Earlier this year, Avengers: Endgame concluded Captain America’s arc on a crowd-pleasing note when Steve Rogers traveled back in time to settle down with Peggy Carter. It was a moment that could’ve been taken straight out of a work of MCU fan fiction, but in giving one sector of the filmgoing public exactly what they wanted, the Avengers: Infinity War sequel also spawned a messy debate that shows no sign of dying out anytime soon.
The biggest question that fans are still squabbling over is whether Cap lived out his life with Peggy in the main MCU timeline, or traveled into an alternate reality before jumping back to the main timeline near the end of his life. But moving beyond that particular issue, many fans are still wondering how Steve, in good conscience, could sit back and relax without trying to prevent some of the grimmest events of the last few decades from happening.
After all, Steve’s decision to settle down with Peggy already shows a willingness to alter history, albeit on a more personal level, and even if he did create a new timeline in the process, we can only assume that this alternate reality would’ve been plagued with just as many threats and tragedies as the main timeline.
The issue was touched upon by Endgame co-writer Christopher Markus at last month’s San Diego Comic-Con. And after doubling down on his personal interpretation that there have always been two Caps in the main timeline, the scribe argued that Steve’s retirement was a fitting conclusion to the hero’s arc:
“Stephen [McFeely] and I are just so taken with the idea that Steve went back and somehow, therefore, has always been back. And he got to live his life. Because you get Captain America loyalists who say that if Cap goes back in time, he is honor-bound to fix everything he knows is going to happen. So he has to go save Bucky, he has to prevent the Kennedy assassination… he’s a very busy man.”
“But that’s not why we sent him back. We sent him back so that he could become a whole person, and finally come home from the war. We didn’t want him to go back and just keep adventuring, we wanted him to rest. And the only way we could come to that solution is if there are two Caps. Which I’m okay with.”
It’s worth noting that Markus’ answer here is coming more from a storytelling perspective than an ethical one. Whether or not Cap had the moral right to exit from the fray is still up for discussion, and you can expect this issue to continue to crop up in comment sections and forum threads long after the MCU has moved on from the events of Avengers: Endgame.