Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Why Captain America's Decision in Avengers: Endgame Is 1000% Right

Captain America Time Travel Avengers: Endgame
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Avengers: Endgame is one of the biggest movies of the 21st Century, if not film history. So it'd be massively surprising if it didn't leave us with questions and ideas about its most beloved characters - especially Captain America and the road he's been on so far.

Having seen the film and currently, and seeing debates online about its potential plotholes, I wanted to explore what they mean for Steve Rogers and his journey in the throughout Marvel's finale for the Infinity Saga. This post contains massive spoilers. Read it your own risk.


Time Travel

Time travel is one of my least favorite storytelling devices, but it seemed inevitable as part of the Avengers: Endgame's plot. As soon as Infinity War ended, most fans theorized how the Avengers would dive into the past to fix what happened with Thanos. Most of the ideas fans came up with were utterly fascinating, but nothing could ever prepare me for how the Infinity Stones would be re-used.

Endgame handled their rules for time travel as easily as possible: the past couldn't be changed to fix the future, and any major change in the past creates an alternative timeline that branches off the MCU canon timeline and unfolds differently than how we know it.

The details of how The Avengers will return to the Quantum Realm for time travel and the Infinity Stones is mostly revealed by Hulk and his conversation with The Ancient One:
The Ancient One: If I give up the time stone to help your reality, I’m dooming my own.
Hulk: The infinity stones create what you experience as the flow of time. Remove one of the Stones, and that flow splits, now this may benefit your reality, but my new one, not so much. In this new branch reality, without our chief weapon against the forces of darkness, our world will be overrun, millions would suffer. So tell me, doctor, can your science prevent all that?
Endgame’s version of time travel keeps our experiences of the MCU timeline in tact. The writers chose moments that didn't alter the storylines of all the previous movies. However, this doesn’t mean that time travel is perfect. Loki escaping with the tesseract in 2012 and Guardians of the Galaxy's Gamora, Thanos, Nebula leaving their timeline disrupts some of the canon MCU as we know it.

DO AS PEGGY SAYS

When we think about the premise of time travel in Endgame, Steve does not mess up the MCU. Our Cap still makes a date with Peggy before crashing into the ice. He still freezes for seventy-plus years before being found and starts working for as an Avenger. Like everyone else, they still have their battles in NYC, Sokovia, Europe, and the rest of the universe.

One big debate right now is Peggy Carter’s life, including who she marries and if it is still canon. If we follow the initial rules that all MCU timelines haven’t changed, her series Agent Carter is safe too.

The main thing to know about Peggy in the general MCU is that her husband is never officially confirmed, except for Steve in Endgame.

Agent Carter is a little clearer about the mystery man she supposedly ends up with. Throughout her series, Carter works as an SSR Agent. A fellow agent Daniel Sousa, who served and was injured in WWII, is one of the few male agents who treats Carter with respect and as an equal. They have burdening relationship throughout the two seasons, one that ends with them kissing in the series finale. While Sousa was engaged at the time, their kiss ends on a relatively happy note that they will work out. Of course, this isn't officially confirmed in canon leading fans to look at the pictures on Peggy's armoire in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and thinking her husband can be anyone.

In true Marvel fashion of having all of their bases covered, her possible marriage to Sousa is backed up in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which came out a year before Agent Carter premiered on tv. When Steve is visiting the Smithsonian and watches an excerpt of Peggy talking about their time in the war, she says: "Steve, Captain Rogers, he fought his way through a Hydra blockade that had pinned our allies down for months. He saved over 1,000 men. Including the man who would become my husband as it turned out. Even after he died, he was still saving my life." While we never heard  Sousa directly saying that Captain America had saved him or his battalion, most forget that Carter and Rogers worked alongside each other for years coming to the aid of thousands of soldiers - not just Bucky's infantry. It's possible Sousa was one of many soldiers who were indirectly saved by their efforts overseas, but again, it's not officially canon.

Like all time travel devices, it’s hard to keep storylines straight. I’ve seen a lot of websites say that Steve going back in Endgame means that he is the mystery man she marries in the MCU. But that distorts with the rules of Endgame where time runs parallel to each other. Steve staying with Peggy, however he does it, creates an alternative timeline for them, and nothing effectively ruins her agency in the original movies or her series.

Fulfilling A New Legacy

Throughout Avengers: Endgame, the Infinity Stones are used with one goal in mind. At the end of the film, Steve aims to return the stones to where they belong, but then throws a curveball by staying in the 1940s. After appearing at a nearby bench, it's revealed that Cap remained wherever he visited, aging gracefully, and growing up with his original love Peggy. Similar to fans questioning if Tony and Thor's endings reflected their stories so far, I wholeheartedly believe this finally gives him the ending he deserved.

