Warning: This article contains MAJOR spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.
When Steve Rogers met Agent Peggy Carter in The First Avenger, before he had the super serum or the shield, they had an instant connection. She’s been part of his story since the beginning, and while they both soldiered on after he sacrificed himself, it has always felt like part of him was back in that time with her, and part of her was waiting, hoping he would somehow make his way back.
For a brief couple of seasons, we were treated to Peggy’s post-war espionage adventures stateside in the fun Agent Carter, as she battled sexism and continued on her journey toward founding SHIELD. Like their relationship, the show was over too quickly. But Avengers: Endgame gave us a better send-off for the fun, investigative world Agent Carter than I ever expected or hoped for at this point.
Endgame’s Tribute to Agent Carter
Back in 1970, it felt like we briefly inhabited the tone of the show when Cap and Tony went to pull a Jarvis-and-Pegs-style caper and dressed up in costumes to grab some Pym Particles and an Infinity Stone from a lab and a bunker on a military base in New Jersey. We got to see Peggy Carter as Director of SHIELD, a role we always knew she played, but had never seen before.
After so much heartbreak and sexism, it was nice to see Peggy “I know my value” Carter with a win, even if it was still apparent by the photo on her desk that she missed Steve. James D’arcy’s Jarvis made a charming cameo as Howard Stark’s driver—though I’d like to think he really only still drives Howard around because he likes to look out for the guy, and to pay the bills in between missions with Peggy.
Howard, a character we get to spend more time with in Agent Carter, is no longer the playboy about town but a husband staring down fatherhood and hoping he could do better for his kid than his father did for him, an evolution in his character that manages to bridge the gap between the exasperating yet charismatic man Peggy knew and the withholding but beloved father Tony grew up with and misses. The whole thing was woven in seamlessly around the larger story that Endgame needed to tell, and felt like an important chapter in both Steve and Marvel’s history.
At the end of the movie, Steve Rogers brought his own story to a close with a poetic choice to reunite with the love of his life. Finally able to take back the time that was so unfairly taken from them, and without his dear friends Nat and Tony to miss him in the present, Steve decided to do what they both wished for him and enjoy his life with the woman he loved. It’s incredibly emotionally satisfying, but how does it all work, and what does it mean for the rest of the MCU’s continuity?
What Endgame Means for Captain America’s Future
First, the present tense. For many, Steve Rogers will always be Captain America. But he leaves his shield in the capable hands of his (rather reluctant) friend Sam. The parallels between the two men – both with military backgrounds, leaders willing to go against authority to do what they think is right, and now, both grief counselors – are plentiful.
Bucky didn’t seem surprised at all, and after the two said goodbye for what was meant to be (for the present-tense folks) a brief mission back to the past, Bucky smiled and shook his head knowingly. Of course, Rogers is still alive as an old man at the end of Endgame (super soldier serum works wonders!) so that’s not to say he couldn’t ever appear again, and I’d like to think he will have many more wonderful chats by the Hudson with Bucky and Sam, even if we never see them on screen. But as Chris Evans has made clear, he and the character are retired, and we should respect that.
Considering Cap’s stated mission was to return the Infinity Stones to their proper timeline, it makes the most sense that he would reunite with Peggy in the 1940s after replacing the stones. He and Peggy looked to be roughly the same age—although there’s no accounting for super soldier serum – so it makes a certain kind of sense, if you can drop yourself anywhere in the timeline of the love of your life, to do so when you’ll age and progress similarly.
Endgame’s Timeline Hiccups
But how does a guy who looks like Captain America get away with being married to the Director of Shield, at the military base where Captain America once trained? And how does Steve keep from completely disrupting time? Does he just become a house husband and support Pegs while she runs Shield? How does the ultimate do-gooder resist fixing things after a life as a superhero?
Even if he could enjoy retirement, eventually Steve’s 21st century timeline would start to cause trouble for his time-traveling self. When the younger version of Steve started visiting, Peggy’s Alzheimer’s might’ve made it easier to forget his reappearance in her life, but when she was lucid, did she just play dumb? Did this mean that Sharon Carter grew up with Uncle Steve married to Aunt Peggy, making everything even squickier than it already was?
Did everyone in the Carter family just agree to lie to young Steve when he de-Capsicled? And how did principled old time-traveling Steve resist the urge to warn Shield about the Hydra infiltration, or save Bucky from his Winter Soldier brainwashing? Steve Rogers is not a guy who takes to letting bad things happen to those he cares about.
MCU Big Screen vs Small Screen Hierarchy.
Perhaps all these questions make it clear why the MCU generally doesn’t bring its television properties to the big screen—or at least shouldn’t play with time travel too much. All things Agent Carter are a bit fuzzy, since Peggy, her trajectory, and some of the characters started out in The First Avenger or were following guideposts mentioned in other MCU movies. Jarvis’s cameo, as mentioned above, marks a character who premiered on an MCU television show making their way to the big screen.
However, there are obvious drawbacks, like trying to figure out the point in time when Dominic Cooper (who played Howard Stark in The First Avenger and Agent Carter) turns into John Slattery (who played him in everything else).
Another conundrum? What happened to Peggy’s husband, the man who Peggy told a documentarian that Steve had saved in The First Avenger, heavily implied at the end of Agent Carter to be Agent Souza? The union was always described in happy terms, so divorce doesn’t seem likely. Maybe Peggy was being both metaphorical and a great time-travel-secret-keeper and she meant that Steve saved himself? Because Endgame doesn’t get too specific about whether Steve lives out his life in a branched parallel universe or in the main one, we may never get answers to these questions.
Avengers: Endgame was never going to be able to wrap everything that happened in the MCU’s first 10 years, both on the big and small screens, with a neat bow. Depending on where your MCU interests lie, the discrepancies mentioned above will vary in degree of how much they bother you. It would have been a shame for Peggy Carter, an important part of the MCU story in so many ways, not to get any time in Endgame‘s ending. Perhaps that makes all the messiness forgiveable.