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It goes without saying that the deaths of Iron Man and Black Widow left big holes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They’re so big that people continue to debate those deaths, with the time travel subplot of Avengers: Endgame presenting endless possibilities. 

Of particular interest is Captain America’s decision to go back in time to replace the Infinity Stones. Fans wonder if the deaths of Natasha and Tony played into that decision, or if there was another departed person who played a more prominent part. 

What set the stage for Captain America’s time travel?

The cast and crew of 'Avengers: Endgame'
The cast and crew of ‘Avengers: Endgame’ | Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

In a way, Captain America has always been a time traveler, if an unwitting one. The First Avenger is the only Marvel movie that can truly be called a period piece, taking place mostly during World War II.

In it, he falls for Peggy Carter, a British agent who helped facilitate the effort that turned him into Captain America in the first place. In the end, he gets frozen in ice and wakes up very much a man out of time.

One could argue that his subsequent movies, The Winter Soldier and, to a lesser extent, Civil War, are about him trying to fit in time, with his unchanging values complicated by modern times. Through all the fights and brushes with death, what haunts him most  is missing his shot with Peggy Carter, who dies during Civil War

So after all the sound and fury of the final battle with Thanos, Endgame has a long denouement with Steve going back in time to replace the Infinity Stones that caused so much trouble. In the end, we see that he went back in time to spend his days with Peggy – an ending that struck viewers as both moving and problematic. 

What do fans say about Steve Roger’s time travel? 

On a Reddit forum, a fan asked, “If Tony and Nat Lived would Steve (have)  stayed in the present? He was close with Bucky and Sam in his own way but I feel he was impacted more by Nat and Tony more since he came out of the ice.”

An immediate response was “No way, he was always about Peggy. Once he saw that there was a chance to be with her again, he took it.”

Another fan elaborated on that point, saying:

“No. I feel, as a passionate MCU Cap fan, that seeing Peggy in the ’70s made him realize that he had a chance to be happy. With Tony and Hulk’s description of how time travel should work he knew he could jump back, create a new reality and still keep everything that happened in his universe.”

So in other words, Peggy was Steve Roger’s endgame all along. Many have tried to argue, as this piece does,  that the ending makes no sense, thinking that Steve even shirked his duties by living with Peggy in an alternate reality instead of playing the hero.

But others have counter-argued he didn’t and had been Peggy’s husband all along. When you get down to it, no matter what “rules” you try to make (or break) for time travel, those rules are as elastic as Mr. Fantastic. 

Marvel fans will get more chances to play what If? 


What Convinced Captain America to Stay in the Past with Peggy?

By debating all these time travel theories and rules, fans are playing a game of “what if,” trying to imagine alternate futures and what they mean. It just so happens that the MCU is presenting a show about that very concept, called What If …?

It’s the first animated series produced by Marvel Studios It also happens that the first episode is about what would have happened if Peggy had taken the super serum. 

While most of the upcoming Marvel/Disney+ series, including The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and WandaVision have been delayed by the pandemic, What If …? has been able to continue production and stands to keep its 2021 release date.

It will also reportedly feature the final Marvel performance by Chadwick Boseman. He, along with many other MCU movie actors, returned to provide voices for the series.