As promised, a more detailed look at one element of Endgame that’s got people’s knickers in a twist.
Again, spoilers coming up – for Agent Carter, too – so look away now.
First of all, let’s touch on the problem that the writers (Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) and the directors (Joe and Anthony Russo) both have a different viewpoint on how the time travel in Endgame actually works, and specifically, where Steve went at the end.
I’m favouring the writers, but the previously mentioned anomalies do come into play and it seems there is a method to Marvel’s madness, which I’ve picked up from an excellent and insightful interview with Markus & McFeely – you can see it in full here. They also drop the very exciting bombshell that they have a studio with the Russos and are working on other projects! (Not Marvel, don’t start. *dreams*).
The Russo brothers have stated* that Steve went into an alternative timeline, and there is evidence of this. Specifically, the new shield. Since his original shield was destroyed in the fight with Thanos, it makes sense that it comes from another timeline. Steve tells Sam “it doesn’t” (belong to anyone else), so it appears that in the other timeline, he’s handed it over to Sam before. *They also stated that Loki escape with the Time stone, so y’know, they’re a bit confused too.
Suffice to say, Steve creating a whole new timeline means anything goes – he could go back to before Bucky fell from the train, since his past isn’t the future in that timeline. Marrying Peggy, having kids, saving Bucky and the Starks, it can all happen without him affecting the original MCU timeline.
The anomalies here are that a) he doesn’t appear back through the portal, and if he was using the GPS tracker and the Pym particles then surely he would have? Unless, in the alternative timeline, Howard and/or Tony and/or Hank Pym have created another. Now, you could call that convenient – I call it exciting!
And b) the rules created for Endgame state that creating an alternate timeline can only happen if an Infinity Stone is not replaced, and since Steve replaced them all, he can’t have created an alternative timeline.
The case for the original timeline:
As I said, I’m with the writers, because a) it’s more romantic and b) they’ve written all the Captain America films, plus Avengers 3 and 4 and they created Agent Carter. Their intention was that he went back to Peggy in the original timeline, and the evidence in Winter Soldier and Endgame supports that. As they say in the video:
“Things need to add up emotionally more than they do logically …”
For clarification, M & M confirmed that two particles can exist in the same timeline (their quantum scientists told them about experiments done in the CERN Hadron Collider). Therefore, frozen Steve and future Steve co-exist and future Steve ensures their paths don’t cross once his younger self is defrosted.
M & M confirm in the video that Steve returned to Peggy in 1948 – at the end of Agent Carter Series 2, so all of that happened. They reckon she had a falling out with Sousa. You can imagine the conversation:
INT. SOUSA’S OFFICE – DAY
Peggy and Daniel snog with abandon. A flash of light glints in their eyes as a god-like man appears.
My ride hadn’t been invented!
Er, Daniel. This is Steve.
Aw, fuck it.
You got any oranges? I really fancy an orange.
Actually, Steve, being the considerate man he is, wouldn’t just turn up like that. He’d go to Howard first, someone whose shock would soon be overtaken by excitement and who could hide him effectively, then break it to Peggy gently. Or set her up for an enormous shock just for the fun of it. Either way works.
My (mundane) theory was that Steve went back in the early fifties after Peggy got a divorce. Steve, having visited Peggy from his defrosting in 2012 to her passing in 2016 would know her life story and when this happened. Therefore, having seen his photo on her desk in 1970, he had no qualms about going back to her.
M & M say Steve was always Peggy’s husband and father of the children seen in the photos in Winter Soldier (no husband in them, remember?). When I first heard there might be time travel in Endgame, this is totally what I wanted it to be (probably why I’m so happy with Endgame!).
The interview Peggy gave doesn’t have her mention her husband naturally “.. including the man who would eventually become my husband, as it turned out” – why not “including my husband…” if she were still married?
It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that the possible husband resented even the memory of Steve and if he was a bit of a manbaby, she’d only have to say “Why can’t you be more like Steve?” and boom, marriage over. Like I said, I’m a romantic.
Before you start with the whatabout Sharon? she was a great-niece by marriage, not a blood relative, and defrosted Cap saw her as the closest thing he could have to Peggy. He’d no idea then he’d be able to go back. Anyway, it was only one, not-so-passionate snog – we got over Luke and Leia, we can get over that.
So there you go, Steve is now living a quiet life with Peggy, knowing that he cannot change anything in that timeline. There’s no social media and publicly, he usually wore a cowl, so it’s unlikely he’s ever going to get recognised in real life. How many times have you bumped into someone from the telly and not been able to place them? And there must be thousands of Steve Rogers in America – it’s not like he’s called Benylin Cumberband or something.
Personally, I love the idea of toddler Tony being babysat by Steve and no-one is ever going to take that away from me. This might have been exactly what they had in mind for AC S3. Disney+, come on!
When we see Old Cap, he’s simply made his own way to the portal site on the right date, waited for himself to go back in time and then sat on the bench. The only anomaly for me is handing off the shield, which he didn’t have – unless he stopped in Wakanda on the way back, and asked Shuri nicely to make him a new one.
*Update* Due to some snotty nosed little cretin arguing with me on Youtube (and completely undermining himself by stating that two Steves couldn’t be in the same place at the same time. Did I imagine Cap V Cap #Americasass?) my mind wandered enough to find another explanation for the shield.
And I decided that Howard Stark had kept some vibranium back, and was able to make Steve a new one. The more I thought about this, the more convinced I became. Why would you use this incredible material to make just one item (and leave it under your desk)? Knowing Howard, genius inventor, it’s completely in character that he’d have retained some to play with.
Steve’s words to Sam, equally, could be interpreted differently: It doesn’t belong to anyone else because he made the decision to pass it onto Sam. *Update* After seeing Endgame for only the fourth time, Steve tells him it’s his after Sam says he’ll do his best: “I know, that’s why it’s yours.” So, no anomaly there.
Just because you didn’t see it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen!
In conclusion, there is evidence and anomalies that support and undermine both versions, although there is nothing the Russo’s interpreted visually that isn’t in line with the writers’ intentions. But Markus and McFeely came up with the perfect reasoning as to why that is:
“It kind of depends on what Marvel wants to do going forward. We watched the Spiderman Far From Home trailer like everyone else and they mention branched realities and alternate multiverse … we didn’t know they were going to do that. So they may have a different need (to our version) going forward.”
Basically, Marvel left their options open.
And I’m left with the smuggest feeling of being on the same wavelength as the writers of five of the MCU’s best films.