Does Captain America’s Ending In Avengers: Endgame Ruin The Movie?
Avengers: Endgame is finally out and most people seem to be pretty pleased with it. It’s no mean feat for a movie (even a three hour one) to satisfyingly conclude a decade of storytelling told over 21 films. But to do it while telling its own story and being fun as hell is a plate-spinning exercise that all involved executed to perfection. However, there’s one big element of the ending that has some fans claiming it retroactively ‘ruins’ the movie.
We’re talking about the conclusion to Steve Rogers/Captain America’s story. For much of the finale, it seems that he’s going to go down in battle against Thanos, but ends up unexpectedly surviving. We then see him volunteering to take the Infinity Stones back to their various timelines, and he steps into the time machine and vanishes. He then reappears, but as an old man who explains that he used the opportunity to live out a ‘normal’ life with Peggy Carter. Cue sappy music and the credits. There’s not a dry eye in the house.
But fans are arguing that this decision goes against both time travel logic and Steve Rogers’ character. Meg Downey at GameSpot says that Rogers shouldn’t have been able to create a new timeline and that he must’ve changed the present by his choice to remain with Peggy. This would’ve meant he was essentially sitting on the sidelines throughout the entire MCU to date, and it’s admittedly difficult to imagine Rogers idly sitting by as Bucky’s turned into a brainwashed assassin and Hydra takes over S.H.I.E.L.D.
Here’s how GameSpot put it:
In the process of closing off all the potential branches, Steve apparently made a new one. Or, rather, he should have made a new one, but somehow didn’t. Steve changed his own past, and the past of Peggy Carter, by being present for those 70 years he originally spent frozen and marrying her–which, for whatever reason, allowed him to still exist as an old man in the main timeline he left–our present.
If Steve had actually created a branched timeline, he wouldn’t have been an old man in our present. His reformed existence in the past should have changed events to the point that the movie’s present day would be different not only for Steve but for everyone. We’d be seeing a different timeline all together.
However, GameSpot also looks at the other side of the fence and examines what if he did somehow create an alternate timeline. Admittedly, it’s a bit confusing to think about, but here’s how they break it down, arguing that whether he did or didn’t create another timeline, the whole thing still doesn’t make sense.
Possibility 1 is that Steve did create an alternate timeline that we just never got to see where he and Peggy were married, possibly went off and were superheroes together, stopped HYDRA from infiltrating SHIELD, rescued Bucky, prevented Howard Stark’s assassination, and negated the need for the Avengers entirely. In the process, he erased the entire life that he knew Peggy had without him, including her husband and the kids she had while he was in the ice. Poof, gone.
Then, happy and old, Steve miraculously jumped back to our timeline unassisted, which ought to be impossible, and for no real reason, just in time to pass the shield on to Sam. Seriously, why would he bother coming back at all if he was so confident that the present day world didn’t need him anymore? Why leave the timeline he made, especially if it really were so much better? What incentive does he have to go through the trouble?
Possibility 2 is that Steve did not create a branched timeline by going back, just lived his life as quietly as possible through the post-war years. That would make him complicit in the knowledge of all the horrific things happening to the people he loves during those years.
This would also mean, in order for the timeline not to be fundamentally broken, that our version of Steve would have always been married to Peggy, even if he didn’t know it until this exact moment. This not only contradicts the entirety of the Agent Carter TV show and various parts of the MCU up to now (like Steve’s meeting with dying Peggy after he dethaws), it also means that Steve would be Sharon Carter’s uncle–and, uh, that’s pretty gross, even if he didn’t know it at the time.
Have you got all that straight? We sure hope so, because GameSpot’s article then dives into another major potential issue with Steve’s conclusion, as Meg Downey writes:
Even discounting the potential for unwitting incest, there are some other major problems here. Remember when Steve said when he sees a situation headed south, he can’t turn his back? Remember how Steve’s entire origin story revolves around his inability to sit back and let a conflict run its course without him? How he doesn’t like bullies no matter where they’re from? How he literally submitted himself to a potentially lethal science experiment rather than not fight in a war? How he jumped into German occupied territory without an army backing him up just on the off chance that there was something he could do to help his friend? How he can “do this all day?” Started a war to clear the name of his ex-assassin bestie? Still acted as a hero even while he was an international fugitive?
In what world does Steve Rogers, even a beaten down and jaded Steve Rogers, just sit on his hands and let the future deal with its own problems?
Personally, my take on all this was that Rogers isn’t living secretly in the main MCU timeline. Rather, he’s in one of the parallel dimensions. I understood him to have just teleported back to where the other characters are. I mean, he still has the time travel technology, and it is strange that he just ‘appears’ on a bench out of nowhere. And in this alternate dimension, who’s to say that he didn’t fix things to ensure that his new world is better? After all, he’s still a super soldier.
Ugh, all this time travel talk is giving me a headache. Perhaps we should just do what Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me said regarding time travel logic: “I suggest you don’t worry about this sort of thing and just enjoy yourself.”