I Love Him, but Steve Rogers Really Needs to Die in Avengers: Endgame
It's time to say goodbye.
Today might be a day of death on The Mary Sue, as we talk about how both Tony Stark and now Steve Rogers have to go in Avengers: Endgame. These two heroes have helped anchor the MCU alongside co-Avenger Thor, but as their journeys come to an end, it’s time to talk about how at least one hero has to give his life.
Steve Rogers is a tragedy waiting to happen. His dedication to doing the right thing, no matter the cost, is both his heroic trait and his fatal flaw. From The First Avenger to Avengers: Infinity War, Steve has been on a journey of loss and grief where his moral compass has been shaken, but now, finally, can find true north again. His story almost needs to end with a concrete conclusion for the needed impact, rather than leaving the door open for a future return.
When we first meet him, Steve is attempting to enlist in WWII, not to kill anyone, but because “I don’t like bullies. I don’t care where they’re from.” Steve fights with men twice his size because he’s hell-bent on doing the right thing, and when Dr. Erskine gives him the chance to become a super soldier, he takes it not because he’s a perfect soldier, but because he’s a good man.
It’s easy to see the good and the bad guys in Steve’s first two outings on the big screen. In The First Avenger, Steve does what we all should do and punches Nazis. The Chitauri of The Avengers are faceless aliens trying to take over Earth. Steve knows who’s good and who’s bad. It’s easy, which makes his later journey hurt worse. In The Winter Soldier, the enemy he’s supposed to fight is his best friend, and the organization he’s supposed to work for has been taken over by Nazis. So what does Steve do? He turns on SHIELD, save Bucky as best he can, and stand up for what he feels is right.
And then there’s Civil War, in which Steve is either the protagonist or antagonist, depending on who you like more. His enemy is Tony, and Steve finds himself “in the wrong” because his moral compass is telling him to save Bucky. Steve lies, breaks the law, and ends the film on the run with his best friends and close allies. He’s a man without a country, or a shield, and in Infinity War, he’s a man who’s lost both the biggest battle of his life and his closest friends.
So what does this mean for Endgame?
Steve doesn’t take no for an answer particularly well. The immense loss of the Battle of Wakanda, and Thanos then snapping half the universe out of existence, has undoubtably blown a hole in Steve’s worldview. He was, as Ultron once said, “God’s righteous man,” and yet he lost spectacularly. So, he’s not moving on, and it looks like he’ll be leading the team to the fight in Endgame.
Retirement doesn’t seem like an option for Steve. He’ll take a week off, and then the needs of the many will outweigh the needs of the few, to quote another franchise. He won’t stop fighting, period. It’s not in his stubborn nature. So unless he’s somewhere far removed from the action, he’ll always be pushing back and trying to do the right thing. Death is the only believable way that he’d ever stop.
It’s tragic, and a bit more Snyderverse, so to speak, than Marvel’s previous films. But let’s look at this: Do you think it would be in character for Steve to hang up his shield and get a one bedroom and a cat with Sam, or Bucky, or whoever you ship him with? Would he be able to stay out of the fight without it seeming weird that Captain America hasn’t shown up to help?
There is the theory that Steve will travel back in time and be reunited with Peggy Carter. That’s also a massive cop-out in its own way. Peggy had a life, children, and family all her own. Why should Steve take priority over them? Besides, that could mean that Steve lives his life while Bucky is still a prisoner of Hydra, and given how Steve feels about Bucky, that just won’t fly.
In her last cinematic appearance before her death, Peggy tells Steve how sorry she is that he didn’t get to live his life and says that none of them can go back; they can only go forward. Steve cannot go back to the 1940s and be happy. He’s seen too much, done too much, and lost too much. He has to keep moving forward, and if that rules out the only narrative choice that can save him from his demise, so be it.
Steve has always been ready to give his life for the cause. He “died” in the end of The First Avenger to save New York City and the eastern seaboard. He almost dies in The Winter Soldier at Bucky’s hand. In Infinity War, he tries to give his life to save Vision. Steve is always ready to lay down his life and pay the price for doing the right thing, and his luck might finally run out in Endgame.
“There are men laying down their lives. I got no right to do any less than them,” Steve tells Bucky in the first film. “That’s what you don’t understand. This isn’t about me.” Steve would not accept losing his teammates if he could sacrifice himself in their place. Similarly, “I can do this all day” could get a final, powerful reprise if Steve, while dying, gives one final brave hurrah to defend his team from Thanos.
Now that you’ve read to the end of my angsty, circa-2012 Tumblr meta of an article on my favorite Avenger, lets hear your thoughts. Do you think Steve has to go, or is there a way to save him? Let us know in the comments.
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