Throughout the entire series, Steve has questioned his purpose in the 21st Century. After he woke up out of the ice, he was searching for home besides fighting on the battlefield. Even though he might've been hopeful in The Avengers after leading the team to victory, his story became a rinse-and-repeat: train more Avengers, fight more battles, resist the longing to find his true place. Unlike Tony who was striving for a family while always looking over his shoulder, Steve focused on his next mission and trying to make The Avengers his family. But, no amount of war or victory would’ve made him feel like he fit in. No matter how many women Nat thought he might be able to date, or places Sam thought he should call home, Steve’s real home is being back in his original era.
For as long as I can remember I just wanted to do what was right. I guess I'm not quite sure what that is anymore. And I thought I could throw myself back in and follow orders, serve. It's just not the same. - Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Steve's choice to return to Peggy is also rooted in the loss of his ideals and friends. Cap's reunion with Bucky, as well as his "old-fashioned" beliefs contrasting the 21st Century, always had its limitations. Bucky is not the same person he used to be; he changed after being brainwashed and started to accept his actions in Wakanda. Even though Cap woke up in a new century and tried to make the best of it, he always suffered from "golden age thinking"; beliefs stemming from The Greatest Generation that either made him friends or made him seem old-fashioned. Meanwhile, Bucky never expressed wanting to go back to live another life; he was content "in the future". Though Bucky was never given the chance to make up his own mind, Steve's values often came in conflict with The Avengers, Nick Fury, and The Accords. Cap's patriotism was always fueled his desire to do what was right, but eventually he had to reconcile losing everything that was familiar to him: institutions, The Avengers, and his last piece of history with Bucky.


Every movie Steve was apart of essentially stripped down his beliefs - The First Avenger lifted him out of his own era and thrust him in the 21st Century; The Avengers and Age of Ultron gave him a duty as a soldier but made him question a life outside of Avenging; The Winter Soldier confronted him about corruption in government and SHIELD; Civil War put his own wants and needs first against the people who he knew and loved; Infinity War took him back to his roots as a soldier whether he wanted to be one or not. Steve is finally left with the one thing that Tony and Nat fought so hard for - as Tony says in Age of Ultron: Isn't that the mission? Isn't that the 'why we fight'? So we get to go home?’ Just as Tony sets up his life Post-Thanos, Steve finally takes his advice to do the same.
"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." - Peggy Carter, Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Even though the epic battle in Endgame puts our favorite Avengers on the battlefield again, interestingly, Our Cap never says “I can do this all day” like he normally does. Instead 2012 Cap says it, to which Our Cap says exhaustively "I know, I know." It's a nice callback to one of his famous phrases, but it's also a subtle signal that war is finally serving its last purpose for Cap. Once Nat and Tony are killed in Endgame, Steve knows Earth is going to be okay – there’s a new set of Avengers who will take care of everything, especially passing down the shield to MY BOY SAM WILSON. Similar to Thor recognizing that he doesn’t have to rule Asgard, Steve finally recognizes he was one of Earth’s mightiest heroes, but that’s not who he has to be anymore. Finally, he can retire - he can go home, he doesn't have to imagine it anymore.

As a tried and true Captain America fan girl, I attempted to be realistically objective to his choices at the end of Avengers: Endgame. In looking back at this role in his own and the Avengers movies, I realized how much I always watched his arc with a bittersweet heart. He always felt like a man out of time but doing the best he can. While I can't speak to some of the plotholes, Captain America fought the good fight so Steve Rogers could live. And that is a 1000% chill with me. I can finally watch his movies and know that everything turns out all right.

And that first dance between Steve and Peggy? Nick Fury played it in Steve's apartment in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Performed by Kitty Kallen with Harry James's orchestra, its lyrics are probably the best easter egg in Avengers: Endgame.

Updated: It was recently revealed that the writers and directors can't agree on how Steve Rogers uses time-travel and how it impacts his arc. The writers believe Steve returns to his original timeline in The First Avenger and lives out his life with Peggy as the other Steve remains under the ice. He becomes the noticeably absent husband in her photographs in Winter Soldier, so she doesn't marry Daniel Sousa from her show. Meanwhile, the directors believe Steve's second life leads to an alternative timeline and leaves everything else in tact. While I tend to side with the directors, fans choose to believe which answers they like or disagree with the most.

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