Joe and Anthony Russo's explanation for Captain America's ending in Avengers: Endgame unfortunately makes things worse. After returning the Infinity Stones to their rightful place (restoring normalcy to the timeline), Steve Rogers opted to remain in the past and live the life he was robbed of after going into the ice during World War II. He returned from his time traveling journey as a peaceful old man, passing the Captain America mantle to Sam Wilson. Endgame's final scene, one of the most cathartic moments in all of the MCU, shows Steve and Peggy Carter finally having their dance - the perfect bookend to The First Avenger's tragic "I had a date" ending.
Once the raw emotion of seeing Steve and Peggy sway to "It's Been a Long, Long Time" wore off, fans debated about the logistics of the scene. Time travel can muck things up, and numerous theories were generated. The Russo brothers attempted to clear the air by saying Steve went to an alternate dimension to be with Peggy, and then came back to the prime reality to say goodbye to Sam. But on a closer examination, this explanation arguably makes the Steve/Peggy dance scene worse. The implications of it are equal parts harrowing and horrifying.
For starters, it's a sad thought to picture Prime Peggy (who audiences followed through multiple MCU projects) not getting the reunion people always wanted to see. Yes, she eventually married and had a family, but still spent years under the impression Steve was dead (while an alternate Peggy got the dance). In a way, the Endgame scene is more meaningful to longtime viewers if it's the Prime Peggy. Additionally, the Russos' reasoning makes Marvel's decision to hide the identity of Prime Peggy's husband silly in retrospect, since it makes the secrecy arbitrary instead of preservation of a massive revelation. Plus, there's also the idea that an alternate Steve will wake up and discover Peggy lived with... a different him, somehow - which is pretty scary (Prime Steve took another Steve's Peggy). Another key question raised by this explanation is how exactly our Steve jumped timelines, which is its own can of worms the Russos did not get into.
It seemed as if this was going to be proper canon, but Endgame writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (who infamously disagree with the Russos on the film's time travel rules), suggested something else entirely. In their minds, Steve Rogers was always intended to be the father of Peggy's children, essentially making Endgame's last scene part of a closed time loop where Steve was Peggy's husband all along. It's worth noting Markus and McFeely co-wrote the Captain America solo trilogy and were probably laying the foundation for this for a long time. Their explanation makes more sense (well, about as much sense as time travel hijinks can make) because it reaffirms Prime Peggy and Prime Steve ended up together - no alternate Steve lives were ruined in this tearjerker - and simplifies things. It's easier to accept Steve traveled back to the past and stayed in the background while his younger self went through the events of The Avengers through Endgame. The Markus and McFeely explanation also makes Marvel's reluctance to share anything about Peggy's personal life understandable. If fans knew about the twist before Endgame, the scene wouldn't play with the same amount of resonance.
Unless someone at Marvel comes out and officially stamps one as true canon, Endgame's final scene will be open to interpretation. Some may even opt to compare this to the Inception ending and say it doesn't matter if Steve is in the prime timeline or an alternate timeline; he got his dance with his girl. But that's an apples-to-oranges comparison. The Markus and McFeely line of reasoning holds up more under closer inspection, keeping the established MCU intact without falling apart at the seams. It's admittedly baffling the movie's directors and writers couldn't agree on how this all worked and that only adds to the confusion. But with two explanations to choose from, one might be the more preferred option.
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019