During the Super Bowl, we got another glimpse at one of 2019’s most anticipated movie, Avengers: Endgame, and like the first trailer, this one also played things close to the vest, teasing the tone of the film more than the actual plot. The majority of this trailer raised lots of questions, like where is Rocket, where is Thor and what are the Avengers looking up at? But it provided few answers. However, there was one plot detail revealed that gave us all chills: Captain America is getting his shield back.
Like Captain America himself, his shield is a symbol, as integral to his identity as a hammer is to Thor’s. Sure, like Thor he can operate without it, but it’s not the same. So seeing that he gets it back in Avengers: Endgame is a huge deal and adds even more emotional weight to a movie that already has ‘bittersweet’ written all over it.
As a refresher, Cap hasn’t had his trademark red, white and blue shield since the events of Captain America: Civil War. At the end of that film, after their falling out and battle, Tony Stark told Steve Rogers that he didn’t deserve to carry the shield his father made. Steve Rogers dropped the shield and, in the years since, has been operating in the shadows alongside Black Widow without it.
In Avengers: Infinity War, T’Challa, in another chill-inducing moment, called out for someone to “Get this man a shield!” as Wakanda was coming under attack. But the shield Cap used in that film was more like a set of gauntlets, befitting a hero who was no longer an arm of the government, but a rogue vigilante, fighting under no flag.
Last we heard of the shield was in Spider-Man: Homecoming when Happy Hogan mentioned that there was a new prototype shield for Captain America going on the cargo plane when the Avengers HQ moved to upstate New York. Presumably Cap either got his shield back from wherever Tony put it or he got ahold of this new prototype or maybe he had another fresh one made in Wakanda.
Regardless of how he got his shield back, he's got it. But unlike seeing Thor arrive in Wakanda, Stormbreaker in hand, our first look at Cap with his shield again doesn’t make you pump your fist; it makes you tremble. That’s because as Cap goes to tighten the straps on his shield, his battle-worn hand is literally shaking.
Cap has seen his fair share of horrors, and he has fought Thanos, so what in this moment could have the incomparably brave Steve Rogers shaking in fear is unknown, yet it is enough to send a shiver down your spine. Though, the only time a man can be brave is when he is afraid and Cap, bloodied and broken but unbowed, clenches his fist to stop his trembling and tightens the strap.
Like the image of Cap fighting against Thanos’ gauntlet in the trailers for Avengers: Infinity War, this image is loaded with emotional weight and the expectation of tragedy and seeing it sets up Cap for a potentially heroic and heartbreaking fall.
Cap looks to be in a bad place in this trailer too. He’s angry and bitter at what happened and we see him in a meeting of a support group with his jaw firmly clenched. This is not a hopeful Captain America, not someone who is optimistic or believes that good will win out. He is broken and lost.
So to see him with shield in hand lets you know that he overcomes his pain and endeavors to pick up his shield and fight on, no matter what, with the Avengers alongside him. And when Cap has his shield in hand, you know that it's on and win or lose, it will be a fight.
With his shield back, Steve Rogers will look much more like the Captain America of old. We have already suspected that this film will be something of a swan song for the original Avengers team and their looks somewhat enforce that. Steve Rogers has shaved off his fugitive beard and with his shield back in hand, he can once again become the symbol of hope he once was back in Captain America: The First Avenger.
It is a poetic end to this Phase of the MCU for Captain America who has been its beating heart. If he's going to go out, it will literally be on his iconic shield. The Avengers won’t move on without setting things right. They can’t. The question is, when Captain America is gone, will we be able to?