This article contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame and Loki.
Marvel created a perfect, ‘happily ever after’ ending for Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter as Avengers: Endgame wrapped up its story, but the writers and the directors of the film have never agreed upon the particulars of it. That ending, where Steve traveled back in time to reunite with his WWII sweetheart and only popped up again after the Blip to hand his iconic Captain America shield to Sam Wilson, certainly got fans asking a lot of time travel-related questions, like “how? “what?” and also “how?”
Endgame directors the Russo brothers attempted to address how Steve managed to make his dreams come true in the wake of the blockbuster’s release by saying that “he would have been in a branch reality and then had to have shifted over to this, so jumped from one to the other and handed the shield off” while writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely rejected the notion, stating “there is simply a period in world history from about ’48 to now where there are two Steve Rogers” with one of them frozen in ice for a large chunk of that time.
Then Marvel’s Loki came along this year and added fuel to the fire by introducing the bureaucratic Time Variance Authority. The organization’s purpose was to prune the MCU’s branch timelines, so it stands to reason that if the Russos were in the right, Steve and Peggy would have been erased by the TVA shortly after their heart-warming kiss in the final moments of Endgame. Loki even teased that very possibility at one point by having a Peggy Carter Variant apprehended in the background of a scene when the series got underway.
But Old Cap’s appearance at the end of Avengers: Endgame has always lent more credence to Markus and McFeely’s assurance that no branch reality or timeline occurred and, interestingly, Loki also adds context to this possibility by having the TVA tell the God of Mischief that everything the Avengers did during their time heist fiasco was supposed to happen in the ‘Sacred Timeline’.
Black Widow even went on to hint that the writers were on the money by occasionally referencing a behind the scenes Cold War rivalry between David Harbour’s Red Guardian and Old Cap during the 1980s!
To clarify some timeline issues, The Direct asked Loki helmer Kate Herron what she made of the increasingly convoluted situation between Steve and Peggy, and her answer will have you wondering whether every Nexus event needs to be dealt with by the TVA, or whether some are just kind of okay to let slide.
“So! I’ve been thinking about this,” she said. “I’m just like [so excited]… People are going to be annoyed because it’s not a definitive answer, but also I can only really answer as a fan, right? My theory is this: It comes down to if you’re an optimist or a pessimist. If you’re an optimist, maybe it was okay [for Steve and Peggy] to be living that way, and the branch wasn’t so severe that it didn’t need to be pruned, and that meant that they could stay together. Maybe the romantics can say somehow that managed to exist. And then the pessimists [think], ‘They probably got pruned (laughs).'”
Richard E. Grant’s Classic Loki Variant living past his run-in with Thanos for a long time before the TVA caught up with him certainly has us thinking about this, and though Herron didn’t provide a definitive answer, she remains open to both options.
“It depends on how people fall on that side of things, because in my head I guess it would be… generally branches have to be pruned and then maintained, right? But it depends. Like if it’s alternate, it would imply that it’s running alongside our main timeline, so yeah. I don’t want to definitively say that they were pruned, but by our logic in the TVA, probably. But maybe where there’s a will there’s a way, and they weren’t too disruptive and managed to live happily ever after.”
However, there is another potential answer to the equation. We know that the TVA exist outside of time as we know it and, at the end of time, Loki and Sylvie set in motion a chain of events that reignite the multiverse, creating infinite branch timelines throughout history. Perhaps everyone adding to the Endgame discourse is right?
The headache continues.