While many fans had hoped Red Skull would once again appear in the MCU, I don’t think a single one expected that the villainous character would play such a massive role in both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Having previously been zapped into oblivion in Captain America: The First Avenger (in addition to Hugo Weaving’s penchant for bashing Marvel Studios), most assumed the Hydra founder’s time had come and gone.
Cut to the summer of 2018, where a cloaked figure on the planet Vormir revealed that he was actually Red Skull, forever cursed to watch over the Soul Stone as punishment for his attempted misuse of the Tesseract. Now a solemn shell of his former evil self (and recast with Ross Marquand), Captain America’s arch-nemesis only managed to interact with Thanos, Gamora, Black Widow and Hawkeye over both movies, leaving many fans upset that a reunion with Steve Rogers was only hinted at and never depicted on screen.
While it may have taken a few months, Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo have now revealed in a Reddit AMA what exactly happened when Cap returned the Soul Stone to Vormir, considering he would have to come face-to-face with one of the most important villains of his past.
“It was probably more awkward than you imagine it was. Red Skull felt slated because Cap didn’t recognize him.”
So, there you have it. In two quick sentences, Anthony Russo pretty much dashes all hopes that the pair of WWII foes decked it out in deep space. While fans have given the directors some flack over glossing over a bit of character development in Endgame, the fact that Captain America wouldn’t even recognize his own comic book arch-nemesis is a pretty humorous way to stifle one of the most common questions about this summer’s biggest hit.
That being said, just because the Russo Brothers claim that’s the answer, doesn’t mean that it’s actually canon. They’ve certainly been at odds with other architects of the MCU before, so while they may have some input, it probably isn’t the final say on the matter.
And let’s not forget, the Disney Plus show What If…? will take an animated look at some of the most intriguing ideas in the MCU, and it’s a pretty safe bet that the writers at least thought about Cap and Red Skull’s fateful meeting. Who’s to say that a future episode won’t answer that inquiry for real (or, at least, as real as a show called What If…? can).
The best part about Marvel’s cinematic universe is that it allows for fans theories like this to even exist in the first place. We may never actually know what happened when Captain America returns the Soul Stone to Red Skull, but the fact that fans even care after Avengers: Endgame wrapped up a decade’s worth of story is a testament to the power of the MCU itself.