The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s relationship to romance can be described as, at best, rocky. While Tony and Pepper have built a compelling relationship over the course of the MCU, awkward pairings like Bruce and Natasha, or Thor and Jane, are unfortunately more common. Captain Marvel and even Thor: Ragnarok proved that a love interest wasn’t a necessary element by any means, so hopefully Marvel will realize that romantic ships just haven't been its strongest suit.
However, there is one ship that people keep returning to, and with good reason: Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter. Starting in Captain America: The First Avenger, Peggy Carter proved herself to be one of the most important people to come into Steve’s life (perhaps second only to Bucky Barnes), encouraging him to maintain his goodness in a world that could make him into merely a weapon. In First Avenger, these two build up a lovely, old-fashioned rapport that unfortunately ends in tragedy. Steve Rogers' “I had a date” remains one of the most quietly devastating moments in the MCU, and his trilogy frequently returns to her importance in his life. Between their brief but poignant meeting in Winter Soldier, their almost dance in Age of Ultron, and her funeral in Civil War, Peggy has served as one of Steve’s emotional catalysts throughout his arc.
Listen. Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell had fantastic chemistry, and their tearful conversation before Steve crashes the plane murders my very soul every time I watch it. There is no denying that these two deserved a life together. However, I really, really hope that Marvel doesn’t go that route, because that would mean the erasure of everything that happened in Agent Carter, and quite frankly, that would be a gross injustice done to Margaret Goddamn Carter.
However, even though it ended before its time, Agent Carter managed to pack in a wealth of development for one of Marvel’s most underrated yet important characters. We see Peggy navigating life after World War II in the SSR offices, butting up against the glass ceiling in increasingly fabulous hats and forcing men to realize her value despite their dogged attempts to undermine her at every turn. After building camaraderie with her men on the battlefields of World War II, Peggy is faced with the reality that most of her male coworkers would prefer to see her filing papers and fetching coffee. She’s easy to understand that way, you see. No one wants to put the work into understanding a woman who breaks the norm, no matter how demonstrably great she is at her job. While we tragically never got to see her become a founding member of S.H.I.E.L.D. on Agent Carter, the foundation is laid, from her position at the SSR to her work with Howard Stark. We could see the stepping stones from the Peggy of First Avenger to the Peggy briefly seen in Winter Soldier and Ant-Man. Peg did the work.
Because of the oddity of his situation — being frozen for decades tends to mess one up a little bit — Steve’s loss of Peggy still feels fresh. It feels like he just took a rain check on that dance, just kissed her, just crashed the plane to save the world. He doesn’t have that much trouble moving on temporarily to her niece, Sharon, but that ill-conceived plot point was just a pretty blatant attempt to “no homo” his relationship with Bucky. Even so, it makes sense that Peggy would still be a part of Steve’s life because of his warped timeline — but that doesn’t mean that it makes sense in hers.
Steve knows that Peggy had a family and accomplished a lot while he was under the ice. He knows how she struggled with losing him before turning her sorrow into iron, working relentlessly to make the world a better place. He knows that she got married and had children. For Steve to have that knowledge while potentially changing her future to include him would be more selfish than romantic, and that is not the Steve Rogers that we’ve grown to love. Self-sacrifice has been his MO since day one, and for him to go out any other way would leave a bad taste in fans’ mouths.
Peggy knows her value, and hopefully Marvel remembers too.