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Avengers: Endgame is the culmination of 11 years of storytelling. 11 years of Marvel movies putting our favorite heroes through the g*dd*mn ringer. 11 years of fighting and fighting and fighting and “Avengers Assemble.”
Going into Endgame felt like a morbid affair. We knew Chris Evans’ contract was up. We had narrative instincts. The character was so capital-g-Good; what other option was there but for him to die at the end of this film, making the ultimate sacrifice for his friends, his family — whatever that meant in the context of a post-Infinity War life?
Warning: Spoilers within for Avengers: Endgame.
The Cap of Endgame isn’t the First Avenger. He isn’t the rebel of Winter Soldier, and he certainly isn’t a man at the end of his tether as in Civil War. Endgame Cap is tired. Cap is sad. Cap is sad and tired. One of the highlights of the film is watching Steve contend with his younger self, just after the battle of New York. “You’ve gotta be shitting me,” he breathes out as he comes face to face with a 2012 Captain America. Mr. “Language!” himself. He’s forced into a fight and at one point, ends up face first on the ground as this younger version of himself repeats his most memorable line: “I could do this all day.”
“I know” is Cap's weary reply, hair hanging down over his forehead while he pushes himself up off the ground.
Steve spends most of Endgame on the edge. There’s a desperation in every action he takes, and that desperation comes to a head when he’s standing on a burnt Avengers compound, facing Thanos one on one, his shield broken in half, absolutely ready to die. And we, the audience, hold our collective breath, trying to get ready to watch our hero die.
Because really… in my heart of hearts, I really only ever wanted one thing for Cap. To lose the super-serum and become one of my favorite iterations of comic Captain America: Old Man Cap.
I am vindicated.
The Russo brothers surprised us all, and through the magic of time travel were able to give Cap his happy ending. Early on in the film, Nebula and Bruce explain to Scott and Rhodey that no, going back in time and influencing events won’t actually affect the future. By going back in time, the past is your future and the future is your past. Or something. I’ll buy it. What it means is that when Cap goes back in time to return the six Infinity Stones to when they’re supposed to be… he stays there. He shows up as Old Man Cap seconds after leaving Bruce, Bucky, and Sam as his younger self. He’s there to pass the shield on to Sam, and as he hands it over, the camera lingers on his hand, making sure we all see the wedding ring.
The movie ends with a short scene, back in time. Steve and Peggy getting that dance, it the solitude of their own home. They kiss.
There’s hopelessness embedded in the notion that this man who gave up everything for his country would have to die, and it’s something that, in the lead-up to the film, felt like an inevitability. But the ending written for him was the ending we needed. What is Captain America if not a beacon of hope?
Steve got the life he wanted, and it was all I wanted for him.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.