(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 🙂
We’re talking Rescue and Tony’s Death
I’m going to cover that here with a big GROWTH! It’s a shame we didn’t see those five years. We missed out on Tony and Pepper’s wedding, on Tony learning he was going to be a dad, on the decision to name her Morgan like in Tony’s dream. Crucially I guess we missed out on a ton of conversations that got them from where they were in Infinity War, to Pepper understanding completely why Tony had to help with the “but will you be able to rest?” which was support and consent and understanding all rolled into one.
I’ve seen a lot of hate for Pepper which I have never shared. In many respects actually I liken Pepper’s feelings almost to what I’ve seen play out on Black Lightning between Jefferson and Lynn. Pepper has known Tony for years, knew him long before Iron Man, and she has seen him at his worst. She heard him say “there is nothing but the next mission” and told him that she wouldn’t watch him kill himself, she learned that he didn’t tell her about the palladium poisoning, she saw him spiral in Iron Man 2 and didn’t know why. Pepper saw him build dozens of suits, she saw him not sleep, she saw his fear in Iron Man 3 – “a suit of armor around the world” – and what that led to in Ultron. Pepper always knew Tony had a heart, she knew he cared even though he tried to hide it behind flippant quips, but she also knew how reckless he could be and how much he assumed responsibility which wasn’t his to bear. If the world genuinely needed Iron Man then I believe that Pepper supported that completely, she never was anti-Tony being a hero. I think what concerned Pepper was that Tony would throw himself into the fray when it wasn’t his fight, that he would put himself in danger needlessly, because he felt like he had to fix everything.
In Leverage Sophie said about Nate that “everytime he wins he believes he can control the world a little more, what happens to him when he loses? it nearly him broke him the last time.” and I think that’s what Pepper didn’t want to see happen to Tony. She didn’t want him to convince himself that he could save the world, only to lose – which basically is a little bit what happened. Tony hit rock-bottom after Infinity War. He came home, said they lost, he was angry, he threw blame around, and collapsed. Then five years later, they were a rock-solid battle couple, because they’d had countless conversations and hashed all of this out. I reckon Morgan probably helped with that, as suddenly it wasn’t about them anymore, it was about their child.
In Endgame we saw Tony look at Peter’s photo before he worked on the time travel device. The photo was on display, Tony hadn’t hidden it, so I’m sure that Tony and Pepper talked a lot about Peter in those five years. Peter personalised the issue for Tony and I’m sure that Pepper had people in mind who were dusted as well. This was something that had to be done and so Pepper had nothing but love and support for Tony over it which was wonderful to see.
So the Rescue armor?
The anniversary gift – the helmet, which was a teaser because Pepper had the armor for the battle at the end of the movie. It was hardly locked up if Morgan just found it in the garage, so Pepper would have known. Why did Tony make her a suit? Well I’m reminded of the very first Iron Man movie when he described his repulsors as flight-stablisers. They never said what anniversary it was for but the 6th anniversary according to google is ‘iron’. I think the math is just about right to take that to their engagement date in Spiderman: Homecoming. A gift of a suit is like “welcome into my world” and let’s go flying to some deserted place somewhere where we can sit and watch the stars – I don’t know I’m making that up, but I’m just saying the suit can be romantic and not just for battle. It is also another concrete sign of acceptance, like they are equal partners and understand one another.
It broke my heart when Pepper said “it’s ok you can rest” when Tony died. She railed at him with “please tell me you’re not on that ship, you come back here right now!” when Tony was trying to say goodbye in Infinity War. They have always been a couple that yelled when they were scared and upset. This was again real growth because Pepper could have screamed “no don’t you dare leave me Tony! stay with me, stay with me!” and I would have teared up no lie at the emotion in that. However because he was dying, which Pepper very practically checked by asking FRIDAY first, there was no point in such screaming. Instead Pepper gave him the greatest gift by saying that it was ok, she gave him peace by acknowledging the inevitable and not letting there be any guilt or regret between them.
Now I really didn’t want Tony to die. He was one of my favourites and it hurt. I mean he had a wife and a kid and Morgan deserved her father. I totally reject the Russo’s reasoning of “Tony’s journey was one of selfishness to selflessness and so giving him a happy ending would have wrecked it” because bullshit! Tony started off in Iron Man 1 as someone who was egotistical, self-centered, pleasure-seeking and yeah I guess selfish on the surface BUT we’re barely into Iron Man 1 when he is in the cave with Yinsen and showing his true self – someone who cares very much. The first thing Tony did when he came back wasn’t going to relax somewhere, he didn’t go on vacation, he called a press conference and stopped all weapons production. He brooded over what Yinsen had told him, he saw the news about how nobody was helping villages like Yinsen’s and so he built the suit to go and help them – it’s like I said above Tony Stark always had a heart.
and Tony’s character-arc/journey
I think I’ve argued what Tony’s actual journey was which was based on understanding his limits, accepting that his money or his genius couldn’t actually fix everything – on accepting that he was human. Also I think very much Tony’s journey was about him learning to value himself as a person, not because of what he had invented or because of what he could buy, but for who he was deep-down inside. That he didn’t have to be Howard Stark mark 2 and actually that was ok, that being Tony had value. There was that line in Star Trek: Beyond when Bones said “you’ve spent so long trying to be George Kirk, now you need to figure out how to be Jim” and I think Tony struggled with that, with his father’s shadow. Tony had expectations placed on him all his life, people called him a playboy and never saw him as anything else so he played into that because why not? If you are doing the time, might as well do the crime.
The pleasure-seeking Tony Stark pre-the first Iron Man movie would never have settled into a relatively small house by the lake. He wouldn’t have settled down, married and had a kid – he was a party all night kind of guy. I don’t think he found that shallow life particularly fulfilling but as smart as he is, he was probably bored a lot, and so the pleasure-seeking was a good distraction and kept him occupied. That Tony Stark would have lived somewhere shiny like the Malibu mansion. Tony could have had his happy ending, living the simple life, and that would have completed his character arc nicely. Him dying to save the universe is very in-character but it wasn’t necessary for a good story. They could have just let him return home, like Hawkeye did, to hug his family.
They could have let him rest – at the damn lakehouse!