(I wrote so much about Avengers: Endgame I’m splitting it into a series of posts)
Standardised beginning because I don’t care if the spoiler ban has been officially lifted. The movie hasn’t been out that long and the last thing I want to do is accidentally spoil anyone.
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS!
I’m going to put everything under the cut but in case it doesn’t work for some reason. Seriously don’t read beyond this point if you haven’t seen the movie. Anyway now that’s established let’s dive in 🙂
“I keep telling everyone to move on but not us”
Steve and Peggy time-travel – IN OUR REALITY! Now I’m going to get onto the alternate realities later because can you say fascinating? But Steve is on that bench having grown old in our timeline. Now this is problematic for several reasons:
1) Steve would have been in the past with fore-knowledge of future events, could he live with himself by watching everything get wrecked knowing he could have changed it? Why not tell Peggy about Hydra within Shield? Why not go and rescue Bucky? Could he really watch it all unfold, knowing what he knew?
2) Would nobody have noticed that Peggy married a guy that looked exactly like Captain America? I mean she was the Director of Shield
3) Peggy obviously had some kind of alzeimers in Cap: Winter Soldier which was heartbreaking to watch. Now I can fully believe that badass Peggy Carter could keep the secret, but would she be able to once she was confronted with younger Steve? “Steve you’re alive, oh it’s been so long” and the emotion in her voice broke my heart. If she’d had a life with Steve (and he wasn’t dead!) why would she miss him so?
4) Leaving aside the logistical issues with Steve time-travelling back, why would he do it? I know Peggy was the love of his life but romance isn’t the be-all and end-all. What about friendship? What about Bucky? Or Sam? What about the future, the world dealing with everyone returning after five years of clearing up from them being gone. It’s not like people’s houses would be there waiting for them. Some people will have re-married. Everyone returning was held in stasis but the rest of the world is five years older. There’s going to be friction – there’s going to be trouble. The old quote from the first Avengers movie come to mind “this was their fight, where are they now?” I get that Steve was tired but he’s never been one to back out of a fight. He left his team, he left his friends, he left the life that he had made for himself in the present-day. He said in Age of Ultron “a home, a family, the guy that wanted that went into the ice 70-years ago, someone else came out”.
So why did he do it?
Now I can kinda understand it because Steve’s had five years of seeing the devastation of lost families. He didn’t have Sam or Bucky for those years. He had Natasha at the compound but that’s it and then of course Natasha was dead from the sacrifice for the soul stone. There wasn’t much time for a reunion with Sam and Bucky because they had to return the stones. Steve had five years of mourning, of hearing how much everyone hurt from losing their loved ones. He had the compass and Peggy was clearly on his mind. A big part of me thinks he made the jump impulsively. He had one jump left, with Scott’s warnings of “but you won’t be able to come back” and Steve does have an impulsive streak. He went back and then was stuck there, he had to live with the impulsive decision and over the years he made peace with it. I do believe though that he raged at himself because he missed Bucky.
Which again returns me to why Steve didn’t change the past?
I know the guy has incredible willpower because of his determination to do the right thing but it must have been torture. I figured after watching Agent Carter TV show that Peggy married Sousa. There was a cliffhanger and it wasn’t wrapped-up but it made logical sense to me. They never did confirm who Peggy married, only that she did, and Peggy was a consummate spy and could lie. That doesn’t explain how nobody noticed but maybe it’s a matter of expectations? Peggy was one of the few who saw Steve and not just Captain America. Without the uniform, without the Shield, and being so many years older and more worn, maybe people didn’t notice. Or perhaps it was a joke, like office gossip of “do you think Mr Carter (as I predict people would have interpreted Steve’s respect for being whipped) knows that the Director just married him because he looks a bit like Captain America”? I mean blonde hair, blue eyes, conventional attractiveness, is hardly unusual, just like a regular American quarterback.
The TLDR part
I guess ultimately Steve’s decision proved once and for all that he was “more than just a shield” – that he was a man, not just a symbol. Erskine told him that he needed to stay a good man, not a perfect soldier, but for a long time Steve Rogers was just the Captain, just the soldier. When he made the choice to jump back to 1949, that was Steve Rogers, not Captain America. We saw a bit of that when Steve threw down the shield in Civil War because Steve’s decisions were mostly centered around Bucky. True he didn’t agree with the accords but it only came to blows because Steve was fighting for his friend, the fugitive Winter Soldier. It was Steve that fought for Bucky, not Captain America. The man and the myth aren’t one and the same.
Anyway, my conclusion is still definitely that Steve did it impulsively and regretted it but was stuck as he’d run out of Pym Particles and couldn’t make another trip. I’m guessing he kept his mouth-shut because he knew he’d been selfish, and that he had no right to change history because he could change it for the worst, he had no idea what the repercussions would be, that he had no right to play God.