Avengers: Endgame is the Russo Brothers’ fourth time helming an MCU film, with their first two features centering on Captain America. In a way, Endgame is the end to a trilogy started in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Avengers: Endgame marks the end of the Infinity Saga. 22 films which brought Iron Man, Captain America, and the rest of the Avengers head to head with Thanos. The film closes out some major arcs and storylines and one of the biggest ones is the story of Steve Rogers. Be warned, we’re about to get into some MAJOR SPOILERS for Avengers: Endgame.
The story for Captain America has always been about him trying to save others. Steve Rogers’ journey began with him wanting to fight during World War 2, having a desire to help those who can’t fight for themselves. He was willing to keep fighting no matter what it took and go against every odd stacked against him. In the end it led to him becoming Captain America, and sacrificing himself and any life he could have had, to save the entire world. While Steve survived the ordeal, he was frozen for 70 years, and the life he knew and any possibilities within it were gone.
With nothing else left except the ideal and desire to help others, Steve continued to fight in present day. From the “Battle of New York,” where he joined with the Avengers to fight Loki and the Chitauri army, to taking on SHIELD aka HYDRA itself, his sole focus has always been fighting for everyone else. He is a soldier for not only his country, but the world. Willing to go to any lengths to save others. That has been his through line for every film.
At times Steve has been given the opportunity to live a good life, a normal life, but he rejects it. Because he knows he has a responsibility to fight. That, compounded with the knowledge that the life he could have had was lost forever, led him to reject making choices that solely benefitted himself. He does spend two films trying to save Bucky, but even then his priority isn’t as much Bucky as it is the conflict surrounding him. If Steve had to choose between stopping HYDRA or saving Bucky, he’d stop HYDRA. If Steve had to choose between stopping Zemo and ending the accords, or saving Bucky, he’d choose the former.
Even when he does focus on Bucky at times, he still puts himself at risk. It’s not just about him trying to retrieve this connection to the past, it’s about saving a life. His work to redeem Bucky is just as much about Bucky being just a living breathing person as it is Bucky being his friend. Steve has always been the guy that will throw himself on a grenade to save everyone else, knowing that he’s going to die. It’s not out of a desire to sacrifice himself. It’s about saving others. Tony has done similar things, but out of a desire to sacrifice himself. Steve just wants to save the world.
Through most of the MCU films we’ve seen Steve rail against the idea of having his own life. As we’ve seen him come close time and time again, and then run away to save the world, he’s started to become more of a person who yearns for the life he could have had. In Winter Soldier he clearly likes this modern life more than he did in Avengers. Instead of spending his days working out alone in a gym, he’s running around the Washington Mall, telling Sam Wilson about all the things he’s learning and enjoying. He’s made a list of things he wants to see and hear and experience. He may be a man out of time, but he has accepted that.
With Civil War he begins to fall back into focusing on his old life. On Peggy, and Bucky, and the things he could have had. The life that he will never be able to live. He does connect with Shannon Carter, but it’s never anything serious. He’s not willing to leave behind everything for her. He’s not willing to stop anything for her. When he’s in the middle of dealing with the accords, he runs out the door to attend Peggy’s funeral. There will always be a connection to Peggy that he never had or could have with anyone else.
That leads us to Infinity War and Endgame. Infinity War doesn’t spend much time with Cap but it establishes that he’s given up any sort of life he had in this modern world. He’s a man on the run, fighting where he’s needed, but without anything tying him to this world aside from the few people he’s running with. He’s gone back into full on soldier mode. But for the first time, he loses the battle. Thanos wins, and he has to figure out what he does now.
Infinity War puts Steve in an interesting place because it asks: if there’s no war, if there’s no one left from the life you once had in the past, what is still important to you? For him it’s the ability to keep going, to keep fighting. He leads group therapy talks. He reminds people that the world can still be a good place. But he also knows now that the person he still longs for is Peggy. At least half the world is gone, and he’s still heartbroken over losing her. He’s spent just over ten years in this modern world, and has had the time to move on. Yet he still can’t.
When he goes to Natasha and they talk about the fact that they lost, that it’s all over and done and they don’t know how to move on, it’s not just about losing the fight. Steve is finally acknowledging that he’s spent so much time just trying to fight for everyone that he never stopped and decided to fight for himself. He never took the chance to live a life. He has always been a soldier, determined to fight no matter what he sacrifices.
Then he gets the full reminder of what he could have had. He stumbles into Peggy’s office in 1970 and sees her. She’s not just a picture in a compass. She’s real, and she’s there right in front of him, and he could be with her once more. It’s at that moment that he realizes, maybe he does deserve to stop and live. Maybe he could have a normal life, and not be Captain America. Now, obviously, that can’t happen immediately. People are counting on Steve and he’s never going to let them down. But once the battle is over with Thanos. Once he’s proven that he is worthy. When the dust has settled. He can finally live the life he always wanted.
We never see Steve tell Bucky his plan, but Bucky definitely knows because he tells Steve he’s going to miss him. He knows that Steve deserves to go back and live his happily ever after. He knows that Steve’s fought for everyone and everything, and that he should finally rest. And rest he does. While we don’t know how Steve’s life plays out over the years from him going back to Peggy to when he meets Sam on the bench, we know he does find Peggy. We know that he likely lived a full life with her. They likely got married and had kids, and lived their happily ever after.
If anyone deserves that it’s Steve Rogers. He’s constantly been fighting for everyone and everything. He’s seen his world turned upside down multiple times. Frozen in ice for 70 years, SHIELD collapsing, on the run from the US Government, losing to Thanos. Steve has faced enough, and deserves to finally be able to enjoy a peaceful life. He’s a good man, who has fought the good fight for long enough.
I hope they never bring him back. I hope they never touch on Steve’s story again. Because as much as I do have questions about how things played out. As much as I’d love to see him find Red Skull at Vormir. I’d much rather keep it all in my mind. I’d rather see Chris Evans go on to do other things, and keep the story of Steve Rogers perfectly intact as is. Because it’s a fitting saga, and one of the best storylines ever told in the world of Superhero films.
I’ll miss Cap. But I’ll always cherish the time I had with him.
You can see Steve Rogers in Avengers: Endgame, which is currently in theaters.