Avengers: Endgame brings the story of one Captain America to a close, in a way that’s both surprising and logical. The Sentinel of Liberty has been through a lot across his films — from The First Avenger to Winter Soldier to Civil War and each Avengers team-up — so it only makes sense that his story come full circle.
In doing so, it also closes the book on a long lingering mystery for his corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
[Ed. note: this post contains major spoilers for Avengers: Endgame]
At the end of the film, Steve volunteers to drop off the Infinity Stones back to the respective movies they were taken from. But he decides to take the long way home, and when he returns to the present day after his mission is completed, he’s an old man. As he declares his friend Sam “The Falcon” Wilson the new Captain America, the film concludes with the reveal that Steve took advantage of the time displacement to live the happy life that his ol’ friend Tony talked about. He returned to the past, presumably around the time he crashed-landed a Hydra plane into the Arctic waters. Why? To live out his days with the love of his life, Peggy Carter.
The Agent Carter husband mystery
The romance between Steve and Peggy was tragically cut short at the end of The First Avenger, and their eventual reunion was even more tragic when Steve later reunited with her as an old woman suffering from dementia. Steve still carried a torch for her, even after her death in 2016, always remembering the promised dance they never had. “Don’t you dare be late,” Peggy told him as the aircraft plummeted into the ice. Having lost Steve to tragedy, the spy eventually moved on.
In The Winter Soldier, Steve takes a break from saving the world to visit the Smithsonian Institution and look at the various memorials of his wartime efforts. A documentary showing Carter reveals that she later got married to an unnamed man who was saved by Steve from a HYDRA blockade in 1945. Following the end of WWII, she and the man married and had two children together. (A son and daughter, of course, because nuclear family tradition!) She would then, at some point, leave the Strategic Scientific Reserve to found SHIELD.
Throughout film and TV installments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Peggy’s husband has never been identified, leading to massive fan speculation and theorizing. For a time, many thought Peggy’s solo series Agent Carter, written by Avengers: Endgame screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, had nudged enough to make soldier-turned-spy Daniel Sousza the unspoken, but obvious, answer.
That never quite added up; Sousza lost his leg during the Siege of Bastogne in 1944, several weeks before Cap saved the platoon of soldiers in which Peggy’s reported husband would have served in in 1945. According to producer Michele Fazekas, Agent Carter, which was canceled before a third season, would’ve eventually given “options” as to the man in question, if not outright revealed the identity entirely. Even Haley Atwell, the star of the show, has never been able to give a definitive answer to the husband mystery. That should change after Endgame.
Steve got his dance with Peggy, time travel “plot holes” be damned
Avengers: Endgame drops the crumbs for Cap’s eventual decision to stay in the past multiple times during the team’s time heist. He keeps his compass with her photo on him at all times, even during his excursion to the Battle of New York (causing 2012 Cap’s jaw to drop, since “Loki” wouldn’t have that on his person), and gazes longingly at her when he’s hiding in her office. Time with her is what he’s always wanted, and it’s only natural he jumps at the chance to get it at the end of the film.
As we can assume from the ring on Old Man Steve’s finger, he and Peggy tied the knot in the past. He’s coy about saying her name — in both classic Hollywood and Marvel fashion, there’ll always be a little mystery to their on-screen romance — but this is one of the happy endings. We know.
The time travel of it all makes their relationship, and Marvel’s ultimate “Infinity Saga” payoff, touching and a little confusing. As Hulk says early on, the present and future can’t be changed, and when one travels back in time, it just becomes the past to the linear flow of time. So Cap and Peggy married and started a family. He kept his head down over the decades and let everything play out while he had his family, then grew into the moment. All the while, another Cap fought the battles we’ve seen before.
If Hulk’s theory stays true, Cap is not the father of those kids he saw in previous movies. That doesn’t negate their relationship. This is a time travel conundrum — and one that’s occurred off-screen, for maximum confusion. Are there multiple Peggys coexisting in the timeline, too? Did Cap jump back in time before or after he rescued the father of her children? (And at what point in this zig-zagging, criss-crossing time jumping did Cap retrieve or rebuild his shield after Thanos’ cracked it in half, another imperfection in the timeline that can’t be undone?) Directors Joe and Anthony Russo don’t clear this up through the filmmaking — after Cap jumps, the camera glides over to find Old Cap, who, if Hulk and Tony Stark are right, has been living under cover this entire time, a happily married man. We just don’t see the linear time logic that made it all possible.
For as many questions as the sequence raises, the emotional conclusion of it all seems definitive. Cap and Peggy get their dance. They get their life. Kitty Kallen’s rendition of “It’s Been a Long, Long Time” plays them, and the film, off. Nothing is undone, but something is righted, which in the Marvel Universe, feels like a definitive answer.
Justin is a Kansas City, Missouri, freelance writer and is on Twitter often, @GigawattConduit. He also is an avid lover of M&M McFlurries from McDonald’s, and accepts that he has an addiction to them.