Why Steve and Peggy Together is a Beautiful End to Captain America's Arc
Peggy Carter is the great lost love of Captain America's life. Captain America's one and only kiss with Peggy was a promise of the life he could have lived, one with a meaning beyond war. When he awoke in the 21st century, Cap's first thought was of Peggy. The dialogue pulled on the heart-strings like few other scenes in the MCU; "I had a date," Rogers reflected sorrowfully. When he learned that she was still alive, Steve headed straight to Peggy's side. But, of course, the relationship between the two could never be the same; he was stood at the bedside of a dying woman, decades older than him.
Avengers: Age of Ultron shone a sorrowful light upon Steve's continuing love for Peggy Carter. Scarlet Witch reached inside the minds of the Avengers and realized their darkest secrets and fears. Black Widow went back to her training, Thor saw Ragnarok, and Captain America... saw the war over. Steve was at a V.E. party, where a young Peggy finally offered him their dance. This was his ultimate fantasy, but one tinged with the inescapable truth that it could never be real. Steve was confused by the end of fighting and conflicted by how he'd lost his chance at a normal life. Wanda's plan was to strip Captain America's soul bare, showing him what could have been, reminding him that he has nothing to live for but the war against evil.
But does it have to be a falsehood painted with regret? Reuniting with Peggy on their date is evidently what Steve most desires, and this theory poetically gives him that resolution. It suggests that Steve Rogers will finally find peace and love, returned to a time when his friends were still alive, and taking Peggy Carter by the hand in a ballroom dance. It turns Wanda's nightmare vision into a promise of the future; the world Captain America believed he had lost is made available to him once again.
Can the MCU Really Leave Captain America Like This?
In a character microcosm, this idea works. It allows Steve Rogers to bow out of the present day, with the potential for a new hero to take up his legacy. In the comics, both Falcon and Winter Soldier have had time as Captain America, and either could conceivably pick up the shield for Phase 4. Given the future of the MCU appears to involve embracing diversity like never before, the most likely is Falcon.
The first problem, though, is that this isn't necessarily a final end to Steve Rogers' arc. Marvel could potentially revisit the character by revealing his adventures in the 1940s, perhaps even showing the formation of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Making matters worse, once the Pandora's Box of time-travel has been opened in the MCU, there's no putting it back. Should the need ever arise, the Avengers can travel back to the past and ask Steve for help. This ending risks being a lot more ambiguous than it seems at first glance.
But the second problem is far more difficult; this theory risks contradicting the very nature of the MCU itself. Marvel movies exist within a single timeline. It's not perfect, but in general the timeline works - enough that a rough chronology of the entire MCU to date can be created. But returning Captain America back to the 1940s absolutely shatters this timeline - and certainly contradicts the Agent Carter one-shot and TV series. It essentially reboots the entire MCU, to the extent that we simply have no idea what's canon and what isn't anymore. It's true that Kevin Feige has referred to Phase 4 as "the next iteration of the MCU," but Marvel has also stressed that there'll be a sense of continuity to it as well.
As significant as this issue may be, it isn't necessarily fatal; that all depends upon the method of time travel Marvel choose to go with. For example, the film could suggest that Steve's decision to head back to the past creates an alternate dimension; his 1940s life doesn't exist in the MCU timeline at all. Indeed, Marvel may settle for only implying as much, trusting that the average viewer will simply enjoy a sentimental, poetic conclusion to Captain America's story and not worry too much about the temporal mechanics of it. Marvel's pseudo-science tends to be consistent, right up until the moment that it isn't.
Still, while this "happy ever after" ending is theoretically possible, there's little strong evidence to back it up. A more probable ending for Steve Rogers is a sacrificial death, one in which he makes a heroic last stand against Thanos, the Mad Titan. That would fit with the themes of sacrifice that have run through every Captain America movie to date, with Steve Rogers serving as the greatest inspiration for the next generation of Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019