce Banner about with the assistance of their useful cosmic infographic. Steve does this fully alone for some motive, which additionally does not make quite a lot of sense, however we’ll let that slide for proper now.
The actual drawback is that Steve does not really succeed at his mission. He offers the Stones again, positive, and returns the Mjolnir he is been utilizing to Asgard, apparently, however then he decides to take a detour and go dwell a full life with Peggy Carter someplace up to now. This leads to him exhibiting again up within the current not by taking the quantum portal, however by strolling (or perhaps he took an Uber? Who is aware of) to a bench about 50 toes to the left of the portal, returning as an outdated man who has lived a life-time within the blink of the viewers’s eye.
We even get just a little flashback of Steve lastly sharing his dance with Peggy again within the ’40s (or perhaps the ’50s, after the battle) in what is clearly meant to be a really romantic, fulfilling coda to his story.
Or, perhaps it will be, if it labored in any respect both by way of Steve’s thematic arc all through his MCU tenure or by the principles that Endgame itself established.
Getting Technical With Time Travel
Let’s check out Endgame’s time journey logic first. As explicitly said, by Endgame’s personal guidelines, you can’t change the current, you’ll be able to solely create new timelines–i.e. If the Infinity Stones weren’t positioned again within the actual locations within the actual moments they had been taken from, the MCU could be coping with a bunch of branching timelines the place varied characters and full motion pictures both could not exist or could be fully doomed. Just a few of these branched timelines positively nonetheless exist–an alternate 2014 the place Thanos introduced his forces to Earth years sooner than he initially did, an alternate 2011 the place Loki escaped with the Tesseract after the top of Avengers 1, and so on–but those that had been taken care of, had been dealt with by Steve. That was his mission.
But within the technique of closing off all of the potential branches, Steve apparently made a brand new one. Or, slightly, he ought to have made a brand new one, however in some way did not. Steve modified his personal previous, and the previous of Peggy Carter, by being current for these 70 years he initially spent frozen and marrying her–which, for no matter motive, allowed him to nonetheless exist as an outdated man in the principle timeline he left–our current.
If Steve had really created a branched timeline, he would not have been an outdated man in our current. His reformed existence up to now ought to have modified occasions to the purpose that the film’s current day could be totally different not just for Steve however for everybody. We’d be seeing a special timeline all collectively.
In the curiosity of mitigating the confusion right here (and make no mistake–this is complicated as hell) let’s break it down. There are two potential potentialities.
Possibility 1 is that Steve did create an alternate timeline that we simply by no means received to see the place he and Peggy had been married, presumably went off and had been superheroes collectively, stopped HYDRA from infiltrating SHIELD, rescued Bucky, prevented Howard Stark’s assassination, and negated the necessity for the Avengers fully. In the method, he erased your complete life that he knew Peggy had with out him, together with her husband and the youngsters she had whereas he was within the ice. Poof, gone.
Then, glad and outdated, Steve miraculously jumped again to our timeline unassisted, which must be inconceivable, and for no actual motive, simply in time to move the protect on to Sam. Seriously, why would he trouble coming again in any respect if he was so assured that the current day world did not want him anymore? Why depart the timeline he made, particularly if it actually had been so significantly better? What incentive does he should undergo the difficulty?
What About Option 2?
Possibility 2 is that Steve didn’t create a branched timeline by going again, simply lived his life as quietly as potential by means of the post-war years. That would make him complicit within the data of all of the horrific issues taking place to the folks he loves throughout these years. This would additionally imply, to ensure that the timeline to not be essentially damaged, that our model of Steve would have all the time been married to Peggy, even when he did not realize it till this actual second. This not solely contradicts the whole thing of the Agent Carter TV present and varied components of the MCU to date (like Steve’s assembly with dying Peggy after he dethaws), it additionally implies that Steve could be Sharon Carter’s uncle–and, uh, that is fairly gross, even when he did not realize it on the time.
Even discounting the potential for unwitting incest, there are another main issues right here. Remember when Steve stated when he sees a scenario headed south, he cannot flip his again? Remember how Steve’s total origin story revolves round his incapacity to sit down again and let a battle run its course with out him? How he does not like bullies irrespective of the place they’re from? How he actually submitted himself to a doubtlessly deadly science experiment slightly than not combat in a battle? How he jumped into German occupied territory with out a military backing him up simply on the off likelihood that there was one thing he may do to assist his pal? How he can “do this all day?” Started a battle to clear the title of his ex-assassin bestie? Still acted as a hero even whereas he was a world fugitive?
In what world does Steve Rogers, even a crushed down and jaded Steve Rogers, simply sit on his fingers and let the longer term cope with its personal issues?
