Avengers: Endgame is a timeless Marvel finale. Complicated and in places mind-bending, especially thanks to its creative use of time travel, the climactic MCU entry is still provoking wild theories meant to unravel its mysteries two years after its release. Did Endgame quietly bring the X-Men into the MCU? Why did Doctor Strange let Iron Man die, despite being able to see all possible outcomes of the Avengers’ fight against Thanos?
One recent theory aims to clear up a major question fans were left with after seeing Steve Rogers hang up the Captain America mantle – one that could even set the stage for him to return.
In a WIRED video Q&A, recently resurfaced by Redditor u/Shoe_Bum_, Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo responded to a tweet asking how Steve could have possibly returned the Soul Stone to Vormir – and how he might have reacted to seeing Red Skull again.
Their response was somewhat joking: “Just print out a return label, and cross your fingers!” But if Steve Rogers did return the Infinity Stones to their original points in time before reuniting with his one true love, Agent Peggy Carter, the First Avenger would have to come face-to-face with his old nemesis, who’d been cursed to watch over the Soul Stone in a purgatorial state.
The Russos’ response, indicating Steve must have found a way to return the Soul Stone to Vormir, would seem to debunk a recent fan theory that Steve might have returned all the Infinity Stones without sending each back to the exact physical locations they’d left, using a careful reading of The Ancient One’s explanation of branching timelines.
But the Russos’ non-answer related to this plot point is not an isolated incident. Asked the same question by CinemaBlend, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely joked that the stones utilized an old-fashioned return system with pneumatic tubes. Nobody on Endgame’s creative team, in other words, was prepared to answer this question seriously. Why might that be?
The Inverse Analysis — Perhaps Steve’s journey to return the Infinity Stones will be the subject of a future Marvel project. Even if Chris Evans doesn’t return to reprise the role, Marvel is now branching out into animation on Disney+ and could explore this forgotten story in detail – and portray a dramatic reunion between Red Skull and Steve Rogers.
Fan theories about how Steve could return the Soul Stone are still absolutely fair game, but there’s a chance we could at some point get a canonical answer to this mystery. After all, if either the directors or screenwriters had given a response like, “You can return the stone easily, but you don’t get the soul back,” they could have easily resolved this mystery. Lighthearted answers serve more to deflect, conveniently leaving the door open for Marvel to show more from Steve Rogers’ final chapter.
Avengers: Endgame is now streaming on Disney+.