When Avengers: Endgame debuted in theaters, Captain America’s decision to live out his days with old flame Peggy Carter was among the movie's biggest surprises. Steve Rogers got a well-earned happy ending, but his actions effectively broke the movie's own time-travel rules. Present-day Steve Rogers living in the past would’ve created an alternate timeline, right?
Not so fast. One year and a rewatch later, it’s apparent that Endgame directors Anthony and Joe Russo planted several Easter eggs that foreshadowed Cap’s final act. Here are five clues throughout the movie that might just help the Marvel Cinematic Universe's biggest plothole.
5. Steve Rogers in a rut — Steve’s words to Natasha five years after Thanos’ snap took out half of Earth’s population are particularly revealing:
“I keep telling everyone to move on and grow. Some do, but not us.”
In hindsight, however, Captain America’s problem moving on didn’t begin with the Mad Titan. It’s been an issue ever since he first woke up in 2011, decades after missing out on his first date with Peggy. Endgame capitalized on that theme in a major way and littered the film with several clues that make Cap’s decision more inevitable than we realized on first viewing.
4. Tony Starks advice — The foreshadowing began with Tony Stark mocking Steve for never getting a life. After all, Tony had moved on, married Pepper Potts, and had a daughter. He may have been devastated by Thanos’ snap, but that didn’t prevent him from moving forward. Steve, on the other hand, was stuck in a rut, never settling into his new life because he knew that it wasn't the one he really wanted deep down.
3. A chance encounter — When the Avengers finally start their time-travel escapades, we see even more hints of Steve's yearning for the life he never had, when he hides in Peggy’s office in 1970. On her desk is a portrait of him, taken circa Captain America: The First Avenger. It’s a brief, but clear hint Peggy hasn't forgotten him, either. It’s either that or Captain America was always Peggy’s mysterious and unidentified husband.
This lends credence to the idea that Cap was always going to time-travel and had been living in the past all along. Why else would she have his picture decades after he was presumed dead? What’s more, Steve gets to see Peggy up close through the office window and, though she never notices him, the melancholic urge to lead a normal life with her is potent. He lingered far too long for a man on a life-threatening mission.
2. A subtle clue — Steve’s run-in with Peggy in 1970 wasn’t the first time she made an appearance. When the Avengers first visit 2012, present-day Cap fights The Avengers version of himself. After a good kick to the gut, Captain America falls and his picture of Peggy slides out of his belt and across the floor. It’s not a huge deal at the moment — the audience already knows how regretful Steve is about Peggy — but it’s yet another moment that suggests how much he’s still living in the past.
1. The Bucky of it all — Bucky Barnes was also aware that his friend wouldn’t return to the present, which is why he told Cap that he’ll miss him. Why would he miss him if Steve was set to return moments later? Perhaps the events of Endgame finally made Steve realize that his life’s sole purpose wasn’t to be an Avenger. He had spent enough time being selfless, and this rare instance of selfishness finished his story in a hugely satisfying way. With his biggest mission was finally over, Cap could finally hang up his shield and be comfortable with letting go.
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