The reply must be none of them.
This does not even start to broach yet one more uncomfortable matter. The individuals who returned from the Snap had been very actually dropped right into a future when no time had handed for them at all–the miniature model of Steve’s expertise waking up from the ice again in 2011. But apparently he is completely nice with simply bailing on a world experiencing a stage of trauma that he’s uniquely certified to assist them by means of.
“He’s earned the right to be selfish!” You say? Sure. If anybody deserves a trip, it is Steve–but that does not imply he’ll take one. We’ve spent the final eight years studying the ins and outs of this character within the motion pictures, and the final 7 a long time studying about him within the comics. Letting issues simply occur is essentially not one thing he’d do. It’s simply not. He may retire, move the protect over to Sam, and take a serious step again, however there is not any manner Steve is ever simply going to surrender the combat altogether–and this has actually occurred within the comics. Steve’s even been an outdated man, however he nonetheless does not cease collaborating in superheroic world. It’s merely not in his nature to quit–that could be like Tony all of the sudden deciding to not be an engineer only for the hell of it.
But say the goofy, esoteric time journey logic does not matter to you both way–there’s nonetheless a difficulty. It has much less to do with the mechanics and extra to do with Steve’s place inside the MCU’s meta-narrative.
Let’s Ignore The Time Travel All Together
For a second, let’s simply fake that we do not have virtually 100 years of comics to take a look at and focus completely on the 60-some hours of movie we have been given. Thematically, Steve is a man who has misplaced lots in these motion pictures. Arguably, that is his most defining quality–he went into the ice 70 years in the past, and he thinks a special man got here out–his phrases, not mine. The motif of being unable to go residence once more is repeated poignantly repeatedly and again–and by means of all of that, by means of all the pieces, Steve has discovered how you can hold going. And that is thing–or at the very least, it was factor. By shifting on, Steve was really doing precisely what Peggy Carter had hoped for him (“the world has changed, and none of us can go back. All we can do is our best, and sometimes, the best that we can do, is to start over.”)
Sure, there are just a few beats in Endgame particularly the place it appears like he is lastly hit his breaking level (“some people move on, but not us”), however that solely means he is been crushed down, not taken out. Hell, he even manages to summon up the power of will within the 11th hour to be worthy of wielding Mjolnir, making him solely the third character and solely mortal within the MCU to take action. That’s nothing to scoff at.
Steve could also be outlined by loss, however the energy of his character comes from turning that loss into energy. Sure, he is a brilliant soldier, he is quick and robust and might take a serious beating, however his precise superpower is his indomitable will. If there’s one factor you’ll be able to depend on on the earth, it is that Captain America will not be going to surrender, even when issues are at their absolute worst.
Except for when he does, apparently. Giving Steve a temporal get-out-of-jail-free card might look like a good suggestion on the floor, however on the finish of the day all it does is recant his total journey. What’s the purpose of emphasizing the perpetual movement machine that’s Steve Rogers–the fixed assurance that irrespective of how darkish issues get, irrespective of how a lot you lose, you’ll be able to nonetheless transfer forward–if the last word reward is attending to do the precise factor he was informed he could not do; that he spent his life and 5 motion pictures shifting past?
Which is to say nothing in regards to the fully squandered repay for each second of his solo trilogy. Remember how essential his “I’m with you till the end of the line” chorus was with Bucky Barnes? Hopefully you do–there’s formally licensed merch with that line printed on it. Fans received it tattooed on their our bodies. It comes up lots, and for good motive. It wasn’t precisely delicate so far as huge symbolic gestures are involved and it was a serious a part of not one, not two, however three particular person motion pictures. Funny how now it is extra like “I’m with you until the exact moment I decide I don’t want to stick around anymore.” Funnier nonetheless how that line, perhaps probably the most memorable Captain America line of your complete MCU subsequent to “I can do this all day”–another factor that was, apparently, not true–doesn’t get a single shout out or name again in a film that’s about 90% shout outs and name backs to memorable MCU moments.
It’s low-cost, not romantic, and a needlessly boring edge to an in any other case highly effective arc. The lesson that must be about processing grief and turning towards the longer term grew to become a carelessly handwaved wink-nod at returning to the previous, at which level Steve’s journey is not in regards to the technique of restoration, it is a message about working actually exhausting till you are miraculously introduced with a magic bullet to make all of your exhausting work and energy not matter.
Which, frankly, sucks.
And, actually, none of that is even pertaining to the truth that Steve and Peggy’s soul mate stage connection was fostered over the course of, what, like every week again in 1945? Maybe he ought to have gotten over it. She positively did. There was an entire TV present about it.
They each deserved so significantly better.