Warning! The following contains SPOILERS for Avengers: Endgame. Read at your own risk!
Avengers: Endgame gave audiences a lot to chew on throughout its three-hour runtime in what ended up being a satisfying, but somewhat confusing tale that utilized time-travel. While it's been established the typical movie rules involving time-travel aren't in play in the superhero epic, there's a handful of moments that have folks scratching their heads even if they liked the movie.
The biggest of these is Captain America's final mission, which involved traveling back to the past to return the Infinity Stones to the points in time that they were taken. He didn't return the way Hulk assumed he would, and instead, appeared on a park bench much older than what he should've been when he left. He told Sam Wislon he had decided to try out having a normal life, and was shown to have returned for his dance with Peggy Carter.
It was a sweet moment, but also one that raises a lot of questions. Did Cap's pit-stop affect the timeline, and if so, how do The Avengers remember his prior actions? Here's some of the problems with Avengers: Endgame's Captain America ending, some ways it could be explained and what it might mean for the Marvel universe.
The Problem With Captain America's Trip
If Captain America went back for that dance with Peggy, then he's potentially scrubbed a big part of his timeline. If Steve's alive and well throughout all that time he's frozen, there's plenty of ways for him to interfere and reshape history. It's possible he's created a new reality which changed events viewers saw in Agent Carter, and made that kiss scene with Sharon Carter in Civil War way more awkward.
One might think this is rectified if Cap simply created a new reality living another life, but it's not that simple as he can't live in a reality that was unaffected by his actions. There are other explanations as to how he could've accomplished this, but they would absolutely change the meaning of Captain America's story as we know it.
Or was he always in the past and we're just now learning that there have been two versions of Steve Rogers living independently of each other in the MCU this entire time? Avengers: Endgame did nothing to explain this predicament, and it's unclear whether or not Marvel will down the stretch.
Now that we've established the problems let's do a deep dive into working out each possibility, and drilling down on the various complications with popular theories, and what would need to be explained for them.
Captain America Lived Out A Full Life In An Alternate Timeline
In this scenario, Captain America returned all the Infinity Stones, and then traveled back to Peggy for that dance and to live out the rest of his days by her side. In doing so, he created an alternate timeline, and may have left his frozen self dormant in that ice. Man, not cool, Steve.
Now, once Steve has lived out a full life by Peggy's side, he gets more Pym Particles and travels back to before he revealed himself as alive to Peggy, stops that Steve from revealing himself to her and then lets things play out the way they naturally did with the world believing Steve Rogers is gone. This then sets him back in the reality similar to the one he was before, and he travels back to the timeline
Now there are some problems with this. For example, there'd be three Captain Americas when Old Steve went back, and if he convinced the Steve about to see Peggy to stay away, he's created a reality in which there are three Steve Rogers and this isn't quite his reality. He could kill the third Cap, but that doesn't seem like something he'd do. Basically, unless there's three Caps in the current timeline, this theory has some real problems.
Captain America Lived Out A Full Life With Peggy In The Main Timeline
Here, Captain America went back to Peggy, they had that dance and began a lifelong great romance. They got married and started a family. Basically, the assumption is that Steve is the unnamed husband of Peggy that Cap learns about in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Ideally, Steve arrived after the events of television series Agent Carter, which keeps that series canon and less complicated.
Second, Steve and Peggy then keep his true identity out of the limelight, and the hero keeps a low profile so that he doesn't jeopardize his future rescue which brings him back decades later. Once Peggy grew ill, Old Steve then removed all things that would've clued his younger self in on the fact that there were two of him running around.
Again, it's not a bad theory, but it's not without its problems. The biggest of these is that tender kiss Cap shared with Sharon Carter, who would be his grandniece. Obviously Steve at the time wouldn't have known that, but it'd definitely be something older Steve would cringe at the thought of later in life. Maybe he can just blame it on Game of Thrones, or Marvel can just scrub that scene as it was kind of uncomfortable to begin with.
Captain America Went Back To Peggy, But It Didn't Work Out
There is a third option, in which Steve went back in time to dance with Peggy, and things ultimately didn't work out. Whether Steve explained why they couldn't live happily ever or things inevitably fell apart between these two lovebirds is a mystery. I'm inclined to think the former because Peggy still clearly cared about Steve years later.
Steve then went somewhere to live a normal life and, while he didn't get the true love he dreamed of for most of his life, things seemed to have turned out alright for him. Now an old man, he eventually travels to the point in time his friends are waiting for him, and hands over the Captain America shield to Sam.
Wait, how did he get a hold of another shield? Steve didn't leave with one, so did old Steve snatch another one? That seems like something that would mess up or create an alternate timeline, right?
What The Russos Have Said About Captain America's Trip
The Russos are well aware that the world has questions regarding Captain America's adventure, and they've teased there is an answer. The brothers think there may be a story behind Steve's Avengers: Endgame journey, and noted they spent three years working through the layers of the story.
Ok, great, so why not just tell us what happened? Well, if there's a story to tell behind Cap's journey, it's possible it plays into a larger part of Marvel's plans for Phase 4. In short, the story about what Captain America achieved may be explained down the line in another movie.
What seems more likely, to me, is that Steve's time situation will be explained in the upcoming Falcon and Winter Soldier series for Disney+. Kevin Feige has teased a stronger Marvel connection with those shows partly because they're being produced by Marvel Studios, but also because they were planned around the same time as Phase 4. If answers are coming on what happened, this show seems like the best time to do it.
Do you have a theory or way of explaining Captain America's trip in Avengers: Endgame? We'd certainly love to hear it. Share your thoughts in the comments below and stick with CinemaBlend for tons of MCU analysis.