Avengers: Endgame has been called Fan Service: The Movie by critics and fans alike, and it's hard to argue with that assessment. The finale is packed with enough Easter eggs, callbacks and meta-commentary to give even the most obsessive Marvel fan serious FOMO.
It can be a little tricky to distinguish what's fan service versus what's simply a satisfying payoff after 11 years' worth of fan investment — a challenge Endgame screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely recently discussed with The New York Times. Essentially, "fan service" has come to mean giving fans what they want to see, whether that's turning a ship into official canon or giving a fan favorite a fun, cheer-worthy moment. Sure, when done poorly, it comes across as pandering. But when done well, it can bring the house down.
Here are 11 of the biggest, most fan service-y moments in Avengers: Endgame, for better and worse.
**Spoiler Warning: This story contains major spoilers for Avengers: Endgame. Read on at your own risk.**
That Jarvis Cameo
In an exceptionally rare instance of the MCU deigning to acknowledge its little brother, Marvel TV, Tony and Cap's side-mission to the 1970s gave us a few expected cameos, like John Slattery's Howard Stark, Hayley Atwell's Peggy Carter, and, of course, Stan Lee. Plus, one we definitely weren't expecting: the first MCU appearance of the real-life Jarvis, played by James D'Arcy, who previously appeared in the same role in the short-lived Agent Carter series. Apparently you're not the only one who thought the ABC show was canceled too soon.
The Entire Tokyo Tangent
After Hawkeye's entire family gets snapped out of existence in Endgame's opening scene, the Rodney Dangerfield of the Avengers goes AWOL. That is, until an old friend finds him in Tokyo, slicing through Yakuza henchmen with a full-on vigilante-ninja makeover. It's all a nod to the character's Ronin arc in the comics – and even though Clint's never explicitly referred to by that name in Endgame, it's still the gnarliest on-screen version of the character to date.
The Return of Loki
We were under the impression Loki wouldn't be back in Endgame, considering Thanos made it pretty clear with his whole "no resurrections" promise in Infinity War. Thanks to the time heist plot though, Endgame found a workaround, giving fans multiple glimpses of Tom Hiddleston's beloved Marvel villain-turned-sometimes-hero: first, lounging in his Asgardian jail cell in 2014, then getting brought in by the Avengers back in 2012, before eventually escaping with the Space Stone. Which all just goes to show, in the MCU, no one's ever really gone for good. Especially not when they're a massive fan-favorite.
The Inordinate Amount of Time Spent Discussing Cap's Butt
I honestly wasn't expecting Endgame to make a running joke out of the worthiness of Captain America's backside — aka "America's Ass" — but then again, I wasn't expecting to see the Hulk dab, either. I guess sometimes you've just got to give the fans what they want. (Especially considering all of Endgame's obligatory Chris Hemsworth shirtless shots were a little less beefcake and a little more, well, just regular cake.)
One Last Stan Lee Cameo
Lee may have passed last fall (R.I.P.), but thanks to Endgame filming back-to-back with Infinity War, the Russos were still able to make room for one last posthumous appearance for the late Marvel founding father, Lee's confirmed final MCU cameo. We're not crying. You're crying.
Pepper Suiting Up
For a few minutes, I assumed the Pepper-as-Rescue fan service would start and end at Tony's offhand comment about building a suit for his wife as an anniversary present. Then I remembered the Chekov's gun rule of superhero movies: if you tease a super-suit in Act One, somebody better put it on by Act Three.
Cue Pepper coming to the "rescue" for Endgame's climactic battle. It's still anyone's guess if that's the last we'll see of Gwyneth Paltrow suiting up in the MCU, but considering comic fans have been waiting for Pepper's on-screen hero turn since 2008, it was nice to see it finally come to fruition.
Of all the MCU do-overs we get in Endgame's second act, this was the most fun example of subverted expectations. After teasing a redux of Winter Soldier's iconic elevator fight, Future Cap instead diffuses the moment by saying these magic words, a clever reference to both the phrase's post-Winter Solider meme-ification and this infamously controversial Marvel Comics arc.
Peggy and Steve Finally Get That Dance
Apologies to all the Stucky shippers out there, but Cap finally got his romantic happily-ever-after in Endgame, only it came with the other love of his life. This one walks the sometimes-fine line between fan service and character appropriate-payoff, but honestly, it only felt right to close out Cap's character arc by finally letting the First Avenger and Peggy have that long-promised dance. Not to mention, it allowed Endgame to go out on a heartwarming happy note, instead of Tony's tearjerking funeral.
Marvel's "Girl Power" Moment
On the one hand, when Valkyrie and Okoye and Scarlet Witch and the rest of the MCU's roster of female heroes come to Captain Marvel's aid during the big battle with Thanos, it was meant to be an empowering, goosebumps-inducing moment. On the other hand, it also felt a little self-congratulatory and mildly patronizing. It also rang a little hollow on the heels of the movie's fridging of the only founding female Avenger. So your mileage on this one may vary.
Captain America + Mjolnir = Holy Sh**!
Considering, when we last saw Thor's hammer, it was being crushed to bits by Hela in Thor: Ragnarok, Mjolnir's return already counts as one of the more fan service-y of Endgame's many resurrections. Then the Russos doubled down and gave audiences a piece of comic book canon they've been waiting for since it was teased all the way back in Age of Ultron: a scene with Cap not only lifting Thor's hammer, but kicking Thanos' giant purple ass with it. Making matters even better? That Thor was just as psyched to see Cap wield the hammer as the rest of us were.
From the second we heard Sam's "on your left" callback come crackling over Cap's earpiece, we knew we were in for something special. And Endgame's final battle had [*Stefon voice*] everything, including a splash page-worthy lineup of MCU heroes that was so massive, the screen was barely wide enough to fit them all in frame. Then Cap dropped the hammer – metaphorically speaking – by shouting "Avengers assemble!"
It was somehow the very first time the iconic phrase has ever been uttered in the MCU. Before that, the closest we got was Age of Ultron, where Chris Evans' Cap was cut off by the credits. I'm not sure at what point Marvel decided to save the famous line for Endgame's climactic moment, but, boy, does it pay off.