(And by favourite pastime, I actually mean the worst pastime.)
By this point, we’ve all seen the trailer, and if you haven’t you can click here! The stakes for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes has never been higher. With half of the universe wiped after The Snap, Captain America, Iron Man, The Hulk, Hawkeye, Ant-Man, War Machine, Nebula, Thor, Captain Marvel, and Rocket are on a mission to kick Thanos’ butt.
There are a lot of questions that we are impatiently awaiting the answers to. But the one that has been on my mind and kept me awake at night since around this time last year is BUT WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO STEVE ROGERS? The trailer contains some pretty harrowing images of our favourite super soldier, dirty, bloodied, gritting his teeth as he straps his shield on. It’s hard not to look at that and wonder what this movie has in store for him.
I went into Avengers: Infinity War thinking that was going to be the movie where we’d say goodbye to Steve or Tony Stark. What I didn’t expect is that those who “got dusted” would be the newer characters, or those with ones that still had stories left to tell, and that the ones left behind would be the old guard. Their stories and their mission were not yet finished – they still had one more mission to complete.
Saving the entire freakin’ universe.
Do we take shots whenever someone mentions the title of the movie in the movie?
From a storytelling perspective, we know that something is going to happen to the majority of the old guard. Contracts are also up, actors are wanting to shift to different projects, move on from being in Marvel movies, but that sounds less glamourous. Chris Evans isn’t going to be Captain America forever, no matter how much we cry about it.
So, without further preamble, here are some theories I have on what might happen to Steve Rogers once the credits for Endgame have begun to roll.
Steve goes back in time, lives out his days with Peggy
The sound you hear is my heart being ripped out of my chest.
One of the earliest spoilers from Endgame came as the result of some on-set photographs that were leaked. In them, we see Steve and Tony as they appeared in the Battle of New York from the first Avengers film. But also present was Scott Lang (Ant-Man) who definitely wasn’t there. Our heroes also appeared to be wearing some manner of fancy wristwatches that they hadn’t been during that battle.
All of this lead to speculation that time travel might be involved in Endgame, and may be part of the plot to defeat Thanos. Without the Time Stone, The Avengers will need to find different ways to manipulate time, but given what we know about the Quantum Realm, it’s definitely a possibility!
And that brings me to my first theory. Steve and Agent Peggy Carter have always been endgame (see what I did there?). They were robbed of a life together after Steve’s “death” in Captain America: The First Avenger. When Steve came back, Peggy was old and dying, with a spotty memory that made for one of the most heart wrenching moments in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.
If there’s a time travel element involved, what’s to stop Steve from going back in time and living out his days with Peggy like he deserves to, like he’s meant to? There’s been speculation that Peggy Carter’s line about “starting over” featuring as some of the narration in the Endgame trailer might allude to her being an important part of the film. And truthfully? Steve has had a pretty rough go of things since the 1940s. He deserves a happy ending. And there can be no happier ending then him being able to have a life with the woman that he loves.
Steve lives and retires as Captain America
“What makes you happy?”
There are going to be some casualties in Endgame, of that much I’m certain. Who they are remains to be seen. It’s entirely possible that Steve will not have to lay down his life to save the universe, and wouldn’t that be a lovely thing?
Though I don’t find it as satisfying an ending for this character my first theory, it’s one that would still make me happy. Steve has been Captain America for longer than most of the current characters in the MCU have been alive (even if he was frozen for decades). And given the intensity of the missions that he’s been on, I think it’s safe to say that no one deserves to retire more than Steve. When the dust settles and if he’s still left standing, I think he should be given that option.
Now, I do like this theory because it does mean that even though he might not be around so much in the MCU, Steve can still get nods. Someone can mention something about him as they discuss tactics with their team, Sam Wilson or Bucky Barnes can call him up on the phone for advice on how to handle a mission. He can still be around even if he’s not really there. Plus, Evans could always have cameos! We love cameos!
He could also retire as Captain America and become Commander Rogers. A figure more behind the scenes, but still present for those who need him.
Which brings me to my last theory…
Steve dies and Bucky takes up the mantle
And I have no doubt he will until the very end.
Look. I will be the first to admit that that I don’t really want this to happen. A world (however fictional it may be) without Steve Rogers doesn’t seem much like a world worth living in. But ever since he was thawed out at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve has been a man out of time, one whose days seem numbered. He lives in a world where he doesn’t quite fit – whether that be because of his morals or because of how wide his shoulders are, it doesn’t really matter. Steve always seems a little out of place.
Steve’s death is one that would carry a lot of weight should it happen in Endgame. More than Tony Stark’s in my personal opinion. While Tony has basically been the main character of the MCU since the first Iron Man film, Steve has been the heart of the MCU. Will I be sad if Tony dies? Absolutely. But I don’t think it would deal the emotional gut punch that Steve’s would.
There’s a line that’s repeated a couple of times in Infinity War, first spoken by Steve. And that line is “We don’t trade lives.” This is coming from a man who has traded his life time and time again since we first met him. He did it when he put that plane in the water in The First Avenger, he did it once more when the Helicarriers were falling out of the sky in The Winter Soldier. How fitting would it be if he traded his life once more in a final act of putting everyone else before himself? I submit that there’s no better way for Steve to go, if he is going to go.
Steve’s death would also mean that there is a shield that someone needs to wield. I’ve spoken about it many times, but the MCU has been setting us up for a Bucky Barnes as Captain America storyline since the beginning. Whether or not that will come to fruition, or all of those previous nods are simply paying us lip service, who’s to say? And while Bucky could certainly take up the shield if Steve lives and simply retires, there’s an added gravitas if he does so because Steve dies. That’s the reason that Bucky does it in the comics – to honour Steve’s memory. Bucky becomes Captain America because he’s bound to his friend, not to the shield or the title.
Even if it only happened for one film, I think seeing Bucky stumbling his way through missions as Captain America would be amazing. Especially if he’s doing it because it keeps him close to his fallen friend, and helps to keep Steve’s memory alive.
Strap yourselves in, because we love pain!
Regardless of what happens to Steve, or any of the other heroes, there’s no doubt in my mind that Avengers: Endgame is going to be fraught with emotion. Endgame is the culmination of ten years and 21 films worth of storytelling. There’s no way that everyone is going to get a happy ending, and no way that everyone is going to emerge unscathed.
Infinity War did what few super hero movies up until that point had done – it let its heroes lose. While I think it’s safe to say that they will win come the end of Endgame, it’s been very clear that they will do “whatever it takes.” And whatever that means, we will be saying goodbye to some of our favourite heroes one way or another.